toll-booth.jpgThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors, acting as the city’s transportation authority, voted 9-2 today to scrap a controversial proposal to charge a toll to motorists entering San Francisco from the south during peak commute hours.

The board also voted 8-3 to continue exploring other congestion pricing possibilities, including charging commuters headed downtown by collecting a toll at the borders of a special zone in the northeastern part of the city.

With that approval, $1 million to $2 million dollars will be now allocated to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to fund a sequel to the Mobility, Access and Pricing study that was started in 2007.

The proposal to charge a toll at San Francisco’s southern borders had rankled many Peninsula residents.

State Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, attended today’s meeting to urge the board to drop the idea.

“This process hasn’t been a dialogue, it has been a monologue,” Hill said. “I think we are all in support of a plan to sustain urban growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are just asking that it be a regional decision.”

Before giving the green light to a further study of congestion pricing scenarios, the board approved a motion by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd to scrap the idea of a toll at the city’s southern gateways.

Daly City Councilman David Canepa said he was thrilled to hear about the amendment, and said that in response, he would retract his proposal to enact a counter-toll.

“I am withdrawing the legislation that I put forward to impose a $6 toll for vehicles entering the Peninsula from the north,” Canepa said. “And look forward to working with San Francisco officials to decide the future of this plan.”

The authority is still considering charging a toll to enter an area of northeastern San Francisco bordered by Laguna and Guerrero Streets to the west and 18th Street to the south.

Proposals still under consideration include charging a $3 fee to pass through the area during peak hours or a $6 fee to leave during select evening hours.

Some community members, merchants and leaders remain skeptical.

“My concern is that what we gain in congestion fees, we will lose in sales tax revenue,” said Linda Magellan, a member of the Union Square Business Improvement District.

San Francisco County Transportation Authority principal transportation planner Zabe Bent was quick to note that the revenue from the pricing plan would be pumped back into transportation projects.

“Money made by the tolling zones would be reinvested in transportation improvement,” Bent said. “Congestion pricing combines managing demand with generated revenue.”

But a projected 21 percent reduction in commute time and increased income for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority improvements was not enough to convince Mayor Gavin Newsom of the plan’s merits.

Mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker said Newsom is “adamantly opposed” to congestion pricing in the current economic climate. He added that it would “have a chilling effect on our ability to attract and retain jobs and businesses in the city.”

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier mentioned her concern with regard to implementation after California voters approved Proposition 26 in the November election.

Proposition 26 requires that certain local fees be approved by two-thirds of local voters.
SFCTA executive director Jose Luis Moscovich said the authority is still assessing the impact Proposition 26 will have on the plan, but is optimistic about the new study.

An application for federal funding for the follow-up study will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot program by Jan. 18, Bent said.

Kristen Peters, Bay City News

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