It’s really funny how things that make perfect sense to a roomful of bureaucrats make no sense whatsoever to most other people. I’m supposed to to bridge that gap, so to speak, because my job involves studying the logic of the bureaucrats and translating it into the vulgar language of Noah Webster.
Today I noticed that our free-spirited sister paper, the Marin Independent Journal, had a column that cuts to the very core of that disconnect.
Here’s the bureaucrat’s logic:
1. We don’t have enough money to pay for our existing infrastructure, to say nothing of building new infrastructure.
3. The easier and cheaper it is for people to drive to work in congested urban areas, the more they’re likely to do it. Charging a congestion fee (translation: toll) for using main arteries into the urban core and higher peak-time parking rates will help people understand (and pay for) the true costs of driving to work.
4. Bush Administration officialshave allied themselves with the enviros on this concept, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is.
5. The administration has picked San Francisco as one of the proving grounds for this idea. San Francisco needs a new Doyle Drive viaduct leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, so let’s charge this newfangled congestion fee for bridge users.
As the column by Dick Spotswood explains, this line of thinking impacts one group of commuters disproportionately more than any other:
A Doyle Drive toll is a commuter tax. Worse, it’s a tax that will only be levied on North Bay motorists.
No corresponding toll is planned to pay for the Bay Bridge’s new approach in the city used by East Bay commuters.
Nor would the toll be levied on those San Franciscans traveling on Doyle Drive from the Marina to the Richmond District.
And here’s something else to think about: Those other folks, especially those traveling from the East Bay to San Francisco, have the option of squeezing onto BART in addition to the buses and ferries enjoyed by North Bay commuters.
Right now, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the San Francisco transportation people are hoping that the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which collects and spends the current tolls on the bridge, will agree to collect another one or two bucks from bridge users.
The only other way to do that would be to get state legislative dispensation and set up separate electronic toll collection facilities. At the moment, the Golden Gate people are mulling the idea.
If such a charge were levied on the Bay Bridge, which has seen tolls quadruple since the Loma Prieta Earthquake, I wouldn’t bet my FasTrak transponder that it would be greeted with such enthusiasm by the members of the MTC.
Still, ordinary logic would seem to dictate that if you want to levy a congestion charge, it ought to be done first on the people who are most likely to avoid the congestion.