LA considers introducing county-wide congestion relief pricing

News Road User Charging

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has awarded contracts to two consultancies to begin an 18-24 month feasibility study to evaluate the possibility of congestion relief pricing to improve mobility across the region.

Metro has approved two contracts and options totalling more than US$5.5m (£4.3m) to assess how and where it would be possible to pilot a package of mobility improvements including congestion relief pricing in LA County, one of the world’s most traffic-clogged regions.

The authority has awarded WSP USA a US$3m+ (£2.4m) contract for the study’s technical services. Services will include investigating the feasibility and framework for testing and implementing motorist pricing strategies, evaluating several potential pricing models, identifying a location to pilot the programme and establishing an implementation plan that priorities equity for all road users.

Metro has also awarded a US$1.9m (£1.5m) contract plus a US$589,840 (£479,085) extension option to Guidehouse LLP to help engage the public in every step of the feasibility study. The contractor will reach out to stakeholders and the public to ensure their involvement and concurrence with a potential pilot programme somewhere in the county. Extensive outreach will be conducted with community-based organisations and community members representing low income and other vulnerable populations at the local, county and sub-regional levels.

Any congestion relief pricing strategy will be accompanied by corresponding mobility improvements such as additional, faster, more frequent and discounted or free public transit, and safer walking and bicycling opportunities.

The strategy could enable those who choose to drive to have a fast and reliable trip while providing funds to dramatically improve travel times and customer experience on other modes, thereby reducing traffic, improving mobility and air quality, and creating a more sustainable regional transportation system.

As part of the feasibility study, Metro will create a stakeholder advisory panel to help solicit input from key constituents and add experts in road usage charging, mobility pricing and equity to its existing Policy Advisory Committee. The study will also include the specific upgrades to public transit and first- and last-mile solutions that will be necessary to accompany any proposed pricing concept. Metro could potentially provide free rides on public transit as part of implementation of congestion relief pricing in LA County.

Congestion relief pricing has proven successful in other major cities worldwide, including London, Stockholm and Singapore. A similar programme is now being considered in New York City. In previous pilots around the world, agencies have found that opposition to congestion relief pricing is always strongest before implementation, but once implemented, it has proven to be popular due to the mobility benefits it generates for drivers and transit users alike.

Phillip A. Washington, Metro CEO, said: “Los Angeles could become the first city in the world to move to this innovative congestion relief pricing/free transit concept. These efforts provide an opportunity for us to reimagine Los Angeles County, provide great mobility benefits for our residents, and drastically reduce our carbon footprint.”

Following completion of the 18-24 month feasibility study, Metro will recommend one or more areas within LA County to conduct a potential pilot. The Metro board will decide whether to move forward with a pilot at that time.