Seattle mayor proposes another first for an American metro: Tolls on city streets

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wants to toll city streets to reduce greenhouse gases and urban congestion, the Seattle Times reports.

Seattle will develop a plan to toll city roadways as part of its efforts to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday.

Details of what such a plan might look like are sparse, and will hinge on a tolling study focused on downtown neighborhoods that should have initial results later this year.

The effort would be unprecedented in America, the article points out.

While several foreign cities use broad congestion-pricing schemes to reduce car travel in their most-clogged downtown areas, no American city has established a similar widespread tolling system.

Getting from planning to implementation could face some key hurdles, Times reporter David Gutman writes.

Seattle could implement tolling within the city without the permission of the state Legislature, but it would almost certainly require the approval of city voters.

In 2015, 56 percent of Puget Sound-area voters said systemwide tolling was a bad or very bad idea, according to a poll from the Puget Sound Regional Council.

The story explores several options for establishing congestion pricing in the city. 

The city’s political leaders, typically with significant support from their constituents, have been remarkably willing to break new ground in policy innovation. Durkan says she’d like to see the congestion pricing system in effect in 2021. We wouldn’t bet against it.