‘We have reached a tipping point’: Metro officials to study how to reduce traffic congestion

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors awarded contracts Thursday for a study of ways to reduce the county’s traffic congestion, including the possibility of charging motorists to drive on select roadways, with the money used to subsidize public transit.

“Our current road networks are extremely congested, with almost all major roadways clogged during rush hour,” Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Chairman James Butts said. “Everyone knows this causes inconsistent and frustratingly slow travel times. I think we have reached a tipping point. We are now forced to think outside the box in search of new ways to combat our worsening traffic.”

Congestion relief pricing charges drivers for when and where they travel—similar to rideshare surge pricing—and uses those funds to pay for public transit. Metro officials said any use of congestion relief pricing would be accompanied by improvements in transit and other mobility options, such as walking and bicycling paths.

“Los Angeles could become the first city in the world to move to this innovative congestion relief pricing/free transit concept,” Metro CEO Phillip Washington said. “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.”

Metro awarded WSP USA Inc. more than $3 million for the study’s technical services, which include investigating motorist pricing strategies, evaluating several potential pricing models, identifying a location for a pilot program and establishing an implementation plan.

Metro also awarded a $1.9 million contract with a $589,840 extension option to Guidehouse LLP to facilitate public outreach for the feasibility study. Metro officials said the outreach will be conducted with community-based organizations representing low-income residents and other vulnerable populations.

Officials said the strategy could make automobile travel faster by offering more accessible public transport, officials said.

Other cities have seen successful results in pilot programs, such as London and Stockholm and the country of Singapore. A similar program is being considered in New York City, officials said.

As part of the feasibility study, Metro plans to create a stakeholder advisory panel. The study is expected to take 18 months to two years.

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