SEATTLE — Seattle is looking at road tolls for downtown streets as part of a broader initiative to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Wednesday.
Durkan provided few specifics on the tolling proposal at a news conference, but she said the city's transportation department is currently studying possible congestion pricing strategies to ease traffic through the downtown core.
"We know it's a heavy lift that we'll have to engage people deeply before doing that," Durkan said. "And we have to make sure that it is paired with meaningful transit because we can't ask people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles unless there are meaningful options they have, whether that is buses, walking, bikes, or other public transit."
Once the tolling study is done, the city would "develop a strategy over the next few years to address congestion and transportation emissions through pricing," her office said in a new release.
A proposal would likely have to go to the city council and to voters as an initiative.
Similar toll systems are in place in big cities such as London, Stockholm and Singapore, where it can cost more than $15 to drive into the city center during peak periods.
New York has explored the idea for years, but prospects have dimmed in recent weeks for the latest proposal. A state panel earlier this year had recommended tolls of up to $11 or more on motorists entering the busiest parts of Manhattan as a way to reduce gridlock while raising money for transit upgrades.
Durkan said Seattle needs to get more cars off city streets, make public transit and other alternatives more accessible and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.
"It's yet another effort by the city of Seattle to penalize working families who depend on vehicles for mobility," said Mariya Frost with the conservative Washington Policy Center.
"I think this will have negative regional impacts, particularly on those folks who can't afford to live near Seattle but do work there," she added.
Road transportation accounts for about two-thirds of Seattle's greenhouse gas emissions. Durkan announced a number of steps that aim to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation and building sectors.
She said Seattle would look at expanding the city's fleet of electric vehicles, as well as requiring that new or renovated parking structures include electric vehicle charging stations. Another plan would provide incentives for buildings that cut energy and water use below certain levels.