Exploring Road Pricing

The building blocks that make up our transportation system in Washington, in the region, and in the City are based on regressive taxes that unfairly burden the poor and favor car drivers. BIPOC residents in Seattle, and across the country, have greater transportation burdens (a higher percentage of their income goes to transportation expenses), while more affluent white individuals have low transportation burden and many transportation options. The current transportation system prioritizes access via private vehicles and contributes to both health and economic inequities in our city. With transportation-related spending the second highest household expenditure, developing a more equitable transportation system is fundamental to building a more just community.

By exploring equitable road pricing policies in Seattle, we have an opportunity to reduce emissions and improve mobility while generating stable and progressive revenue (meaning that the fees are paid by those people most able to pay) to invest in climate and transportation-related programs and projects that most directly benefit communities of color. Examples of road pricing policies include parking policy innovations (changing how we regulate and meter parking to produce more revenue for transit and other transportation investments), managing and pricing the curb (changing how we regulate curb space, which has become some of the highest-demand real estate in cities, with drivers, buses, Uber or Lyft drivers, scooters, bikes, pedestrians all vying for access to curbside parking, delivery, and rideshare), fleet pricing (charging specific vehicle types like ride-hailing or commercial vehicles for operations in a specific area), urban delivery and fees on Transportation Network Companies, tolling city roads or bridges, exploring congestion or area pricing models, and more. 

In 2021, OSE and SDOT worked with representatives from four community advisory boards (Transportation Equity Workgroup, Environmental Justice Committee, Equitable Development Initiative, and Green New Deal Oversight Board) to explore if road-pricing policies (including Congestion Pricing) can be implemented equitably. 

The City team recently completed a racial equity toolkit which inculdes key racial equity outcomes that were informed by these workgroup meetings to ensure that any future road pricing policy be equitable.