VIEWPOINTS: Congestion Pricing in Atlanta? Weigh This Option Carefully, But With Urgency

By Darin Givens,@atlurbanist, ThreadAtl

You’ve probably seen the news that New York City will likely adopt congestion pricing in order to bring fewer cars into Manhattan, and to aid public transit. Several big cities worldwide have implemented versions of pricing, and other U.S. cities are already looking into it as well. What about Atlanta?

The Atlanta City Council Facebook account posted a poll last week about whether or not Atlanta should look into it, asking: “New York City will be the first American city to implement congestion pricing to ease traffic congestion. Should the city of Atlanta implement a similar tax?”

With over 400 votes on the City Council poll, “Yes” is in the lead by a wide margin. (And at least one Councilmember is already on board with studying implementation of pricing for certain districts.)

Facebook poll with Yes in the lead

But in the comments for the poll, there are some solid concerns raised about a congestion tax not being appropriate until public transit is expanded as an alternate. A few samples from the post:

  • “[Amanda Rose] We need better public transportation before this would work”
  • “[Michael Polacek] Makes sense cause NYC has efficient public transit but Atlanta?….”
  • “[Marcus Jabreel Johnson-Westbrook] Why would Atlanta want to do this? Our mass transit infrastructure isn’t ready.”
  • “[Anderson W St. James] Atlanta lacks the proper public transit for this to work.”

A lot of people are understandably concerned about any move that could make it harder to drive into the city, since most of the Atlanta region is built in a very car-dependent design that’s hard to serve with transit. Many people here don’t have good access to buses and rail options.

To illustrate, see this map below. It was published in an excellent Streetsblog post a couple of years ago which details the low access people have to jobs in the Atlanta region by transit. Very few of the region’s residents have access to more than 50,000 jobs within a 30-minute transit trip.




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