Should Lightfoot Consider ‘Congestion Pricing’ To Raise Revenue? | WBEZ
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Morning Shift

Should Lightfoot Consider ‘Congestion Pricing’ To Raise Revenue?

New York recently became the first U.S. city to adopt “congestion pricing” where drivers pay to enter busy areas. Should Chicago follow suit?

Joining the Morning Shift with his thoughts on congestion pricing is Michael Peddle, associate professor in the Department of Public Administration at Northern Illinois University.

How does “congestion pricing” work?

Michael Peddle: Congestion pricing is actually something that is an old idea with some new labels. Essentially the way that congestion pricing works is that when there are a lot of people using a particular public service or using a particular public location, you impose either a price or a higher price for using that service or that location….  

Jenn White: When we talk about congestion pricing, is it specifically for drivers, or does it extend in other ways?

Peddle: It depends. This goes to a lot of different kinds of public services, so, for example, a public park district might use a differential fee for residents and non-residents. But if the program isn’t congested and you have room, and you’re gonna actually lower the per-person cost, you might be better off not pricing that service differently if it’s congested.

Could it work in Chicago?

Peddle: One of the things that I think is very challenging is the fact that you have to decide whether this is about reducing congestion, whether it’s about environmental kinds of things or whether you’re using this as revenue-generation….For example, if [the goal] was revenue generation, one of the things that you could do is, almost without exception, a very high proportion of the automobiles that are gonna come into the city would be having to park. And so you could increase the parking tax, and that could generate revenue without having to worry so much about the electronic kind of toll. In addition to that, the implementation would...probably be easier if you confined it to the Loop because there’s still limited types of entry and exits. Whether you want to exempt people who live in the Loop, or people who live in the city of Chicago, that’s another issue. Do you want to tax or put a congestion fee on delivery trucks? What do you want to do about public transit fares?

White: It gets complicated really quickly.

Peddle: It does.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Char Daston. Click play to hear the full conversation.

GUEST: Michael Peddle, associate professor in the Department of Public Administration at Northern Illinois University

LEARN MORE: Over $10 To Drive Into Manhattan? What We Know About The Congestion Pricing Plan (New York Times 3/26/19)

Congestion Pricing: N.Y. Embraced It. Will Other Clogged Cities Follow Suit? (New York Times 4/1/19)

Financial Challenges For The Next Chicago Mayor And City Council (Civic Federation 3/12/19)

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