New public relations campaign to convince Chicago area residents that congestion pricing is the way to go

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning launched a campaign today intended to raise support for congestion pricing on Chicago area highways:

Would driving a steady 55 mph the entire way be worth the price, say, of a latte, particularly on days when you are crunched for time?

Officials at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning think drivers will see value in a congestion-pricing plan that the agency is recommending be implemented on new highway lanes planned on six major existing and future roadways across the six-county area. Under congestion pricing, drivers who opt to use free-flowing express lanes pay a fee, or an extra toll on the Illinois Tollway, during peak traffic periods. The price goes down when fewer vehicles are on the roads…

In the proposal, the amount would be 5 cents to 31 cents per mile during rush hours, depending on the specific roadway. That comes out to $2.76 in the Stevenson scenario and $3.41 on the Eisenhower…

CMAP officials said their goal is to get congestion pricing up and running within three or four years, starting on the Addams. A widening project is slated to begin on the I-90 corridor next year, and the tollway has previously identified it for a possible congestion-pricing experiment.

I will be interested to see how people respond and what this public relations campaign looks like. It seems that certain highway solutions in the Chicago area, such as adding more lanes and increasing traffic capacity, are reaching an end or have run their course. Just how many lanes can you add anyway – and it really doesn’t help as this tends to attract drivers. There have been some plans in place to extend mass transit, such as through the delayed STAR Line, but money is lacking. High occupancy vehicle lanes have been discussed but haven’t really gone anywhere. Thus, congestion pricing might kill two birds with one stone: reduce highway traffic (or at least stabilize it) while raising some money that can be reapplied to highways. Of course, this will strike some as unfair, particularly coming after a toll hike (that hasn’t limited tollway traffic much), but no one is being forced to use the express lanes…

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