The idea of charging tolls on both of Seattle's floating bridges is back in the news since the state treasurer called foul on financing plans to replace the 520 bridge.
A couple of thoughts on the controversy:
-- Tolls should be implemented right away and the 520 project should start immediately. The charge would help finance the rebuilding project and be an incentive to use transit. Now driving makes sense despite soaring gas prices because buses have less convenient routes, take longer and sit in the same traffic as cars. Charging, say, $1 for each car crossing would begin to alter the calculation. Make it $2.50 next year and $5 after that and the calculus would change.
Tolls or congestion pricing must be paired with commensurate improvements in transit in order to realize the full benefit. Instead of just a regressive tax on poor drivers, tolls are a device to make more efficient use of the infrastructure. It's important that people see improved mobility as a result.
-- A steep charge to use the floating bridges -- it could be as much as $10 -- would lead to dramatic changes in the culture of the metropolitan ara. It would make living closer to work more desirable, keeping more Eastside workers closer to the job and stimulating demand for other services. Nightlife in Bellevue would grow beyond multiplexes and Cheesecake Factory.