I published an op-ed in the Seattle Times today advocating variable pricing for roads as a method to lessen congestion.
The idea of charging more during crowded times and less when fewer cars are on the road is nothing new to me (see this and this). But it's a big deal that the Municipal League, a venerable nonpartisan good-government group, is now on board. Here's from the piece:
In the past, tolls have been imposed to support construction of major projects. We at the Municipal League of King County support a broader use of tolling to increase traffic flow through congested corridors, while at the same time recovering costs from those using the roads. This is how we price other goods and services when there is limited supply.
As I mention, there are plenty of details to be worked out. The key, as I wrote, is providing alternatives so that additional fees are fair and that everyone benefits. That means adding enough buses, making them faster and more frequent so that transit is a viable alternative.
The key is balancing the market so that transit is a realistic option. Right now we're massively subsidizing travel in single-occupant vehicles. A smart pricing system would make better use of infrastructure and have the positive benefits I mention in the article.