Singapore was the first city in the world to use an electronic road toll collection system to implement congestion pricing. An Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) toll in Singapore stock photo from EQRoy/Shutterstock.

The possibility of implementing decongestion pricing, a toll levied on motor vehicles entering the busiest parts of a city, continues to gain momentum in the United States. Manhattan now plans to roll out its ambitious plan to charge privately-owned vehicle drivers a flat fee to any car entering below 60th Street. If successful, it has the potential to raise billions of dollars to improve the MTA subway and reduce congestion within the city's core.

Talk of such a project abounds in our region as well. In the wake of multiple violent deaths by automobile this month, the DC Council has introduced new bills aggressively targeting Vision Zero, and a draft budget revision from Councilmember Mary Cheh includes funds for studying decongestion pricing. The DC Council's ambitions sit in stark contrast to the state of Maryland, where Governor Larry Hogan seeks to cut congestion by adding capacity to interstates, a move that could be considered “loosening your belt to fight obesity.”

Currently, there are no cities in the Western hemisphere that utilize decongestion pricing. But as traffic piles up even as driving alternatives grow in popularity, it becomes an increasingly viable option for urban transportation management.

By discouraging automobile use and encouraging other transit modes, decongestion pricing downtown will impact congestion on roads that ferry commuters to the core, including the Beltway and I-270. If the funds benefit Metro, it can improve the system region-wide and further incentivize people to get out of their cars.

In London, where such a program has been going for more than a decade and a half, traffic is down 25% and cycling is up 66%, and it has generated millions for transit improvements. Check out this Vox video further detailing how London overcame its initial opposition to decongestion pricing, and how it may roll out in Manhattan when it enacts its policy: