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Try almost anything to reduce traffic — except charging drivers more

Try almost anything to reduce traffic — except charging drivers more
Morning traffic moves slowly on the 101 Freeway near downtown Los Angeles in 2016. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

Car commuting burns gasoline, imposes significant health costs and arguably makes residents of the more densely populated areas of Los Angeles less mobile. And yet, people do not want to pay more to do it, even if they concede we ought to rely less on driving.

That was the broad sentiment of the few dozen readers who wrote letters about Metro floating a plan to adopt congestion pricing for motorists, a scheme aimed at disincentivizing driving by charging tolls to enter busy areas at peak travel times. Aside from a small handful of letter writers who welcomed congestion pricing, most readers rejected tolls and suggested alternative ways to get people out of their cars — as long as they do not involve charging people more to exercise their sacred privilege to drive.

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Here are some of those ideas.

Suzanne Brugman of La Habra Heights proposes an urban reorganization:

I have a novel idea: Give tax breaks or other incentives to businesses that build outside central Los Angeles in bedroom communities where people live. This could cut drive times, save gas, decrease air pollution and increase family and recreation time.

This would require acting in the best interest of the people, not the politicians and power brokers.

Santa Monica resident Sonya Sones asks for gleaming buses and trains:

One can’t help but wonder if the people suggesting the conversion of carpool lanes into toll lanes have ever driven in Los Angeles. Haven’t they noticed that carpool lanes are congested too?

Furthermore, driving in the carpool lane increases anxiety. When an aggressive L.A. driver is riding your tail, you can’t just move over. Charging tolls to use these lanes would increase congestion elsewhere on the road.

Instead of blowing a large sum on a two-year study of congestion pricing, why not actually begin creating less congestion right now by putting that money toward keeping the Metro system so clean and safe that more people would actually want to use it?

Hal Drake of Santa Barbara wants to go back to the future:

Instead of pricing, how about using the same system we adopted during the first gasoline shortage in the late 1970s?

Cars were divided according to the last number on their license plates — even number one day, odd number the next — and could only buy gas on those days. A similar method for driving on freeways and certain roads would be fairly easy to enforce. It would certainly be disruptive, but if it gets people to try public transportation, some might find it’s more convenient than they thought.

It goes without saying that, if this is going to work, Metro will have to provide more buses and trains to meet the demand.

Chuck Ayers of Stillwater, Okla., suggests something more radical than congestion pricing:

As a former resident of Los Angeles, I believe you should tear down all the freeways and create the biggest land boom since World War II. Use the new space to build affordable housing, and build businesses in some of the same areas.

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