SAN JOSE, Calif. - Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) officials believe that applying market principles of supply and demand to freeway driving could potentially result in tolls for all lanes, with the aim of reducing congestion and curbing carbon emissions.
"This has not been a popular idea, and we’re not surprised by that," said John Goodman, a spokesperson for the MTC.
The commission has scheduled two 90-minute webinars to further explore this option and drum up support.
"Paying to use freeways is not a new concept in the United States," a commission member said during a virtual meeting.
Under the MTC's plan, drivers might be charged a toll of around 10 cents per mile, theoretically encouraging more people to consider alternative modes of transportation and reducing the number of carbon-emitting vehicles on local freeways.
Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal, a researcher with the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose, said, "It’s really important to pair any new pricing initiatives with just giving people improved options for alternatives other than driving themselves on the freeways."
Officials noted that despite a state-mandated 19% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035, they are on track to achieve only a 17% reduction, leaving a 2% gap.
"On a per-capita basis, we are emitting fewer greenhouse gas emissions than we were. And that’s terrific, but we’re not far enough toward meeting the state target," explained Goodman.
According to research, implementing a toll system would bridge this emissions reduction gap.
Several other cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and London, have already adopted similar measures with varying degrees of success.
"When we drive, it’s because we have to. I don’t want to drive I don’t want to spend gas money. For the car. It’s a big expense for me. So when I drive it’s because I need to," said South Bay motorist Melon Halie.
Some drivers expressed concerns, citing previous polls that rejected this idea and suggested that what works in other places may not be suitable for the car-centric culture of Northern California.
"I don’t really think it’s gonna work. I think more people are just gonna pay the tolls," said Daphne Rhodes.
Joe Tarantino added, "I think it might make it worse in some aspects. Just because I think people are set in their ways, they drive their vehicles."
MTC officials estimated that if all-lane tolling is implemented, it could generate approximately $1 billion annually. A portion of these funds would be allocated to invest in public transit, making it more convenient for motorists to shift away from road travel.
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.