L.A. Metro is researching roadways around the Santa Monica Mountains as a potential site for a congestion pricing pilot program designed to reduce rush hour traffic.

Congestion pricing decreases the number of cars on the road during peak travel times by charging a fee for entering high density areas. By combining this tool with more public transportation options, Metro seeks to improve the mobility and the quality of life for all Angelenos.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently conducting a two-year feasibility study with the goal to roll out a congestion pricing pilot by 2025.

The Santa Monica Mountain area that connects North-South traffic between the San Fernando Valley and LA Basin is being researched as one of four potential pilot locations.

“There is lots of congestion in those roadways from the I-405 to I-5,” said Tham Nguyen, senior director, Office of Extraordinary Innovation. “All of the different corridors and roadways between those interstates are also heavily congested, so we would look at how we can help distribute traffic across those different corridors to manage congestion and provide other high-quality options for people to get around.”

Traffic is a problem of supply and demand. While past Metro programs have focused on building the supply of roads, congestion pricing tackles the problem from a different angle — by reducing demand.

Although the Metro program is currently in its infancy, congestion pricing has been utilized with great success in major cities including London, Stockholm, and Seattle.

“As our economy continues to grow we anticipate a rebound in traffic and we have to look at new ways we can address that,” said Nguyen. “When used as part of a comprehensive strategy, congestion pricing can encourage just enough people to change the way they travel to achieve the small shift in the demand needed to get everyone moving and get to free flowing traffic.”

This shift can occur through people traveling at a different time, on a different route, or using a different mode like carpooling, bicycling, walking, or riding the bus. Congestion pricing can also encourage people to telecommute or choose a different destination to travel to.

Metro is currently engaging in a series of stakeholder discussions to gauge people’s interests and apprehensions about the program.

One key question is how congestion pricing will impact low-income individuals.

“While there is recognition that less traffic will save people time, reduce stress, and have other benefits, there is a real concern about potential costs, especially for households and individuals who may need to drive but may not be able to afford to do so under a pilot program,” said Nguyen.

Metro is planning to address this by studying how reducing traffic will improve bus reliability and what low-income assistance programs would be beneficial under a congestion pricing pilot.

Once a program is in place, potential excess revenues would be available for investment in public transportation development.

By summer 2021, the Metro Board intends to select a preferred pilot program location. In addition to the Santa Monica Mountains region, Metro is also researching East-West traffic along the 1-10 corridor West of Downtown LA and traffic in 110, 101, and I-10 circle of central Downtown.

By spring 2022, the research team plans to bring its pilot program plan to the Metro Board for approval. Following environmental clearance, city, state, and federal approval, the pilot is scheduled for a 2025 rollout.

“LA is not just one of the most congested areas in America, but it’s one of the most congested areas in the world,” said Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “We have a dream of this metamorphosis of the L.A. County region from a car capital of the world to a center for greater mobility, innovation and equity in transportation for everyone.”

Clara@smdp.com