'Congestion Tax' Still In Play For Chicago

Rob Hart
September 09, 2019 - 4:31 pm

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot is considering some old ideas as she stares into the maw of an $800 million budget deficit.

One idea would be to impose congestion charges on drivers heading downtown during the morning and afternoon rush-hour periods.

Singapore, Stockholm, and London already have imposed congestion taxes. New York will be the first American city to impose a congestion tax when it takes effect in 2021.

Bob Reed of Chicago Magazine told the WBBM Noon Business Hour that it would take years to study the issue before a congestion tax would be implemented.

One potential complication for Chicago is that there are more points of entry into downtown compared to other cities that have congestion taxes, making it much more difficult to collect.

"Even though technology has gotten better and you're able to trace drivers more than you could in those other days, it's still going to be very difficult to implement a plan like this," Reed said.

Reed added that public transportation needs to keep up.

"Is public transportation going to be able to absorb all these extra riders if you start taxing people? That's an open question,” he said.

Reed said there is an alternative to a congestion tax.

"You start taxing the ride-sharing companies even more than you already have because an argument is being made that they're adding to the congestion that we're seeing downtown."

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was in town Monday for a jobs announcement. He said a congestation tax is worth discussing, but he disagreed Uber is the driving force behind traffic problems.