What could be worse for Inland Empire commuters than the
daily, lengthy drive into Los Angles? Having to pay a per-mile tax on that ride.
With the LA County Metro Transit Authority considering a congestion tax, we
performed an analysis to predict the cost of Inland Empire workers commuting to
No matter how many lanes are added, the Los Angles metro
area has a serious traffic problem. The average LA driver lost 128 hours
sitting in traffic in 2018, according to a report from INRIX. This congestion
costs $1,788 to each individual driver, the sixth highest congestion cost per
individual in the world. The city has prioritized reducing travel times through
different means in the past – privately funded toll roads, additions to public
roads, and increasing public transportation – but nothing has proven effective.
Demand for travel is highly elastic: when congestion is successfully reduced,
making a trip easier, people decide to take more trips, rapidly restoring the
prior level of traffic. With only the inconvenience of traffic to restrain
demand, we are doomed to a high level of congestion. In order to cut down
congestion and get the city ready for an influx of people in the 2028 Olympics,
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now considering a tax per mile
driven in LA county. An additional cost, beyond the time of a trip, may
dissuade travelers, leading to reduced traffic and faster travel times. While
this measure could cut congestion, it will certainly impact commuters who work
in Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles would not be the first major city to implement
congestion pricing. In the 21st century, cities including London,
Singapore, Milan, and Stockholm have employed this tactic. While unpopular at
first, congestion pricing has been effective in these cities. Miles driven usually
decreases by 15 to 20 percent, according to a 2019 report by TransForm.
While Los Angeles officials have not stated what the
per-mile tax would be, a pilot program for a similar per-mile congestion tax in
Washington has a proposed rate of 2.4 cents. For our analysis, we used 3 cents
Residents of both Riverside and San Bernardino County commute to all 94 cities in Los Angeles County. Riverside residents were assumed to use Highway 60, and San Bernardino residents were assumed to use Highway 210. We calculated the distance to each LA City from a common highway point at the edge of LA county. (We left out Avalon which is within the county but on Catalina Island.) This round trip distance-within-LA county was multiplied by the 3 cent mile tax to calculate the daily cost of the per mile tax for each County’s commuters.
The highest annual tax for a San Bernardino resident would
be $828 for a year commuting to and from Westlake Village. The lowest would be
a mere $19.2 for those who just tiptoe across the county line to Claremont. For
Riverside commuters, the highest cost would be $824.4 to Westlake and the
lowest would be $37.2 to Pomona. If all the residents continued to
commute, a 3 cent per-mile tax would generate $878 million from Inland Empire commuters
over a decade. While The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has yet to state
the per mile rate under consideration, the agency did approximate a $102
billion revenue from a decade of the congestion tax implementation. Our
estimated figure is less than 1% of this number. While we consider only IE commuters and not
LA residents or non-commute trips to LA, the disparity suggests that the LA MTA
is considering a higher tax rate than the one we have analyzed.
The Metro has yet to announce any tax estimate, but when they do,
don’t be surprised to see a higher per mile tax if the Metro plans to generate
their expected revenue.
While the tax has ways to go before even becoming law, the Metro
did unanimously vote on the 28th of February for a comprehensive
congestion pricing study. If it goes forward, IE commuters could look forward
to swifter commutes, but at an unknown, potentially high price.