City looking into downtown road tolls

City Councilmember Charles Djou
City Councilmember Charles Djou
Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU-- (KHNL) A drive into downtown would come with fees during rush hour under a plan city leaders are looking at.

City leaders say something needs to be done to cut down on the number of rush hour drivers.

Cars swooping by is a scene you might see downtown on a Saturday. But during morning and afternoon rush hours, it's gridlock.

"I think it's gotten worse over the last few years," said Driver Rosemary Yap.

Just this month, Honolulu was ranked among the worst in the nation with traffic congestion. Councilmember Charles Djou says the solution may be a system that charges people $2 to $3 to drive into downtown during rush hour.

"Everybody purchases some sort of decoder when you cross certain streets you get charged a certain amount at certain hours of the day," said Councilmember Charles Djou.

Without the decoder, a camera would take a picture of your license plate and send you the bill in the mail. While not adopted by any U.S. city so far, the concept called " congestion pricing" is already driving down traffic numbers in bigger cities like London.

"After the fact when you look at what it does with driver behavior, yes it does actually reduce traffic in a certain way," said Yap.

"You have to give people alternatives, you can't go and change people without providing alternatives," said Department Of Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka.

While there may not be a one way solution, Djou says something needs to be done and congestion pricing may be the best option.

"Paving our beautiful island, or building more infrastructure or spending 6-billion dollars on a rail system. I think this is a modest alternative that can actually be effective for traffic," said Djou.

In a search for a way to clear traffic congestion, city officials say cashing in on downtown driving may be one way to meter change.

A study to look into charging downtown tolls is estimated to cost the city about a half million dollars.

The State Department of Transportation says discussion about this method is premature since they don't have the authority to charge tolls.

The city is expected to take action on this issue next month.