Mayor Jenny Durkan’s announcement that she wants the city to come up with a plan for “congestion pricing,” tolling surface streets in downtown and South Lake Union, is the latest city policy meant to sound and feel good, but that is deeply delusional and throws Seattle’s working poor under the bus - in this case, literally.

Durkan’s general goal sounds laudable - to get more people out of their cars and using public transit, thereby reducing the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. The last four mayors tried to reduce Seattle’s carbon output, but it remained basically stable over that time. Explosive population growth, in the city and our region, offset the per capita reductions. Durkan wants more.

But at what cost, and to what benefit? Seattle’s contribution to global carbon emissions is miniscule. Reducing it by, say, ten percent just doesn’t matter much. It does allow Seattleites to feel smug about ourselves, and it would help to shame a somnambulent federal government, if Republicans were capable of shame.

Seattle is even unlikely to influence other American cities, several of whom have already considered and rejected congestion pricing. No U.S. city has actually enacted such a plan. The best-known examples of congestion pricing are European: Stockholm, Milan, and especially London, the first major city to implement it.

But as we should have learned with bicycles, homelessness, and any number of other issues, Seattle is not Europe. Our geography (especially the sprawl) is different. Our levels of poverty and our social safety net programs are different. Bike-friendly models like Copenhagen and Amsterdam don’t have our hills.

In this case, London can use congestion pricing to reduce car usage because it has a well-established public transportation system that people can and do use instead - especially rail, which takes people off the streets entirely and is more carbon-friendly than buses. Greater London has 14 million people and not only a robust passenger rail network, but The London Underground has 11 lines, 270 stations, 250 miles of track, and 1.3 billion passengers annually. The Puget Sound region has a quarter of London’s population - but Link light rail has only one Seattle line, with 16 stations, 20 miles of track, and 23 million passengers annually. That’s two percent of London’s ridership. /Our one line doesn’t even serve most King County neighborhoods, with the next expansion - the modest four mile Northgate extension - not due to open until 2021, the same year Durkan wants congestion pricing to start.

Metro buses are also a problematic option to replace car usage. Every year recently has seen record ridership, but Metro funding hasn’t kept up with demand. The city will soon announce reductions in the projects funded by 2015’s transportation levy, due both to escalating costs and the loss of federal funding. Projects dependent on that federal funding, like the proposed seven new Rapid Ride lines, are in the most jeopardy. Without those lines, buses will be even more crowded in 2021 than they are now, with central city routes already full during the hours of greatest congestion.

At this point, congestion pricing resembles Seattle’s approach to homelessness, which dismantles emergency shelters and social support services in favor of funneling the homeless into permanent affordable housing that does not exist, at least not in anywhere near the amount needed to meet the demand. A similar dynamic awaits those who decide to turn to public transportation rather than paying to drive downtown. After decades of political leaders using transportation money to fund vanity projects and real estate development schemes, Seattle simply doesn’t have the public transit infrastructure a city our size should have.

Beyond all of that, congestion pricing is extremely regressive. Someone who can afford a downtown condo or rental won’t even notice downtown tolling - but someone who works downtown but has been forced to move to Kent or Lake City faces a light rail system that’s irrelevant and a bus system that doesn’t even serve many areas well on nights or weekends. What are they supposed to do? If they’re driving because there are no practical alternatives, it doesn’t make sense to force them out of their cars until those alternatives are in place.

But, as with the homeless waiting in vain for alternatives, the city’s policies doesn’t really much care about the working poor. Instead, Seattle simply hopes they’ll go away, in this case in service of a largely symbolic goal. It hasn’t worked with the homeless, and it won’t with this, either. It will simply place more burdens and misery on the lives of people far removed from the eco-friendly confines of City Hall. There’s something positively Trumpian about city leaders that make policy decisions based on the city they imagine, rather than the one that actually exists.