Saturday, November 25, 2006

Road pricing in the news

1. New York Times:
Congestion pricing, the idea of charging drivers for bringing vehicles into the busiest parts of Manhattan, has become a kind of holy grail for transportation advocates and urban planners in New York — a coveted prize that has remained out of reach.

A year ago, officials from a prominent civic group floated a proposal to reduce traffic by levying a $7 fee on cars and trucks driving below 60th Street, but they found themselves treated not like visionary crusaders but like bird flu patients when policy makers at City Hall said very firmly that such a change was not on the mayor’s agenda for his second term.

Now a diverse array of civic and community groups — including such unlikely allies as conservative scholars and take-back-the-streets cycling advocates — are cautiously moving to raise the subject again in the hope of overcoming the resistance of New Yorkers and their political leaders.
. . .
Mr. White said any congestion pricing program would have to be combined with — or preferably preceded by — other measures like improving bus service and smoothing traffic flow. His group has asked the city to move beyond what has already been done to reduce the number of parking permits given to city employees, who drive to work in large numbers. Transportation Alternatives would also like to see more Midtown parking spaces converted to loading zones so that streets are not clogged with double-parked trucks unloading goods.

Advocates of congestion pricing are reluctant to make specific proposals on how it could be carried out in New York, but they often point to London as an example of a successful program.
2. Seattle Times (via Greg Mankiw):
For about eight months, drivers in 275 Seattle-area households agreed to pay for something the rest of us get for free: The right to drive on the region's freeways and streets.

They were guinea pigs in a pioneering study that explored how motorists' behavior might change if they had to pay tolls — not just on a few bridges or highways, but on almost every road with a yellow center line.

Researchers established virtual tolls ranging from a nickel to 50 cents a mile. They gave participants pre-paid accounts of between $600 and $3,000, and told them they could keep whatever the tolls didn't eat up.

The experiment ended in February. Preliminary results, released this month, suggest that if such so-called "road pricing" were widespread, it could make a significant dent in traffic.
3. KTRK of Houston:
Would you pay more money to travel toll roads at peak times, such as rush hour? It may become a reality - after county commissioners decided to take a look at it.

The last increase happened two years ago and added a million dollars more a week to the toll road authority. But officials say this new study is also aimed at easing traffic congestion.
. . .
Harris County commissioners' court approved a study that will analyze the possibility of raising toll rates.

"Part of the study is congestion pricing -- the possibility of during rush hours times they could raise tolls so people who do use it will have to pay a little more," explained Gloria Roemer. "That may make some people not want to use it."
4. Birmingham Post:
The West Midlands has been urged to show leadership over road pricing after a report exposed the damaging effects of traffic congestion on the region.

Commuters in the West Midlands take longer to travel to work than those in competing regions such as Merseyside or Newcastle, according to the Department for Transport. And roads here are more congested than any part of the country except London.

Delays faced by employees are part of the reason congestion costs West Midlands business and industry £2.2 billion each year.

The report was published as West Midland councils presented the Department of Transport with proposals for a £26.6 million traffic management scheme.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce demanded the Government make good on promises to invest in public transport in the region. But local authorities were also under pressure to come out in favour of road pricing scheme which could reduce congestion on the roads. [The government has made road funding contingent on local government adoption of congestion pricing.]

Local MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said: "We need the councils to start showing some leadership. There has been a failure to make any progress on road pricing. "We seem to be losing out on that, because there has been no leadership out there."

West Midlands authorities needed to "knuckle down" and make a decision on road-pricing, she said. "They need to express a preference as to which option they support."
5. Taipei Times:
An Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) proposal that would require car and motorbike owners entering Taipei County and Taipei and Kaohsiung cities to pay a "congestion charge" met strong opposition from two candidates running for Kaohsiung mayor. The EPA is considering introducing the charge to help relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution in the three administrative areas, based on a system used in London.
I'm an economist, and I endorse this politically infeasible proposal. For Sharjah, Dubai, and where ever congestion is found.

If you want more roads without being charged for their use, then you'll get more traffic creating the "need" for more roads. That's the mechanism by which Robert Moses built his empire in New York.

Here are some of the major roadworks planned in Dubai.



Blogger copykit said...

I agree that having market-driven (no pun intended) congestion reduction could work well, but it will be hard to get everyone to agree and implement.

In Seattle, we're trying to push that people should take personal responsibility to improve traffic congestion through better driving and alternate commuting.

Check out I Am Seattle Traffic


12:48 AM  

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