Monday, February 12, 2007

THERE’S reason to think that we could be entering a golden age for congestion pricing :: NYT

FOR the small group of economists and policy wonks interested in applying supply-and-demand theories to the thorny problems of gridlock and ever-longer commutes, the $2.9 trillion fiscal 2008 budget released by President Bush on Monday contained some excellent news: $130 million in grants to finance construction of so-called congestion pricing systems.
congestion pricing was born and bred in New York City. William Vickrey, the longtime Columbia University economist and 1996 Nobel laureate, is viewed as the father of the concept.
Since February 2003, when London introduced a system that charged a fee to motorists entering the central city on weekdays, “congestion has been reduced noticeably,” said Edward L. Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard. “People are using the roads less, and there have been remarkable upticks in speeds.”

Beyond that, congestion pricing holds out the possibility of harnessing people’s innate economic rationality and self-interest in order to promote a series of public goods. Every time a driver turns onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, she slows down the travel speed of all the other drivers, imposing a cost — or, as economists say, a negative externality — on countless fellow citizens.
“People are willing to pay for that time savings, and the price can be adjusted in such a way that you keep the lanes pretty full but don’t become overloaded,” said Kenneth Small, research professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine. “You can almost always drive in the express lanes without slowing down, free flow.” In San Diego, the price of using the H.O.T. lanes can change every six minutes.
The greater willingness of drivers and policy makers to consider congestion pricing is a recognition that building more roads will never be a solution to traffic problems.
In New York, many elected officials argued that charging fees to drivers would be a burden for poor and middle-income people. Professor Glaeser disagrees. “The greatest beneficiaries of reduced congestion on roads in New York would be people who ride buses to get to and from work, who would find their commutes shortened [because fewer cars will be on the street].”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congestion pricing is a brilliant idea in a city that has an alternative to surface transportation. However, in a place like Dubai (or, god save us, Sharjah), it's lunacy to put a congestion charge when there is NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE. Maybe in two years, when the monorail's in operation, or in five, when the subway's done, but this coming July?!? Lunacy.

7:00 AM  

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