Cars Visual How can we cure congestion? David Levinson • April 19, 2014 How can we cure congestion? by Lewis Lehe Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterRedditLinkedIn Related
Congestion pricing does nothing to decrease auto trips.
It does provide a way to allocate road costs that reduces peak use – reducing demand for additional lanes. It also has a social impact that is felt differently by drivers with different incomes.
For example, the low-income worker at McDonalds who has to be at work by 8 am has to pay more for a trip than a wealthy attorney who lives in exurbia and can drive to her downtown office only when she chooses to do so.
“Congestion pricing does nothing to decrease auto trips.”
Do you know of a congestion-pricing scheme that has failed? I learned about London’s congestion charge in an economics course. After a year, there were 30% fewer private cars entering central London and many more people using taxis, buses, and bikes.
If we really wanted to benefit low-income workers, we’d be charging the wealthy exurban attorney the full cost of her commute, and improving alternative transportation options for people who can’t afford the full cost of private car trips: allowing more people to live in transit-served neighborhoods, and providing better service in densely-populated neighborhoods, and building a network of protected bikeways that connects all communities.
If the only way a poor person can get to work is by spending $9000 a year owning a car, we’re hosed no matter what.
How very true Scott. In the long run, the only way to stem the massive inequality and wealth evaporation caused by automobile dependence is to stop subsidizing automobile dependence.
The wealthy attorney probably also drives an expensive automobile and therefore pays a much larger registration tax for the vehicle. He also likely pays a larger fuel tax because he can afford to drive more or drive a vehicle that has a lower MPG.
The poor person has a much lower car investment, pays much lower registration taxes, and probably drives far less. He/she more likely lives in an area with good public transportation (or chose to live in a cheaper area without good public transportation knowing driving costs may be higher). Although at $4.50 a round trip during rush hour times, it may actually be cheaper for most people to drive short distances, and a heck of a lot more convenient.
I’m not trying to suggest there is no inequality and that things don’t need to change, but there is no major subsidy for automobile drivers. Millions of dollars are collected in fuel/registration taxes for state/county roads, and property taxes cover most city streets.
Back to the original topic: Rather than the cost to build a congestion pricing system (and the cost to the end users) the better solution is simply to stop building more lanes. As congestion increases more people will simply decide to avoid taking trips during congested hours, or choose to shop somewhere closer to home. It is already expensive to drive into a downtown area due to parking fees (and city receives a significant amount of property tax revenue from the ramps which can go to non-automobile projects). Is it necessary to build an expensive tax collection system disguised as a way to reduce congestion?