Skip to comments.U.S. Cities Consider Congestion Pricing
Posted on 07/14/2009 6:11:04 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
The social and economic costs of lost productivity and wasted fuel from traffic-choked streets are estimated to be $87 billion a year, according to the Texas Transportation Institutes 2009 Urban Mobility Report. So far, federal, state and local efforts focused mostly on expanding road capacity have been largely unsuccessful at slowing the growing congestion on U.S. roads.
Transportation experts now advocate a different approach, changing the emphasis from increasing supply to reducing demand. To reinforce smart growth policies, plug mounting transportation funding gaps and achieve immediate traffic relief, London, Stockholm, Singapore, Milan and three cities in Norway have implemented cordon pricing, a form of congestion pricing. This promising, yet controversial, strategy uses electronic sensors (like EZ-pass) or video cameras to automatically charge cars and trucks that cross a perimeter (or cordon) into a heavily trafficked business district during peak hours.
Some cities deduct the charge from a pre-paid debit account; others require the driver to pay by midnight online, by text message or at kiosks. The fees a few cents to as high as $15, depending on the city and factors such as vehicle type are primarily to discourage driving, but net revenues are used to fund mass transit and other transportation improvements.
Stockholms congestion charging program cut traffic by 20 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by 12 percent and traffic accidents involving injuries by 5-10 percent, since its inception in 2006. Ridership on inner-city bus routes rose 9 percent. After expenses, the program generates 625 million Swedish kronor ($80 million) a year for the city.
Beginning in 2003, Londons system reduced vehicle miles driven by 12 percent overall, with car travel down 34 percent and taxi, bus, and bicycle travel up over 20 percent each. The charges and fines brought in £330 million ($530 million) last year.
Milan, with continuous air quality issues, started its Ecopass program last year to reduce exhaust. Traffic and the number of high pollution days both fell 15 percent, and the use of older, higher-emitting vehicles facing premium fees declined most.
For more than two decades in Norway, charging systems in the cities of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim led to traffic improvements of 6-10, 7 and 10 percent, respectively.
Singapore pioneered the use of cordon pricing in 1975 (automated in 1998), reducing congestion by 45 percent, increasing transit use by 20 percent and speeding up travel from 11 mph to 21 mph.
Most cities achieved these benefits almost immediately, and they have proven to be largely sustained over time.
The programs are not without their critics. As stated in the "The New York Times," While motorists generally applaud the philosophy less pollution and gridlock they tend to complain bitterly about how it is administered. That article referred to Londons system (potentially the most burdensome at £8 ($13) and without an automatic deduction or debit system), but it is somewhat characteristic of objections elsewhere.
The impact of the tolls on lower-income drivers and those far from convenient transit is a common concern. There are also fears that these policies discourage shopping and business within the zone.
While there were some initial reports of declining retail sales, most studies have found no significant economic detriment. Business actually improved in many cases. Companies tout the better mobility and parking; retail stores profit from greater storefront exposure and increased pedestrian and cycling activity.
The results helped turn popular opinion. In Stockholm, residents approval of the project went from 30 to 55 percent within the half-year trial, after which voters passed a referendum to continue the program. Milan and the Norwegian cities also began their cordon pricing on an experimental or time-limited basis, yet all of them extended the programs (except Trondheim, whose program expired after 15 years as elected officials promised. It had paid for all the infrastructure improvements it was designed to fund).
The improvement is substantial, and most officials consider the programs successful. Beyond the significant revenue generated, an article in the "Journal of Economic Perspectives" values the social benefits in saved time, productivity and fewer accidents, injuries and emissions at £230 million ($375 million) a year in London.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted New York to be the first U.S. city to replicate the international success, proposing to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan south of 60th street. His plan was rejected in the state capitol last year due to equity concerns from representatives of the other boroughs and suburbs. That decision meant the city had to forgo $354 million from the U.S. Department of Transportations $1 billion Urban Partnership program, which would have paid to implement the system and create new transit routes and other traffic mitigation efforts citywide.
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is using a $1 million grant from the Federal Highway Administrations Value Pricing Program to study cordon and other road pricing options. The results will not be released until later this year, but the city is already facing resistance from business groups, and the recession has eased the enthusiasm of Mayor Gavin Newsom and other political proponents.
A recent RAND Corporation report, "Equity and Congestion Pricing," concluded that, while legitimate equity concerns exist, viewed only as a tax, congestion pricing is mildly regressive, but probably less so than other forms of transportation finance (particularly sales tax and motor-fuel tax). When congestion pricing revenues are redistributed, the overall effect can be progressive. The report cautions that specific geography complicates the equation, but it could lend support to cities considering congestion pricing schemes.
National League of Cities
It ALWAYS comes down to government revenue, even traffic frustration for crying out loud.
Change is in the air and it "ain't no" Obama change.
Eugenics, the final solution to over crowding.
Let’s charge the people who live and work there.....and drive the shoppers and tourists away!!!!! WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!
I'm from DFL Minnesota.
Trust me, it doesn't work for they will just expanded it to the suburbs and further as necessary.
It's nothing but a money grab systematically and they will get it one way or another until or if....
City's, which are in decline and becoming ghetto's, will now have limited businesses locating in them as patrons/employees/vendors/etc. will avoid going there due to the charges!
This is just about stealing more money from the people. If cities wanted to get rid of congestion they could simply ban cars.
If London, Stockholm, Singapore, Milan and three cities in Norway jump off a bridge should we be inclined to follow? I shan’t.
Devil’s Advocate: If California sold me one of the SF Bay Area bridges, the first thing I would do would be to implement time-of-day pricing.