An Argument for Congestion Pricing

In the first of two guest posts, UCLA researcher Eric A. Morris blogs on the logic behind congestion pricing.
January 8, 2009, 7am PST | franny.ritchie
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"To many people, [congestion pricing] sounds like a scheme by mustache-twirling bureaucrats and their academic apologists to fleece drivers out of their hard-earned cash. Why should drivers have to pay to use roads their tax dollars have already paid for? Won't the remaining free roads be swamped as drivers are forced off the tolled roads? Won't the working-class and poor be the victims here, as the tolled routes turn into 'Lexus lanes'?"

"[Under the current system,] there's no free lunch; instead of paying with money, you pay with the effort and time needed to acquire the good. Think of Soviet shoppers spending their lives in endless queues to purchase artificially low-priced but exceedingly scarce goods. Then think of Americans who can fulfill nearly any consumerist fantasy quickly but at a monetary cost. Free but congested roads have left us shivering on the streets of Moscow."

"Using tolls to help internalize the congestion externality would somewhat reduce the number of trips made on the most congested roads at the peak usage periods; some trips would be moved to less congested times and routes, and others would be foregone entirely. This way we would cut down on the congestion costs we impose on each other."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

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Published on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 in The New York Times
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