Making Congestion Pricing Politically Feasible

In this article from Access, authors David King, Michael Manville and Donald Shoup suggest that distributing the revenue created by road tolling and congestion pricing will make the controversial idea more politically viable.

2 minute read

January 10, 2008, 12:00 PM PST

By Nate Berg


"We propose a new way to create political support for congestion pricing on urban freeways: distribute the toll revenue to cities with the tolled freeways. With the revenue as a prize, local elected officials can become the political champions of congestion pricing. For these officials, the political benefits of the toll revenue can be far greater than the political costs of supporting congestion pricing. If congestion tolls were charged on all the freeways in Los Angeles County, for example, and the revenue were returned to the 66 cities traversed by those freeways, we estimate (using a model first developed by Elizabeth Deakin and Greig Harvey) that each city would receive almost $500 per capita per year."

"Cities with freeways have three attributes that make them appropriate recipients for toll revenue: their gains are certain, their residents suffer the environmental consequences of living near freeways, and their local elected officials will have a strong incentive to spend the money in a way that makes their residents better off."

"Nothing about congestion pricing matters if no one ever implements it, so all thinking about the politics of congestion pricing must start with the challenge of winning its initial approval. In this circumstance, the absence of advocates is a far greater hindrance than the presence of opponents. Even if there were no opposition to congestion pricing, the political problem would remain because the absence of opposition does not equal the presence of support. We can eliminate every argument against congestion pricing, but if we don't create strong political arguments for it, we will never properly price our roads."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 in Access

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