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Defending Road Pricing from Public Opinion

Access Magazine takes a deep dive into congestion management, explaining the reasoning behind a publicly unpopular strategy: road pricing.
July 17, 2017, 8am PDT | Elana Eden
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Neil Turner

In a piece for Access MagazineBrian Taylor writes that road pricing is the congestion solution "perhaps most favored by transportation experts, but also generally reviled by the traveling public and the officials they elect." So, he takes up the task of explaining the promise planners worldwide see in pricing schemes, and responding to common objections.

One point in favor of pricing, Taylor writes, is simply that the research bears out its efficacy: "Rather than simply punishing drivers, well-tailored fees have been shown to buy travelers substantial time savings, with the added benefit of reduced vehicle emissions as well."

From an economic perspective, "Road space is scarce and valuable, so why not use prices to allocate it like we do for almost everything else?"

For those who object that roads are public goods, Taylor has a response. "Charging for roads is qualitatively different from charging for public parks or libraries," he argues. "With congested roads, use by one person can strongly affect use by others and can slow everyone else upstream."

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Published on Friday, July 7, 2017 in Access Magazine
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