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Making urban road pricing acceptable and effective: searching for quality and equity in urban mobility

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  • Viegas, José M.
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    Abstract

    Urban Road Pricing has been proposed many times as a powerful instrument to fight congestion in urban traffic, but has systematically faced a hostile political envirionment, due to lack of confidence on its promised (traffic) results and fear of its political consequences. Lack of action in this front is contributing to stable or even growing congestion problems in most large cities. This paper tries to address the problem with a fresh look at the objectives of road pricing and at the reasons for that political hostility. For managing and developing the urban mobility system, efficiency and equity are normally taken as the basic economic objectives. Sustainability objectives may be integrated in the efficiency objective if we are able to represent adequately the costs of the resources consumed in the process. Political hostility is normally based on having to pay for what was freely available, and on the risk of exclusion for those with little revenue available for the extra cost of driving into the city. Pursuit of efficency leads to suggestion of marginal social cost pricing but this is hard to explain to the public and application of this principle is fraught with pitfalls since some components of that cost get smaller as traffic grows (noise related costs for example). Pricing is still a good option but the objective has to be something easier to understand and to serve as a target for mobility managers. That "new" objective is quality of the mobility system, with a meaning similar to that of "level of service" in traffic engineering, and prices should be managed to across space, time and transport modes in such a way that provision of service is made with good quality in all components. Pursuit of equity leads to some form of rationing, which has often been associated with high transaction costs and abuse by the administrators. But the use of electronic road pricing should allow easy ways to address the rationing process without such high costs. The basic proposition is that all local taxpayers receive as a direct restitution of their tax contribution a certain amount of "mobility rights", which can be used both for private car driving in the tolled areas and for riding public transport. These principles are easily applicable with a variety of technical solutions for road pricing, from the simplest cordon pricing to the more sophisticated "pay-as-you-go" schemes. The paper addresses this question of implementation and argues for increasingly sophisticated schemes, as people get accustomed to the principles and finer targeting of demand segments may be needed.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Transport Policy.

    Volume (Year): 8 (2001)
    Issue (Month): 4 (October)
    Pages: 289-294

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:8:y:2001:i:4:p:289-294

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    1. Small, Kenneth A., 2001. "Using the Revenues from Congestion Pricing," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt7170x9b0, University of California Transportation Center.
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