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Policies to reduce traffic externalities in cities

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  • Bruno DE BORGER
  • Stefan PROOST

Abstract

This paper considers various policy measures to reduce traffic externalities in cities, including externality-reducing investments, tolls, emission standards, low emission zones, and bypass capacity to guide traffic around the city center. Using a simple model that distinguishes local and through traffic, we study the optimal use of these instruments by an urban government that cares for the welfare of its inhabitants, and we compare the results with those preferred by a federal authority that takes into account the welfare of all road users. Our results include the following. First, compared to the federal social optimum, we show that the city government will over-invest in externality-reducing infrastructure whenever this infrastructure increases the generalized cost of transit traffic. Second, comparing emission standards and road tolls, we find that cities with a lot of commuters will favor tolls, even though from the federal perspective standards are better. Third, when implementing low emission zones, the urban government will set both the fee for non-compliance and the standard at a higher level than the federal government. Moreover, at sufficiently high transit levels the urban government will prefer imposing a toll instead of implementing a low emission zone. Fourth, if the city can toll the urban infrastructure, it will only invest in bypass capacity when it is allowed to earn extra toll revenues on the bypass that exceed investment costs. Although the paper focuses on non-congestion externalities, most insights also hold in the presence of congestion.

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Paper provided by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën in its series Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers with number ces12.10.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ete:ceswps:ces12.10

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  1. Jan K. Brueckner, 2004. "Network Structure and Airline Scheduling," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 291-312, 06.
  2. Fullerton, Don & West, Sarah E., 2002. "Can Taxes on Cars and on Gasoline Mimic an Unavailable Tax on Emissions?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 135-157, January.
  3. Ian W. H. Parry & Margaret Walls & Winston Harrington, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(2), pages 373-399, June.
  4. Barry Ubbels & Erik Verhoef, 2006. "Governmental Competition in Road Charging and Capacity Choice," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 06-036/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 10 Sep 2007.
  5. Antonio M. Bento & Lawrence H. Goulder & Mark R. Jacobsen & Roger H. von Haefen, 2009. "Distributional and Efficiency Impacts of Increased US Gasoline Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 667-99, June.
  6. de Palma, André & Lindsey, Robin, 2007. "Chapter 2 Transport user charges and cost recovery," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 29-57, January.
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