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Traffic externalities in cities: The economics of speed bumps, low emission zones and city bypasses

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  • De Borger, Bruno
  • Proost, Stef

Abstract

This paper considers various policy measures that governments can use to reduce traffic externalities in cities. Unlike much of the available literature that emphasized congestion, we focus on measures that reduce pollution, noise and some accident risks. These measures include noise barriers, speed bumps, traffic lights, 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 residents, and we compare the results with those preferred by a federal authority that also takes into account the welfare of road users from outside the city. 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 through traffic. We can therefore expect an excessive number of speed bumps and traffic lights, but the right investment in noise barriers. Second, when implementing low emission zones, the urban government will set both the fee for non-compliance and the emission standard at a more stringent level than the federal government. Moreover, at sufficiently high levels of through traffic the urban government will prefer imposing a toll instead of implementing a low emission zone. Third, whatever the tolling instruments in place, the city will always underinvest in bypass capacity. Finally, if it can toll all roads but is forced to invest all bypass toll revenue in the bypass, it will never invest in bypass capacity. Although the paper focuses on non-congestion externalities, most insights also hold in the presence of congestion.

Suggested Citation

  • De Borger, Bruno & Proost, Stef, 2013. "Traffic externalities in cities: The economics of speed bumps, low emission zones and city bypasses," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 53-70.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:76:y:2013:i:c:p:53-70
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2013.02.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Fan, Jin & He, Haonan & Wu, Yanrui, 2016. "Personal carbon trading and subsidies for hybrid electric vehicles," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 164-173.
    2. Ossokina, Ioulia V. & Verweij, Gerard, 2015. "Urban traffic externalities: Quasi-experimental evidence from housing prices," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 1-13.
    3. Beland, Louis-Philippe & Brent, Daniel A., 2018. "Traffic and crime," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 96-116.
    4. Georg Hirte & Stefan Tscharaktschiew, 2015. "Optimal Fuel Taxes and Heterogeneity of Cities," Review of Regional Research: Jahrbuch für Regionalwissenschaft, Springer;Gesellschaft für Regionalforschung (GfR), vol. 35(2), pages 173-209, October.
    5. repec:bla:presci:v:96:y:2017:i:2:p:401-422 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Stef Proost & Jonas Westin, 2017. "Race to the top in traffic calming," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(2), pages 401-422, June.
    7. Evers, Ruth & Proost, Stef, 2015. "Optimizing intersections," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 100-119.
    8. Tscharaktschiew, Stefan, 2014. "Shedding light on the appropriateness of the (high) gasoline tax level in Germany," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 189-210.
    9. DE BORGER, Bruno & PROOST, Stef, 2015. "Tax and regulatory policies for European transport - getting there, but in the slow lane," Working Papers 2015009, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Externalities; Urban policy; Urban transport investment; Environment;

    JEL classification:

    • R48 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government Pricing and Policy
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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