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A comparative analysis of US toll policy

Listed author(s):
  • Holgui­n-Veras, Jose
  • Cetin, Mecit
  • Xia, Shuwen
Registered author(s):

    In the US, there is a long tradition of toll roads, beginning with the Lancaster Turnpike that was built at the end of the 18th century connecting Philadelphia and Lancaster. There are currently more than 300 toll facilities in the US, which is probably the largest number of toll facilities in the world. These facilities represent a wide range of conditions, from hypercongested facilities in large metropolitan areas such as New York City to toll highways in rural areas. The toll structures are equally diverse, ranging from multi-tier price structures with frequent user, carpool, and time of day discounts; to simpler structures in which the only differentiation is made on the basis of the number of axles per vehicle. The toll rates are typically set by the agencies that operate or own the toll facilities. The rules or formulas by which these tolls are determined are not generally available to the public, though it is safe to say that toll decisions are made taking into account technical considerations, as well as the all important criterion of political acceptability. However, data on toll rates and how they change by vehicle types and by some other attributes are readily available. The overall objective of this paper is to analyze the toll data from various facilities across the US to gain insight into the overall factors affecting the tolls. A more specific objective is to assess--though in a rather approximate fashion--if the tolls by vehicle type, relative to each other, are appropriate and consistent with economic theory. This is achieved by comparing tolls to approximate indicators of road space consumption and pavement deterioration. The literature review confirmed that this is the first time such research has been conducted which is an important first step toward an analysis of the efficiency of current toll policies. The analyses in this paper are based on a random sample of all toll facilities across the US. The toll dataset, which include toll rates for passenger cars, busses, and three different truck types, is assembled mainly from the available information on the web sites of various toll agencies. After cleaning the data, the authors used econometric modeling to estimate a set of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models that express tolls as functions of independent variables. Three families of models were estimated: linear models, models based on expansions of Taylor series, and models based on piece-wise linear approximations to non-linear effects. The resulting models were analyzed to identify the salient features of current toll policies towards different vehicle types.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

    Volume (Year): 40 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 10 (December)
    Pages: 852-871

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:40:y:2006:i:10:p:852-871
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