IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • Viegas, José M.


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Viegas, José M., 2001. "Making urban road pricing acceptable and effective: searching for quality and equity in urban mobility," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 289-294, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:8:y:2001:i:4:p:289-294

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Small, Kenneth A., 1992. "Using the Revenues from Congestion Pricing," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt32p9m3mm, University of California Transportation Center.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:8:y:2001:i:4:p:289-294. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.