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A political economy model of road pricing

  • Bruno DE BORGER
  • Stef PROOST

In this paper, we take a political economy approach to study the introduction of urban congestion tolls, using a simple majority voting model. Making users pay for external congestion costs is for an economist an obvious reform, but successful introductions of externality pricing in transport are rare. The two exceptions are London and Stockholm that are characterized by two salient facts. First, the toll revenues were tied to improvements of public transport. Second, although a majority was against road pricing before it was actually introduced, a majority was in favor of the policy reform after its introduction. This paper constructs a model to explain these two aspects. Using a stylized model with car and public transport, we show that it is easier to obtain a majority when the toll revenues are used to subsidize public transport than when they are used for a tax refund. Furthermore, introducing idiosyncratic uncertainty for car substitution costs, we can explain the presence of a majority that is ex ante against road pricing and ex post in favor. The ex ante majority against road pricing also implies that there is no majority for organizing an experiment that would take away the individual uncertainty.

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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 ces10.20.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ete:ceswps:ces10.20
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  1. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," Economics Working Papers 0020, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  2. Stephen Coate & Stephen Morris, . "Policy Persistence," Penn CARESS Working Papers 8a66677895e9fcb3f6d813c0c, Penn Economics Department.
  3. King, David & Manville, Michael & Shoup, Donald, 2007. "The political calculus of congestion pricing," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt9js9z8gz, University of California Transportation Center.
  4. Calthrop, Edward & De Borger, Bruno & Proost, Stef, 2010. "Cost-benefit analysis of transport investments in distorted economies," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 44(7), pages 850-869, August.
  5. Small, Kenneth A., 2001. "Using the Revenues from Congestion Pricing," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt7170x9b0, University of California Transportation Center.
  6. Sanjay Jain & Sharun W. Mukand, 2003. "Redistributive Promises and the Adoption of Economic Reform," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 256-264, March.
  7. Brownstone, David & Small, Kenneth A., 2005. "Valuing time and reliability: assessing the evidence from road pricing demonstrations," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 279-293, May.
  8. Parry, Ian W.H. & Small, Kenneth, 2007. "Should Urban Transit Subsidies Be Reduced?," Discussion Papers dp-07-38, Resources For the Future.
  9. Winslott-Hiselius, Lena & Brundell-Freij, Karin & Vagland, Asa & Byström, Camilla, 2009. "The development of public attitudes towards the Stockholm congestion trial," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 269-282, March.
  10. Inge Mayeres & Stef Proost, 1998. "Marginal Tax Reform, Externalities and Income Distribution," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces9832, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.
  11. Schade, J. & Baum, M., 2007. "Reactance or acceptance? Reactions towards the introduction of road pricing," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 41-48, January.
  12. King, David & Manville, Michael & Shoup, Donald, 2007. "The political calculus of congestion pricing," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 111-123, March.
  13. Dixit, Avinash & Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1997. "Common Agency and Coordination: General Theory and Application to Government Policy Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 752-69, August.
  14. Eliasson, Jonas & Hultkrantz, Lars & Nerhagen, Lena & Rosqvist, Lena Smidfelt, 2009. "The Stockholm congestion - charging trial 2006: Overview of effects," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 240-250, March.
  15. Fernandez, Raquel & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1146-55, December.
  16. Odeck, James & Bråthen, Svein, 2002. "Toll financing in Norway: The success, the failures and perspectives for the future," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 253-260, July.
  17. Parry, Ian W.H. & Bento, Antonio Miguel R., 1999. "Revenue recycling and the welfare effects of road pricing," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2253, The World Bank.
  18. Antonio Ciccone, 2004. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 785-795, June.
  19. Arnott, Richard & de Palma, Andre & Lindsey, Robin, 1993. "A Structural Model of Peak-Period Congestion: A Traffic Bottleneck with Elastic Demand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 161-79, March.
  20. Fay DUNKERLEY & Amihai GLAZER & Stef PROOST, 2010. "What drives gasoline taxes?," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces10.01, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.
  21. Yukihiro Kidokoro, 2008. "Revenue-recycling within Transport Networks," GRIPS Discussion Papers 08-07, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
  22. Kenneth A. Small & Clifford Winston & Jia Yan, 2005. "Uncovering the Distribution of Motorists' Preferences for Travel Time and Reliability," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(4), pages 1367-1382, 07.
  23. Winston, Clifford & Maheshri, Vikram, 2007. "On the social desirability of urban rail transit systems," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 362-382, September.
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