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Estimating the Welfare Effect of Congestion Taxes: The Critical Importance of Other Distortions within the Transport System

  • Parry, Ian

    ()

    (Resources for the Future)

  • Bento, Antonio

This paper uses analytical and numerical models to illustrate how the presence of other distortions within the transport system changes the overall welfare effect of a congestion tax. These other distortions include a transit fare subsidy, congestion on competing (unpriced) routes, accident externalities, gasoline taxes, and pollution externalities. Each of these pre-existing distortions can substantially alter the welfare effect of a congestion tax that would be predicted by a first-best analysis. If congestion taxes encourage travel on other congested routes, they can produce sizeable indirect welfare losses. In addition, induced reductions in the demand for gasoline can lead to substantial welfare losses when, as appears to be the case for European countries, gasoline taxes significantly exceed marginal pollution damages. On the other hand, congestion taxes may produce significant welfare gains by offsetting accident externalities, though these gains are partially offset by increased accidents on competing roadways. To the extent that congestion taxes increase the demand for transit, they can induce significant welfare gains or losses, depending on whether transit fares are above or below marginal supply costs. The importance of other distortions varies considerably across different transport systems and across different countries. Our generic analysis illustrates the proportionate change in the welfare effect of a congestion tax due to each of these distortions over a wide range of parameter scenarios.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-00-51.

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Date of creation: 01 Nov 2000
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-00-51
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  1. Verhoef, E.T. & Small, K.A., 1999. "Product Differentiation on Roads Second-Best Congestion Pricing with Heterogeneity under Public and Private Ownership," Papers 99-00-01, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  2. Small, Kenneth A. & Yan, Jia, 2001. "The Value of "Value Pricing" of Roads: Second-Best Pricing and Product Differentiation," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt9569k1sz, University of California Transportation Center.
  3. Liu, Louie Nan & McDonald, John F., 1998. "Efficient Congestion Tolls in the Presence of Unpriced Congestion: A Peak and Off-Peak Simulation Model," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 352-366, November.
  4. Small, K.A. & Gomez-Ibanez, J.A., 1996. "Urban Transportation," Papers 95-96-4, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  5. Bovenberg, A Lans & de Mooij, Ruud A, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 252-53, March.
  6. Newbery, David M G, 1987. "Road User Charges in Britain," CEPR Discussion Papers 174, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Viton, Philip A., 1992. "Consolidations of scale and scope in urban transit," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 25-49, March.
  8. Parry, Ian W H & Bento, Antonio, 2001. " Revenue Recycling and the Welfare Effects of Road Pricing," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 103(4), pages 645-71, December.
  9. Edward Calthrop & Stef Proost, 1998. "Road Transport Externalities," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 11(3), pages 335-348, April.
  10. Bovenberg, A.L. & de Mooij, R.A., 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Other publications TiSEM 4b32deaa-ec2f-4de7-b59b-9, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  11. Small, K.A. & Kazimi, C., 1994. "On the Costs of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicules," Papers 94-95-3, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  12. Winston, Clifford, 1985. "Conceptual Development in the Economics of Transportation: An Interpretive Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 57-94, March.
  13. Mohring, Herbert, 1972. "Optimization and Scale Economies in Urban Bus Transportation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 591-604, September.
  14. Newbery, David M, 1988. "Road Damage Externalities and Road User Charges," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 295-316, March.
  15. Ian W.H. Parry & Wallace E. Oates, 2000. "Policy analysis in the presence of distorting taxes," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 603-613.
  16. Richard Arnott & Kenneth Small, 1993. "The Economics Of Traffic Congestion," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 256, Boston College Department of Economics.
  17. Braid, Ralph M., 1996. "Peak-Load Pricing of a Transportation Route with an Unpriced Substitute," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 179-197, September.
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