Responding to The Critics, Part 1
It's no surprise that our support for congestion pricing has its critics, although we are surprised that the source in this case is a government planner.
We respond to Wilf Sommerkorn's criticisms as follows:
Sommerkorn: "Now [congestion pricing] is a government-imposed solution that costs people more"
Response: Transportation solutions are generally government imposed. Raising sales taxes to build light rail is a government-imposed solution which costs taxpayers more, even if it is approved by the people (the government after all is of the people, right? Everyone pays the tax increase even if they voted against it). Government imposes and raises gas taxes so this would be a "government-imposed" solution as well. When a local government goes through Truth-in-Taxation to raise general funds for roads, this is a "government-imposed solution" also.
No one believes that transportation problems will somehow resolve themselves without a "government-imposed solution".
Second, Wilf says congestion pricing costs more. Costs more than what? Raising general sales taxes and gas taxes is a cost. Everyone knows that state and local taxes will be increased to address transportation issues although other taxes will be cut at the same time. In the long run, Utahns will pay lower taxes and fees for roads if the state implements congestion pricing (and probably raising gas taxes as well) than if the state were to increase general taxes without implementing congestion pricing . General taxes do not provide incentives for commuters to use transportation infrastructure more efficiently. Congestion pricing does reduce commuter usage, as experience in Stockholm demonstrates. Therefore, as commuters use "government-imposed" infrastructure more efficiently, total taxes and fees would be less in the long run that they would be if the "government-imposed solution" were to fund expansion of transportation infrastructure by raising general taxes. Those who support lower taxes and fees-- like we do -- have no choice but to support congestion pricing.
Efficient use of roads during rush hour is not limited to using mass transit more. Alternatives include carpooling, telecommuting more often, traveling to work earlier or later, living closer to work. etc.
Keep in mind that the association does not oppose use of general funds for roads since a sound transportation system provides a benefit to society in general. However, congestion pricing has an important role to play in addressing transportation problems.
Sommerkorn: [Congestion pricing] was touted as a "free-market" solution in a Wall Street Journal editorial, which automatically (to some groups and viewpoints) means it is the "right" way to go.
Response: We'll agree that the Wall Street Journal usually gets it right, especially compared to the Pravda Daily Herald. However, environmentalists -- and probably the Tribune as well -- support congestion pricing as well. I guess that makes it the "wrong" way to go.
Sommerkorn: Either way, costs go up for commuters. Pick your poison!
Response: Not so for most commuters. Compared to the alternative (raising general taxes and not implementing congestion pricing), taxes and fees will be lower for those commuters who are already efficient users of transportation infrastructure or will become efficient users.