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USDOT supports congestion pricing

David Horner, Chief Counsel in the Federal Transit Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, addressed the attendees of the 2007 Utah Taxes Now Conference regarding the benefits of congestion pricing.

The costs of congestion
Using data from the Texas Transportation Institute, Horner noted that Americans annually experience 3.7 billion hours in traffic delay and waste 2.3 billion gallons of fuel due to congestion. USDOT’s own analysis concludes that the total economic cost due to congestion is nearly $200 billion per year.

Congestion pricing: what it is and how it works
Congestion pricing is a form of variable tolling which expands the effective capacity of existing and future transportation infrastructure by charging motorists user fees to drive on roads during periods of congestion. Most state transportation costs are related to expanding road capacity to handle morning and afternoon rush hour traffic. Congestion pricing reflects the true cost of providing this capacity by charging user fees to motorists who drive during peak congestion hours.


By exposing the real cost of providing transportation infrastructure, congestion pricing encourages efficient use of transportation infrastructure which incentivizes commuters to carpool, telecommute, live closer to work, or leave earlier or later for work. Horner added that more than 50% of all rush hour traffic is discretionary (not commuting to and from work). Discretionary traffic during rush hour would be reduced if congestion pricing were implemented.

Horner noted that congestion pricing enjoys consensus approval among economists as the single most viable approach to reducing congestion. Horner also mentioned that congestion pricing is no longer just a theory as demonstrated by positive results in the U.S. and internationally. Existing technology – dashboard/window mounted transponders -- allows easy implementation and eliminates the need for toll booths.

Congestion pricing’s track record
Horner used examples in Stockholm, London, and Singapore to illustrate congestion pricing’s positive impact.

- Stockholm: reduced traffic by 25% in downtown, increased transit ridership by 5%, reduced vehicle emissions by 14%

- London: increased vehicle speed by 37%, reduced delays by 30%

- Singapore: reduced traffic by 13% and increased vehicle speed by 22%.

What about congestion pricing on existing interstate highways?
Horner emphasized that the federal government does not prohibit congestion pricing on existing interstates but requires that states obtain approval from the USDOT before implementation. States cannot implement congestion pricing on existing interstates unilaterally.

In our next post, we'll address some of the objections raised by opponents of congestion pricing, including so-called "double taxation", implementing tolls on roads that have already been paid for, and increased costs to trucking companies.

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