Congestion pricing: Are we ready for it in the US?

Congestion pricing, or congestion charges, is a system of surcharging users of public goods that are subject to congestion through excess demand. Examples are higher rates during peak hours for use of bus services, electricity, metros/subways, telephones, and toll-road pricing to reduce traffic congestion. Airlines and shipping companies could be charged higher fees for slots at airports and through canals at busy times. Advocates claim this pricing strategy regulates demand, making it possible to manage congestion without increasing supply.

In my career job at Niagara Mohawk (now National Grid), time-of-use pricing was used to charge more for electricity used during peak periods and less during off-peak periods. Furthermore, in one of my retirement jobs, driving tour buses, I paid a lower rate for my bus to use the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City than cars did. The reasoning was simple — I carried 50 people into Manhattan on one bus, whereas if they all drove their cars it would have been maybe 20-25 vehicles. These are two examples of congestion pricing.

According to the economic theory behind congestion pricing, the objective of this policy is to make users conscious of the costs that they impose upon one another when consuming during peak demand. A further objective is that users should pay for the additional congestion they create, thus encouraging the redistribution of the demand in space or in time and forcing them to pay for the negative externalities they create.

Obviously, we don’t need congestion pricing in Franklin County, but maybe we should consider congestion pricing in NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and other large cities that are clogged with vehicles. Congestion pricing has been around in other world cities for decades. Singapore began charging vehicles in the busiest part of the city back in 1975. London has had congestion pricing since 2006, and Stockholm since 2003. Plans are to implement it in NYC (Manhattan) next year.

Have you ever wondered which U.S. states offer the best driving experiences, or how your state stacks up in terms of road quality, traffic, and safety? A recent in-depth study by Automotive Expert at mechanicbase.com provides enlightening insights by examining various driving conditions across the United States. Utah is the clear winner, boasting the lowest congestion, fatalities, gas prices, and high-quality roads. In contrast, New York trails behind with congested roads, poor infrastructure, and high driving costs. New York ranks the worst for driving due to extreme congestion, especially in NYC. The state also suffers from hazardous winter conditions. High gas prices and a lengthy average commute time of 33.5 minutes add to the misery.

So, is it time to implement congestion pricing for vehicles, at least in our most congested cities? If you feel strongly in favor or against, let me know at: dwerner151@verizon.net.


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