politics of road pricing
- The points made in the article recommended by Zvi do not seem to accord with UK
Here many people seem to regard it as the worst possible condemnation of a
traffic management scheme to say it is a "revenue raiser". The fact that the
local authority will either be using it to provide much needed public services
or will be reducing local taxation (which is highly unpopular in the UK,
probably as everywhere) doesn't seem to register.
Despite this, I think that this might be a winnable battle, and believe that a
significant portion of the receipts should go to the relevant local authorities.
However, I would also like to argue against the dismissal in the article of
spending some of the receipts on transit. (I need not say that I fully agree
that spending the money on drivers is inappropriate when one of the main
rationales for charging is that motoring is not paying its full external costs.)
Let me go through the benefits which may accrue from road pricing:
1. Less congestion due to modal shift.
2. Less congestion due to journeys being forgone, shortened or moved to off peak
3. Transfer of money from motorists to more deserving causes.
As regards the politics of 3, few people vote for increasing taxes on themselves
to fund more deserving causes. I believe that the benefits from 2 would be
relatively limited. What we need to aim at is 1, and to do this we must make
alternative modes attractive. That means in particular improving local transit.
The article dismisses this on the grounds that local transit systems are
concentrated in the central areas which are rarely visited by motorists from the
suburbs. However, what I would propose is that instead of improving existing
transit priority be given to bringing it to areas which are at present
inadequately served, especially the corridors on which road pricing would be
imposed. That way people currently driving along these corridors could see that
they would be given an alternative and would therefore not be condemned to pay
up and suffer forever. Ideally, for most suburban residents, their extra
spending on road charges for those journeys that have to be made by car would be
offset by their savings as a result of being able to shift to other modes for
some of their travel.
In the case of dispersed suburbia we might have to look to new forms of transit.
Wasn't this why Eric introduced the concept of XTransit some time ago ?
In London congestion charging was associated with the improvement of bus
services to the extent that they now provide almost 24/7 coverage. The prime
beneficiaries were not the relatively few people who live in the congestion
charge area but the much greater number who live further out, who benefit in two
ways: better local buses and a better environment when they visit the central
I believe there is an urgent need to extend the congestion charging area
further, to districts like the one I know best (Camden, only a small part of
which lies in the current charging area). Probably, to make this work, it would
be necessary to use some of the revenue to improve public transport not only in
London but also in the surrounding counties -- despite the administrative
problems involved in achieving this.