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Re: London's Daring Traffic Move: Successful, But Right For Us?

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  • ktsourl
    I have some reservations about the much praised London s congestion pricing scheme. It is certainly a positive outcome that automobile freedom (on expense
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 7, 2003
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      I have some reservations about the much praised London's "congestion
      pricing" scheme. It is certainly a positive outcome that automobile
      "freedom" (on expense of the other street users freedom, of course) is
      somehow regulated. It is indeed one of the few cases, where urban road
      use is priced, though in a gross and unrefined manner (people just
      passing are paying the same price with those who move around in the
      priced area all day, no distinction is made according to the purpose
      of the movement etc). However I wonder why from the many external
      costs induced from private cars to the society (air pollution,
      "accidents", deformation of urban fabric, noise, pedestrians hardships
      and delays, and many others) only "congestion" is priced.

      Actually I doubt about the correctness (or at least the importance) of
      the notion of "congestion" cost. Indeed in the case of the "congestion
      cost" the persons who induce it, are exactly those who bear the
      consequences. A person who use a car in a congested road deters other
      drivers from using unimpeded the road, but these other drivers cause
      exactly the same to him. So, both "costs" are compensated. This is not
      the case at all, concerning other external costs, like the noise from
      motorized traffic, the air pollution over a city, the hardships
      inflicted to pedestrians, the greenhouse effect etc

      I posed this question to another list and the only response I' ve got
      was that there is no absolute symmetry in the incurred costs, since
      private cars with 1 or 2 persons may delay large buses (or other
      collective transport means) carrying tens of people. This is true of
      course, but I think this could be better (and cheaper) avoided with
      dedicated bus-lanes, instead of sophisticated pricing systems - even
      more as pricing is in the latter case gross and unrefined. I wonder if
      there is some other opinion or explanation on this listserve.

      After all, from a pedestrian and sustainable transport viewpoint,
      congestion is not so bad per se to anyboby else (a pedestrian e.g) but
      to private car users, as long as the movement of public transit
      (buses, streetcars etc) is secured through separate corridors. It also
      helps to control the car use increase, creating a negative feedback
      loop. Pedestrians cross more easily clogged streets and don't risk at
      all to be hit by cars on them.

      I have the impression that the message sent by this scheme is "do
      drive, but pay, so that driving remains a feasible activity", instead
      of "don't drive, but use transit, bike or your feet, because this is
      healthier, environmental friendlier and more sustainable". Thus the
      target doesn't seem to be a "car-free city" but quite the opposite, a
      "car-feasible city".

      --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "Robert J. Matter"
      <rjmatter@p...> wrote:
      > http://www.postwritersgroup.com/archives/peir0512.htm
      >
      > London's Daring Traffic Move:
      > Successful, But Right For Us?
      >
      > Neal Peirce
      >
      > Word of London's "congestion pricing" scheme--an $8 charge each day
      > for any vehicle that video cameras spot driving in the
      traffic-strangled
      > city center--broke on a startled world in February.
      >
      > Drivers would have to register for daily use via cell phone,
      Internet, or at
      > retail shops across the city. The fine for not registering: $128.
      >
      > So strong is our global reverence for cars that no world city has dared
      > try such a scheme since a single (and highly successful) plan was
      instituted in authoritarian
      > Singapore in 1977.
      >
      ...............................................................
    • dubluth
      ... I think you are asking if congestion is a market failure. To answer this question we temporarily ignore the other external costs of driving and consider
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 7, 2003
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        > Actually I doubt about the correctness (or at least the importance)
        > of the notion of "congestion" cost. Indeed in the case of the
        > "congestion cost" the persons who induce it, are exactly those who
        > bear the consequences. A person who use a car in a congested road
        > deters other drivers from using unimpeded the road, but these other
        > drivers cause exactly the same to him. So, both "costs" are
        > compensated.

        I think you are asking if congestion is a market failure. To answer
        this question we temporarily ignore the other external costs of
        driving and consider the economic question "does the amount of
        traffic on a congested road differ from the social optimum?"

        A person will make a driving trip if they expect to receive more
        benefits than costs from that trip. When a person decides to make a
        trip, their contribution to the congestion experienced by others
        isn't a personally relevant cost. All drivers on a congested road
        are still receiving a net benefit in their estimations, or they
        wouldn't be there. However, the total net benefit could be increased
        given a mechanism to internalize costs. Some drivers would willingly
        take payment from other drivers to stay off the road. That is what
        tolls do without directing the payment solely to potential drivers.

        Do tolls enable driving by making it a less disfunctional activity?
        It represents an improved situation for most of those who pay the
        tolls and continue to drive. More importantly it gets others out of
        cars or into car-pools. There is the downside of pedestrians having
        to contend with faster motor traffic. At least they will have a bit
        less pollution to breath.

        Of course costs of air and noise pollution should also be
        internalized, and while congestion tolls leave those costs
        unaddressed, the use of congestion tolls doesn't represent the
        avoidance of those issues, only imperfect priorities. It is a
        concrete, though limited, move to reduce driving, which makes it
        encouraging.

        I believe it is important to achieve incremental changes as they
        become possible. These yield definite benefits in the interim and
        will be seen as markers on the way toward a society that ultimately
        realizes that the automobile is a wildly inappropriate technology for
        cities.

        Bill Carr
      • Richard Risemberg
        I really think, ladies and gentlemen, that Londodn probably chose congestion pricing not because they were addressing only congestion in their minds--news
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 8, 2003
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          I really think, ladies and gentlemen, that Londodn probably chose
          congestion pricing not because they were addressing only congestion in
          their minds--news stories have mentioned other benefits of reduced car
          traffic in discussing this--but because it was fairly easy to sell and
          to implement. We know that talking about "externalized costs" just
          invokes incredulity from most folks. Most folks aren't going to follow
          the threads from their personal car use to effects on children's lungs
          or social dysfunctions or development policies. Congestion is something
          they can see and that bothers them immediately, and that shows up well
          in newspaper and TV graphics.

          That's my guess, at any rate.

          Richard
          --
          Richard Risemberg
          http://www.living-room.org
          http://www.newcolonist.com

          "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life
          are based on the labors of others."
          Albert Einstein
        • ktsourl
          ... this Not exactly. Probably my reservations can be indeed reduced into a market failure, but I don t think this is evident at first sight. Of course car
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 10, 2003
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            >> Actually I doubt about the correctness (or at least the importance)
            >> of the notion of "congestion" cost. Indeed in the case of the
            >> "congestion cost" the persons who induce it, are exactly those who
            >> bear the consequences. A person who use a car in a congested road
            >> deters other drivers from using unimpeded the road, but these other
            >> drivers cause exactly the same to him. So, both "costs" are
            >> compensated.
            >
            >I think you are asking if congestion is a market failure. To answer
            this

            Not exactly. Probably my reservations can be indeed reduced into a
            market failure, but I don't think this is evident at first sight. Of
            course car traffic is largely out of market procedures due to the many
            (mostly negative) externalities, but "congestion cost" (whatever can
            be meant by this) is not the only or the main component of these
            externalities.

            >question we temporarily ignore the other external costs of driving and
            >consider the economic question "does the amount of traffic on a
            >congested road differ from the social optimum?"

            My point is exactly the ignorance of the other external costs of
            driving. How can we come up with "social optimum" without considering
            all the external costs, but only one small part (if realy exists one
            in "congestion cost")?

            >A person will make a driving trip if they expect to receive more
            benefits
            >than costs from that trip. When a person decides to make a trip, their
            >contribution to the congestion experienced by others isn't a personally
            >relevant cost. All drivers on a congested road are still receiving a
            net
            >benefit in their estimations, or they wouldn't be there. However, the
            >total net benefit could be increased given a mechanism to internalize
            >costs. Some drivers would willingly take payment from other drivers to
            >stay off the road. That is what tolls do without directing the payment
            >solely to potential drivers.
            >
            >Do tolls enable driving by making it a less disfunctional activity?
            >It represents an improved situation for most of those who pay the tolls
            >and continue to drive. More importantly it gets others out of cars
            or into

            Tolls normally represent the costs for the construction of the road,
            plus a (hopefully competitive) profit. It is exactly the same concept
            as when you go to the cinema: your admission ticket price is supposed
            to pay off the construction of the parlor, the film expenses, the
            actors' and other contributors' wages etc. Of course the fact that it
            is not free, allows you to be more comfortable: if the admission were
            free probably there would be no place to sit. However this is just a
            normal outcome of the standard pricing mechanism of (almost) every
            good in a market economy.

            The way you put it (difference of the utility of the same good for
            different users), seems more as a pricing of the land use, than the
            somehow obscure notion of "congestion pricing". It is like when a
            public owned land plot (or perhaps other publicly owned resource) is
            offered to consumers or investors through auction or another way of
            pricing. Those willing to pay more are allowed to use it and exploit it.

            In any case it is still a fact that this cost is born by these drivers
            who are more willing to pay (presumably the more wealthy) and those
            profited are these who are less willing to pay (apparently the less
            wealthy car users). Pedestrians and public transit users are out of
            the calculation.

            >car-pools. There is the downside of pedestrians having to contend with
            >faster motor traffic. At least they will have a bit less pollution
            to breath.

            Perhaps this turns out to be true, but it is not obvious. Cars during
            congestion produce less transport work, but do they pollute less? Do
            the engines of standing cars pollute more than the engines of fewer
            moving cars? In the case of pedestrians it is also important, that the
            more they are waiting to cross a street, next to the curb, the more
            they are exposed to high concentrations of pollutants from the cars.

            >Of course costs of air and noise pollution should also be internalized,
            >and while congestion tolls leave those costs unaddressed, the use of
            >congestion tolls doesn't represent the avoidance of those issues, only
            >imperfect priorities. It is a concrete, though limited, move to reduce
            >driving, which makes it encouraging.

            It is true that pricing (of any form or justification) reduces
            driving. I hope you have realized that I don't object pricing. Anyway,
            if tomorrow morning London administration announced that the #8 were
            paid e.g. for the pollution incurred, there wouldn't be any difference
            in the driving discouragement. But I consider also important the
            justification of pricing. Perhaps the protests of car fans would be
            less and more easily responded, if the justification were based to the
            damage the car use brings about to the society. When the damage in the
            health of the people, the hardships of pedestrians, the massacre in
            the streets from accidents (or "accidents"), the damage in the urban
            fabric et.al. are undermined, and importance is given to the cost
            incurred from less wealthy to the rich drivers, I think a much more
            strong expression than "imperfect priorities" must be used.

            >I believe it is important to achieve incremental changes as they
            >become possible. These yield definite benefits in the interim and will
            >be seen as markers on the way toward a society that ultimately realizes
            >that the automobile is a wildly inappropriate technology for cities.

            The notion of "increment" presupposes a "direction". The question is
            towards wich direction is this initiative: towards carfree cities or
            towards more quality driving in cities? If congestion is considered as
            the main problem addressed, then the latter seems more logically relevant.

            I hope too, that the society will ultimately realize that the
            automobile is a wildly inappropriate technology for cities (and
            perhaps beyond cities). This is certainly already realized by the
            administration and the relevant market agents (car industries for
            example). But this scheme seems to me (in its core) more like an
            attempt to make automobile (trough more regulation) again appropriate
            technology for cities.


            >I really think, ladies and gentlemen, that Londodn probably chose
            >congestion pricing not because they were addressing only congestion
            >in their minds--news stories have mentioned other benefits of reduced
            >car traffic in discussing this--but because it was fairly easy to
            >sell and to implement. We know that talking about "externalized costs"
            >just invokes incredulity from most folks. Most folks aren't going to
            >follow the threads from their personal car use to effects on children's
            >lungs or social dysfunctions or development policies. Congestion is
            >something they can see and that bothers them immediately, and that
            >shows up well in newspaper and TV graphics.
            >
            >That's my guess, at any rate.

            I can understand if the administration misinforms the citizens, for
            example, to perform an illegal war, but, if its purpose is really to
            protect them, why not speak the truth? If the real intention is to
            protect the health of the children, the life of all these who lose
            their lives and body integrity in the streets, and to increase the
            quality of life in the cities, then those people should feel really
            proud, and should inform the citizens about the detrimental
            consequences of the car use, and persuade them to back them in their
            effort.
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