Congestion Pricing, Road Construction Best Solutions For Gridlock

NCPA Research: Market Pricing Reduces Emissions, Discourages Needless Trips

DALLAS - Current solutions for traffic congestion on U.S. highways, including the construction of old-style toll roads, are not useful and do little to address ancillary problems such as road maintenance.  A better, more efficient solution is to implement congestion pricing, according to a brief analysis released today by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

Full report here:

"In a time of tight budgets and increased road demand traditional methods of funding, such as gas taxes and toll roads, do not reduce congestion, nor does it meet the need for new road construction and ongoing maintenance," said H. Sterling Burnett, NCPA Senior Fellow and co-author of the paper.

The NCPA analysis, Tolling by Time Reduces Congestion and Improves Air Quality, notes that traffic congestion in the nation's 439 urban areas cost U.S. taxpayers $87.2 billion dollars in 2007, according to the Texas Transportation Institute.  For example:

  • Approximately 2.8 billion gallons of fuel were wasted.
  • The amount of wasted fuel per traveler was a much as 35 gallons per year in the largest urban areas.
  • The average travel time delay during peak periods was 35 hours per driver.
  • The average cost per driver due to wasted time and fuel was $757 in 2007.

In addition, traditional toll roads and toll lanes served by existing freeways  as they are most often operated are not useful in reducing congestion, according to the NCPA analysis.

Congestion pricing charges fees that vary by time for use of the roadway-higher fees during peak hours and lower or no fees during off-peak hours.

"Congestion pricing is a market mechanism that seeks to reduce the personal, economic and environmental costs associated with traffic congestion," said John Merrifield, NCPA Senior Fellow and co-author of the paper.  "Road capacity is scarce only during peak traffic periods."

Experience shows congestion pricing works:

  • In Singapore, congestion pricing resulted in a 45 percent reduction in traffic.
  • Traffic declined 15 percent in London and Stockholm.
  • A congestion fee on bridges and tunnels between New York and New Jersey resulted in a 7 percent decline in traffic during the peak morning period and a 4 percent decline in the peak evening period.

In addition, estimates show that CO2 emissions dropped 14 to 20 percent in London and Stockholm due to congestion pricing.  In addition, congestion pricing could reduce the need for federal, state and local funds for road construction and maintenance, according to the report.