Road Fare>Congestion Pricing?

by on February 12, 2013 at 7:20 am in Economics | Permalink

Congestion pricing sounds like something to avoid since neither term is something you want. Eric Jaffe held a contest for replacement terms. Decongestion pricing is one possibility since it at least hints at the idea that the pricing gets rid of congestion.

Tom Vanderbilt (author of Traffic) liked the phrase premium access — something to suggest “you pay for ‘peak perks.’ ..transport scholar David Levinson, suggests road fees for general road pricing (and peak road fees for road pricing aimed at heavy congestion), and urban planner Laurence Lui, recommends road fares. What’s nice about road fare is that it parallels mass transit, has an intuitive purpose, and offers flexibility. You can alter it to suit a specific situation — peak road fare, midtown road fare, etc. — without obscuring the basic meaning.

Road fare is quite good as it also suggests fair[ness] and can be used in an academic or commercial context. For a more commercial term I liked another suggestion, Pay2Go which has the great virtue of explaining what you get for your money.

Do note that death insurance didn’t sell well until it was given the less accurate but more affable name, life insurance.

Hat tip: Brandon Fuller.

athEIst February 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

FDR knew he couldn’t win the 1940 election (54%) and 1944 election(53%) without the South.

Dave Hansen February 12, 2013 at 8:14 am

How about “Decongestion Road Fare”? It’s long, but just saying “Road Fare”, which I agree suggests fairness, just sounds like another fee or tax. I think you want the name to have some indication of the positive benefits of the fare.

Dave Hansen February 12, 2013 at 8:16 am

And “premium access” sounds like something that only people in BMW’s can afford. You want to avoid the gripe that just the wealthy will not get to benefit from the pricing.

prior_approval February 12, 2013 at 11:07 am

‘You want to avoid the gripe that just the wealthy will not get to benefit from the pricing.’

While ensuring that is the practical result, of course.

David Hansen February 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm

So do you think it’s not costless for the poor to sit around in traffic for an extra hour every day? A more efficient allocation of traffic on the roads benefits everyone, even if the fares are quite high at peak traffic hours. If you have to get to point A to point B in a hurry (e.g. a trip to the ER), having to pay even $50 to shave off 30 minutes of the drive might be well worth it and is certainly much more affordable than paying infinity, which is the current cost of getting from point A to point B in a hurry during high traffic times.

Major February 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

So do you think it’s not costless for the poor to sit around in traffic for an extra hour every day? A more efficient allocation of traffic on the roads benefits everyone, even if the fares are quite high at peak traffic hours.

Nonsense. Congestion fees will likely push poorer drivers on to mass transit. If mass transit were a better deal for them, they’d already be using it instead of driving. Despite road congestion, commutes by mass transit take twice as long on average as commutes by car. In addition to this time penalty, mass transit has other costs — inconvenience, inflexibility, discomfort. That’s why it’s so unpopular, even at peak times of road congestion.

Brian Donohue February 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm

It’s much harder to argue that the poor will be negatively impacted. The unemployed aren’t on the roads at rush hour, and loads of poor currently take public transportation.

So you’ve already knocked out a couple bottom rung groups that your compassionate heart dwells on.

Well off people who drive would benefit, or at least we’d be assigning the cost of externalities better.

In a nutshell, the politics of spite.

Tim February 12, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Yes. Giving libertarians what they want is pretty spiteful.

Andrew' February 12, 2013 at 8:21 am

How ’bout “Not So Freeway”

Cino February 12, 2013 at 8:29 am

How do they call it in Singapore?

Nickolaus February 12, 2013 at 9:15 am

ERP

dearieme February 12, 2013 at 8:29 am

Obamafare

Andrew' February 12, 2013 at 9:16 am

The Affordable Car Act- to ensure access to affordable travel we need to mandate a fine for free riders.

Yancey Ward February 12, 2013 at 10:41 am

Thread winner!

joan February 12, 2013 at 8:31 am

It sound like a lot better idea than it is in places with a high level of congestion like London. What keeps a lot of people from driving is traffic congestion and although charging for driving will keep some low income people off the roads almost as many people with more money takes their place.

libert February 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

In London, the pricing only exists downtown, where cheap bus routes abound and parking is very expensive. To the extent that low income people are actually driving there, there are many better alternatives.

In fact, due to the fact that the congestion pricing was increasing bus ridership (and hence reducing average per-person bus transit costs), they were able to cut bus fares, making this alternative even more reasonable.

Ted Craig February 12, 2013 at 8:36 am

As they said on South Park, “The Simpsons already did it.”

http://taxfoundation.org/blog/great-tax-moment-simpsons-history

Andrew' February 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

“Win a ride with Snoop Dog” Lotto

Rahul February 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

Speed Tip.

Express Cash.

Andrew' February 12, 2013 at 8:47 am

A Tribute to the Open Road

charlie February 12, 2013 at 9:03 am

“Robber Barons”?

Jimmy Buffett's Nephew February 12, 2013 at 9:28 am

A tribute to the wisdom and benevolence of our political and technocratic leaders!

Thom February 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

My suggestion is “decongestion premium”.

Willitts February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

Pay2Pee

Ronald Brak February 12, 2013 at 10:02 am

Premium Access? Has Vanderbuilt not flown in a plane since Pan Am disapeared? It’s hard to think of a word that conjures up more bile than ‘premium’. To avoid an excess of bile in road users and the possibility of being first up against the wall when the revolution comes, I suggest just using the words ‘Decongestion Pricing’.

hix February 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

How about government subsidy to IT companies?

Sorry to bring the message to all fans of privatication with regressive side effects, roads will stay public goods for the time being because even a simple payment system that does not discriminate according to traffic levels will cost at least 40% of the fees charged.

Saturos February 12, 2013 at 10:19 am

Phil? Is that you Phil? It’s me, Ned Ryerson! You remember me, don’cha?

(Sorry, you said “affable” and “life insurance”, so…)

ChacoKevy February 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Bing!

Andrew' February 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

The Cadillac Plan

Yancey Ward February 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

Road fare sounds like a Hillbilly dinner.

Slocum February 12, 2013 at 10:43 am

I’d be in favor of ‘road fares’ in a different political environment, but given the folks in charge of transportation in the U.S. (locally and nationally), what I’d expect is that the fares would not be use as a way to manage congestion and maintain and improve roadways, but rather as a way to try to ‘nudge’ people out of their cars and and onto mass transit (as with current fuel taxes, I expect a portion of the ‘road fares’ would be siphoned off to subsidize mass transit and other things).

dead serious February 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

Zip Pass? Speed Pass (hat tip, Disney)?

JWatts February 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

“I’d expect is that the fares would not be use as a way to manage congestion and maintain and improve roadways”

+1

Spencer February 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

Decongestion???

Really ???

Virtually all road pricing scheme I see proposed to nothing to actually reduce congestion.

All they do is shift it from one place or road to another.

If the imposition of tolls does nothing to create better, or at least different, transportation
alternatives — like London did –it does not create any net decongestion.

Rahul February 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Decongestion on the roads you are paying that premium for.

Major February 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm

If the imposition of tolls does nothing to create better, or at least different, transportation
alternatives — like London did –it does not create any net decongestion.

Assuming “transportation alternatives” means different modes of transportation (e.g., mass transit), congestion fees can obviously reduce congestion in a number of ways that do not involve such alternatives:

- By providing revenues that can be used to increase the capacity of congested routes.

- By providing an incentive for drivers to use alternative, uncongested routes.

- By providing an incentive for drivers to travel at alternative, uncongested times.

Rahul February 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

- By cutting down marginal trips

-Carpooling

allan February 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

There is a phrase which has been used for generations: road tolls.

Peter Cornford February 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm

How about you stop pretending that changing the name will be enough to make the policy acceptable. It’s delusional and condescending.

liberalarts February 13, 2013 at 12:09 am

lump sum tax everybody and then subsidize people who do not use congestible roads at peak times. Same efficiency outcome regarding congestion and government revenue, but now you can call it a “decongestion subsidy.”

Fred Thompson February 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Road fare sounds like something served at the road-kill restaurant – not a place i’d want to eat.

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