On the Economic, Technological and Political Aspects of Road Pricing As a Tool for Traffic Demand Management



On the Economic, Technological and Political Aspects of Road Pricing As a Tool for Traffic Demand Management

Authors

SANTOS G, University of Cambridge, UK

Description

Road pricing can be used as a n important tool to manage traffic. It has three main aspects: economic (how to determine an efficient charge), technological (how to collect the money) and political (how and when to introduce it).

Abstract

Road pricing can be used as a n important tool to manage traffic. It has three main aspects: economic (how to determine an efficient charge), technological (how to collect the money) and political (how and when to introduce it).

Congestion is not a modern phenomenon. As a matter of fact, it can be traced back at least to the times of the Roman Empire (Nagel, 1999). In Central London, traffic counts made by the Metropolitan Police since 1904 indicate an average increase of less than 2 in total traffic through various intersections in the 62 years period from 1904 to 1966 (Smeed, 1968). In it, horse carriages had practically disappeared from Central London and the number of pedal cycles was probably greatly reduced. Both were replaced by motor vehicles, which in the same period increased, in the UK, from 18,000 to i3 million. If the speed at which motor vehicles traversed Central London in 1966 is assumed to be at least double that of horse carriages, it can be safely assumed that similar states of congestion existed in 1904 and 1966. This seems to support the idea that already at the beginning of the 20 th century a large amount of traffic that would like to travel in Central London was restrained to do so by congestion.

Although the first important papers on traffic flow theory were published in the 20's and 30's, the economics of congestion arrived later. A fundamental paper on the subject was published in 1961 (Waiters, 1961) establishing the isomorphism between travel time on a given length of highway as a function of traffic flow, on one hand, and average cost as a function of flow, identified as a quantity, on the other hand. That was Waiters' fundamental original contribution. An adequate function from time into cost, combined with a demand curve, makes it possible to analyse the whole picture from an economic point of view.

The Transport Bill (House of Commons, 1999), issued by the UK Government in December 1999~ authorises local authorities to introduce road user charges and workplace parking levies to help tackle congestion in towns and cities. Although it has not received Royal Assent yet, the Bill is currently scheduled to enter its committee stage in the House of Lords on the 26 July 2000 (House of Commons, 2000). The Bill specifies that charges should only be introduced when they appear 'desirable for the purpose of directly or indirectly facilitating the achievement of policies in the charging authority's local transport plan' (Part I11, Chapter I, Clause 140.2) but it does not state how the magnitude of these charges should be determined. Newbery and Santos (1999) sustain that these charges appear to be additional to the already excessive road taxes, and that there seems to be no plan of regulating them to protect against further exploitation.

In what follows, the three aspects of road pricing shall be analysed.

Publisher

Association for European Transport