11.17.2009 Policy Points

Lessons in Congestion Pricing

Metropolitan areas across the globe are struggling with issues of traffic congestion and are experimenting with various “carrots” and “sticks” intended to persuade commuters to make better use of mass transit systems.

One, albeit controversial, strategy used in some large metros (including New York City) is congestion pricing. Simply put, congestion pricing is a charge levied on motorists who drive an automobile into congested areas at certain peak travel times.

In a recent policy brief, the German Marshall Fund of the United States analyzes the adoption of successful congestion pricing schemes in London and Stockholm and the failure of such a system in Manchester (U.K.) and identifies lessons from Europe that are relevant to American metro areas.

According to the brief, perhaps the most important factor needed to engender public support of transportation policies like congestion pricing is “vision.” Says the author:

The underlying story in both London and Stockholm, however, is the role of “vision” in advancing large-scale change. In using the term “vision,” I am not referring to a single document or plan with
a mission statement and lofty goals. Rather, I have come to
see a vision as something much bigger. It is an underlying
consensus that is shared between leaders and the public. It is widely understood, even if it is not always articulated. And in some way, a vision must be “visual.”
Metropolitan regions like Stockholm and L

The underlying story in both London and Stockholm, however, is the role of “vision” in advancing large-scale change. In using the term “vision,” I am not referring to a single document or plan with a mission statement and lofty goals. Rather, I have come to see a vision as something much bigger. It is an underlying consensus that is shared between leaders and the public. It is widely understood, even if it is not always articulated. And in some way, a vision must be “visual.”

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