Management & Operations

New report encourages cities to consider congestion pricing

Posted on August 9, 2019

Image of Stockholm City Hall.
Björn Olin/ mediabank.visitstockholm.com
Image of Stockholm City Hall.Björn Olin/ mediabank.visitstockholm.com

The National League of Cities (NLC) released a new guide that encourages cities to consider congestion charging systems as a potentially economical solution to build thriving communities, calm traffic and improve quality of life for residents.

Congestion pricing is a type of road-user charge system in which a flat or variable rate fee is charged to vehicles that drive in a specified area or zone within a city. Congestion pricing models can help communities properly price the use of its roadways, which are a finite, in-demand good. These models are built on a basic economic concept: When a public good is in high demand, the price charged to use that good increases to reflect its value and thus, what users are willing to pay to use it. Most of these systems will be used to fund transit and infrastructure.

In the guide,“Making Space: Congestion Charging in Cities,” NLC explores how congestion charging systems can become a practical funding alternative to keep up with the nation’s transportation mobility projects. The report explains how congestion charging works, reviews the different pilot programs, and shows the potential advantages and barriers to implementing pilots in the U.S.

The ASCE has given American infrastructure a “D+”. It could cost almost $5 trillion to fully fix and upgrade American infrastructure. Congestion-charging systems could potentially raise billions of dollars per year.

Meanwhile, congestion is a major problem in cities, set to get worse as the population grows and our transit systems continue to depend on cars and ride share applications, and autonomous vehicles begin to roll out. In U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more, 91% of residents commute by car. In mid-sized cities it hovers between 86% and 87%, and in large cities, that number drops to 78%. Even among the 15 largest cities, only five have comprehensive transportation systems.

Congestion pricing is a new and emerging framework that doesn’t yet exist in the U.S., although New York City is about to launch a congestion charge.

The report includes case studies from:
• London
Stockholm
• Singapore
• New York City

NLC’s top legislative priority in 2019 is rebuilding and reimagining America’s infrastructure, the organization stated. The Rebuild With Us campaign has prioritized ways Congress and the administration can work with local leaders in key areas, including transforming U.S. transportation systems, broadband and water infrastructure. NLC is calling on Congress to develop and pass a comprehensive bill that rebuilds and reimagines America’s infrastructure in partnership with local governments.


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