Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Chink in the Armor?

Interesting little entry on the Utah Taxpayers Association blog, which on the surface seems to me to be an about face on what they normally espouse. The entry is about Stockholm, Sweden charging drivers to drive into downtown during peak times. Now this is a government-imposed solution that costs people more, and thus I say this seems to be the opposite of what a group like the taxpayers association strives for (reducing what government "charges" to provide services).

But there are two reasons I think this is being embraced by the organization. One, it was touted as a "free-market" solution in a Wall Street Journal editorial, which automatically (to some groups and viewpoints) means it is the "right" way to go. The other is that the Taxpayers Association, according to its position on transportation/transit, encourages the implementation of congestion pricing on state highways.

Now the obvious response for me to make to this entry is one which a commentor on the blog entry has already noted, so I'll just quote it here. It says, in part, "For pricing incentives to work, people need an alternative to driving into the city. Obviously, carpooling and working nontraditional schedules could help reduce peak congestion, too. ... Personally, I think we're going to need more transit to make congestion pricing actually produce a decline in traffic. Also, if Utah starts leveling congestion fees, it's going to make your tax and fee burden ranking go even higher. How (do) you react to that?"

Either way, costs go up for commuters. Pick your poison!


At 6:42 AM, Blogger Prof Simmons said...

Wilf, at least four transit alternatives that already exist are driving less, driving at different times, carpooling, and telecommuting. Between 40 and 60 percent of those taking the trips SL metro area during the evening commute are not commuters--they are elective trips . Congestion pricing targets those people specifically.

The best evidence for the effects of congestion pricing are from the Stockholm experiment and the London experiment. In London the plnners estimated that a reduction in traffic of 15 percent would require a £5 fee. The reduction in traffic has been far greater than anticipated.

By contrast. Light Rail, and especially Heavy Rail, cannot show any comparable result. In fact, none of the Light Rail systems built in the U.S. have a statistically significant effect on traffic.

Can anyone explain the attraction of taxing everyone to build rail systems that will benefit only the very few who live near the stations instead of charging the actual users of the roads?

Other transit alternatives would exist if UTA did not have a monopoly that prohibits private operators from charging for van pools and other jitney services..

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Utah Taxpayer said...

Read the Utah Taxpayers Association's response to this at

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Wilf said...

After reading Utah Taxpayers blog entry in response to my entry, maybe I need to make myself more clear. I don't oppose congestion pricing, I think it's actually a pretty smart solution to a problem that's largely intractable. It may well make more sense to tackle it from the demand side than from the supply side.

But, like Anthony Downs has written, I think the public will only be willing to go so far with demand or congestion pricing. It's just not something that's very much in our psyche to accept. Still, I think it's worth a try. At this point, all potential solutions are needed.

By the way, does being employed by government automatically make be less credible or less smart or something?

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Utah Taxpayer said...

We certainly did not intend for our comments to be interpreted as inferring that government employees are less credible or less intelligent.


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