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Congestion Pricing to Ease Traffic Jams Putting Cordon Charges to the Test

FOR RELEASE: January 10, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Would a cordon toll policy -- one similar to London's area pricing scheme -- help alleviate the Washington, DC, region's increasingly clogged roadways?

Using a highly sophisticated integrated model incorporating land use, transportation, and economic activity (LUSTRE), researchers at Resources for the Future have found that using cordon pricing schemes could result in less road congestion and provide a much-needed local revenue source.

RFF's Elena Safirova and Winston Harrington and colleagues tested the impact of three cordon-based road-pricing schemes in the Washington metropolitan area. One cordon encompassed approximately four square miles in downtown Washington. A second included all areas within the Capital Beltway that surrounds the city. A third "double cordon" was a combination of the beltway and downtown cordons. A paper based on this research will be presented at the 86th annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington in January.

Within the LUSTRE model, the researchers imposed hypothetical fees on vehicles entering the cordon areas during the peak morning period of 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. and observed changes in residential and business location, travel demand, and employment and production. They also accounted for anticipated changes in mass transit revenues as a result of the pricing experiment.

"We find that all three policies result in modest but positive welfare gains, with the double cordon being most effective," the authors note. The paper projects that welfare gains from the double cordon would amount to $150.9 million annually, 65.4 percent and 44.7 percent higher than those from the downtown and beltway cordons, respectively.

 

Link to Discussion Paper
Long-Term Consequences of Congestion Pricing
Elena Safirova, Sébastien Houde, Conrad Coleman, Winston Harrington, and D. Abram Lipman
Discussion Paper 06-42
October 2006

Despite this outcome, the researchers concluded that using the smaller cordon was "likely a safer bet," given that gains from the downtown cordon toll are relatively insensitive to the fee level, while gains from the beltway and double cordons declined sharply when fees imposed on vehicles entering them were either too high or too low.

The paper (Discussion Paper 06-42), entitled "Long-Term Consequences of Congestion Pricing: A Small Cordon in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush," emerged from continuing urban transportation research using the LUSTRE model, a project supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Resources for the Future, an independent and nonpartisan Washington, D.C., think-tank, seeks to improve environmental and natural resource policymaking worldwide through objective social science research of the highest caliber.

 

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