Transport Economics, Management and Policy series
Chapter 1: Introduction
‘To improve the British economy, I’d tax all foreigners living abroad’ (Chapman et al. 1989). Will toll roads ever be the norm and ‘free’ roads a distant memory? Today’s electronic toll collection technology can assess tolls from vehicles traveling at full speed on toll roads, bridges, and tunnels, permitting us to take seriously the notion that direct financing of roads might again become widespread. Transportation economists advocate tolls that vary by time of day to finance highways, mitigate congestion, and internalize the external costs of vehicle emissions and pavement damage.’ Yet others argue that ‘the prospects for widespread adoption of congestion pricing are extremely limited’ because only a small political constituency (principally transportation economists and planners) favors this kind of pricing (Wachs 1994, p.15). While the use of tolls to manage the externalities of congestion and pollution is relatively new in the realtn of highways, road pricing to build and maintain infrastructure has a long history. However, most roads are still financed through gas taxes and general revenue. Future trends and policies may again shift the balance. Implementing congestion pricing on existing toll roads is straightforward, as the adoption of time-of-day variation on roads such as the New Jersey Turnpike and many toll bridges has shown. Many different services already have prices that vary by time-of-day, including telephones (cheaper evening and weekend rates), movie theaters (the matinee show) and restaurants (the ‘early bird’ special). Giving discounts to travelers during the uncongested off-peak should attract much less opposition than an extra...