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By: James03 Sun, 23 Oct 2011 08:49:10 +0000 As someone who lives close to London and regularly travels into the city I think the congestion charge is a fantastic thing.

The reality is that the charge does not hit the poor (because they weren’t driving a Bentley or Rolls-Royce into central London on a Thursday afternoon in the first place.) It hits the rich who want to do something that is in their interest but against the interest of everyone else.

Typical Londoners or travellers to London do not drive. Now the roads are far less crowded for the buses that these people do travel on.

Obviously this isn’t necessarily representative, but I don’t know anyone who actually lives in London who thinks the congestion charge isn’t good. Remember that highly efficient cars are exempt, as are people who live inside the congestion charging zone.

Providing the alternatives are viable (and in London, with the Tube and buses they are) the congestion charge works very well indeed.

By: mcden Fri, 21 Oct 2011 13:24:00 +0000 This is nonsense. The author complains that there is no data on London and Stockholm then he asserts in the absence of data that over time “traffic goes back up again.” Prices allocate goods all across the economy and no one is saying that congestion charges won’t change over time like all other prices.

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By: jdgalt Thu, 20 Oct 2011 22:39:34 +0000 Traffic expands to fill the space available. This is known as Down’s Law of Peak-Hour Traffic Congestion, and has been known since 1962; new research shows that it’s true even more generally than previously suspected.

Only if the new space is nowhere near enough for demand, and/or is underpriced.

Increasing lane kilometers for one type of road diverts little traffic from other types of road.

Only if there is a shortage of both freeways and surface streets. If there is plenty of one it can and often will be used as a substitute for at least some trips that would have used the other.

We find no evidence that the provision of public transportation affects VKT.

Because the Onion was right: *no one* rides public transport if he can drive. Voters only ever support it in the hope that others will be forced to use it.

We conclude that increased provision of roads or public transit is unlikely to relieve congestion.

That is like saying that the famine in Ethiopia in the ’90s proved that growing more food does not relieve famines. It was true in their case, because the famine was deliberate on the part of that country’s government, and when Eritrea won independence, the problem went away. If we can make the industry of providing transport facilities similarly independent of government here, I predict that our congestion problem will go away too.

Eric Jaffe draws a simple conclusion from all this:

Whenever a driver shifts onto public transportation, another one quickly grabs the open lane. That leaves just one solution to the traffic problem plaguing American cities: congestion pricing.

It’s certainly the only solution he’ll see as long as he wears those blinders.

There’s another way to look at this phenomenon, though. When congestion pricing is first introduced, people recoil against it — they expend quite a lot of effort to avoid the charge, and traffic goes down. Over time, however, it becomes just another part of the cost of driving, along with gas and insurance and parking tickets. As that happens, traffic goes back up again.

If it were true congestion-pricing, the authority would then immediately raise the price and keep raising it until traffic is once again driven down to a level where driving is comfortable.

Congestion-charge revenues go up too, of course, and those can be reinvested into public transport.

Gag! Nothing government spends our money on is an “investment”. And that goes double for public transport, which everyone knows is a waste of money.

If government wants to implement congestion charges without being rightly seen as commuters’ sworn enemies, these revenues MUST be used to ADD ROAD CAPACITY. (And don’t tell me there’s no room, at least until you have stacked up multiple decks of streets, like those in Chicago’s Loop district, higher than the buildings they serve, with parking structures to match.)

But traffic is like water — it wants to find its own level, which tends, in cities, to be maximum capacity.

Because road capacity, so long as it’s free, is a public good and therefore too little is created — and governments don’t change that fact.

If you want to implement a system which keeps traffic below maximum capacity, then you need to apply significant pressure on drivers to keep them away from the roads.

Or you need to get out of the way of entrepreneurs who would provide as much road capacity as drivers demand. Thus leaving ordinary people with all the choices we’re used to having, and are entitled to keep forever.

I know which sort of society I’d rather live in. So do all true Americans.

Cross-posted to the list TheAmericanDream/ . I suggest followup posts go there.