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66 I N T E R N AT I O N A L P E R S P E C T I V E S O N R O A D P R I C I N G BOX 2 William Vickrey on Congestion Pricing There are probably few areas in modern economic soci- To begin with it is perhaps worth observing that some- ety where conditions are as far from ideal as in the con- times a facility becomes worthless precisely because it is gested traffic and transportation facilities of our great free. For example, where a high-speed or short-cut facil- modern metropolitan conurbations. This is equally true ity of limited capacity has as an alternative a more cir- in the short run, in terms of making the best use of the cuitous or slower route with ample capacity, free facilities we have and, in the longer run, in terms of the operation may mean that a queue builds up during heavy appropriateness of the facilities for current and projected demand periods at the access to the faster facility until traffic needs. the time required for queuing and transit is equal to the This relative inefficiency can be attributed in large transit time by the circuitous route; under these circum- measure to the fact that the individual user, faced with stances no-one is able to make the trip any faster than if alternative ways of achieving his objectives, does not, the faster route did not exist. Enlargement of the faster under existing conditions, receive any obvious indica- route may be a complete waste of money unless the route tion of the costs which his choice will impose on oth- is enlarged sufficiently to take care of all traffic that ers, whether by impairment of the quality of service or might offer. by the cost of expanding the facilities to the point where this impairment is prevented. Source: Vickrey 1967. cult to enact. In addition, in the American political sys- Develop recommendations on the potential role tem, proposals must survive many rounds of review and of market pricing principles as a tool for congestion discussion by diverse interest groups before numerous management, guidelines for the assessment of the legislative committees and often at many levels of gov- impacts of congestion pricing experiments, and fruit- ernment. To be enacted, a proposal must be supported ful areas for further research, demonstration, or in most of these settings. Those that are hailed by some experimentation. (Transportation Research Board and condemned by others most often fade away in our and Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences consensus-directed democracy (Wachs 1994). While and Education 1994, v) congestion pricing had its outspoken advocates, I wrote in the early 1990s that it also had many detractors, and A committee of 15 experts assisted by capable NRC the latter were often more influential. The advocates staff members and eight nonvoting liaison representa- were professors and environmentalists with limited tives from interested government agencies and industry political influence, while the detractors were more associations met and deliberated over a period of nearly numerous and more potent political adversaries, includ- 3 years. The report of this committee consists of two ing automobile clubs, trucking associations, and cham- volumes, one in which its findings and recommenda- bers of commerce. Under such circumstances, it was tions are summarized and a second containing the difficult to anticipate, only one decade ago, the adop- papers that were commissioned and presented at the tion of road pricing in the near future in democracies national symposium. The report provides a good sum- such as the United States. mary of the state of congestion pricing a decade ago, and thus it is an important baseline that we may use at this symposium to measure accomplishments and THE CURBING GRIDLOCK STUDY changes in attitudes and expectations over the past decade. The findings and recommendations contained Under the circumstances I have outlined above, roughly in Curbing Gridlock are summarized in Boxes 3 and 4, a decade ago the Transportation Research Board and respectively. the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and I would characterize the outcomes of Curbing Grid- Education of the National Research Council (NRC) lock as guardedly optimistic with respect to the poten- agreed to conduct a joint study that would tial of congestion pricing to become a substantial element of the transport policy agenda in the United Assess and synthesize available research and expe- States. Like many commissions and committees created rience on congestion pricing, in the public policy arena, and consistent with the man- Commission papers on critical issues raised by dates of the National Academies, this study committee congestion pricing to be presented at a national sym- avoided enthusiastic advocacy. It attempted to present a posium, and balanced view based on the availability of partial evi-