Unnoticed Lessons From London: Road Pricing and Public Transit

Kenneth A. Small

Observers of city life have long looked to mass transit to create urban vitality. Transit is supposed to promote a healthy high-density street life within economically vital business and retail districts, and to concentrate new developments into attractive patterns. Above all, it’s supposed to limit road congestion without resorting to ugly high-volume roads everywhere. These goals have been frustrated by the limited ability of mass transit to attract travelers out of automobiles and by the enormous expense of building and operating mass transit. While many recently built transit systems have achieved some desirable effects, none have seriously lessened traffic congestion. Furthermore, few cities have been able to afford a system extensive enough to make more than a small change in urban form; and the share of trips by mass transit continues to fall virtually everywhere.

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Editorial: Shuttles For The First And Last Mile

Elizabeth Deakin

Transit operators faced with sharp revenue shortfalls due to the economic downturn have reduced or eliminated feeder bus services. Feeder services often carry only five to ten passengers per run, with costs in the range of $6 to $10 per one-way trip, and so are prime targets for cost-cutting measures. Trunk line routes, in contrast, carry two to three times more riders. What happens when feeder services disappear or are sharply cut back? Some former users are able to walk to the trunk line bus or rail service, and some can drive to a station, park, and ride transit the rest of the way. But many others, no longer able to navigate their first and last mile on a shuttle, give up and drive to work instead, adding to the traffic load on city streets and freeways.

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2017-05-30T22:31:03+00:00Categories: ACCESS 25, Fall 2004|Tags: |

The Price Of Regulation

Daniel Sperling

The era of social regulation began in the late 1960s. At first the focus was on safety and pollution, and later on energy use. Motor vehicles were the first and most prominent target. Now, forty years later, social regulation is firmly entrenched. Regulators propose increasingly stringent technology-forcing rules on vehicles, expecting automakers to find a way to adhere to them. Automakers invariably resist, asserting economic hardship. Parts suppliers, trade groups, labor unions, consumers, environmentalists, and others intervene on one side or the other in a dance that proceeds through legislatures, courts, and the public arena. What have been the effects of these social regulations? Have individual companies or entire industries suffered economic hardship? Have consumers been disadvantaged?

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Why Traffic Congestion Is Here To Stay…And Will Get Worse

Anthony Downs

Everyone hates traffic congestion. But despite all attempted remedies, it keeps getting worse. Why don’t they do something about it? The answer: because rising traffic congestion is an inescapable condition in all large and growing metropolitan areas across the world, from Los Angeles to Tokyo, from Cairo to São Paulo. Peak-hour traffic congestion is a result of the way modern societies operate, and of residents’ habits that cause them to overload roads and transit systems every day.

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The Private Sector’s Role In Highway Finance: Lessons From SR 91

Marlon G. Boarnet and Joseph F. DiMento

The gap between needed highway-construction funds and gasoline-tax revenues threatens to widen further. Hybrid vehicles are a reality; alternative fuels are on the horizon; and the gasoline tax—long the workhorse of highway finance in the United States—will inevitably decline in importance. So the search is on for new funds. Can the private sector help fill the gap? Only a few privately financed highways have been built in the US in the past half century. Among them, California’s State Route 91 (SR 91) in Orange County stands out as one of the mature examples. It began as something of a public policy long shot. In 1989, when state legislators debated a bill to allow a limited number of private highway franchises, even the bill’s supporters doubted it had a real chance of passage.

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Turning Small Change Into Big Changes

Douglas Kolozsvari and Donald Shoup

The money you put into a parking meter seems to vanish into thin air. No one knows where the money goes, and everyone would rather park free, so politicians find it easier to require ample off-street parking than to charge market prices at meters. But if each neighborhood could keep all the parking revenue it generates, a powerful new constituency would emerge—neighborhoods that receive the revenue. Cities can change the politics of parking if they earmark parking revenue for public improvements in the metered neighborhoods.

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2017-05-30T22:45:11+00:00Categories: ACCESS 23, Fall 2003|Tags: , |

Local Option Transportation Taxes: Devolution as Revolution

Martin Wachs

Ever since the widespread adoption of automobiles, Americans have preferred to pay for highways and bridges with “user fees”—that is, money collected from those who use the roads. Tolls and fuel taxes, which are roughly proportional to travelers’ use of roads, have been the most common user fees. However, revenues from user fees have been falling for three decades, as legislators become ever more reluctant to raise them to meet inflation. It has been easier to try new kinds of fees, such as sales taxes, to pay for transportation infrastructure. In the guise of urgent solutions to immediate problems, seemingly modest local tax increases are setting a national trend. Without deliberating or consciously adopting a change in policy, indeed without much discussion at all, we are gradually devolving transportation finance back to local governments and reducing user fees. Without knowing it, we may be experiencing a revolution in transportation finance, and we haven’t stopped to ask whether this is good or bad.

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THE ACCESS ALMANAC: Transportation Finance

Martin Wachs

If you read about the future of transportation, you likely will be overwhelmed by a flood of contradictory good and bad news, especially in California. The good news is that there is boundless promise of growth and change in personal mobility, mostly in the private sector. The current pace of innovation in transportation is faster and farther-reaching than at any time since the invention of the automobile. Automated vehicles are evolving rapidly, new apps are helping us find our way and lowering travel costs, social network transportation services are booming, and the hyperloop promises to increase future longer distance mobility. We are on the verge of blending new technologies to provide instant automated point-to-point mobility for people and goods.

Reconsider the Gas Tax: Paying for What You Get

Jeffrey R. Brown

Suppose we could design the ideal transportation system from scratch and could pay for it with the most efficient, equitable, flexible, and predictable finance instrument. What kind of finance instrument should we choose? Economists say we should rely principally on user fees. User fees encourage efficient use of the transportation system by making clear the relationship between transportation costs and transportation benefits, which allows users to make informed decisions. Other instruments, by contrast, remove price signals from a traveler’s decision-making, which can lead to inefficient mismatches between supply and demand for transportation. Furthermore, finance instruments not based on user fees may be unfair because individuals who don’t use the transportation system are required to subsidize those who do.

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THE ACCESS ALMANAC: Unlimited Access, Prepaid Transit at Universities

Jeffrey R. Brown, Daniel Baldwin Hess, and Donald Shoup

Imagine a transportation program that increases transit ridership, reduces traffic congestion, saves energy, cleans the air, and costs very little. Many American colleges offer such a program, and they have given it a variety of names—such as BruinGO, UPass, ClassPass, and SuperTicket. We refer collectively to these programs as Unlimited Access. Unlimited Access turns student identification cards into public transit passes. The university pays the transit agency an annual lump sum based on expected student ridership, and the transit agency accepts student identification cards as transit passes. For every student on any day, a bus ride to campus (or anywhere else) is free. Unlimited Access is not free transit, but is instead a new way to pay for transit.

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