- The National League of Cities (NLC) released a guide, Making Space: Congestion Pricing in Cities, encouraging cities to consider congestion pricing to ease traffic, improve citizens' quality of life and gain revenue for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.
- The guide breaks down differences between road-use fee models and provides case studies for four cities: London, Stockholm, Singapore and New York. The case studies include each project's background, financing, evolution and lessons learned, although New York's case study lacks some of those elements because congestion pricing has not yet been implemented.
- The guide concludes that congestion pricing might become even more important in cities as electric vehicles (EVs) and and autonomous vehicles (AVs) grow more prevalent. It also notes that small and medium-sized cities should remain open to the concept, and cities that don't yet struggle with traffic should as well.
Congestion pricing is built on the economic concept that the price charged for goods or services in high demand increases to reflect its value and what users are willing to pay for it, the guide states.
The guide advises that cities without significant traffic trouble should be proactive and evaluate a road-use fee plan before congestion becomes an issue and difficult to manage. Small and medium-sized cities frequently are praised for their lack of traffic, but that's one factor making them more attractive and drawing in new residents. Census figures show small and mid-sized cities are experiencing the greatest growth, especially in the South and the West. All that growth could increase congestion and create stresses on road infrastructure, especially if the cities do not already have a robust transit system that supports citizens reducing their use of personal vehicles.
Cities considering congestion pricing have to make sure the concept is implemented in an equitable way and that residents have access to reliable alternative transportation, the guide states. Cities already are grappling with how to set up pricing structures — such as including toll exemptions or rebates — to fairly charge fees to reduce congestion without disproportionately burdening low-income residents.
The guide examines congestion pricing under future and current conditions. It explains that requesting a car service instead of owning a car will become cheaper and more competitive once ride-hailing companies roll out AVs. That could lead to a further burden on cities' streets and infrastructure if left unchecked.
"The mobility landscape is changing: Driverless cars, electric vehicles, e-scooters and even robots are coming to our streets. But we still haven't fixed our nation's infrastructure... Ultimately, city leaders will be the ones to usher in the innovative, forward-looking systems to get us there," Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director for NLC’s Center for City Solutions, said in a statement.
AVs also need somewhere to go when unoccupied, and the guide suggests that could lead to many empty cars circling the streets rather than paying to park somewhere. A study about different drivers' (personal, commercial, ride-hailing) contributions to congestion validates that concern, estimating about 33% of ride-hailing vehicle miles traveled in the cities studied came from drivers waiting for a ride request. But implementing congestion pricing could prompt AVs to make different driving decisions and unclog roads.