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Tackling Traffic Congestion

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There Are Ways to Reduce Traffic….

John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
April 28, 2007

Annoyed coming home at rush hour in northern Virginia yesterday, I was amused by the bumper sticker on the truck ahead: “Welcome to Northern Virginia; Expect Delays.”

Fairfax and Arlington counties in northern Virginia cannot yet lay claim to the gridlock of Bangkok, Manila or some other places but it seems to be getter very much worse every year.

London and Stockholm have successfully enacted plans that levy fees on drivers who want to enter traffic-clogged city streets but the United States has been slow to apply the concept on the roads.

The Brits started a plan to reduce traffic in London in February 2003. The system charges a fee to motorists entering the central city on weekdays.

Harvard professor of economics Edward L. Glaeser says “Congestion has been reduced noticeably. People are using the roads less, and there have been remarkable upticks in speeds.”

London officials say charging drivers has helped relieve congestion, but the fee - equal to about $16 per trip - has gone up since its implementation in 2003.

Congestion pricing was born and bred in New York City. William Vickrey, the longtime Columbia University economist and 1996 Nobel laureate, is viewed as the father of the concept.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City says, “Using economics to influence public behavior is something this country is built on - it’s called capitalism.” Bloomberg said, “Tax policy influences you to drill here and mine there, and grow this and live here and do that.”

The idea of congestion pricing is unpopular with average New York voters, who said in a poll earlier this year that traffic was a problem but that they don’t want more fees.

In Manila, the Philippines, traffic is dreadful.

One system in Manila meant to reduce traffic (and air pollution) is Transport Demand Management or TDM. The term is applied to measures that are intended to increase the cost of making a trip. The objective of TDM is to reduce the time (congestion) cost of travel by increasing the monetary cost of travel or by decreasing the convenience.

Manila also uses a system based on the last number of the license plate. If the number is odd there are specified days you can and cannot drive. This scheme was put into place to reduce traffic and air pollution. The trouble is, the government has never done any studies or implemented any measures to ascertain if this system is doing any good.

The wealthy in Manila strive to have two cars: one even and one odd.

Now hold on to your hat. The world’s most rigorous effort to get you out of your car and into public transportation comes from Singapore.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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