Road Fees Don’t Hurt the Poor as Much as You Might Think

Eric Jaffe at The Atlantic Cities says: Road Fees Don’t Hurt the Poor as Much as You Might Think – :

“Altshuler bases his position on a couple surveys conducted in metro areas that have adopted HOT lanes in the recent past. One was done in San Diego circa 2001. At that time, about 80 percent of low-income respondents agreed with the concept that people should be able to use an express lane on Interstate 15 for a fee — a greater percentage of agreement than people from high-income brackets (70 percent). Additionally, two thirds of people who didn’t even use the lanes still supported them.

A similar survey was done in 2006 in Minnesota. That work showed a 60 percent approval rate for HOT lanes on Interstate 394. A stronger analysis of this corridor, done by Tyler Patterson and David Levinson [PDF], found that income levels did predict use of the express lane (with higher-income drivers using them more often), but that lower-income drivers could also benefit from the shift of traffic out of the free lanes (as well as always having the express option in a time crunch).

(And a far more recent survey, released in April, showed that two-thirds of people making less than $50,000 a year said they’d use express toll lanes — the same percentage as people making more than that.)”

My comprehensive review of the topic is: Levinson, David (2010) Equity Effects of Road Pricing: A Review. Transport Reviews 30(1) 33-57.

The NCHRP had a report on this as well: Equity of Evolving Transportation Finance Mechanisms.

A key point is that HOT lanes also enable freeway BRT where it might otherwise be unaffordable to construct. The express lanes are uncongested and can be used by buses to maintain speed. An example is the I-35W corridor (Orange Line) south of downtown Minneapolis, which is not complete (Lake Street Station is still missing, e.g.), but has a BRT station at 46th.

The Cases for (and Against) Public and Private Networks

Now at Streets.MN “The Cases for (and Against) Public and Private Networks” by David King and me.

We have explored the case for subsidy for transit and roads in previous weeks, discussing the pros and cons of capital and operating subsidy. Yet our discussion has largely focused on individual facilities or projects. In this post we  work through how the physical structure of networks varies under public or private ownership regimes.

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King

“Ubiquitous networks have positive returns to scale, in that the larger the network, the more valuable it is, as you can reach more destinations. Think of telephones (not very valuable if they are simply tin cans connecting you to a neighbor), transit (not very valuable if it only runs a single route), or airports (you won’t get very far if you only had direct connections, not hubs). The problem is that building ubiquitous networks requires large up-front capital expenditures and a base beyond existing users. For instance, while the Interstate Highway System was built by “user fees”, before the first mile of concrete opened, drivers (who obviously had not used the Interstate) were assessed federal motor fuel taxes on all miles traveled, not just Interstate miles. The class of drivers as a whole paid for the interstate as a whole, and ultimately benefitted as a whole. Any individual traveler may or may not have seen those benefits, or paid for them.”

Traffic on Maryland’s MD200 ICC

An update on everyone’s favorite partial outer beltway, the Intercounty Connector (ICC, MD 200) from Toll Roads News:Traffic on Maryland’s MD200 ICC picking up nicely – growth 32% to 34% over a year:

“New traffic data for the Washington area Inter County Connector MD200 tollroad shows traffic running about a third higher than a year ago. April traffic at 35,500 vehicles per segment workdays was up 34% over 26,400 of the same month last year. And the first four months of this year were up 32% over the same four months last year.”

Keep in mind this is a 6 lane very limited access roadway, and the traffic levels when untolled were about 46,000 workday toll transactions. So some learning is required on the part of travelers about what their real value of time is, and on the part of administrators about things like speed limits and revenue maximizing toll levels. Still, this must be considered disappointing at best.

PZ writes:

“I really wish that the Maryland Transit Administration would not be in such a hurry to cancel the bus service on the road, since this is service that never existed before the ICC was opened to traffic, and two years is not enough time for the service to “mature.””


The issue is discussed in this WaPo article. Clearly one of the key destinations Fort Meade, has lots of workers, as the home to the NSA.

My previous comments on the road are here.