Report from the Tolling Forum

Update: Oregonian coverage of the forum

I had a chance to sit through most of the tolling panel yesterday (I had to leave before the last group of speakers to get to another commitment).

The program was organized by the Cascadia Center of the Discovery Institute, an organization I was not previously familier with (not to be confused with the Cascade Policy Institute, which had representatives in the audience).

There were a few perspectives that were new to me.

One speaker suggested that perhaps we should move to a model of having “basic access” (local streets and transit) be “free”, funded by fuel taxes, but fund the freeway network by tolling.

Another suggested that what users were really paying for with tolls is reliability: knowing you can get from point A to point B in a certain amount of time.

The packet handed out to attendees included an abridged version of this paper titled “Travel Value Pricing”. One of the interesting conclusions was that you should price your roads to optimize the performance of the whole network, not just individual corridors.

The kind of city-center congestion pricing implemented in London was also discussed. The Stockholm example was discussed in some detail. The experience was about a 25% reduction in auto trips. This split into about 3 equal portions:

  • 1/3 mode-shifted to transit
  • 1/3 time-shifted out of the congestion pricing period
  • 1/3 went away in a phenomenon described as “trip consolidation” where multiple trips were combined into one (not unlike what Metro is encouraging in the “Drive Less, Save More” program)

The discussion of cordon pricing also included impacts on local businesses. The London case is somewhat confused, as there were other economic factors going on, but in Singapore and several Nordic countries the experience was that retail sales were neutral or improved. The suggested mechanism is that removing auto trips increases “footfall” as folks shifting to transit, carpools, etc. now have to walk past retail establishments as part of their overall commute trip.

I’m looking foward to watching Jim Karlock’s recording of the balance of the forum that I missed.

Clearly there’s a lot of knowledge/experience out there that our region needs to absorb as we look at tolling policy options.

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