Los Angeles: The Benefits of Congestion Pricing (War on Cars Watch)

At today’s meeting of L.A. Metro’s Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee, UCLA professor Michael Manville made a convincing case for implementing congestion pricing.

Last month, the board heard from CEO Phil Washington that congestion pricing would be one approach to raising the revenue needed to accelerate projects for the 2028 Olympics. Metro staff estimate that congestion pricing could raise between $12-$100+ billion through 2028.

Manville’s presentation emphasized congestion pricing’s many important benefits, even before any revenue is spent. He likened the current under-priced road congestion to Black Friday crowds every day. When a valuable resource is provided for free to users, then it will be in short supply.

Manville explained the well established fundamental law of road congestion: road widening doesn’t reduce congestion. When a road is widened – or even when new transit opens (drawing some people who formerly traveled by car) – driver speed increases, at first. Faster speed means less time cost for driving, hence effectively the speed means driving is cheaper. This then draws drivers from other routes, other times, and other modes – in what Manville called a triple convergence. Within a few months, the widened road returns to its original level of congestion.