About Congestion Pricing
Congestion pricing takes several forms but is usually deployed in two main ways. Cordon (or area-wide) congestion pricing charges a fee for any vehicle that enters a defined geographic area, usually a city center, during peak hours. Dense city centers work most efficiently when public road space is allocated in a manner that moves the most people safely and efficiently. These effects are evident in Singapore, Stockholm, Milan, and London, which all adopted cordon pricing schemes. No U.S. cities have yet adopted cordon congestion pricing, although New York City is preparing to initiate one in 2021.
The other common form of congestion pricing is fees or tolls on discrete corridors or on parts of roads. In the case of high-occupancy toll lanes, motorists are charged if the number of passengers in a vehicle is below a threshold, usually two or three people. Such fees are in place today in U.S. cities including San Diego, Denver, and Houston. They mainly manage congestion on the lanes themselves, rather than on the broader transportation network. However, a new project in northern Virginia charges solo drivers to use the express lanes, with prices varying based on demand. The project provides significant resources to directly support improved public transit and non-motorized transportation projects.
The international examples described throughout this paper, in particular London, Stockholm, Milan, and Gothenburg, provide examples of how congestion charging was introduced as a means to reduce traffic in the city core. The programs in these cities also saw related benefits such as emissions reductions, fewer crashes, and better access to public services, jobs, and schools.
There is no single path to success. London's congestion pricing plan needed the unwavering support of the new mayor in order to keep it from unraveling before it even began. Stockholm benefitted from a unique governing coalition in the national legislature, then had to survive a public referendum. Governance and institutional structures vary between Europe and the United States, but congestion pricing is a major political lift in both