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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transportation Pricing Strategies for California: An Assessment of Congestion, Emissions, Energy. And Equity Impacts


This study investigated five categories of transportation pricing measures – congestion pricing, parking charges, fuel tax increases, VMT fees, and emissions fees. Advanced travel demand models were used to analyze these measures for the Los Angeles, Bay Area, San Diego, and Sacramento metropolitan areas. The analyses indicate that transportation pricing measures could effectively relieve congestion, lower pollutant emissions, reduce energy use, and raise revenues. For example, a combination of congestion pricing, employee parking charges, a 50 cent gas tax increase, and mileage and emissions feeds would reduce VMT and trips by 5-7 percent and cut fuel use and emissions by 12-20 percent, varying by region. Because auto use and its impacts are quite inelastic to price, sizable increases in revenue can be obtained with relatively little effect on travel, conversely price increases must be large to obtain sizable reductions in travel and its externalities.

Citizen reactions to prototype transportation pricing measures were explored in focus groups, and feedback from public officials and private organizations was obtained through meetings and interviews. First reactions were skeptical, but many were more favorably inclined after considering alternatives to pricing. Public acceptance would be increased by earmarking revenues for transportation improvements and providing independent oversight of revenue collection and expenditure.

Federal and state laws govern and in some cases restrict the implementation of pricing strategies, and these and other institutional and administrative issues would have to be resolved before proceeding with specific measures.

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