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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lessons Learned for Designing Programs to Charge for Road Use, Congestion, and Emissions

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Pricing externalities from vehicle use such as road damage, vehicular emissions (both greenhouse gases and local pollutants), and congestion has become an important topic in the transportation sector in recent years. Road user charge pilot programs are being explored in various states in the U.S.; cities like New York and San Francisco are following in the footsteps of Stockholm and London by announcing plans to implement congestion pricing; and numerous cities and countries have announced gasoline vehicle phase-outs or bans. In this study, we provide an overview of the academic literature related to vehicle pricing, we examine case studies of locations where pricing has been implemented, and we investigate the design choices for programs that would address each of three major externalities related to vehicle use: road damage, emissions (both greenhouse gases and local pollutants), and congestion. Our analysis finds opportunities for integrating technology across multiple pricing programs—by relying on overlapping systems, programs can be implemented more efficiently and provide tremendous cost savings.

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