Don’t Think of Them As Roads…


Lots of transportation professionals think about congestion pricing today — but how many of them stop to contemplate the history and sociology of the concept? These ideas are discussed in a new article by Thomas Vanoutrive: “Don’t think of them as roads. Think of them as road transport markets: Congestion pricing as a neoliberal political project.” The article is in press with the journal “Progress in Planning.”

[Note that if you don’t have access to the article immediately through your library, you may be able to request a copy through your library’s inter-library loan program.]

ABSTRACT: For some time now, many planners have embraced the idea of congestion pricing, an idea that has its origins in the field of transport economics. A positive attitude towards pricing, however, seems to be at odds with values commonly held by planners. To clarify this paradox, we need to thoroughly understand the history and sociology of the idea, and to acquire such understanding, this dialogue discusses the claim that the history of thinking about congestion pricing can best be understood by seeing it as a discursive politics of the market. The current view on congestion and road pricing originated in the 1950s, and there is clearly a link between the dissemination of the idea of congestion pricing and the rise of neoliberal thinking in general, although a different, rather Keynesian, tradition has continued to exist since the early days. The article also presents some criticisms of congestion pricing based on technical, equity as well as normative arguments. Finally, some attention is devoted to the format of the paper, given that it is written as a dialogue.

~Thanks to Asha W. Agrawal for this post

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