A Question for Iain


I believe you that congestion pricing has not worked in reducing traffic during London’s rush hour. Here’s my question: how can Virginia’s just-started project to build High Occupancy Toll Lanes on the beltway work where London’s has failed? I’m skeptical, personally, of many “private” infrastructure proposals because, in more cases than not, the private party gets the upside but taxpayers get stuck with the bill if the project fails.
Here’s one problem I see: the price needed to achieve the optimal reduction in congestion–every car can drive at the speed limit for the entire length of a given area–may be different than the price needed to achieve the greatest return on investment. One could just argue that the optimal level of congestion, by definition, is when the ROI is the greatest. But, obviously, that may not be what many people are thinking of when they support High Occupancy Toll lanes and other public-private partnerships intended to reduce congestion. It seems, indeed, like London has made an explicit effort to maximize its Return on Investment while ignoring the public purpose of reduced congestion. Government appears to be running like a business–to the benefit of nobody.