Managing Congestion

Traffic congestion is a clear case of the “tragedy of the commons.”  Space on the road in our region is a scarce but public and generally un- or under-priced resource.  As a consequence, many try to use it at the same time, to the detriment of all. 

Since road capacity in the region is unlikely to be expanded very much, and even if it was it would become congested again very rapidly, managing driver demand for road capacity is the only way to keep essential traffic moving at reasonable speeds.  Road networks often function well up to a certain volume – then a “tipping point” is reached where the addition of just a few more vehicles causes disproportionate delay.

Road pricing or congestion pricing introduces simple economic signals to crowded highways or street networks that can prevent critical congestion levels from being reached.  Some drivers delay trips to a less expensive time, shift to transit or forego the trip altogether.

Effective congestion management plays a major role in these campaigns:

Congestion Pricing

Congestion pricing uses off-peak toll discounts and comparatively higher peak tolls to urge drivers to drive at less congested periods or use public transit. This toll variable encourages a shift in driver behavior that yields time and money savings along with reduced pollution.

Congestion-Free Tolling

Congestion-free (or "non-stop," "open road," or "highway-speed") tolling is a safe and environmentally conscious alternative to barrier toll booths. It allows drivers to pay tolls without slowing down, eliminating backups and accidents caused by dangerous merges and failure to slow down at toll plazas.

East River/Harlem River Bridge Tolls

Tolling the East and Harlem River bridges in New York City would raise hundreds of millions of dollars to expand transit service, and eliminate the significant government subsidies which go towards bridge maintenance costs. The status quo of free bridges also creates incentives for drivers to cut through residential neighborhoods in order to avoid tolled crossings.

Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike

TSTC is encouraging the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to revise plans to widen the Garden State Parkway (from miles 80 to 63) and NJ Turnpike (between Interchanges 6 to 9) to incorporate demand management strategies like congestion pricing. Existing plans do not include such measures, meaning that the highways will quickly become congested again.

 

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