May 24, 2019

Credit: (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) 

This piece was updated on May 24th, 2019

Traffic is awful. It causes pollution, it makes people stressed, it costs cities and drivers billions of dollars… and if you’ve ever sat in a car, inching along a packed highway, you understand the toll it takes. So, how do we fix it? According to UCLA’s Michael Manville, there are a lot of proposed solutions, but only one - yes, one - really works.

Three Takeaways: 

  • According to Manville, the one proven solution to traffic is to price our roads. What he proposes is a specific type of toll: a congestion charge. The toll is dynamic, with the price rising or falling based on the demand for the road at a specific time. (The toll would likely be high at 8 in the morning, but quite low at midnight.) Unlike other tolls, it’s not designed to raise money; instead, it’s designed to discourage a few people from driving.
  • The reason Manville thinks that this will work is that “the majority of [traffic] is caused by the last few vehicles on the road.” A road can absorb a lot of cars and still be traffic-free, but after a certain point, each additional vehicle causes a lot of delay. So if you can take about 5 percent of cars off the road, traffic becomes much better.
  • Manville says that there’s evidence that this plan has worked. Singapore has used some version of it since 1975. Cities like London and Stockholm have also tried their spins on congestion pricing.
  • Update: in 2021, Manhattan will be the first place in America to implement a congestion pricing plan. Manville says this is incredibly encouraging for other places considering similar policies, and could start a wave of new traffic regulations across the country.

More Reading: 

traffic, Michael Manville, cars, Pollution, Green, Congestion

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