Re: AltInst: Road tolls would centralize cities

From: hermotimus <>
Date: Fri Sep 04 1998 - 17:51:25 PDT

Robin Hanson wrote:

> Charging people for using roads has long been proposed as a
> way to rationalize road traffic. The following paper suggests
> that the result of tolls would be to encourage people to live
> closer together.
> ---------------------------------------------------------------
> "Congestion, Land Use and Job Dispersion: A General Equilibrium
> Model"
> Journal of Urban Economics, 1998, Forthcoming
> In dispersed cities, congestion tolls would drive up central
> wages and rents and would induce centrally located producers to
> want to disperse closer to their workers and their customers,
> paying lower rents and realizing productivity gains from land to
> labor substitution. But the tolls would also induce residents to
> want to locate more centrally in order to economize on commuting
> and shopping travel.


I have several questions about this proposal:

I take it the tolls proposed would have to be significantly steeper
than current levels, to outweigh the other factors people consider
in choosing a residence -- schools, other community assets,
shopping facilities, etc.. To what extent do these tolls constitute
an effective tax on, for example, the decision to locate at a great
distance from one's work, in order to live near good schools?

Also, the savings on commuting costs are going to be offset
somewhat until the other infrastructure elements of residential
life are in place, aren't they? For example, locally there has
been much exitement about the revitalization of dowtown
Houston, Texas, as a residential center -- upscale lofts and
co-ops are being built left and right. But a quick search of
a Houston directory showed no supermarkets within several
miles of downtown, and other shopping facilities have yet to
move back into downtown in great numbers. So, while the
residents of downtown may not have to commute *in* to
get to work, they are going to have to commute *out* to
handle the day to day chores of living, at least for a while.

And, how would the inducement to live close to one's
workplace work out in two-worker households? There's
already a strain on relationships among people who are
"geographically incompatible" -- are people who live
near a spouse's workplace going to be under greater
pressure not to take a job that requires a long, and now
expensive, commute?

Finally, to what extent would inducing workers to cluster
near their workplace have the effect of turning neighborhoods
into "company towns"? There might be positive effects --
companies might have a greater incentive to support schools,
civic efforts and other facilities near their workplaces, but
might they also be able to exert influence on other aspects
of the employees' lives, influences the workers might just as
soon the company didn't have?

-- Robert E. Lewis

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Received on Sat Sep 5 00:56:27 1998

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