Anti-Capitalist Meetup – Congestion pricing is more about carbon than cars

Associated Press / YouTube NYC to charge drivers for traffic 1558908463.jpg...
Associated Press / YouTube

Despite all-wheel drive, cars are about roads. The historical necessity of roads for development has only recently been challenged by the broader possibility of personal aircraft and the commercialization of space exploration.

Traffic and power generation are the main sources of urban air pollution.

Congestion in traffic seems not to be more about breathing and air quality but only about pricing and rents.

The problem of vehicle use is focusing on the marginal changes rather looking at the global environmental pollution costs of all transportation. Congestion seems not to be about breathing and air quality but only about pricing and rents.

The end of fossil-fuel vehicle engines will be a major step, but ultimately it will be capital costs and controlling carbon that will determine the difference between carbon footprints and stampedes. The solutions necessitate regulation, even as neoliberalism more often insists on self-regulating governance through lawfare.


It is a capitalist trope that the autonomy of automobile ownership is empowering in terms of class status, even if in the main it is a transient rental property with few owning the same car for a lifetime. Toll roads and parking garages remind us of its rents. Individual vehicle ownership is about neoliberal pricing and the sign of the self-driving car.

The socialist trope is that roads are a function of the state, and even more socialist to have fare-free mass transit, or is a land of free driverless cars a utopian goal.

Libertarians always want that minimal state but don’t know whether a land of toll roads would be coercive or is a land of free driverless cars a utopian goal.

Every road is ultimately a toll road and road use charges include social costs. the problem is how the bill gets paid and who pays for it.

The urban economy is still about the nature of labor and workplaces where distance and class differentials affect the nature of exploitation. Job-sharing and ride sharing are going to change the nature of labor transit. Collectivizing and automation will alter work organization.

There will be alternatives. It seems obvious that electric vehicle (EV) differential pricing compared to fossil-fuel vehicles will eventually occur, as well as occupancy pricing.

And there’s those folks like the Dutch who allow bikes on nearly all roads. Yet, the simple act of crossing a sidewalk in a U.S. city can be life-threatening, especially for the elderly, who can be seen stepping gingerly from the curb and looking fearfully left and right. Riding a bicycle to work is an exercise in suicide and an affront to harried commuters. The billions of dollars that are spent every year promoting automobile travel make this seem the natural order of the universe.” (2000).

There are network economies from cross-subsidies whether it’s telecommunications or automobile access to the central business district.

Commercial and private use will tend to support mass transit and infrastructure costs. However, neoliberalism and its incentivizing tendencies tends to chafe regulatory enforcement the key enabler for all of this is enforcement, identifying vehicles and pursuing violators, without the means to do this efficiently, congestion pricing is not going to be effective.”

The problem for so many is that enforcement is always social and not reducible to technological solutions even as that progress will move toward efficiency such as moving from using tollpoints vs. GPS geolocation. Speeding tickets will be always socialist whether automatically allocated by surveillance, geolocation, or traffic cops, robot or otherwise.

For example, Singapore might be better as a car-free city-state beyond the classism of Electronic Road Pricing where the total cost of owning a car for 10 years = $160,000.

In the case of NYC, having a driver and a limo could be a social crime impossible to mediate by taxes or fees.

Ultimately congestion pricing remains in the last instance a matter of carbon pricing.

Congestion pricing is a fee charged to drivers traveling in highly congested areas during the times of day when traffic is at its heaviest to help reduce gridlock.

A survey of economic literature on the subject, however, finds that most economists agree that some form of road pricing to reduce congestion is economically viable, although there is disagreement on what form road pricing should take. Economists disagree over how to set tolls, how to cover common costs, what to do with any excess revenues, whether and how “losers” from tolling previously free roads should be compensated, and whether to privatize highways.[6] Also, concerns regarding fossil fuel supply and urban transport high emissions of greenhouse gases in the context of climate change have renewed interest in congestion pricing, as it is considered one of the demand-side mechanisms that may reduce oil consumption.[7][8][9][10]…

Pubic choice problems of individual self-interest will become further heightened beyond ex ante and ex post resistance to policy change.

Many recent road pricing schemes have proved controversial, with a number of high-profile schemes in the US and the UK being cancelled, delayed or scaled back in response to opposition and protest. Critics maintain that congestion pricing is not equitable, places an economic burden on neighboring communities, has a negative effect on retail businesses and on economic activity in general, and is just another tax. A 2006 survey of economic literature on the subject, however, finds that most economists agree that some form of road pricing to reduce congestion is economically viable, although there is disagreement on what form road pricing should take. Economists disagree over how to set tolls, how to cover common costs, what to do with any excess revenues, whether and how “losers” from tolling previously free roads should be compensated, and whether to privatize highways.[7]

This is a problem that Uber poses for policy-makers. Usually, you can incentivize behavior by imposing taxes and granting subsidies. The idea behind the congestion charge is it is supposed to get passed on to customers, who will choose to take fewer Uber rides, leading to less congestion. It also seemed plausible the driver pay floor would lead to higher fares and fewer cars on the road. But what happens if all these transactions are intermediated by a company with an abnormal relationship to profits? That is, what if Uber just eats the cost of higher driver pay and congestion charges instead of passing them on to customers? Certainly these regulations aren’t reducing my rideshare usage because I’m not bearing their costs.

As with so many things about Uber, my main question here is: Why? Does this company not like money? Even the theory that Uber is engaged in predatory pricing designed to drive its rideshare competitors out of business makes little sense, as the company admitted in its IPO filing it needs to price its services below cost to compete effectively against non-rideshare modes of transportation, such as driving your own car or walking.

This is something for lawmakers to keep in mind as they set congestion policies: If these policies depend on the imposed fees actually getting borne by the end consumer, they had better make sure they are actually getting passed through to the end consumer, since Uber seems bent on losing money in every creative way it can find.…

“In the months before congestion pricing is in place, the resentment can be deep. In Stockholm, just 30 percent of residents were in favor of congestion pricing before it started in 2006.
But the plan went into effect anyway. And after congestion pricing was permanently in place, a majority of Stockholm residents supported it.
When congestion pricing is just a vague notion, not tied to a specific proposal, people like it. As soon as it’s a real thing with a start date — and a sticker price — they pivot against it, diving into what Jonas Eliasson calls the “valley of political death.” But once it becomes a reality, they come back around to support it.”…

At some moment more standardization will not occur naturally but by planning and governance.



The results of this project, the latest in a long string of mass-transit investments, have been remarkable, and Seattle loves to tout them: As the city has grown in population, adding jobs and buildings, its car traffic has actually gone down. City Hall says average daily traffic in Seattle proper has stayed flat, and even declined a little, since 2006—and during that time, the city added more than 116,000 people, the second biggest percentage increase among America’s 50 largest cities. Meanwhile, its light-rail ridership is surging; after the most recent expansion, the number of daily users jumped 89 percent, to 65,100 people on an average weekday, compared with the year before.

Ultimately the need for state intervention is necessary in terms of mediating the implementation of regulatory systems.

De Borger and Proost (2012)

In this paper, we take a political economy approach to study the introduction of urban congestion tolls, using a simple majority voting model. Making users pay for external congestion costs is for an economist an obvious reform, but successful introductions of externality pricing in transport are rare. The two exceptions are London and Stockholm, that are characterized by two salient facts. First, the toll revenues were tied to improvements of public transport. Second, although a majority was against road pricing before it was actually introduced, a majority was in favor of the policy reform after its introduction This paper constructs a model to explain these two aspects. Using a stylized model with car and public transport, we show that it is easier to obtain a majority when the toll revenues are used to subsidize public transport than when they are used for a tax refund. Furthermore, introducing idiosyncratic uncertainty for car substitution costs, we can explain the presence of a majority that is ex ante against road pricing and ex post in favor. The ex ante majority against road pricing also implies that there is no majority for organizing an experiment that would take away the individual uncertainty.…

Journal of Urban Economics, Volume 71, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 79-92

Costs of leisure: owning a car while for some necessary to get to work, is a luxury good which has its media, but surely can handle some ruthless criticism.

But what I’m suggesting for Top Gear is that, as with Doctor Who, the lead character doesn’t ever leave – rather he simply “regenerates”. My proposal is that for the start of the next series they simply take some of the footage that’s already been shot with Jeremy, possibly from that fateful day in Yorkshire, but after a couple of minutes his image suddenly goes all weird and via the use of computer trickery and possibly a swooshing noise I would appear in his place – except I would not be known as Alexei Sayle, I would be called “Jeremy Clarkson”, and forever more whoever plays the role will be known as “Jeremy Clarkson”, even if they are hopefully one day non-white or a woman.

That still leaves one question: why should the new “Jeremy” be a Marxist? Well, one of the few things Top Gear was never accused of was being insufficiently Marxist, but nevertheless it was. Not just Top Gear, of course, but every single factual programme on British TV. Recently I was a judge on a panel reviewing arts documentaries for a major TV prize and it struck me that, while many of the films displayed great intelligence and passion, none of the artists or cities or artworks were considered within any sort of economic or class framework. Everything was seen as simply springing from individual inspiration unconnected to the economic nature of the society they inhabited. The last arts series that provided the viewer with anything other than the “single unconnected genius” theory of how art is made was probably John Berger’s Ways of Seeing back in 1972. Similarly, I found it astonishing that two of the most prominent programmes made to commemorate the beginning of the first world war last year were the products of rightwing historians: Max Hastings, who thought the war was essentially a good idea; and Niall Ferguson, who thought it was essentially a bad one. In both, the viewer was presented with a Downton Abbey-style version of the conflict shorn of any idea that class or economic self-interest might have had any part to play. This simplistic notion is best countered by Robert Newman, who once stated: “They say the first world war began because Archduke Ferdinand was shot. Nobody’s that popular!”

Which brings us to Top GearRoland Barthes, the French literary theorist, philosopher and critic, wrote in a 1957 essay about the new Citroën DS: “Cars today are the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals.” During the medieval era, the finest minds and artists were dedicated to what was at the centre of society, namely God; today it is consumerism, the insatiable desire for new and better products, and just as those great medieval places of worship were objects of wonder and awe, so the car now fulfils that function, expressing where we are as a society in terms of design, technology and aspiration. In the Top Gear studio the cars are objects of blind veneration, just like the statues of the saints in those medieval cathedrals. So what better place to reintroduce Marxist ideas than on a show dedicated to cars? Every single thing in the world can be revealed through a proper study of cars – fashion, economics, environment and politics – and I am the man to do it. And don’t worry: the show will still be full of its trademark irreverence – though its targets will now be the rich, the powerful and the reactionary, rather than Mexicans, the safety conscious and Morris Marina owners. Because I am not a dry or didactic Marxist; I am one of the fun ones.…

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1 Comment on "Anti-Capitalist Meetup – Congestion pricing is more about carbon than cars"

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Michael owens
Michael owens

Why dont the powers that be, take the Buffoon into the forest in California to rake the leaves for a couple of years …😀✌️