Extra Credit

Extra Credit

Prof. Richard Arnott (Economics) delivered a paper on "The Economics of Traffic Congestion" at a conference this summer in Venice, Italy, a canal city where the populace gets around by gondola.

Venice may not have any cars, but automobile traffic is a pressing concern in the rest of Europe, says Arnott, an urban economist who mulls policies meant to ease congestion.

High traffic density and low building-setbacks make noise a great problem in European cities, said Arnott, who lives a few blocks from the Massachusetts Turnpike in downtown Boston but says the noise is nothing compared to the traffic din in London or Paris.

"Cordon tolls" on morning rush-hour traffic entering the city have been considered in Stockholm, he said, and Mayor Ken Livingstone was elected in London on a platform that called for a five-pound entry fee on cars.

Some economists have urged such "congestion tolls" on the principle that motorists would thereby foot the social costs of their driving, Arnott said. But if he has been a past advocate of "congestion pricing" in transportation policy, Arnott now describes himself as relatively less enthusiastic about such an approach.

He currently is working with University of Munich economist Ronnie Schob on a monograph examining alternatives to congestion pricing, including revamped policies on downtown parking meters and freight deliveries. Arnott also is helping another colleague incorporate a parking component in a large-scale simulation model of rush-hour traffic in Paris, and serves on a research committee of a European Union commission that is developing a policy on efficient transportation pricing.

He does not, however, own a car. "I don't enjoy driving in Boston," he said. "It's worse than Paris."

-Mark Sullivan


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