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Pricing control as a strategy of urban transportation planning Hansen, John Hojgaard

Abstract

For many reasons planners in the past have failed to realize the full potential of the market system as a powerful practical and intellectual tool to be used in urban transportation planning. At a time when there is increasing evidence that past approaches to the urban transportation problem have not yielded the long term solutions that were expected, it is urgent that all alternative strategies be explored. This study addresses itself to one policy course: control of urban transportation through the deliberate use of the market mechanism. The objective of the pricing of urban transportation would be to promote a more socially desirable pattern of usage of the system through a structuring of the demand characteristics - by mode, route, time of travel, and amount of travel. Pricing may thus be used to make the trip-maker aware of, and accountable for, the social costs he incurs in the form of delays due to congestion, noise, air pollution, and so forth, and his travel behaviour would alter accordingly. Because these so-called externalities are, at present not quantifiable in monetary terms, and because of differences in individual utilities, the use of the pricing mechanism cannot displace the political decision-making, but can supplement it. This study is an evaluation of the tool of pricing control in urban transportation planning. The theoretical relationships and the rationale for use of the price mechanism are discussed, and the technical and administrative problems of implementation of a pricing scheme are evaluated. The potential impacts are examined. The practical application of the tool is explored in the context of a case study of traffic in the Lions' Gate Bridge Corridor in Vancouver. There are several compelling advantages to the use of the pricing system for achieving both short-run and long-run objectives. It is extremely flexible, adaptable, incremental, reversible, and most schemes can be implemented at very low capital cost. It can be a strategy for restraint or containment of traffic, or more generally a strategy for directing the patterns of use of the transportation system. But there are serious unanswered questions concerning the limitations of the tool - specifically the income redistribution effects and the overall effectiveness of the pricing mechanism in an increasingly affluent society. There are potential long-term impacts which will remain speculative until we have working urban simulation models. Although the direct application of pricing would be practicable in Canada in only a limited number of clearly defined situations, an understanding of the theoretical concepts will assist in the formulation of specific objectives which may then be pursued using alternate tools more suited to each set of circumstances.

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