The Right Coast

February 25, 2006
Markets for Traffic
By Mike Rappaport

One of the most significant inefficiencies in modern society is traffic congestion and this inefficiency is directly the result of government operation of the roads. Gary Becker discusses how market pricing could correct these problems at the Becker Posner blog.

I used to discuss market pricing of the roads in my Environmental Law class. Most people were very hostile to the idea. My sense was that much of the opposition came from two sources: (1) the belief that existing systems, despite their inefficiencies, are natural or preferred, and (2) disagreements over the facts concerning what causes traffic at present and what other reforms might address the issue. I was amazed to listen to southern Californian students praise the virtues of mass transit, knowing that most of them had never commuted on a subway. It was hard to communicate what it was like to grow up in New York and take a subway to high school.