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Emissions Fees, and Congestion Charges

By Congestion Charges and Lisa Schweitzer and Lisa Schweitzer


his manuscript summarizes the empirical research on the effects of transport user charges and taxes on low-income households. In the first section, I describe how finance fits into two emerging fields of equity research: social exclusion and environmental justice. These two fields inform why researchers should be concerned with finance and pricing beyond basic tax fairness principles from public finance. After that discussion, I assemble the empirical estimates from the research and draw some lessons both for policy and analysis. General gas and emissions charges are expected to cost low-income households about 0.2 percent of their annual income, without tax shifting. High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes—a premium transport service—are expected to cost roughly the same, while comparatively high, comprehensive tolling schemes designed for vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction have estimated out-of-pocket costs at about 5 percent of household income for lower income households. Studies that consider benefits as well as costs tend to tell a different story: some toll schemes are beneficial to low-income households both in terms of congestion relief and air quality benefits. The manuscript ends with a critique of the methodology and concepts, including a conceptual frame for multi-level, geographic analysis and for broadening the scope of finance equity

Year: 2013
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