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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Public Roads As A Public Good?

Downtown Colorado Springs ain't so bad! The traffic moves along at a pretty good rate, if you ask me. However, I've lived in some pretty big cities and I think that something can be done about the congestion of traffic!

In London, there are little devices that go onto ones car that will calculate how long one is in the city of London and at what time of day! This is a particularly great example of government actually doing something to correct an externality. Well, considering that the roadways were made public access by the government, perhaps it is an example of government correcting a government-caused negative externality. But for argument's sake, the public roadways in the city of London have gotten so congested that there is an externality of polution for the passers-by and if an emergency were to occur in the city, emergency vehicles wouldn't be able to get through to help because there would be nowhere for the traffic to go once gridlocked! Those not driving in the congested streets, thus not in the market of the excludable and rival access of the public roads, would be negatively affected by the dirty air and the lack of emergency help.

http://www.london.ca/Mapphoto/trafficvol.htm

At this site (above), tourists, motorists, residents, and business-folk may determine the best times to travel through the city, budget their travel through the city, and even make decisions thatthey otherwise may not have been able to had they simply assumed the city was comprised of free-access roadways!

http://www.london.gov.uk/london-life/transport-and-travel/congestion-charging.jsp

At this site (above), the same people previously mentioned can learn about "congestion charging" and all the details about how London has addressed the problem of traffic congestion within the city of London.

Assuming that there is an efficient allocation of pollution and congestion, AND that government was able to measure it, there can now be a unit-price applied to those who cause the pollution and congestion! This process/policy is a perfect example of how government CAN, with the help of technology, correct a negative externality (assuming that there is one, and it isn't a form of government-caused market failure).

The fact that something like this can be captured in a market leads me to believe that government expenditures on things like roadways can be minimized because they can simply be applied to those who use them. In a sense, adverse selection will allow those who use the roadways to be responsible for the costs of the roadways. Who knows, with moral hazard, perhaps those who do use the roadways will associate more value to safe driving and roadway usage and there will be fewer accidents and deaths on the roads...

This will also be an example of how roads can be excludable AND rival. Excludable in that those who don't use roadways won't benefit from the roads being there, as well, won't have to pay for them being there if they don't use them! Rival in that those who contribute towards consumption in excess, will also be the ones contributing towards the maintanence and upkeep!

Now, back to The Springs... I don't earn very good money here, and I feel that I am taxed too much for the little benefit I receive from the city. If things like congestion charging and other methods to 'capture' otherwise argued public goods in a/the market, perhaps taxes would lower and I could enjoy more time of leisure and perhaps spend some of it on education! Now, I wonder if education as a public good can be captured in a/the market...

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