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BITRE | Working paper 74

• more reliable travel times; this would be a crucial benefit because, as the ECMT

has noted, ‘there is considerable evidence that travel time reliability is an even

more important factor [than travel time and speed] in the user experience’ (ECMT

2007, p. 37).

The first two benefits (higher throughput and faster travel times) are well illustrated

by the case of the 91 Express Lanes in California—the lanes to which congestion

charging applies—when compared to the parallel free lanes. 30 As illustrated in Figure

3.2, the average speed in the charged lanes is 65 miles per hour compared to 15 miles

per hour in the free lanes, and throughput on the charged lanes is double that of the

free lanes.

Figure 3.2 Impact of introducing congestion charges on peak-period

throughput and speeds (91 Express Lanes, California)

Vehicles per lane

1 800

1 600

1 400

1 200

1 000

800

600

400

200

90

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

Speed

0

Vehicles per lane

Speed

0

Priced lanes

Free lanes

Source: Adapted from Paniati (2006).

The increased throughput at peak times is an important feature of congestion

charging. What is not shown by the chart, since it is not so readily measured, is the

benefit of the associated improvement in reliability, following the introduction of

congestion charges.

While it is clear that congestion charging can get traffic moving, it still needs to

be determined whether it is in the

Congestion charging can actually

increase traffic throughput and speeds.

long-term interest of the community

and whether congestion charging is

unequivocally superior to prevailing

strategies of dealing with congestion.

30. 91 Express Lanes consists of four tolled lanes constructed within a 16 kilometre section of toll-free Californian State

Route 91 corridor. These four tolled lanes (two for each direction) utilise the centre median strip.

40

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