Using Pricing to Reduce Traffic Congestion

March 11, 2009

Using Pricing to Reduce Traffic Congestion


Congestion costs highway users billions of dollars every year. Although policymakers have adopted a variety of strategies for reducing or mitigating congestion, relatively little attention has been paid to policies to promote more efficient use of the highway system. One such policy is congestion pricing, under which drivers are charged a higher price for use of a highway at times or places with heavy traffic and a lower price in the opposite circumstances.

This study—prepared at the request of the Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget—explains how congestion pricing works, reviews the best available evidence on projects that make use of such pricing in order to assess the benefits and challenges of the approach, and discusses federal policy options for encouraging congestion pricing. In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, this study makes no recommendations.