Efficiency and acceptability of pricing policies and transport investments in distorted economies

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: This thesis contains five papers studying the economic efficiency and political acceptability of road pricing policies and transport investments in distorted economies. Interactions between the transport market and other distorted markets, such as the labor market, can have a large impact on the welfare effect of a road pricing policy or a transport investment. Many road pricing studies therefore try to incorporate effects from other distorted markets in the analysis. Paper I analyzes how the economic efficiency of a road toll in a distorted economy depends on assumptions about the initial tax system. In the road pricing literature, the welfare effect of a road toll is often found to depend on revenue use. Using a simple general equilibrium model paper I shows that the relative efficiency of marginal revenue recycling policies depends more on assumptions regarding inefficiencies in the initial tax system than on the road toll per se. Paper II studies the effect on welfare, equity and labor supply from a road toll in a commuting population with heterogeneous value of time and endogenous labor supply. When explicitly taking into account that commuters have different value of time, the road toll can increase total labor supply even when the revenues are not recycled back to the commuters. The analysis stresses the importance of recognizing traveler heterogeneity when analyzing congestion pricing. Road pricing policies are often characterized by conflicting interests between different stakeholders and different geographical areas. Papers III and IV study the economic efficiency and political acceptability of pricing and investment policies in different institutional and geographical settings. The main contribution of the papers is to explain how political constraints can lead to inefficient tolling strategies. The papers contribute to the existing literature on political acceptability of road pricing by analyzing the conflict and potential trade-off between political acceptability and economic efficiency. A difficulty when assessing the welfare effect of a future transport policy is also that many factors and parameters needed for the analysis are uncertain. Paper V studies the climate benefit of an investment in high speed rail by calculating the magnitude of annual traffic emission reduction required to compensate for the annualized embedded emissions from the construction of the line. The paper finds that to be able to balance the annualized emissions from the construction, traffic volumes of more than 10 million annual one-way trips are usually required, and most of the traffic diverted from other transport modes must come from aviation.