It stems from the widespread desires of people to pursue certain goals that inevitably overload existing roads and transit systems every day.
But everyone hates traffic congestion, and it keeps getting worse, in spite of attempted remedies.
Traffic congestion is not primarily a problem, but rather the solution to our basic mobility problem, which is that too many people want to move at the same times each day. Because efficient operation of both the economy and school systems requires that people work, go to school, and even run errands during about the same hours so they can interact with each other.
That basic requirement cannot be altered without crippling our economy and society.
Transportation economists have long been proponents of this tactic, but most Americans reject this solution politically for two reasons.
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Tolls would favor wealthier or subsidized drivers and harm poor ones, so most Americans would resent them, partly because they believe they would be at a disadvantage.
(Outside of New York City, only 3.5 percent use transit and 89.3 percent use private vehicles.) A major reason is that most transit commuting is concentrated in a few large, densely settled regions with extensive fixed-rail transit systems. Within those regions, transit commuters are 17 percent of all commuters, but elsewhere, transit carries only 2.4 percent of all commuters, and less than one percent in many low-density regions.
Even if America’s existing transit capacity were tripled and fully utilized, morning peak-hour transit travel would rise to 11.0 percent of all morning trips.
The second drawback is that people think these tolls would be just another tax, forcing them to pay for something they have already paid for through gasoline taxes.
For both these reasons, few politicians in our democracy—and so far, anywhere else in the world—advocate this tactic.