Evaluating the Feasibility of Road Pricing in Downtown Los Angeles
A study of the relationship between a city’s characteristics
and the successful implementation of a road pricing system
Senior Research Project
Submitted to the Urban Studies and Planning Program
Senior Sequence Class of 2010-2011
February 22, 2010
University of California at San Diego
Urban Studies and Planning Program
USP 186 Section A02
This study suggests a road pricing scheme to relieve traffic congestion along major
roadways in Downtown Los Angeles. For proper and successful implementation, this proposal
examines existing and rejected schemes to identify the characteristics of urban cities which
influence the effectiveness of road pricing. Current research suggests that while road pricing
undoubtedly reduces congestion in major cities, applying similar schemes to other cities may not
be as successful or necessary. The research strategy compares Los Angeles to international case
studies of successful and rejected road pricing schemes. Evidence from traffic data analyses,
census data, and government policy reports is used for a cross-city comparison. The analysis
provides a critical insight into the factors which can aid and/or hinder the success of a road
pricing scheme in Los Angeles. Visually, a GIS traffic analysis of Los Angeles illustrates the
need for road pricing. The objective is to not only identify appropriate locations for road pricing,
but also identify areas which cannot accommodate it. The study contributes to literature on
congestion pricing and traffic management. The results will be shared with public sector
officials in hopes that the findings will help identify prime locations to have road pricing
Keywords: road pricing, congestion pricing, cordon pricing, Los Angeles
The Absence of Road Pricing
Transport economists and planners have long advocated for road pricing as an
instrumental alternative to reduce traffic congestion in urban centers. Instead, continuous efforts
are made in the United States to add roads and expand highways, furthering sprawled
development and automobile dependency. The addition of such infrastructure only temporarily
relieves congestion and tends to induce new traffic that worsens the situation. For cities to
address the continuing growth of car use, rather than building new roads, existing roads need to
be rationed, and users, charged for their usage and contribution to congestion.
The idea behind road pricing or congestion pricing is that road users should pay the social
cost they impose on society for contributing to congestion, pollution, noise, etc. The pricing
involves charging drivers more to travel at times and locations at which traffic is heavy (Wachs
1993). The goal is to discourage people from driving into congested areas during peak hours by
using alternative modes of transportation and shifting to less crowded routes.
There are two forms of congestion pricing: area charges and facility charges. Area
charging, also known as cordon pricing, sets a cordon line or border around a congested area and
charges an entry fee. Facility charges are tolls which are levied when drivers uses a particular
segment of roadway such as a bridge or highway. Facility charging is currently used in the
United States, whereas area charging is more popular in European and Asian cities. For the
purpose of this paper, the terms “road pricing” and “congestion pricing” refer to area charging
and not facility charging. Facility charging or tolls will be referred to separately.
Internationally, there are very few congestion pricing schemes mainly due to political and
public skepticism of the benefits. Although U.S. policy makers have expressed interest for many
years, thus far, city-wide congestion pricing proposals have been unsuccessful. Even in cities,
such as New York and Hong Kong, where politicians have proposed road pricing, strong public
opposition stopped its implementation. Therefore, this study evaluates the relationship between
the characteristics of a city and the success of is road pricing scheme. The following questions
will be addressed: (1) what are the necessities and barriers to implementation; and (2) how do
they affect the performance of road pricing schemes?
The study looks at existing road pricing systems (London, Singapore, and Stockholm) as
well as schemes that were rejected (Hong Kong and New York). The purpose of identifying
social, geographical, and political patterns between best and worst practices is to identify
similarities and/or differences to the City of Los Angeles (LA), a location which could
implement road pricing. A cross-city comparison examines demographic, housing, income,
employment, economy, circulation, traffic network conditions, public transport, and travel
demand. This approach serves as guidance for cities interested in future road pricing systems.
The result is a more efficient, cost and time-effective implementation.
Essentially, this feasibility study encourages a road pricing system in Los Angeles. The
end result is a model which determines the success of a city’s road pricing scheme. The study
illustrates the model’s function by demonstrating how downtown Los Angeles is a prime
location for road pricing due to similar patterns it shares with cities which have successful
schemes. Based on high population, employment, and student densities comparable to
international cities pre-road pricing, downtown LA can best support congestion charging.
As previously stated, there is a limited amount of city-wide road pricing schemes that can
be evaluated. Therefore, this study analyzes road pricing on the international scale. The problem
with a cross-international comparison is that generalizations are made and various confounding
variables are unaccounted for. Nevertheless, the study designs a basic framework that determines
the characteristics of a city which militate successful road pricing implementation.
The Core Issues of Road Pricing
In the economic realm, studies cite the effectiveness of road pricing and its inclusion in
urban transport policy. Dating back to the seminal work of Vickrey in 1955, road pricing has
been the economist’s answer to encourage more efficient transportation. It is believed to have
three general objectives: congestion management, reduction of environmental impact, and
revenue management (TDM 2010).
Some studies in this area are concerned with the best type of road pricing to implement.
The general notion is that different types of road pricing have various impacts on the
performance of a road network. Charges can be based on variations of cordons (borders) crossed,
distance travelled, time spent traveling, and/or time spent in congestion. Singapore and Norway,
for example, charges per entry in one direction (Goh 2002 & May 1992); whereas places such as
London have a more complex charging scheme based on cordons crossed, variable times, and
variable directions (Peirson and Vickerman 2008). This paper, however, does not include the
various types of charging in its cross-city comparison. The goal is to identify optimal
characteristics for road pricing in Los Angeles rather than to prescribe the optimal charging
As presented by in the “2009 Urban Mobility Report” issued by the Texas Transportation
Institute, Los Angeles is arguably the most congested city in the United States. Holding the
nation’s highest rank of $76.80 per hour for the value of time consumed commuting; Los
Angeles is notorious for its congested roads and freeways. Also ranked as the city with the most
commuter pain in the same study, Los Angeles is in need of road pricing due to the factors set
forth in this study.
This paper’s place-based approach contends that the effectiveness of road pricing varies
by location. The problem with current studies is that many only prescribe road pricing for large
cities where systems can make a substantial impact on areas with the highest levels of
congestion. London’s Congestion Charging Scheme (LCCS), for instance, reduced congestion in
the central London by about 30% (Peirson and Vickerman 2008). While this paper agrees that
not all cities can accommodate congestion pricing schemes, it also contends that they can benefit
smaller cities. Durham’s road pricing, for example, is for a single street where the Cathedral and
Castle are located. Unlike larger schemes where the purpose is to discourage congestion in and
around an urban centre, Durham’s function is to divert traffic away to the surrounding road
network (Blythe, 2004). This study argues that the purpose of road pricing varies by location. In
order for a system to be successful, it needs to be adapted to the environment in which it will be
In extent, because road pricing needs vary by location, this paper addresses the
conceptual issue of how the unique political, demographical, and topographical dynamics of a
city impacts the performance of its road pricing scheme. Research in this area examines the
institutional, acceptability, and public transport barriers that affect road pricing implementation.
This paper considers three core issues (politics, public acceptance, and alternative transport) that
previous road pricing studies have identified and also refers to how existing road pricing systems
have dealt with these issues. This paper examined international road pricing developments and
identified the dynamics and barriers of a city which determine the success of a road pricing
While economists and traffic planners have long advocated for road pricing, only until
recently, have city officials begun to give it serious consideration. Despite increasing political
support, however, the lack of public acceptance still hinders road pricing schemes. Even in cases
where feasibility studies and experiments conducted were successful, public opposition stopped
its implementation. Hong Kong’s Electronic Pricing System (ERP) two-year pilot experiment,
for example, proved 99.7% reliable and 99% accurate yet was still rejected by the public. The
public’s main concerns were the government’s profit-seeking motive and the invasion of privacy
caused from the tracking of people’s travel activities (Hau 1995). Therefore, a city needs strong
political backing and assurance of security in order to overcome the barrier of public opposition .
The LCCS, though met with public disapproval, was implemented due to the support of a bold
political leader, Mayor Livingston (Peirson and Vickerman 2008). Oslo’s Toll Ring met the
public’s concern of privacy distributing anonymous tags for users to affix to their cars and use to
pay tolls (EIU 2006).
The last issue is the availability of alternative transport. Because the purpose of road
pricing is to reduce traffic and discourage automobile dependency, a city needs to have a good
public transportation system to deter residents from driving. Mainly there needs to be another
mode of transportation into the city’s charging zone that is more effective and cheaper than using
the roads. An innovative approach the LCCS took was to package the road pricing scheme with
the improvement of public transportation. The scheme sought to insure the effectiveness of road
pricing by providing alternative transportation as well as using revenues from the tolls collected
to fund public transportation (Peirson and Vickerman 2008).
This paper studies the three main barriers to road pricing (politics, public acceptance, and
alternative transport) to understand how existing road schemes have overcome them. These real-
world solutions serve as exemplary models for Los Angeles to follow. In addition, the study will
analyze common topographical, political, financial, and circulation elements which may affect
the success of a city’s road pricing scheme. This criterion is used to evaluate the likelihood of a
city-wide road pricing scheme in Los Angeles. Topographically, LA has an easily identifiable
congested commercial district which would benefit from road pricing.
Methodology: Quantitative Measures of Road Pricing
This study employs quantitative methods to evaluate the characteristics that affect the
performance of a road pricing system and the feasibility of a Los Angeles scheme. Much of the
paper’s research is grounded in quantitative data which allows for the measurement and rating of
a city’s transit-related attributes. A combination of case study research, document analysis, and
spatial analysis was used to answer the questions set forth in this study.
Case study research and document analysis
The initial step of the research project was to determine which cities to use in its cross-
city comparison. Content analysis of books and academic journal articles helped identify what
are considered transit theorists and economists’ best practices for road pricing schemes. A
subsequent review of over twenty international pricing projects led to this study’s focus on three
comprehensive area-wide schemes which have been in operation for long gestation periods
(Singapore, Stockholm, and London). These three schemes are also identified by the U.S.
Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration as exemplary congestion pricing
abroad. Two rejected area-wide schemes were also identified to be included in the study’s
comparison (Hong Kong and New York). These five projects have received much depth and
attention during planning, design, implementation, and operational phases and have been
evaluated accordingly in this study.
In order to determine the feasibility of a Los Angeles scheme , a baseline was identified
for ideal city characteristics to have when implementing road pricing. Extensive research from a
variety of government sources including statistics departments and transport authority was
documented into tables and charts for comparison. The cross-city comparison identifies similar
patterns regarding the characteristics of cities with successful and rejected schemes. Quantitative
demographic, housing, and economic data were collected from 2009 local and national census
surveys and statistical reports. Travel and congestion data were collected from local and national
travel surveys and transport authority reports. Political and financial data not available from the
previous sources were retrieved from content analysis of academic journals and administrative
records. The result of the data collection culminated in a comparison of population, housing,
income, travel preference and availability, and political systems.
The structure of this feasibility study was loosely based on past market assessments of
public transit services and road pricing feasibility reports. The most recent and influential report
is the feasibility evaluation of a congestion pricing program for San Francisco. Similar to the
“Mobility, Access, and Pricing Study” conducted by the San Francisco County Transportation
Authority, this study conducted institutional, demographic, and baseline analyses. The cross-city
comparison tables and graphs stated previously formed the basis of each analysis. The
institutional analyses identified the importance of alternative transportation and political support
for public acceptance. The demographic analysis was also structured similar to market
assessments of regional transportation systems. These documents were available through my
internship with Transportation Management Design, Inc. (TMD, Inc.). This study applied the
same methodology of evaluating community profiles (population, demographics, employment,
etc.) to help determine what location is the most favorable for supporting congestion charging.
The baseline analysis examined available data regarding transportation performance and the
impacts of traffic congestion. The most relevant reports include “Texas Transportation Institute’s
2009 Urban Mobility Report” and “The City of Los Angeles Transportation Profile of 2009”.
This project combined two distinct geographic levels of analysis. On the macro level, a
global scale was used to study the few existing and rejected road pricing schemes. The cross-
global comparison of these cities allowed for the evaluation of differences and similarities
between varying road pricing approaches in different geographic areas. Critical spatial factors
include public transit accessibility and circulation; and proximity to transit demand.
On the micro level a road pricing feasibility study for Los Angeles based on the above
spatial elements was conducted. Traffic speeds for all modes of public transit for the entire city
was obtained from TMD, Inc. Traffic speed measures include bus speeds at each stop and speeds
categorized by time period (early AM, AM peak, midday, PM peak, late-night). Using these
measures in GIS, congested areas of Los Angeles with heavy traffic and problematic transit
patterns were identified. This visual traffic data analysis identified downtown Los Angeles as the
optimal location for road pricing. Entries with high levels of congestion served as possible
locations for ERP gantries. The GIS spatial analysis also illustrated the importance of public
transportation in the road pricing zone.
An extensive review of approved and rejected congestion pricing proposals highlights
two interrelated key areas which affect implementation: political approval and public acceptance.
This analysis finds that these barriers are best overcome with an efficient and reliable alternative
transit system that will displace Los Angeles’ heavy reliance on private automobiles. The study’s
cross-city comparison suggests that a dense business district is the optimal location for road
pricing and alternative transport. Moreover youth and student age populations are identified as
key private transport users who will be more inclined to switch to public transit with the advent
of road pricing. This analysis contends that the LA’s ideal location road pricing would be in
downtown, where employment and education enrollment are most dense and private vehicle
users are more susceptible to switching to public transportation.
Institutional Analysis and the Importance of Alternative Transit
The implementation of a LA congestion pricing program requires public acceptance
through strong political support and the establishment of a broad transport policy. As shown in
the table below, past successful schemes were made possible with the combination of these three
interrelated elements. In the cases of Singapore, London, and Stockholm, congestion pricing was
positively received by the public as a result of a united political front which introduced the
scheme as a part of a broad transport policy. All three proposals were part of an ambitious and
wide-ranging transit plan whose fundamental goals and values were to reduce congestion and
exhaust emissions. Most assuring, however, was the promise of improved public transport with
the installation of a road pricing system. Because revenues generated from congestion charges
directly funded public transportation projects, the public was more receptive and less weary of
the government’s profit-seeking motive and the affordability of the fees for low to middle
income classes. Hong Kong’s scheme, in contrast, had a strong political support but was largely
rejected by the public. Not only was the revenue ratio of the scheme 8 to 1, but there was no
mention of whether these funds would be used for alternative transportation (Hau 1995). New
York City, on the other hand, received strong local, national, public, and media backing for its
sustainability plan that addressed fundamental congestion issues of air, energy, water, and
transportation (including: public transit and road pricing) (Schaller). Nevertheless, the pricing
scheme was rejected due to a split state legislature vote in which the Democratic assembly
expressed skepticism of its financial fairness to low and middle income households.
Singapore London Stockholm HK (R) NYC (R)
Dominant political party One-party One-party Two-party Multi-party Two-party
Joint political support X X X X
National support X X X X X
Public approval X X X X
Broad transport policy X X X X
For Los Angeles to experience the success of Singapore, London, and Stockholm’s
pricing schemes, a consolidated political authority needs to guarantee a similar promise of
improved public transport in light of congestion charging. Thus, the following market
assessment stresses the importance of public transport by identifying characteristics of a city
which affect public transit ridership and private vehicle usage. The fundamental goal is to
compare Los Angeles to various cities which have proposed road pricing schemes and assess
which areas are optimal for encouraging drivers to switch from private to public transportation.
As defined by TMD, Inc. the market assessment provides a market context for the
performance of the existing transit network. It will consist of the evaluation of characteristics of
the current Los Angeles population and overall demographic trends in comparison to overseas
schemes. This analysis is intended to identify opportunities to increase public transit ridership
and decrease private automobile use through the implementation of road pricing and capture of
unmet travel demand.
The market assessment is intended to answer important questions concerning:
1. Community Profile: What are the community population, demographics, and
employment of the various cities? Where are these most favorable to supporting
congestion charging and public transport?
2. Baseline Analysis: What are the ideal travel patterns and demand, and how do Los
Angeles’ road and transit network compare?
The community profile is an integral part of the cross-city demographic analysis. Higher
populations and employment densities are a key focus of this review as well as demographic
characteristics more supportive of transit usage as opposed to private automobile usage. These
underlying conditions are often good indicators of where public transit service will most likely
be successful and sustainable. The purpose in doing so is to ensure for a pricing system that will
provide adequate alternative transport mode for those discouraged by the charge.
Key data sources for profiling Los Angeles and the overseas case studies were from the
2009 US Census Bureau’s estimates, the 2001 London Census, and the respective statistics
departments of the Singapore, Stockholm, and Hong Kong governments.
For accurate measurement of population, both city and urban densities were documented.
As defined by the US Census Bureau, city density disregards the metropolitan density of at least
1,000 people per square mile, while urban density includes it. Densities recorded are based on
pre-road pricing schemes for an accurate assessment of the optimal density needed to propose a
Particularly for cities with
Pre-Road Pricing Population Density
significant population densities, public 30000
transportation can service more riders
in a densely populated area (Steiner 15000
1994). Likewise as shown on the right,
all five schemes have city densities of 0
Singapore London Stockholm
LA HK (1983) NYC
(1997) (2001) (2004)
over 8,000 people per sq. mile. City Density 8667 11389 11815 10538 12559 27722.8
Urban Density 8858 11391 12750 8593 12559 5436
Although Los Angeles has the second
highest density in the United States after New York City, in comparison to the other cities, there
is a significant margin of difference. The pre-road pricing density graph indicates cities with
successfully implemented schemes tend to have higher city densities of 10,000 to 12,000 people
per square mile. Interestingly, however, while both New York and Hong Kong have the highest
city densities, neither scheme was implemented.
A comparison of housing distribution,
Single-unit Multi-unit Mobile Homes another factor of density, clarifies that although
LA 46.0% 54.0% a dense city is ideal for pricing schemes, a more
Singapore 5.7% 94.3%
sprawled urban area such as Los Angeles does
London 60.4% 39.5%
not necessitate an incapacity for a congestion
Stockholm 45.0% 55.0%
NYC (R) 17.0% 83.0% project. As shown in the graph at the left,
HK (R) 5.0% 95.0%
housing distributions of single and multi-unit
houses varies greatly. Similar to Stockholm, nearly half of Los Angeles’ housing stock consists
of single-units. With 60 percent of single-unit houses, London’s residential sprawl did not appear
to affect the application of charging scheme. Given that New York and Hong Kong’s housing
distribution is nearly comparable to Singapore’s housing density clearly does not play a large
role in road pricing. Therefore while population density is an important factor to consider in
introducing congestion charging, housing density does not hinder implementation. Rather,
additional factors explained later in have a heavier impact on its success.
Local and regional locations with high employment and density are important trip
generators for any city. Particularly for metropolitan areas, the highest employment densities are
located in downtown where business districts are usually located. Core areas are the most sought
after spaces due to its central location and ease of access to employment. Not surprisingly,
attraction to downtown creates the greatest congestion for major cities and are prime locations
for congestion charging. All three successful schemes are based accordingly with congestion
charging zones inclusive of the central business districts. Fees are charged in relation to AM
peak and PM peak periods when employees are traveling to and from work.
A GIS analysis of LA’s employment and population concentration in 2005 identifies
possible congestion charging locations that are dense enough to support an efficient and easily
accessible public transportation system. The map below shows that the greatest concentration of
both employment and population density is located in downtown Los Angeles and surrounding
communities. The widespread concentration of population in central Los Angeles extends from
the downtown corridor in all directions.
Downtown Los Angeles consists of a large area of very high employment density bound
to the north and west by Interstate 110, Alameda Street to the east, and Washington Boulevard to
the south. The area contains a few densely populated residential pockets, but mostly serves as a
regional employment hub. Small areas of employment density extend beyond these boundaries
into Koreatown to the west and along Interstate 110 to the south. The majority of the downtown
area is surrounded by high density residential uses.
As a whole, Los Angeles is largely low density residential with downtown Los Angeles
serving as the main employment center for the region. There are many areas surrounding the city
(those along the Highway 101 corridor and coastal communities south of Santa Monica) which
have little to no employment density and are largely residential. Residents of these suburban
communities are dependent on the centralized commercial and business centers of neighboring
cities and downtown Los Angeles. The surrounding suburban communities serve as target
locations to dissuade from using private vehicles. This is made possible through the
implementation of road pricing and the improvement of public transport from these areas into the
Journey to Work – Origins and Destinations
Additionally, various cities on the periphery have small downtown areas of their own
with reflecting small pockets of high employment density throughout the urban area . Cities such
as Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Long Beach have small areas of
moderate and high employment density. However, the following analysis shows that this
variation of employment density surrounding Los Angeles, does not affect the city’s potential for
The table below shows that the represents origins and destinations of over 1.4 million
work trips in Los Angeles. The data was collected from the US Census Bureau and Labor
Department’s 2009 database that compiled payroll records to identify worker origins and
destinations. Accounting for half of primary work trips, the vast majority of Los Angeles
employees and residents stay within the city to work. The large portion of inter-city commute
represents the potential for an improved local public transit system which will deter employees
from driving to work.
Table 2 - Census Journey to Work (2009)
Where do Los Angeles employees live? Where do Los Angeles residents work?
Place/City Count Percent Place/City Count Percent
Los Angeles 714,303 50.2% Los Angeles 714,303 50.7%
Long Beach 25,641 1.8% Burbank 64,327 4.6%
Glendale 24,046 1.7% Santa Monica 35,365 2.5%
Santa Clarita 18,965 1.3% Glendale 27,592 2.0%
Pasadena 15,966 1.1% Beverly Hills 25,768 1.8%
Simi Valley 14,597 1.0% Culver 24,977 1.8%
San Diego 12,493 0.9% Torrance 19,494 1.4%
Santa Monica 12,471 0.9% Pasadena 18,513 1.3%
Inglewood 12,328 0.9% West Hollywood 16,913 1.2%
Burbank 10,869 0.8% Long Beach 16,714 1.2%
All Other Locations 560,288 39.4% All Other Locations 445,160 31.6%
Total Primary Jobs 1,421,967 100.0% Total Primary Jobs 1,409,126 100.0%
Baseline Analysis: Travel Demand
The study’s baseline evaluation is centered on travel patterns of the three model road
pricing schemes. The overseas travel data is based on 2009 figures and provided by the
Singapore Land Transport Authority and the European Urban Audit on the quality of life in
European cities. Transit data for Los Angeles is taken from 2009 US Census Bureau estimates
and TMD Inc’s past reports for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. Demographic
data regarding LA’s target populations (youth and college-aged) are based on 2000 Census data.
The following data is particularly useful in comparing patterns for private automobile travel with
those on the public transit network. This analysis may indicate areas where road pricing will
enable public transit to increase its mode share of total travel demand.
Journey to Work: Travel Modes
As previously stated, employment
Transport Mode to Work
attracts people to a metropolitan area. Therefore, 90.0%
the working population constitutes the biggest 70.0%
contributor to congestion in high employment
dense areas such as Downtown Los Angeles.
An analysis of transport methods to work
evaluates the amount of congestion Los Angeles
Los Angeles Singapore (1997) London (2001) Stockholm
employees contribute in comparison to the
Priv Transport Public Transport No Transport needed
overseas counterparts. For fair assessment, pre-
road pricing figures were collected for this evaluation. As shown on the graph,
LA’s reliance on private transport for work is significantly greater than Singapore, London, and
Stockholm’s. While such high figures ensure a profit potential for a road pricing scheme in Los
Angeles, it also signifies an inability of the city’s public transportation system to attract
Key Student Populations
The mark of success of any road pricing scheme is the reduction of congestion caused by
private vehicles and the increase of public transit ridership. By identifying the trip purpose of car
trips made into overseas congestion zones, the study determines the specific populations which
would likely switch from private to public transit if road pricing were implemented. An analysis
of the travel tendencies of Singapore, London, and Stockholm identify commute, business,
school, and leisure as key motivations for driving into the charging zone. Thus in addition to
residents and workers, students and shoppers are also target populations to deter to use public
The US Census Bureau defines youth as persons between 12 and 17 years of age. They
are typically middle school and high school students able to independently utilize public transit
as a means of daily travel needs. Youth residents are more likely to switch to public transport
rather than being driven to school through a potential charging zone.
According to the 2000 Census data, there are few significant concentrations of youth
throughout the Los Angeles. Downtown Los Angeles holds the greatest concentrations of youth
population within the city. These neighborhoods (Koreatown, Central LA, and Nevin)
collectively contain four middle schools and five high schools. Several communities surrounding
Downtown Los Angeles have expansive areas of moderately high concentrations of youth,
including Inglewood, City Terrace, Huntington Park and South Gate.
Public transportation is highly important for the communities of central Los Angeles, and
a few surroundings cities, which have large populations of youth aged residents because many
are too young to obtain a driver’s license, cannot afford the costs of purchasing and operating a
privately-owned vehicle; and most often need access to other educational resources.
Student Age Population
The student age population is defined as persons age 18-24. Students contribute to the
road traffic generated from school and leisure trips. However, because students typically have
lower levels of income and prefer to avoid unnecessary charging, alternative modes of
transportation are more popular among students.
Student age population differs slightly from the distribution of the youth population
within Los Angeles and surrounding communities. Similar to previous density distributions, the
Downtown Los Angeles area holds a significant collection of colleges within its boundaries: LA
Community College, California Design College, West Coast University, American Pacific
College, Pacific States University, Peoples College of Law, Abraham Lincoln University - Law,
Loyola Law School, Westwood College of Technology, and FIDM – Fashion Institute of
Design. All located within a two mile radius of each other, the multitude of professional and
education centers located near Downtown Los Angeles contribute to the area’s significantly high
concentration of student aged residents.
In addition, areas of Hollywood, Westwood, and Palms have significantly high student
age populations. California State University, Long Beach off of Bellflower Boulevard between
East 7th Street and East Atherton Street is the largest contributor to student presence within Long
Beach. Also, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Westwood, draws very high
levels of student residents to the area surrounding the campus. The distribution of student age
population is focused between Wilshire Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, east of Interstate 405.
Less than a mile from each other, LA City College and DeVry University attract a moderate to
high concentration of student aged residents to eastern Hollywood neighborhoods.
Congestion in Downtown Los Angeles
The downtown corridor serves as the Los Angeles’ optimal location for a road pricing
scheme. Its high population, residential, employment, and student densities contribute to the
city’s most congested arterial roads. This section solely examines the congestion in downtown
LA rather than the entire city. The purpose is to reaffirm the area’s potential for supporting road
Average AM & PM Peak Speed
Low traffic speeds are a good 20
indicator of overly congested roads in need 10
of road pricing. The chart on the right 0
LA Singapore London Stockholm
displays vehicle speeds during peak work (1997) (2001) (2004)
hours in central business districts. Compared
to Singapore, London, and Stockholm’s pre-road pricing traffic speeds, downtown LA’s average
vehicle speed is the lowest (8.83 mi/hr). Such a low vehicle speed expresses the success potential
for congestion charging to mitigate congestion.
Moreover, the high private vehicle traffic volume hinders the efficiency of the public bus
routes serving the downtown corridor. The prevalence of employee vehicles entering and exiting
the area exacerbate downtown LA’s congestion, contributing to traffic delays for public buses.
Therefore in order to increase bus speeds and consequently attract private vehicle users, road
pricing needs to be implemented as a means to dissuade drivers and moderate congestion.
Over three decades of experience overseas with pricing programs and studies provides a
rich body of knowledge about various practices and approaches to congestion charging. Rather
than studying the different types of schemes, this study sought to evaluate how effective a road
pricing scheme would be in Los Angeles through case studies of three area-wide schemes and
two that were rejected. This section ties together the lessons learned from evaluating
characteristics of a city which affect the performance of a road pricing proposal.
Demographically, it was found that the density was a key attribute for road pricing. Both
implemented and rejected schemes have extremely high population densities. More convincing,
however, is the need for high economic density. As the case studies of Singapore, London, and
Stockholm show, the success in handling large numbers of vehicles lies in the ability to redirect
employment traffic from private automobile use to public transit use. While Los Angeles has an
undoubtedly densely populated urban core, it lacks an efficient public transit system to deter
employees away from private transportation. Further complicating the matter, the vast majority
of workers traveling to work by car is much higher in Los Angeles than the overseas cities pre-
road pricing. Therefore, youth and college-aged students are identified as target populations to
persuade to use public transportation rather than contributing to congestion. Despite the
shortcomings of heavy car reliance, the study assesses Downtown Los Angeles as the optimal
location for a road pricing scheme. Its residential and employment density make the urban core a
hotspot for future public transit development and road pricing.
The main goal of this study is to identify the characteristics and barriers which help
and/or hinder the effectiveness and performance of a potential road pricing scheme. The study’s
application to Los Angeles illustrates how the cross-city comparison functions in determining
what factors are most influential in road pricing proposal and implementation. The three main
forces that are identified are public and political acceptance, and alternative transit systems. The
study of these underlying factors concludes that similar, road pricing can be proven to be
effective and successful when applied to the right location such as Los Angeles. However,
mainly due to public skepticism and lack of alternative transport, many proposals are continually
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