Road Fees: The Answer to Gridlock in 2050?

The Jan. 4 edition of the Sacramento Bee featured eight Californians speculating about the future of the state.  Included was an op-ed piece in which Bren professor of economics Charles Kolstad suggested that by 2050, California freeways may not be very free anymore. And that will be a good thing, says Kolstad in considering the future of traffic in California, where the population is expected to nearly double by 2050, from the current 35 million to some 60 million.

"How will we cope with congestion then?" writes Kolstad, who, as a lead author of reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with a couple of thousand colleagues who have contributed to the panel's groundbreaking work on climate change. "Will cars have microwave ovens and refrigerators so that sitting in traffic becomes a way of life? Will we rocket about Los Angeles like 'The Jetsons'? Will telecommuting be so commonplace that commuting to work will be passé? Or will 2050 look like today, except with really crowded freeways?"

In answering those questions, Kolstad suggests that a solution will involve California drivers increasingly paying to use roadways, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours. Such user fees, he explains, will allow the government to reduce taxes elsewhere and will lead to better living, even in a much more crowded state.

"I was invited by the Sacramento Bee to write something about the future of California," Kolstad says. "I thought transportation and congestion was a big issue that has the potential to be transformational in the state."

Read the complete article here.

Read all eight articles here.