Step-tolling with price-sensitive demand: Why more steps in the toll make the consumer better off

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Most dynamic models of congestion pricing use fully time-variant tolls. However, in practice, tolls are uniform over the day, or at most have just a few steps. Such uniform and step tolls have received surprisingly little attention from the literature. Moreover, most models that do study them assume that demand is insensitive to the price. This seems an empirically questionable assumption that, as this paper finds, strongly affects the implications of step tolling for the consumer. In the bottleneck model, first-best tolling has no effect on the generalised price, and thus consumer surplus remains the same as without tolling. Conversely, under price-sensitive demand, step tolling increases the price, making the consumer worse off. The more steps the toll has, the closer it approximates the first-best toll, thereby increasing the welfare gain and making consumers better off. This indicates the importance for real-world tolls to have as many steps as possible: this not only raises welfare, but may also increase the political acceptability of the scheme by making consumers better off. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1608-1622
JournalTransportation Research. Part A: Policy & Practice
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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