M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 129

Managing Traffic in Massachusetts: Assessing the Potential Income Equity Impacts of Congestion Pricing in Greater Boston

Nicolas V. Serna



Boston has long grappled with traffic. The city's investment in the Big Dig--then the nation's largest highway construction project--helped ease road congestion after opening in 2006. Yet the persistence of high traffic levels in the city and region reveals the limits of roadway construction. New roads are expensive, spur induced demand, and harm the environment. Despite Boston's recent and substantial investments, the city in 2018 earned the spot of worst-congested city in the United States.

Rather than increasing the supply of roadways, congestion pricing offers a mechanism to manage the demand for these roads. By charging for road access during peak demand periods, congestion pricing attempts to shift demand from peak to non-peak periods, incentivize trip bundling, and/or induce people to shift to alternative travel modes. Congestion pricing has been implemented in a variety of forms globally and across the United States.

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