Are Land Use Planning and Congestion Pricing Mutually Supportive? Evidence From a Pilot Mileage Fee Program in Portland, OR

Guo, Zhan, Asha W. Agrawal & Jennifer Dill
Journal of American Planning Association, Vol. 77, 3, 232-250

Congestion pricing and land use planning have been proposed as two promising strategies to reduce the externalities associated with driving, including traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. However, they are often viewed by their proponents as substitutive instead of complementary to each other. Using data from a pilot mileage fee program run in Portland, OR, we explored whether congestion pricing and land use planning were mutually supportive in terms of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction. We examined whether effective land use planning could reinforce the benefit of congestion pricing, and whether congestion pricing could strengthen the role of land use planning in encouraging travelers to reduce driving.

VMT data were collected over 10 months from 130 households, which were divided into two groups: those who paid a mileage charge with rates that varied by congestion level (i.e., congestion pricing) and those who paid a mileage charge with a flat structure. Using regression models to compare the two groups, we tested the effect of congestion pricing on VMT reduction across different land use patterns, and the effect of land use on VMT reduction with and without congestion pricing. With congestion pricing, the VMT reduction is greater in traditional (dense and mixed-use) neighborhoods than in suburban (single use, low-density) neighborhoods, probably because of the availability of travel alternatives in the former. Under the same land use pattern, land use attributes explain more variance of household VMT when congestion pricing is implemented, suggesting that this form of mileage fee could make land use planning a more effective mechanism to reduce VMT. In summary, land use planning and congestion pricing appear to be mutually supportive.

For policymakers considering mileage pricing, land use planning affects not only the economic viability but also the political feasibility of a pricing scheme. For urban planners, congestion pricing provides both opportunities and challenges to crafting land use policies that will reduce VMT. For example, a pricing zone that overlaps with dense, mixed-use and transit-accessible development, can reinforce the benefits of these development patterns and encourage greater behavioral changes.


Wagner Faculty