Friday, July 5, 2013

Congestion Pricing Works

I have been back in the US  for over a week now and miss the fresh, cooler air of Sweden.

Massachusetts has been sweltering but I refuse to install air conditioners in our home and we use the trees around our property for cooling (natural) along with some fans. I do not want to add to global warming.

Policies can also make a big impact on our environment and I have written two books that focus entirely on the subject: Environmental Networks (with K. K. Dhanda and P. Ramanujam, two former doctoral students of mine) and Sustainable Transportation Networks. Several other of my books also provide math models, analyses, and algorithms for environmental decision-making.

It is important to study policies analytically before implementation and my collaborators and I have written many papers on topics ranging from pollution permits, carbon taxes, to sustainable supply chains. In fact, we are presently finishing up a paper on competitive sustainable supply chains with examples from around the world. I am working with Professor Jonas Floden from Sweden and Professor Min Yu, who is a Professor at the University of Portland, but is spending part of the summer in China.

My passion is a clean, healthy environment, and that is one of the reasons that this year and last year I have been spending a lot of time in Sweden as a Visiting Professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg. My host there has been Professor Jonas Floden and a few weeks ago we were interviewed by a journalist, May Catherine O'Connor, who had traveled from San Francisco to Gothenburg to observe the imposed congestion pricing scheme in practice.

Mary Catherine, Jonas, and I had fabulous discussions on transportation and congestion pricing and the experiences in both Gothenburg and Stoickholm, capped with a lunch in Haga. Jonas and I had to indulge in the Swedish neatballs with ligonberries but Mary Catherine is a vegetarian so had a really nice fritatta.
Congestion pricing was instituted in the city of Gothenburg in January 2013 and I can personally see the difference in road traffic. The city was very proactive and instituted more frequent bus service, provided public transport passes to commuters for several weeks, and offered free parking in downtown on weekends. There are separate bus lanes to improve the flow of busses and, of course, numerous pedestrian lanes and bicycle lanes. I continue to marvel at how extremely fit the Swedes are and miss the hours of walking that I would do every day as just part of life -- even bringing groceries home by foot and walking to and from work.
Ms. O'Connor has now written a piece, Congestion pricing: Does it make cities more car-free?,   for SmartPlanet, which appeared yesterday, July 4th.

You can read her article here. 

I am very much looking forward to teaching my Transportation & Logistics class this fall at the Isenberg School of Management in which we discuss how tolls can be quantitatively formulated and then applied. Some of this classical work goes back to Stella Dafermos, who was my doctoral dissertation advisor at Brown University and the second female in the work to receive a PhD in Operations Research!

It is exciting to see analytics being put into practice to make a better planet for all of us!

And, for a set of lectures on transportation and logistics, including toll setting, please feel free to see my lectures on these topics.