A Geography-Specific Approach to Estimating the Distributional Impact of Highway Tolls: An Application to the Puget Sound Region of Washington State

J Urban Aff. 2011 Aug 7;33(3):345-366. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9906.2011.00551.x.


This study contributes to the debate about tolls' equity impacts by examining the potential economic costs of tolling for low-income and non-low-income households. Using data from the Puget Sound metropolitan region in Washington State and GIS methods to map driving routes from home to work, we examine car ownership and transportation patterns among low-income and non-low-income households. We follow standard practice of estimating tolls' potential impact only on households with workers who would drive on tolled and non-tolled facilities. We then redo the analysis including broader groups of households. We find that the degree of regressivity is quite sensitive to the set of households included in the analysis. The results suggest that distributional analyses of tolls should estimate impacts on all households in the relevant region in addition to impacts on just users of roads that are currently tolled or likely to be tolled.