Author ORCID Identifier


Document Type


Publication Date



Property rights regimes, Traffic congestion, Public choice, Public good, Induced travel, Congestion pricing, Interest groups, Federal Aid Highway Program


This Article argues, using the case of responses to traffic con­gestion, that public choice theory provides a greater explanation for the emergence of property rights than does economic efficiency. The tradi­tional solution to traffic congestion is to provide new roadway capacity, but that is not an efficient response in that it does not lead to internaliza­tion of costs and may actually exacerbate congestion problems by induc­ing travel that would not have taken place but for the new construction. By contrast, congestion charges, which impose tolls designed to internal­ize the costs of driving, offer an efficient way to address the problem of congestion. Nonetheless, the continued popularity of providing new roadway capacity turns upon public choice theory. New roadway con­struction is attractive for politicians as a way to satisfy both constituents generally, and well-organized and powerful interest groups in particular. Although congestion charging regimes tend to be less popular across the board politically, there appears currently to be a shift in position. This Ar­ticle argues that it is possible for concerns of efficiency to override (or at least to curtail) politics when the inefficiencies of a response grounded in political economy become too large. But at the same time, public choice theory continues to hold considerable sway-the shift toward congestion pricing may require not only pressing efficiency concerns, but also a shift in the political climate.

First Page


Publication Title

Boston College Law Review