Everyone Pays

I understand perfectly well that the sort of congestion pricing I favor is very unpopular so in most jurisdictions it probably makes sense to focus first on funding alternative modes of transportation, rather than bringing in pricing first and using the revenue to fund transit later. But the other objection, much-mooted in comments, was that this would be bad on equity grounds.

I don't buy it.

Of course the costs of congestion pricing would fall hard on people of modest means, but that's because the cost of anything falls hard on people of modest means. But the whole crux of the argument for congestion pricing is that "free" roads come with real costs. They cost money to build (as would priced roads) but on top of that, they impose huge costs in terms of traffic and delays. That cost, is borne by everyone but, again, people of modest means tend to pay the most since in search of affordable housing they're pushed the furthest out onto the metropolitan fringe. Either way, it's better to be rich than non-rich. The difference is that when you have congestion pricing you have a lower overall social cost, and therefore more ability to provide services to people of modest means. Meanwhile, it's also worth noting that the poor families tend to own fewer cars (i.e., zero or one per family, rather than two or more) so in the final analysis charging for road use and funding transit is redistributive.