Cordon Screen: A Cordon-Based Congestion Pricing Policy Evaluation Method for U.S. Cities

Christina Simeone, Matthew Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


Global trends toward urbanization will exacerbate traffic congestion, delays in economic productivity, and air pollution issues for growing cities. Traffic congestion pricing is one method available to help ameliorate these concerns. New York City is on the verge of implementing a cordon-based traffic congestion pricing policy around its central business district. For budget-constrained municipalities, evaluating implementation of such policy could be costly. This article proposes a sketch-planning methodology, called Cordon Screen, for major U.S. cities to evaluate the net income, traffic mitigation, and avoided pollution emissions from cordon-based traffic congestion pricing. This method relies on national datasets and limited user-specific data inputs, along with a range of user-selectable assumptions informed by academic literature to deliver order-of-magnitude results. The numerous limitations of this method are acceptable for preliminary policy evaluation to determine if greater financial investment to obtain more accurate results is justified. The Denver metropolitan area is used to demonstrate Cordon Screen capabilities, with mid-range assumption results suggesting the policy is most effective at generating net income and increasing vehicle speeds on major interstates. For Denver, the policy is comparably less effective at reducing air pollution and increasing speeds on minor roadways. Validation against early implementation results from the London cordon are acceptable. However, users should discount revenue generation projections. Choice of cordon area may be the most difficult obstacle when using the Cordon Screen. With refinement, Cordon Screen could serve as a low-cost, open-source planning evaluation tool for growing and congested U.S. cities. Implications: As global urbanization trends continue, impacted local governments will be looking to explore policies to mitigate traffic congestion and reduce environmental emissions. Internationally, cordon-based traffic congestion pricing has been implemented in London, Singapore, and several other large cities. In America, New York City is implementing cordon-based congestion pricing around its central business district to reduce traffic and environmental emissions. Financial resource constraints, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, may limit the ability for local governments to invest in studying new policy options. The Cordon Screen method detailed in the manuscript presents a low-cost, open-source approach to assessing the potential benefits of cordon-based traffic congestion policy. The method utilizes national datasets to minimize user-specific data requirements and allows users to toggle between a range of values to test sensitivities to key assumptions. For example, emissions reductions are highly sensitive to how drivers respond to tolling. In this example, sensitivity testing enables users to understand how policy design can impact air quality goals. The Cordon Screen approach presented provides a strong platform for future stakeholder deliberation, refinement, and implementation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)25-39
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Air & Waste Management Association.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A50-79738


  • congestion pricing
  • sketch planning
  • transportation planning
  • transportation planning tool


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