IBM Pitches Congestion Pricing to Middle America

This IBM ad, now airing during NFL playoff games, is definitely aimed at the motoring set. More remarkable than its windshield perspective, though, is that it’s being used to introduce the concept of congestion pricing to sports-obsessed Americans, and it doesn’t get more mainstream than that.

Instead of encouraging people to get out of their cars — ’cause that would be nuts — the spot touts IBM’s "smart" tolling technology, now employed in Stockholm (and proposed for New York in 2007). The ad is basically saying, "Don’t you hate waiting in traffic? Sure. We all do. It wastes your time and your gas. And it’s stupid. Here’s something we can do about it."

Yeah, it’s just a commercial, and talking is a far cry from doing. But the mere fact that this message is out there between kickoffs is worth noting.

Oh, and go Steelers.

Video: IBMAdvertising/YouTube

  • Though Phoenix is emblematic of the worst type of auto-centric sprawl, I still feel compelled to root for the Cardinals, the underdog’s underdog.

    If we were rooting for cities, though, I’d much rather pull for Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. OK, not Philadelphia — their fans don’t deserve a World Series and a Super Bowl.

  • Glad to see I’m not the only one who forms allegiances based on urbanism once my team gets eliminated.

  • J. Mork
  • Yeah but did you notice the quick, almost subliminal image of about 15 people riding bikes at second 21 (in Asia BTW – I was able to pause it on the image). I found that interesting.

    And yeah! I second the Steelers. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid but still would have liked the Giants go further.

  • Go Lions!!

  • Loved the fast images of bikes passing by. that’s what I call subliminal bike promotion!

    Congrats for the guys at IBM!

  • Carl

    > Instead of encouraging people to get out of their cars — ’cause that would be nuts –

    Actually, the goal of congestion pricing is to change the coefficients in the equation people use to make their decisions and thereby encourage them to modify their behavior. This change in behavior can take the form of carpooling, taking public transportation, working different hours to avoid rush hour, or actually getting out of their cars and walking/biking. It’s just a more civilized and intelligent way of doing it than directly asking them. The point is that once you make people pay for those negative externalities that they are imposing on other road users they actually start including those factors into their decisions and they’ll respond intelligently and dynamically.

    So yes, it would be nuts to just stand outside in a sandwich board telling people to stop driving. Asking people to behave counter to their self-interest (or perceived self-interest) usually isn’t very effective. But it should be possible to enact structural changes that make walking/biking/public transportation a more sensible choice.

  • Carl

    PS Go Steelers!


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The public hearings have been held, the commission has approved a plan, now the votes on congestion pricing are fast approaching. As the March 31st legislative deadline draws near, Transportation Alternatives and other pro-pricing groups are ramping up the advocacy. Yesterday, T.A. sent a message to supporters outlining its strategy. The ad to the right […]