Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pay by mile and Congestion Pricing
From a recent article in Sightline :
Oregon -- often considered a policy innovator among US states -- is in the middle of an experiment that could eventually lead to a repeal of the state gas tax.

Oregon's transportation department is recruiting volunteers to test a system that would charge people based on how far they drive, not on how much gas they use. The trial will test two rate structures -- some participants will pay a flat rate of 1.2 cents per mile, while others will pay a variable rate depending on whether they're driving during rush hour; a control group would continue to pay normal gas taxes.

The author goes on to say that the real motive behind it is that as people start using more fuel efficient cars the tax revenues from the gas will drop and so the need for an alternative way of raising revenue . I am not so impressed by this line of reasoning . After all the people who choose to use SUVs are not going to let go of them either because of the increased cost of gas . Its more of a status symbol , they migght choose to have a hybrid as well if that is what is considered fashionable , but as we know , thrift doesn't remain in fashion for long stretches , it soon becomes cheap .
I also feel that pay by mile is also more appropriate as it penalises somebody who drives further, occupies the road more leading to more congestion and slower traffic movement and arguably pollutes more .Road use should be treated like any other service , use more , pay more . A 'hummer' in any case is going to pay more either in the way of energy taxes or tax for mileage . The unfair part in this scheme is that a hybrid and an SUV are treated on parity . But here we can have a fee structure that awards bonus miles to fuel efficient cars .
The system is planned to work establising a network that tracks movement of the vehicle . This ,besides the fear of big brother watching over you , allows for congestion pricing . Congestion pricing is a sytem of regulating traffic wherein the price of use of the roads depends on how congested the roads are , it can be either paying a premium to drive during rush hour or pay for access to congested areas as in London. The system fully developed can monitor distance and when and where the vehicle was used .


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