There used to be public unmetered water supply in our country. Everybody paid a lump sum (with the assumption of using “x” quantity of water every month).
Then, authorities have introduced water maters, and it turned out people only need half of the water previously assumed. Metering on the individual household level turned out to increase efficiency, and decrease usages, thus making the cost of water smaller for everybody but the moonshiners.
Then why do we have to only approximately calculate road use? We of course do have road tax in fuels, but that’s not an exact measure of neither miles driven, nor congestion created, nor pollution.
Miles driven are not calculated exactly via road tax, because someone with a more efficient car drives for less road tax paid.
Congestion is not measured, because fuel tax is not dependent on the road chosen, or the time of day chosen for driving.
Pollution also is not measured well, as there are more and less polluting vehicles, and driving in the city causes disproportionately more external health effects than country driving.
To better incentivise efficient road traffic, and lessen the public burden of subsidized driving, we should tax drivers of vehicles by measuring how they move trough the City. Instead of fuel tax, which is not just, we would propose recording license plates every time a car moves through a given road or crossing.
Will that be costly? Of course it will. Someone must build the system. But once deployed, it allows cities and states more efficient and just transportation systems, and more revenue, via the following mechanisms:
- Some traffic will switch hours. While rush hours such as 7:00-8:00 will still be occupied heavily, some people will be able to drive to work at 6:00 or 9:00, and save money in the process.
- Air pollution will at least be compensated. Vehicles with worse emissions will drive less, because it will cost more to drive them. Road owners (state or private) will be able to pay property owners in the vicinity for pollution damages.
- Country dwellers will fairly pay less road tax, as they only use highways, which are separated from inhabited areas. City dwellers will rightly pay more for driving and parking.
- Metering vehicle use allows road departments to raise more money. There will be less need for income tax, value added tax, excise tax and other unfair taxes. People will pay because they use infrastructure, not because they work or consume.
- It allows high-quality private roads to be built and maintained. Road owners will no longer be discouraged by “free” competition from the state (dumping).
- Bridges and other bottlenecks could be priced more. This will encourage ride-sharing, and public transportation, especially if heavy traffic is in place. If pricing is set right, it will also encourage cycling or walking.
- By strictly measuring traffic and traffic-relating pollution society will see roads as a profit and loss generating service… not as something absolutely necessary everywhere. It will promote living in denser cities by reducing cost. It will promote higher buildings. And most importantly, even if roads stay in the hands of the government, they will be seen more as a private firms, profitable if they attract customers, and accountable if their customers pollute too much with gases, particulates and sound waves.
- Pricing road traffic is a great chance for other means of transportation. It will promote railways, buses, or even automated inter-city gliders operated with electric glider winches… which too stand no chance if subsidized competition is in place.
So… if metering water could reduce it’s usage and cost, why not try it with public roads?