Thursday, April 26, 2007

Will Tolling Go Wireless?

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Decaying roads. Rising traffic congestion. Voters distrustful of government and leery about increased gas taxes. Neil Peirce of The Washington Post recently looked at these problems with transportation funding nationwide and suggested that urban areas consider deployment of tolling as a funding mechanism.

RAMP supports the recommendations of the Washington Transportation Commission in its 2006 Comprehensive Tolling Study and believes that the state should use tolling to encourage effective use of the transportation system through congestion management as well as to provide a supplementary source of transportation funding. RAMP further contends that tolling represents the most direct way to charge system users for the cost of the highway system without singling out one specific class of user.

Always a visionary, Peirce goes even further, citing the recommendation of Robin Chase, CEO of Massachusetts-based Meadow Networks, that governments should abandon gas taxes entirely and shift to wireless technology:

A small, low-cost computer on board every vehicle would report (in real time) miles actually traveled, allowing a realistic government user charge. Fees could be adjusted for roadway congestion pricing (premiums to travel on peak roads at peak times), by wear and tear related to vehicle weight and footprint, and by the vehicle's emissions (a carbon tax to encourage vehicles with reduced greenhouse gas emissions).
Science fiction? Not really--in Britain, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling and others have already proposed that automobiles be equipped with onboard equipment to track their use, with drivers paying a higher charge for operation in congested places and at peak times. Closer to home, the Oregon Road User Fee Task Force has determined how such a tax might be calculated and collected; at the task force's request, researchers have developed technology that can distinguish miles driven in Oregon from those driven elsewhere, then allow a mileage tax to be calculated and paid at the pump in place of the state gas tax.

The technical issues are minimal compared with the administrative issues, and especially with tough policy questions about privacy, equity and the environment; nevertheless, the chronic and urgent need for additional sources for transportation funding will undoubtedly leave no stone unturned.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community's largest transportation planning effort.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Monitoring one's every move is another Big Brother tactic I am sure the future holds.

    Restricting speech, a monoply of one point of view in the media, hate crimes legislation, and "sin" taxes are all avenues of controlling people and their behavior to comply with Big Brother's "correct" view of how people should think, speak, act, and live.

    Controlling people's movement is certainly on the list of the ways the U.S. is heading towards tyranny.