Price the Roads

You can have a Carbon Tax, or a Carbon Dividend scheme. Or, instead, you can price entry into a zone of a city, sometimes called a congestion tax, or an emissions tax. Or you can price travel on the roads.

Options for doing this are now incredibly flexible. Vehicles need to be registered with their state. Technology for reading license plates at times is now awesomely reliable. Registrations give the type of car associated with the registration, so, the authority knows how many emissions per mile it typically exudes.

These pricings used to be called tolls, as on the Massachusetts Turnpike in the United States. All ICE cars pay a toll in their gasoline tax which helps to pay for highway and road repairs, but EVs don’t, because EVs don’t buy gasoline.

There has been discussion about charging some kind of annual premium to cars atop their town surcharge to compensate for this. But that’s a flat fee, not a usage-based fee, and so it has drawbacks. This modern technology and modern needs associated with low emissions or low congestion zones gives the idea. Price road use. When any vehicle uses a road, there should be a small charge imposed on the vehicle, to an account associated with that vehicle. (It wouldn’t be difficult to demand a credit card or checking account be set to justify that.) That fee can be flexible, varying by the road, by the type of vehicle, even by the time. The latter sophistication would deflect the avoidance tactics some use to fail to pay for road use, such as some silly drivers who refuse to use the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Out of state drivers could be warned, if they are occasional visitors, or expected to enroll, if they are regular ones. After all, their vehicles use and harm the roads, too. The occasional visitor might be tagged a flat fee, payable at their first encounter with a public service, whether a toll booth (via the EZ Pass system) or a parking meter or an EV charging station or a gasoline station.

There’s new evidence and argument this works quite well. Matthew Tarduno did it.

EVs ought to pay their way. But so should ICE vehicles, on all roads they use, not just designated highways. This can be used to reduce emissions, too, by discriminating upon vehicle type and model, and favoring EVs over emissions intensive ICE vehicles.

About ecoquant

See Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
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