In this month’s Toronto Life, Phillip Preville pens a fascinating article Toronto’s congestion problems, including an interview with Metrolinx chairman Rob MacIsaac. The piece is ostensibly about congestion, but quickly leaps to the means of reducing it: road pricing.
One of the more interesting methods being considered by Metrolinx goes well beyond traditional road tolls or congestion pricing.
A Toronto company called Skymeter Corporation has developed wireless satellite systems that make it possible to record a vehicle’s every move, including its parking times and locations, making both toll booths and parking meters obsolete. Skymeter’s system will soon be tested in the Netherlands, which plans to ditch standard road taxes and replace them with a nationwide per kilometre tax by 2016.
The system is infinitely tweakable for every conceivable detail. Different roads can be charged at different rates, and rates can vary by time of day. Fuel-efficient cars could be charged a lower rate than gas guzzlers. But perhaps the most practical application of the technology—and one being contemplated by MacIsaac—is a parking tax, which would help push cars off the road, since people will be less inclined to drive somewhere they can’t afford to park. A parking tax is also easier to administer, and Skymeter claims it has the potential to generate more revenue than road pricing ever will.
The catch is that all cars would need transponders.
While Preville considers the idea to be politically unfeasible, the technology has generated interest in policy circles.
Still, planners and policy wonks like the idea of pricing the entire grid because they could charge people for all the car trips they should never make: the ones within three kilometres of their home, which they could comfortably walk or cycle. In other words, it would increase the cost of grocery runs or picking the kids up from school. It would also make things like pizza delivery radically more expensive.
There’s more information on Skymeter at the company’s website.
Photo by newyork808