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I could see a congestion zone -- like London or Stockholm -- having a positive effect on biking.

That being said, there may be 10-12 areas like that in the US. Outside of Manhattan and Miami Beach, I don't see any as a good fit.

a highway congestion charge would certainly change the driving equation, but more of a shift to transit or car-sharing. If I had to ride in 10 miles and pay for it I'm going to enjoy that 10 miles.

Congestion isn't a big deal as people say. And the best time for biking is outside of rush hour.

I consider the gas tax flawed, but it may be the only acceptable use-based financing scheme with a chance of passage. We'll see more tolls, too, because they can be implemented on an incremental basis, but I also think there is momentum for a rise in the gas tax. Our road infrastructure needs are reaching a crisis point and there are no viable alternatives. Pretty soon, another urban bridge is going to collapse.

First, the best time for biking is during rush hour, when everybody else is jammed into a tube or waiting in line behind the exhaust pipe in front of them!

Second, I don't see why the funding problems are so hard.

Tolls are easy now that they can be collected electronically at speed. They should be set at low levels (like 25 cents here, 50 cents there), and placed at various spots around the beltway and area sprawl-facilitation highways. A trip completely around the beltway could toll at, maybe $1.50 total, enough to collect revenue to rebuild the roads and retrofit the suburbs for people too.

In the cities, people with disabilities, the elderly, parents with (or expecting) kids, should get special driving and parking priorities. Everybody else should pay an annual fee ($100?) for a sticker to drive into the downtown area.

Raise the gas tax gradually, but as part of a larger program to reduce carbon emissions and fund preparation for the worsening impacts of global warming, not necessarily as the funding mechanism congestion mitigation/infrastructure rebuilding.

One more thing -- we need to build a special daily parking garage or garages outside the downtown sticker zone (RFK?) for tourists, so that they can drive to DC, park overnight securely and at a reasonable cost, and then take transit/bikeshare etc. while they're visiting.

In the cities, people with disabilities,
the elderly,
parents with (or expecting) kids,
absolutely not.

Adults without kids are already subsidizing adults with kids to the tune of hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a household in taxes that go to education (among other things, but that's the biggest ticket item)

They can pay the fee like everyone else (or walk or bike and have fewer fat kids out there)

Plus, if one is worried about global warming, giving yet another subsidy/preference to kids is the last thing one should do.

If there's a consideration for simply a minimum number of people in the vehicle before you have to pay a fee, that's a different matter and may be a worthwhile initiative.

Full disclosure I live in DC and have a car, though I use it probably once a week at most. Still, congestion really is not that big of a deal in the District. The bulk of the congestion problems stem from people trying to get into or out of the city. If it's really bad weather I'll drive to work form Dupont to the Hill, and traffic is not really that bad. But God help you if you have to drive to Virginia at 5pm.

Raising the gas tax makes sense on any number of levels. Why implement this complicated GPS based scheme when gas tax gets most of the job done?

The GPS system has some advantages. The gas tax doesn't tax electric cars, for example, or efficient and inefficient cars at the same rate. And for DC it means that if people buy their gas in the suburbs and then drive in DC, DC has to basically subsidize those drivers. With GPS you can distribute money to the places where miles are driven.

But it's expensive to implement. Of course, if we're all going to electric cars, we'll need to change something.

Notwithstanding washcycle's excellent points at 2:20, if GPS is unpalatable, I wonder if technology transmitting a simple set of odometer readings would be an easier sell.

I've heard that the problem with odometers is that they aren't that accurate. If you get bigger tires, you'll appear to be driving less - for example.

People "have to" drive because they choose to live far from work. One reason for this is real estate pricing. They may, however, factor the cost of commuting into their choice. If commuting costs increase, living close to work looks more appealing, as does telecommuting. In either scenario, the people who change their behavior won't notice a change in congestion—if they live near work and still commute, they're still driving that shorter distance in a heavily congested area; if they telecommute, they don't see traffic at all so assume it's the same as it was—but others will see a difference. So it's to some degree an externality to the people whose behavior is modified.

People would have to factor in the time value of commuting, because the out-of-pocket differences do not come even close to the housing price differential.

While VMT and GPS seem nice and might be more fair in princple, it does appear to have too many "moving parts" to work or work well. Beyond privacy, you will not know how much cost you are racking up until you refill. Now you need smarter pumps tied into networks. You thought it was bad when gas stations lost power due to storms, now add the need for a data link to get gas. What if your VMT electronics is not working? I can see people getting stranded at gas stations due to technical difficulties.

Who sets the rates for different roads? What is the oversight to make sure someone don't spike the price of a road? Could be a real surprise if there were a data entry error on a road price when you go to fill up. No doubt someone will come up with an app that helps put drivers on cheaper roads, and the unintended consequences begin. People's behavior is not a constant in this equation.

I think a better and more manageable system would be a gas tax that is more like a sales tax along with tiered vehicle registration fees that attempt to account for the externalities of driving (ie. weight, gas mileage, emissions, vehicle age perhaps, etc). At least that way you can better control your driving cost and plan accordingly.

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