Andrew Coyne, singing the same old song:
That’s because congestion is a phenomenon, not of how many cars are on the road, in total, but how many are on a particular road at a particular time. Enter road tolls.
But which roads to toll? Even road tolls won’t work if improperly designed. For example, several cities around the world, among them London and Stockholm, have experimented with “ring tolls,” charging drivers a fee to enter the city core. They work, in the sense that they reduce the number of cars coming into the core from without. But there has not been as great a reduction in congestion. Why? Induced traffic, again. People inside the ring responded by driving more.
What’s really needed, then, is a more comprehensive approach. With modern technology, there’s no reason to toll only some roads and not others. Using GPS-style in-car transponders and satellites, it’s now possible to charge drivers to use the roads generally, with the highest charges applying in downtown centres and at rush-hour — just as you pay a higher charge to use your cellphone depending on the location and time of day. You’d even get a monthly bill in the mail.
I’ve been in this chorus for a long, long time, and I’ll probably repeat myself on this soon enough. But for now, I’ll point out that there is actually a Toronto company that makes the technology of which Coyne speaks, called Skymeter. Here’s a rundown of how their technology works for road pricing.