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Author Topic: GPS Toll roads  (Read 2813 times)

Offline cheryl j

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GPS Toll roads
« on: 04/01/2014 16:40:56 »
In an article in Scientific American (Know it All Roads), they talk about using GPS in cars to transfer the cost of roads and highways to the drivers who actually use them, essentially making all roads toll roads.  “You can have your driveway,” says Bern Grush, founder of Skymeter, aToronto-based company that creates GPS-enabled devices to measure road use. “But if you’re going to come over to visit me, you need to pay to get my place from your place.”  The article says it would reduce traffic overall, congestion on the busiest roads, reduce fuel consumption and even decrease highway deaths. 

Aside from the fact it would likely be a very non progressive tax, I was surprised that the article didn’t mention the idea of privacy. If people in the US objected to having their email and cell phone calls tracked, wouldn’t the idea of the government recording every trip you make be just as controversial? I suppose when you are on a public road, your location is already essentially “public” but it sounds so Orwellian. In addition to privacy issues, the idea of people being economically imprisoned and immobilized is distasteful.

Division of labour and specialization is arguably one of the reasons civilization has advanced, but more and more it seems like as we become less self-sufficient, less able to make or do anything for ourselves without forking over money to ever lengthening chains of middle men, we also become less free. Economics looks like a highly effective way of controlling people’s behaviour, particularly the lower class, than laws, religion, or social norms or shunning, and it’s easily rationalized in the name of fairness or efficiency.  It compels behaviour while appearing not to absolutely require compliance. What’s more the government can reap the benefits, without much accountability. You could not "vote out" the private companies that owned and maintained roads, but the government could still access all its information and tax its income.

I’m not anti-technology – it’s the economic strong arming I object to. Although, sometimes I think there is a kind of  technological arms race between the state and its citizens, the Internet being a good example.

I hope I don't sound like a paranoid conspiracy nut.


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #1 on: 04/01/2014 19:32:59 »
A few years ago, Oregon came up with the "Prius Tax".  The idea was that roads are largely paid for through fuel taxes.  The Prius used less fuel than the average car on the road, so the state decided that they should tax the cars more. 

Of course, with the whole argument about CO2, non-renewable resources, imported oil, and etc, the extra tax wasn't very popular, and was quickly repealed. 

Now the concern is that electric vehicles will essentially be given a free pass on the roads.  Many can be essentially plugged into any outlet.  One might come up with a way to tax some of the charging facilities, but it will be complex. 

So, now the State is looking for ways to capture fuel taxes on the electric vehicles, including possibly a mileage tax.  A similar mileage tax is already being used with the large trucks. 

I doubt they'll be able to get anything past the environmentalists until EV's hit at least 10% of the vehicles on the road, but eventually there may be a need to phase in some kind of electrical fuel, or mileage tax. 

No need to do some complex GPS system when a simple odometer reading will suffice (as long as people don't intentionally disable the odometers). 

Of course, there is the complaint that EVs are using grid power generated from non-renewable resources.  However, if one includes hydroelectricity, then Oregon ranks in the top 3 US states for renewable energy production (both in GWh, and % of total)

Anyway, if the goal is to encourage fuel efficiency as part of the road tax, then a fuel tax is as good as, or better than a mileage tax, with the exception of EVs.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #2 on: 05/01/2014 00:18:45 »
On this side of the pond, vehicle taxes are not hypothecated, so "road tax" is just another tax, quite unrelated to expenditure on roads. There are very few toll roads in the UK, all owned by private consortia, not the government. And the only reason electric vehicles are cheaper to run than liquid-fuelled vehicles is because there is very little tax on electricity: after all, most of the electricity is generated from fossil fuels in the first place, so they are not inherently more efficient or less polluting than hybrids, they just spread the pollution through the global stratosphere instead of the local troposphere.

Now if you travel by any form of public transport, your ticket provides a city-to-city or even disgtrict-to-district trail so there can't be much objection in principle to a door-to-door tracker on your car. The joy of GPS, of course, is that you can disable the tracker with a pair of wirecutters or a copper box and thus save a fortune in taxes, unlike fuel tax and road tolls, which are unavoidable.

I don't know if it is still the case, but Japan used to sensibly tax vehicles according to their width, i.e. the amount of aggravation they cause to other road users.

I think the best plan is to abolish all direct personal or corporate taxation (too easy to avoid, but only if you are a wealthy person or a large corporation), impose one large (40%?) tax on turnover (Value Added Tax, or whatever you call it outside Europe) of all goods and services, and give each citizen an annual gift to offset the tax on essentials (say 50 megajoule/day of food and energy).     

Quote
Division of labour and specialization is arguably one of the reasons civilization has advanced
It's the very definition of civilisation!
« Last Edit: 05/01/2014 00:21:30 by alancalverd »
 

Online evan_au

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #3 on: 05/01/2014 04:19:03 »
In Singapore, many roads in the city and car parks are toll roads. It is tracked by transmitters mounted above the road, and a transponder on the vehicle windscreen.

So that the whole island is not covered by cars, they have a very expensive lottery to win the right to buy a license plate . As I recall, the taxi driver said the license plate was about $35,000 for a private vehicle, and the license plate expired after a few years.

It is really a question for the government - if the technology makes it feasible to collect a tax from those using the infrastructure, should you:
  • create a "user pays" system (phased in over a couple of years)
  • or should you continue to donate the road infrastructure to the society as a whole, since we all need it for food and parcel delivery, and many use it for commuting?
One thing that is clear is that if people think something is "free" (ie the payment through taxes is not directly linked to the amount they use it), they will use it to excess, and it will cost more to operate. A charge is an incentive to think before you use a consumable commodity.

Something like a Carbon Tax will charge users of both fossil & electric cars for their CO2 generation. The different charges should reflect the different efficiencies of each technology (and the carbon-intensiveness of the state electricity grid).
 

Offline peppercorn

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #4 on: 06/01/2014 15:07:56 »
Putting aside intentional efforts to circumvent this kind of system, isn't GPS still prone to the occasional hiccup or two, from time to time?  What happens then?

If you are simply relying on it to get you to your destination then it is annoying enough when there are poor satellite signals and you drive 'blind' for a while.  A system that says I've entered a toll road when I haven't sounds a lot worse!

Incidentally, I've heard there is a ground based tracking system that some lorries use - i think in parallel with GPS - for similar reasons.  Don't recall what it is called though.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #5 on: 06/01/2014 17:45:31 »
One of the issues in the USA is that many of the vehicle taxes are state taxes.  Tolls may be attached to a road or bridge. 

For those people that spend most of their time within the state, a straight mileage tax from an odometer reading may be most appropriate. 

However, it becomes more complex for those living near the border, and frequently crossing from one state to another, or heading out on vacation. 

Of course, billing out of state people with some obscure GPS tax would also be complex.   

Personally I detest road tolls, but some of the speedpass technologies would seem the most appropriate methods for rapidly capturing road toll usage for frequent users.

To a large extent, a fuel tax captures local resource usage.  Do the larger vehicles have more impact on the roads than the smaller vehicles?

Anyway, a simple odometer would likely be easier to use than the GPS with the exception of crossing state borders.  For gasoline vehicles, the fuel tax naturally already has many of the characteristics that one may desire in a vehicle tax.  Electric vehicles may eventually need a new taxing structure, but if the goal is to encourage their usage, then it is reasonable to start with tax breaks.
 

Online evan_au

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #6 on: 06/01/2014 20:12:20 »
Assuming the intent is to recover the very real cost of maintaining the road infrastructure from those who are damaging it...

I understand that the damage caused to a road increases as the cube of the wheel loading. This reflects flexing of the load-bearing structure of the road.
If you double the weight per tyre, the road damage increases by a factor of eight.
So a motor-bike causes almost no damage, while a loaded semi-trailer causes considerable damage.
If you double the distance traveled (or the number of tyres) the damage is doubled.
So it makes sense for heavier vehicles to have more tyres, as this causes less road damage.

A tax based on vehicle mass may be hard to manage, since vehicle weight is highly variable.
However, a tax based on distance or fuel consumed, combined with an upper limit on weight per tyre may be more targeted.
The upper limit on weight per tyre also helps road designers design for a maximum load, and to estimate when the road should be torn up and rebuilt. It also allows a tradeoff between paying to make the road slightly stronger, but have it last considerably longer.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #7 on: 07/01/2014 16:58:44 »
I think that the wear and tear on roads equates to a higher power than the cube of the axle weight I think it is the fourth or fifth.
Fuel tax is the only realistic way of recouping this and in the UK diesel fuel for trucks is taxed at a higher rate than petrol.
Of course the general public benefits by having their food etc trucked to local supermarkets instead of having to drive long distance's to collect it . 
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #8 on: 07/01/2014 23:48:33 »
Quote
Fuel tax is the only realistic way of recouping this and in the UK diesel fuel for trucks is taxed at a higher rate than petrol.

That is because it is just a tax, not a means of saving the planet or even paying for roads. The blessed Thatcher government was concerned that people would pay less tax if they switched to diesel cars so they "levelled the playing field" by increasing the levy on diesel fuel. It's the other way around in Ireland, France, and indeed most European countries, with diesel fuel being cheaper per liter (and a lot cheaper per mile) than gasoline in order to reduce CO2 emissions. 

The effect on the UK haulage industry was marginally less than disastrous but has certainly reduced our industrial competitiveness, as did closing the coal mines, privatising everything in sight, joining the EU, and subsidising incompetent bankers. But votes count, and there are still more voters with petrol cars than with diesels.
« Last Edit: 07/01/2014 23:55:58 by alancalverd »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #9 on: 08/01/2014 03:54:25 »
Due to our wonderful system, we have both federal and state sales taxes on fuel, and each state is different.

In Oregon, trucks buy a PUC permit which includes a weight-mile tax.  The diesel fuel for trucks is essentially free of state taxes.
Personal vehicles, on the other hand, pay about the same fuel tax for diesel and gasoline fuel. 
Tractor diesel is often dyed red, and I think is free of both federal and state taxes.  It is supposed to be bad to get caught with tractor diesel in one's pickup.

However, the overall tax level is much less than is generally done in Europe, and thus at least in the past there was less incentive for making fuel efficient vehicles.
 

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Re: GPS Toll roads
« Reply #9 on: 08/01/2014 03:54:25 »

 

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