Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Future of Transportation

Everybody is probably familiar with the local water works modus operendi of first telling us that there's a water shortage and asking us to use less, then telling us that water sales are down and a price increase is required.

Now the transportation bureaucracies have discovered the same trick, only with added improvements. First they tell us to use less gasoline and drive less, so we buy more efficient cars and perhaps even drive less. Then they tell us that revenue from the gasoline taxes are coming up short, and more money is needed, so the price of a registration is doubled, and maybe the gas tax is squeezed up a bit. Problem with this is that people notice this sort of thing, and sometimes remember who was in office when it happened.

The new solution, proposed in England, and now in D.C. is to fit everyones vehicle with a GPS unit, and tax the drivers by the mile. As an added bonus, there is now a complete record of everywhere you went, and when, stored in your car.
"Vehicles would be fitted with a GPS transponder device similar to an E-ZPass, perhaps as part of the registration process," Orr and Rivlin explained. "This device would record the type of vehicle, the distance traveled, and the time and location of travel."

Despite the privacy issues, DC officials insist that tolling is necessary for making up for the shortfall in gasoline tax revenues. The proposed mileage tax would solve this problem by increasing motorist taxation levels by a factor of ten. The additional revenue would be diverted to spending on buses and rail service.

Somehow this information is downloaded to a government bureau somewhere where it is securely (!) stored, and the data is crunched into a bill you get for using the roads. No word on what happens to the data afterword, but some interesting scenarios come to mind:

1. Postcards come in the mail; Dear Mr. Smith: We see your 2007 Toyota Camry is approaching its 30,000 mile service date. We at Fonebone Motors would be happy to perform this service at a reasonable price...

2. You sell your car. Notification must come quickly otherwise the buyer would be well advised to buy after 5 PM Friday in order to charge the 2000 mile trip to the coast to you before the bureaucrats can get back to work on Monday and note the change of ownership into the computer.

The possibilities are just endless. Glenn suggests tar and feathers.

No comments: