Home and Mobility Taxes

Let’s review a recent Toronto Star article Drinks, movies among tax targets (John Spears, 07.03.27), which contains several skewed sound-bites and implications about road pricing. So from the top…

The article is about taxes. Raising a sorely needed $340M for our impoverished city. The alcohol part is 18% and the movie part is 1%. But the land-transfer, road tolls, vehicle registration surcharge, and parking surcharge portions are 30%, 13%, 12% and 2% respectively – i.e. 19% for drinking while watching a movie and 57% for driving to work so you can pay your mortgage.

This sounds like a formula for … what? This is even dumber than communism.

So first, John, let’s change your title to “Your home and mobility among tax targets”.

Since you know I am advocate of congestion pricing, you might think I’d be delighted.

I’m not. The stated intentions for are clearly for raising revenue (that part is good), but they are ONLY for raising money. That part is absolutely irresponsible when the power of taxation is as misapplied to road tolls, vehicle registration, and parking as this article and several others on this budget suggests.

Moving on: “[m]any of the proposed levies are "sin taxes"… Well alcohol and tobacco is 27% of this, entertainment and billboards, is 6% and the rest, 57%, is your home and car – hardly sinful possessions.

So let’s rewrite that as “A minority of the proposed levies are ‘sin taxes’; the rest are a straight misapplication of progressive taxation theory.

Councillor Shelley Carroll apparently said [these tax proposals] “signal that the city has reached the limit of what it can finance through property taxes.” Full marks to Councillor Carroll.

Councillor Doug Holyday apparently said “the city shouldn't be looking at any new taxes: ‘You want to drive our businesses out of the city, this is the way to do it…’" I don’t see how the city can avoid its responsibility to find new revenue, so that portion of his remark is at best misleading. However, he is right that doing it the way described will drive people away. So if Miller wants to “invest in city building” lets avoid regressive taxation measures. Half marks to Councillor Holyday.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby is right to suggest that “introducing tolls on the Gardiner [amounts] to erecting a gate at the city's border”, but she did not point out that that’s because it is the wrong approach to road tolling. That is how you toll for road building – not for congestion.

Luby was unhelpful to say, “To hell with the economic impacts of these things, we're just going to close ourselves off. I don't think that's the way we should go." I would rather the Councillor just repeat Mayor Miller’s brilliant insight: “Tolling has to be regional” – a comment that earns Miller an A+ in the grushhour playbook.

Fortunately, Luby redeems herself somewhat when she says "I don't know that it is worth trying to get the (public consultation) going in the community unless they understand what the economic implications are." She is soooo right, but I also doubt most of our politicians really understand the full implications of a properly designed and coordinated congestion pricing scheme – one that is regional, graduated, congestion sensitive, and, in sufficient scope, with fuel tax rebates – that supports both road building and transit. C+ for Councillor Luby.

Faye Lyons (CAA) noted that “too many of the proposed taxes hit drivers.” I’d give her higher marks if she had said “all of these automotive levies are regressive, hence would have no effect on congestion”. I am sure that her constituency would prefer any additional tax burden to reduce congestion as a return on their new “automotive investment.”

Ms Lyons said "Motorists are an easy target for this council," which is correct, but she is way off the mark to say “motorists are already overburdened and overtaxed”. Property owners subsidize roads. Motorists’ are in fact supported by every pedestrian, bicyclist and transit user that owns or rents taxed property in this city. If you are not a motorist and not homeless you are the one who is “already overburdened and overtaxed”.

Ms Lyons also said: “tolls on the Gardiner or DVP would only force more cars onto residential roads, causing traffic jams, air pollution and accidents.” She is right, but she does not offer the fuller Millerian insight: “Tolling has to be regional”. Faye Lyons gets a D.

I just wish Mayor Miller would finish that little sentence of his: “Tolling has to be regional, and I am going to push hard for that at every ‘smart-everything’ and green-everything’ meeting I attend”.

Without that degree of courage and conviction, Mayor Miller looses marks. C-. Actually D-, since he’s our leader.


3 out of 3: Americans prefer tolling

A mini-poll of transportation experts undertaken by Traffic Technology International (TTI) was published in February 2007. The question posed was: “Many technologies have had a positive effect on our roads networks, but which … has been the most influential so far? Of the six replies re-printed two said “wireless communication” and three said “electronic toll collection (ETC)”, including Germany’s GPS-based system. Although TTI is a UK publication, 3 of the 3 respondents pointing to ETC as the winner were from the USA. The other replies were from the UK or Canada.

Since this is not online, here are some outtakes:

“ETC using automatic vehicle identification [e.g. EZPass or the 407] has a daily impact on millions of commuters and results in time savings for drivers, operational savings for road authorities, and reductions in vehicle emissions, which benefit the environment.” (Charlie Mitchell, TMRI)

“…it may help usher in universal mileage (distance-based) fees in the USA to replace the fuel-tax as the chief source of user-based road revenue. With the concurrent advancement of GPS and GIS it will be feasible to charge for travel not only on ordinary highways and low-volume rural roads, and even city streets.” (Kenneth Orski, Innovation Briefs)

“ETC …[addresses] transportation funding shortfalls, finances new capacity, and manages congestion …the use of tolling to enhance mobility through congestion pricing, variable pricing and other forms of demand management, bears out its enduring impact. Electronic tolling has also influenced a great deal of progressive thinking on how we can promote efficiency in the use of infrastructure, stimulate private financing and investment and provide cost-effective solutions to mobility challenges.” (Mark Dooley, BAH)

All this indicates a few good things. Tolling fixes two critical problems: funding and congestion. And Americans now get it every bit as much as the Europeans. To those of you who despair that we can't figure our way out of this, the solution is coming.


Why Miller’s Parking Tax is a Bust

On 20 March 07 I wrote that Miller’s proposed $100 per-parking-stall tax is regressive, does nothing to manage congestion in consequence “is simply a wasted opportunity.”

Darren J, an advocate of doing something constructive about congestion, wrote:

…I agree that a parking tax that small is useless… Do you think a much larger parking tax (more than 35 cents!) would have an impact on car use, and could be used as a first step before road tolls? This seems to be the direction Toronto is heading.

First of all Toronto is not heading in any direction in terms of managing congestion. Rather, it is stuck in it own headlights. If there is no plan to deal with automotive congestion then what will happen is that it will get worse. I point out this plainly obvious fact because we have acted for the past 20 years as though congestion will eventually go away, like a lingering cold might do.

The last 25 years of transit history of this city is abysmal and the new six-billion-dollar-15-year plan (let’s say it will be built just for this paragraph) will not keep up with the projected population over those 15 years anyway. Giambrone’s proposal (and god bless him because he will likely be our mayor in 12 years) is far overdue. This is only catchup. Biology, migration and economics will overwhelm Mr Giambrone’s plan as it would defeat any other large-city leadership without a full-blown transit strategy. Toyota’s product will always trump Siemens’. So by now – by the 21st century – a transit strategy includes another half of the equation – road user charging.

Sorry… back to Darren’s excellent question.

Would a larger parking tax impact car use?

Yes, there is a level of taxation that would have a meaningful impact on car use. A high flat tax would naturally have an effect, as does London’s nasty $16 per day congestion charge. A flat tax is a blunt instrument in both of these cases. Miller’s too-small tax will have no effect (except to raise $7.2M in pocket change for the city). If he made it way bigger it would essentially reserve parking for those that can afford it (i.e., discriminate specifically against the less-advantaged.) What I am asking for is to discriminate against those who drive in peak hours (regardless of wealth). Because some of those who do not wish to pay the increment will drive at a different time or arrive via a different modality. That reduces congestion AND raises money for the city AND is fairer, because it does not single out the underprivileged.

This is really simple. Think about the early-bird signs on the private parking lots? “In by 9am pay $10.00 else $20.00”. This is done because the private operator wants to be sure to sell his inventory. But what if Toronto Parking Authority (GreenP) charged “landing” and “departure” fees? $10.00 to park, plus $5.00 if you arrive between 8:00am and 9:30am; plus $5 if you depart between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. And what if the city imposed such a surcharge on all private operators, including employers who provide free parking. And what if it covered surface lots, garages and street parking? Yes this is a more complex scheme. But I guarantee you that it would raise more than 7.2M, would spread rush hour peak, would push a portion of motorists people onto transit or bike (this plan would require more busses and better bike paths immediately). And it is possible to deploy.

What is missing besides political will is that many parking operators would have to scramble to upgrade their payment systems to handle the necessary audits, so the city would have to allow those operators to keep some of the additional revenue to pay for the upgrades.

Could Miller’s flat per stall tax be used as a first step toward toll roads…

No, not the way it is proposed. Why? It is unrelated to congestion; it is a regressive, aimless tax, which merely exhausts the motorist and reduces her tolerance for the next tax to be levied. Tax payers are not completely stupid. Smokers complain there are taxes on cigarettes, but they understand why they are so high. Motorists do not like to pay all their lunch money per half hour to park underground in the central business district, but they understand the real-estate is valuable. But many motorists who feel little choice but to take a vehicle downtown don’t want to pay a surtax that is unrelated to the service received. I don’t.

But, if I had to pay a surcharge to arrive during rush hour (and I would not like it), I would understand it. Best of all I might be able to avoid it. That is what a tax should do; it should elicit a desired avoidance behavior. It should make a proportion of the population stop smoking or come to work earlier, or wait until 10am to drive downtown to shop, or take transit twice a week.

In fact, if we were to charge a landing and departure fee for parking, and could make it apply everywhere, in appropriate gradations ($5 downtown; $2 in Etobicoke), then we would not need road user charging, would we?

When you consider parking and road-use within the same brain you will find whole new solutions.


Say NO to vehicle taxes

On Saturday 17 March in the National Post, Katie Rook lists the myriad waysToronto is considering to raise some cash. After all the recent screeching about how there will be no road tolls, I was both heartened and disheartened to see four automotive-related measures in her list. Mostly disheartened.

Bad news first…

I am disheartened by talk of a $40 vehicle registration tax to raise $42M. This is regressive and hurts lower income motorists disproportionately. It is listed for two reasons. It is easy to administer (and who doesn’t like easy money?) and drivers will cough-up, because the government has got you by your wheels, which is very effective, indeed. But I am disheartened because it is a money grab that does nothing for congestion. Question: Once you have paid your extra $40 will your incentive to drive go up or down?

I am disheartened by talk of a $100 per parking stall tax in downtown Toronto to raise $7.2M. This too, is regressive, hurting lower income motorists disproportionately. It is being considered for similar reasons: moderately easy administration and by the time that annual $100 is spread out it becomes 35 cents per year (likely twice that to collect it). Since you won’t even notice that, the chance this will put you on the bus is nil. Anyway $7.2M is a paltry amount in this conversation. And I don’t buy “every little bit counts” either. Taxing automotive anything without managing congestion is simply a wasted opportunity. Taxes have two purposes: Raising funds and responsible management. This, and the first idea, holds no management value.

I am disheartened by talk of road tolls on the Gardiner and DVP. Yes, you will get some attenuation of traffic, which is a good thing. But this would be a very expensive traffic sieve. You can expect a 5% spillover onto parallel infrastructure. While the Gardiner and the DVP will improve (for a while), you will move some of the problem elsewhere – and to places that you really don’t want it.

Worse as soon as you put road tolls into the same ledger column as alcohol and cigarette taxes you are branding this as a tax. That is an even bigger mistake. Charging for infrastructure use should be designed, managed and presented as market-based pricing, not as another tax grab. Why do we say “bus fare” instead of “bus tax”? Why not say “road fare” instead of “road tax”. Because of habits of mind that go back to the middle ages.

Now the almost good news…

Hidden in one of the captions to Katie’s article the words “cordon-type tax” appears. While I wince at “tax”, at least the concept admits the tools to a wide area congestion management capability.

Here’s what to do.

Drop all vehicle registration taxes – just charge costs to administer a registration system for vehicle population management.

Drop parking surcharges and apply congestion sensitive parking charges. Yes, the technology is new. Yes, it is more complex, but then lots of good things are.

Drop the idea of tolling this road or that road and start thinking about managing congestion.

Set up three annular rings: a large ring around the GTA, a smaller Toronto ring inside that and a central business district. Charge by distance, depending on time of day: 3 cents, 6 cents and 15 cents per km respectively, double that during peak hours. This will be worth a lot more than a measly $7.2M.

Give half of the money to Adam Giambrone who needs $400M per year to build light rail and the other half to some road crews to fix the streets we do have. They’re a disgrace.


Roller Coaster Pricing Debate

Distinct from tolling a new highway expressly built as a toll road, our experience with road-user charging on roads that were previously unpriced shows a consistent pattern. Before deployment, approval is always under 50 per cent as was the case in London (2003) and Stockholm (2006). We can expect such programs to be voted down in referenda as happened in Edinburgh 2005, and as would happen in Toronto, if one were held today.

The Swedes rejected road-user charging by a modest margin prior to the start of the Stockholm trial. By the end of the six-month trial a second referendum squeaked out a 51% margin in favor. The latest poll pegs it at 67% in favor. Even I am surprised.

Once charging is implemented, acceptance rises to a level somewhat above 50 per cent. The shift in approval ranges from 10 per cent to 30 per cent once the benefits of uncongested roadways become apparent to a significant segment of the population. This is an important point missed by almost all of our politicians. The politicians that supported pricing in each of Stockholm’s and London’s schemes won their ensuing elections with greater majorities than before. Same pattern in Singapore.

Before, down. After, up. Why is that?

Over the past few weeks, there has been a surge of noisy press regarding the 1.8m signatures on an anti-pricing petition in the UK, chalking up a lot repetitive tabloid misfiring, misconstruction and misrepresentation. Note that this bump in negative London press – far shorter than the drawn out 18-month anti-Livingstone hysterio-agony in 2002-3 – coincides with the opening the western extension to the London Congestion Zone. This was predictable. Just like your nine-year whines much more about the dentist on the morning of her appointment, but far less in the afternoon when standing in front of the candy rack at the store.

The reasons we need strong leadership is similar to the reason nine-year olds need strong parents.

That the latest London furor ended so quickly was also predictable. No matter how much people don’t want pricing, the fact of its inevitability and workability is becoming clearer. This article well into the down-tick of the latest UK road-pricing noise-fest posits more sensible questions.

Of course, the attached letters are mixed, but then what percentage of nine-year olds walk into the dentist’s without breaking a sweat?


Is congestion a woman’s issue?

This recent piece from one of the authors of the Hudson Institute was published in the New York Sun 2007.02.09. Diana Furchtgott-Roth knows her stuff – this is a myth-free discussion about congestion pricing.

I was intrigued by:

Southern California's SR 91 has express lanes with electronic tolling at variable prices. These lanes — which are used by all income classes and are particularly popular with women due to their speed and lower accident rate — carry twice as many vehicles as free lanes during hours with the heaviest traffic. And vehicles go three times faster than in free lanes.

Until this, I haven’t encountered a mention of a gender preference for uncongested roads. And I don’t get the correlation or causality re “[higher] speed and lower accident rate”. I thought men liked speed more than – or certainly as much as – women might. And don’t we all like lower accident rates?

I do know that congestion robs motorists (and surface-transit users) of family time (among many other things). This could be a reason for a gender-bias on the assumption that women tend to treasure family time more than men do…

…or maybe women are smarter.


Commie Roads?

The implication in a 13 Feb TCSDaily article by Joseph Giglio entitled “The Price Is Wrong: Why Our Roads Are So Clogged” is that we operate our roads like the old Evil Soviet Empire. Commie bashers looking in their own backyard?

“But the fact is that congestion pricing is conservative economics at its best. For decades, conservatives have championed market-oriented solutions to highway problems as a means to allocate scarce resources. Congestion pricing gives consumers the opportunity to decide when it is in their economic interest to ride crowded roads, and whether the price charged for a given trip is worth their travel time savings.

In the former Soviet-bloc states, the standard way to allocate scarce goods was to set the purchase price low enough for everyone to afford, but to make consumers wait in long lines to buy them. The real price depended on what value consumers placed on their time.

This approach is the way we've always allocated access to most roadways in capitalist America - access is "free," just like for a public park. But our real cost skyrockets when we consider the time we spend crawling along in bumper-to-bumper traffic and with no option to pay extra for a faster trip.

A bizarre analogy? Maybe not.


Congestion Hurts Medical Victims

Ever hope that when it is your turn to take the screamer car to the hospital that they’ll get there on time for you?

A little googling and I see that congestion is a problem for emergency medical services almost everywhere. Here is an article from the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services in Arizona.

This outtake makes the point for me:

Most fire departments and emergency medical service providers have defibrillation capability; however, due to the location of the victim and factors such as traffic congestion, precious minutes may pass before they can respond with this life-saving technology. Layperson defibrillation can occur within minutes of a witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Every minute that passes before a cardiac arrest is treated decreases the chance of survival by 10%. For many, quicker access to an AED represents their only chance to survive.

Interesting that they singled out traffic congestion, eh?

About 4 years ago I saw two Emergency Medical Services guys sitting in my local MacDonald’s…

“You guys ever have a problem with traffic congestion on your way to the hospital?”


“Is this a concern?”

“Comes up at every meeting.”

And your turn is coming as sure as is mine.

Apparently sitting in your car stressed out in traffic makes it comes sooner.


Congestion Hurts Cyclists

I am not a cyclist, but a motorist. However, I know for a fact that I am the only motorist that personally thanks cyclists whenever I can for risking their lives to leave just a bit more room for me and, of course, our City Councilors, (who should be very glad cyclists can't influence an election).

This just came to me in a personal email from Toronto cyclist-blogger, Darren:

Traffic congestion is a mixed blessing for cyclists. The moments when you're moving along at the same speed as the cars is great, but inevitably the cars have to stop. A long line of cars ahead means either waiting among them or, the more likely choice, and more dangerous, of squeezing up the right side. There's a bit of satisfaction in going faster than the cars, but I think most cyclists know that they're in a dangerous position. Drivers can choose to suddenly pull right or doors can open for passengers to hop out.

The most dangerous aspect, that I've been faced with once, is having an oncoming car make a left turn in front of the cyclist, finding a gap in the stopped cars but not noticing the continuing flow of cyclists. In my case, I was in a bike lane, moving at a good speed, but the same could happen when cyclists move along in the right hand lane which is often used for on street parking.

In the suburbs, I avoid congestion for the most part by going through neighbourhood streets, but there are certain places where you have no choice but to ride on a major arterial. I know cyclists have different opinions on cycling on these roads, but I find it especially frustrating, having to deal with cars either doing 5 km/h as they roll up to a red light, quite often in a long line of cars, or 65 km/h as soon as they see an opening in the traffic.

There are two more aspects of congestion that no cyclist likes. One is the angry and aggressive driver. This doesn't have to be part of congestion, but seems to be connected. When you're just sitting on a bike, the last thing you want is to be tailgated.

The other aspect is the exhaust fumes. The fumes can be horrible as I wait at a red light to cross a major street jammed with cars (like Finch or Steeles Avenues). Once in a while, I wear an anti-pollution mask, something I would have thought was unnecessary in the suburbs of Toronto. I would love to see a reduction in the number of smog days.

I didn't expect to be so long winded, but I hope that gives you a good sense of cycling in a congested city. Most cyclists agree that there's safety in numbers.

Here and here are a couple of somewhat related blog entries.

I have heard that cycling rates have gone up in London significantly since the congestion charges went into place.

You’re right, Darren, they have. I was there in January this year, in the Congestion-Charged core and saw about the same number that I see in Toronto during the summer.

There was no snow in London at the time, so perhaps it was because of Global Warming, instead ;-).


Brian Ashton’s Backup Lights

Jim Byers wrote up a short and unfortunate piece for the Saturday Star (07.03.03) that took even me, slayer of congestion myths, by surprise. He covered some recent comments ascribed to my heretofore favorite Toronto Councilor, Brian Ashton. And I quote the article carefully so as to avoid a lawsuit:

"There will be headlights shining out of my butt before we ever see congestion charges in Toronto," Councillor Brian Ashton told the Toronto Star.

Mr Ashton is an experienced and intelligent councilor. So intelligent that I even got off my headlights to vote for him. This is a man who three years ago personally showed me how to tie up my garbage bag for the Green-Container program. A man who I know gives a … (well, maybe not with his head lights stuck in there).

This unfortunate comment by, or coverage of (I’m not sure which), Mr Ashton perpetuates a nasty myth. It’s not even on my canon of seven at the right. The Ashton myth is “Congestion pricing = The London Method = $20 flat rate”.

I cheered that Mayor Miller sent Ashton to London. I assumed (there’s a mistake!) that Ashton would make two observations: (1) that the London congestion charge worked; and (2) that it was butt-ugly (I use Ashton’s high-brow language, here).

I further assumed that he would come to the conclusion that congestion charging works, but that it should not ever be done the way London does it. That is the conclusion of all those who study congestion charging.

Until Brian Ashton starts making some distinctions between the London Way and the correct way he is talking out of his headlights.

And those headlights, facing backwards as you might imagine, illuminate little.


Congestion Hurts Truckers

I have yet to see an article describing truckers or their industry as supportive of congestion pricing. There are several reasons for this. First, “road tolls”, “road pricing”, value pricing”, “road-user-charging”, and “congestion pricing” all sound the same (they’re not) and they all sound like road taxes which is true of “road tolls” but not of “congestion pricing” (however much that may sound like semantics at this point). Second, the possibility that congestion could be reduced without building new roads is barely grasped by most of us and the full implications of congestion pricing are universally undervalued. Thirdly, truckers already pay more tolls than most of us do (and with precious little congestion relief for their dollars). Fourthly, some countries have begin nation-wide, trucks-only road-tolling which seems to single-out the trucking industry (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, do it now and several others are looking at it).

I am not a trucker, so I’d be guessing to say that to many truckers this really has to look like a program with dubious benefits that targets them unfairly. Taken together the history of road tolls for truckers appears to have given them no relief from congestion and very few truck-only routes.

Trucking has been singled out for exclusive tolls for two reasons. First, a truck causes 10 to 400 times more road-bed damage than does a passenger vehicle. In fact, most roads are built to heavy-goods vehicle specifications, so indeed trucks should, and do, carry a heavier tax burden than a passenger vehicle. Second they represent a smaller number of votes than do private motorists. Us private motorists are always happy to see truckers carrying a larger, per vehicle share of the tax burden.

But this has nothing to do with congestion. Road tolls are a tax on the users to build/maintain roads (leave aside allocation of road toll and tax revenues to non-road budgets for this discussion). The German truck toll system is a toll, not a congestion charge. It is a distance-based fee (US 25.6 cents per mile at today’s exchange) and is rebated to German nationals who can show gas-tax receipts from German pumps. Hence, at bottom it is a usage fee (a “tax” if you must) for non-German vehicles for using German-paid highways. Seems reasonable.

In the U.S., there are about 3.4 million truckers (250,000 in Canada). In 2003, the average motorist in the US was delayed about 47 hours per annum during peak hour travel (Toronto’s annual average peak-hour delay is now over 70 hours per motorist). In 2004, the median US trucker salary was $16.11 per hour. If we made the ultra-conservative assumption that the average trucker spends the same absolute number of hours standing in traffic as does the average motorist, then these 3.4 million truckers will cost the industry in the U.S. over $2.6B this year in unnecessary salary (assuming no wage increase since 2004), plus some other sizeable number of dollars in wasted fuel.

But this May 2005 article describes a national (U.S.) shortfall of truckers at 20,000 drivers. If we could get rid of congestion we could offer as much as $130,000 annually to 20,000 men and women to drive trucks. Solves the driver shortfall and provides an astonishing salary package – about 3 times the current average.

Congestion certainly hurts the trucking industry and that industry would do well to start lobbying for congestion pricing and road use charging just to save itself from the automobile.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Driver shortages keep truckers on the road longer, and helps keep them driving faster. How many lives could be saved if the shortages and time pressures were removed? 5000 Americans die each year in accidents that involve tractor trailers, in 44% of these the trucker is to blame. Just cutting that 44% by 20% would save 440 lives. And if there are less cars on the road the absolute value of the number of accidents caused by driver would drop as well.

An acquaintance who is a senior manager in the logistics industry sent me this link. Why would he be noting this? I think old ways of thought are beginning to break up.


Congestion Hurts Repairman

A couple of days ago I called in a serviceman to repair my garage door. He came in from the other side of the city. About a 40 minute drive on a Sunday with no traffic. His truck was a few years old and there was no company name on it. It turned out that Dan-the-Man was the sole proprietor and the only employee. He looked like he was getting by, but little more.

“Does congestion hold you up any?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, does heavy traffic mean that you can drive to fewer jobs each day.”

“Oh yes!” He was very emphatic.

“How many more jobs could you get to each day if there were never heavy traffic?”

“Oh, three or four, for sure.”

“What’s that worth to you.”

“Three or four hundred dollars.”

“Pretty soon, we’re going to charge people to drive on the road and that will end traffic jams.”

“I don’t want to pay to use the road.”

“But you just said you lost three or four hundred dollars each day. Would you be willing to pay $20 or $30 to get $300?”

“Oh, I never thought about it that way.”

Congestion pricing does not hurt poor people; congestion does.

If congestion pricing were instituted in your city, your service people could either earn more, or spend more time with their kids, or waste less of their hard-earned gas, or pollute less. All four would be a good start.


Congestion Hurts Taxi Driver

I took a taxi today and thought I’d learn a bit more about the industry here in my adoptive city. I learned from my driver that he pays a flat $450 a week for seven 12-hour shifts (the lazy fellow only drives 6 of them, a mere 72 hour week). He pays this $450 whether or not he drives the 72 hours and whether or not he makes the $450 back. After this fee plus gas and some maintenance the revenue is his to keep (before taxes, of course).

“Does congestion hold you up any?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I mean does it hurt your income?”

“Yes – of course the meter keeps running when I am standing still, but it is much better when I am moving.”

“How much do you think you lose each day because you are stuck in traffic.”

“$60” (There was no hesitation in his answer, so he either thinks about this weekly loss of $360 a lot, or perhaps because concerned journalists from the Toronto Sun, who surely understand his problem, have asked him this frequently. I’m guessing the former, but then, I’m biased.)

“Does that count the extra gas you burn just standing in traffic.”


Congestion pricing does not hurt poor people; congestion does. If congestion pricing were instituted in the city and taxis were exempt or discounted (which is the case in London), this driver would be far better off, as are the London cabbies, now.


Sam Schwartz – NY Congestion

“The most Capitalist solution and the most Socialist solution is the same solution. It is congestion pricing. Congestion pricing is pure capitalism. It says we’ve got a precious resource in the city and that’s space and we are going to price that space… The Socialist say we are going to be pricing people because they are consuming space, they are polluting more, they are using more energy, so we’re going to take the money from that, as part of the plan, and put it into public transportation.”

So says Part II of an interview with Sam Schwartz by Mark Gorton.

Schwartz also points out: “People in cars earn on average $14,000 more than people on the subway according to a study by Charles Komanoff.”

Listen to the video link to hear the reason why our politicians don’t do anything about it.