The anthropologist and the road pricer

At a recent road-pricing conference here in Toronto, after hearing some eight presentations about congestion-pricing and road-pricing, a woman stood up to express a concern that we were overly focused on only one small issue. That we ought to look at broader issues of planning and sprawl - the really big contextual issues that threaten us.

I followed her comment by asserting that road pricing was in fact the keystone to most of these things and that solving this will open up enormous possibilities throughout her list of broader concerns. In fact, I assert that many of these things she was concerned with are symptoms of the wrong economic model for paying for roads.

I spoke with her afterward - Professor Judith Nagata, with the Anthropology Department at York University. She introduced me to David Owen's book, Green Metropolis. It looks promising.

Changing the we pay for using cars will be one of the most important shifts of the 21st century. At least as important as Henry Ford's assembly line. It has engineering, transportation, urban planning, economic, public health, livability, safety, social equity, sociological, employment, commercial, transit, military, geo-political, climate change, and many other implications. It is not surprising that an anthropologist would take an interest.

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