Fixing Traffic Without Help From Uncle Sam

An article on Planetizen discusses efforts by governments across the country to address congestion and transportation funding problems without federal assistance. In addition to the usual suspects (HOT lanes, queue-jumper lanes, privately-owned toll roads), one idea caught my eye more than the rest:

Finally, in a gambit straight out of the Jetsons, the Swedish government is working with Santa Cruz, Calif., to plan a “personal rapid transit” (PRT) system – individual cars connected by cables to a rail system.

For more information, including a map with a proposed alignment, here is a Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit – Santa Cruz web site:
http://www.umunum.org/

In addition, following the link (from the Planetizen article) to the full article on the Christian Science Monitor, on page 2 brief mention is made of the ODOT Road User Fee Task Force project:

Inspired by efforts in Europe and Asia, Oregon is testing on-board GPS systems that could one day allow mile-by-mile pricing for all car travel in the state. Flexible plans could give discounts to drivers traveling in off-peak hours.

They don’t elaborate on the true function of the “GPS system” that is proposed by ODOT and used in the pilot project (which concluded in March 2007), instead using a painfully brief description that conjures images of “big brother” monitoring it’s constituents’ every move. For those who are unfamiliar with the project, the proposed system merely detects whether the vehicle is within one of three zones and logs mileage within each zone into separate categories for billing purposes. The zones are out-of-state (no charge), in-state (nominal charge), and within the Portland metro area (nominal charge with option for congestion pricing). With the present design, I do believe the GPS systems would not be adequate for charging per-facility tolls (such as bridge or highway tolls). The mileage fee would be collected at the fuel pump in lieu of a gas tax (for those who have the proper equipment to communicate with the fuel pump), while out-of-state drivers (or those otherwise without the proper equipment) would be charged the fuel tax in lieu of a mileage fee.

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