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Taxes and Traffic

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The government is exploring alternatives that rely on technologies currently in development, such as autonomous cruise control (ACC) that allow cars to follow at a fixed distance, intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) that limits the car to the legal speed limit, keeping cars in a lane through detection of magnetic road marks, and real-time navigation that allows drivers to monitor traffic conditions ahead of them (DfT, 2003, p. 29). Why are they pushing road pricing? Despite all these alternatives, the government seems bent on implementing road pricing, which has been under study since 1964 in the U. K., encouraged by the experience in London that showed a 30 percent decrease in congestion (RAC, 2004, p.

14). The level of technology is projected to improve such that by 2014, at the earliest, a national scheme for road pricing may be in place. The government cites three “ theoretical benefits” of road pricing: enhances the promotion of alternatives and therefore promotes personal choice, reduces relative cost of journeys in uncongested conditions, and reduces potential problems of diversion in charging for existing roads (DfT, 2003, p. 37).

The main problem as we already mentioned is the lack of public acceptability. Balancing the transport supply and demand is tricky, but there are several alternatives open to the riding public. Whilst the government (DfT, 2004, p. 8) continues to push for road pricing public debates to get the public to accept it at some future date, we propose that in view of its low level of acceptability, efforts be directed instead towards promoting acceptability and the full implementation of alternative demand- and supply-side solutions. A concept worth considering is the tipping point, that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire, resulting in a phenomenon that can solve the problem in a way that is acceptable to all and in a manner that dry statistics and government studies cannot predict (Gladwell, 2000).

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