Sophisticated Road Taxing In The Netherlands

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I haven’t quite understood why some people in the United States seemed to have convinced themselves that imposing a new Vehicle Miles Traveled tax would be more politically palatable than the more familiar idea of higher gasoline taxes. Nor is it clear to me what advantage a VMT has over higher gas taxes. But this Dutch take on the VMT, which involves installing a taxi-style meter and imposing a sophisticated array of charges has some real merit:

The car had been outfitted with the meter so that Mr. Van Dedem could take part in a trial of a controversial government tax proposal to charge drivers a fee for the miles they drive. The meter also factors in the cost to society in the form of pollution, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and wear and tear on roads.

Hooked up to the Internet wirelessly and to GPS, the system tabulates a charge for each car trip by using a mileage-based formula that also takes account of a car’s fuel efficiency, the time of day and the route. (Driving on busier thoroughfares costs more than driving on less-traveled roads.) At the end of each month, the vehicle’s owner would receive a bill detailing times and costs of usage, not unlike a cellphone bill, although participants in the trial did not have to pay the charges.

It’s a gas tax! It’s a VMT! It’s a congestion charge! It’s everything all roped into one! At this point, it just strikes me as fundamentally unlikely that bold policy innovation is going to come out of the sclerotic United States. But if they can make this work in the Netherlands and prove itself there, it seems like a very promising model to me.