Dutch transportation bombed back to the Middle Ages?

The history of road tolling can be seen to parallel the history of civilization.  A couple thousand years ago, in the Stone Age of tolling, the emperor would set some trusted tax collectors at the side of the road to block passage and collect a toll. Much later in the Bronze Age of tolling, local lords erected small huts that evolved into the toll booth and coin counters of the Iron Age of tolling. Then passing through the Dark Ages of fuel taxes and the Renaissance of microwave and video cameras, we arrive, finally, at the Modern Era infrastructure-free satellite tolling.

Throughout this history, as in many facets of human development, we cling to the past, afraid to abandon old habits.  In fact, like adherents of ancient religions suitable for darker times of plague and crusades, far more vehicles today slow or stop to pay tolls at booths or coin counters or have their plates read by cameras, than enjoy free flow satellite tolling.

Less than 0.1% of all the vehicles on the planet have thus far made the leap from the Renaissance to the Modern Age and these are the million trucks so equipped in Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia. Until a few months ago, the Dutch were poised to push this figure to almost 1% – an enormous leap, if you think about it.

But all that changed presumably because of America’s war in Afghanistan.  Early in 2010, the Dutch government collapsed over an Obama-requested reversal regarding Dutch troop withdrawal. That halted the “Kilometerheffing” system, which was to be based on Modern Era satellite technology.

The proposal of the new, minority government is to increase fuel taxes, which is known to have no lasting effect on congestion. Even newer proposals call for privacy-invasive video cameras instead of privacy-protecting GNSS OBUs which were designed to keep personal location data personal.

Does this mean America has bombed the Dutch transportation reform jaggernaut back to the Middle Ages?

I originally thought that, but now I don’t. The real reason is in the way humans prefer risk. We are more willing to gamble when it comes to losses, but we are risk adverse when it comes to gains. And in this politicians are no special case.  Drivers prefer to risk continuing to lose more time to congestion than to risk the promised gains of congestion pricing. Politicians prefer to risk the failing efficacy of fuel taxes to risking the potentially greater gains of road-use charging.

Professor Jens Schade (Dresden University) specializes in acceptability of transport pricing strategies. He shows that losses are psychologically at least two times more powerful than equivalent gains. This means that for the new Dutch politicians to continue their predecessors’ programming, they need to percieve that the potential gains of GNSS-based road-user tolling (both in terms of transport efficiency and job-retention) are more than twice as great as the potential losses of raising fuel taxes and putting in a few video cameras. Clearly they don’t.


Matt Young said...

"This method will be worked out with certain number of probe vehicles at different intervals amongst the regular traffic in the city; allowing to analyze the traffic congestion patterns and measuring travel time"
Says this RFP from Chennai (where is that?)

Skymeter would come handy for these folks.

Bern Grush said...

Chennai is new name for Madras (India).

Congestion is everywhere. Probe GPS does not need Skymeter. Skymeter is 'financial-grade' and private (no tracking). Nav-grade GPS is sufficient as a probe.

Almost no one understands that tolling does NOT need to track. The charging calculations happen on-board, locations do not need to be reported.