Now, here’s a Dutch treat: last week, the Netherlands became the first country to adopt a tax-by-the-kilometer system to pay for roads, bridges, and other car-oriented infrastructure. As far as I can tell, it’s not a tax increase, but rather a tax shift: the government will reduce taxes on car sales, slashing vehicle purchase prices by about a quarter, and replace the lost revenue by charging drivers a few cents per kilometer. Each car will have a GPS system that tracks driving habits; and the fees will be fine-tuned to account for a vehicle’s size (heavy trucks pay more), fuel consumption (efficient cars pay less) and even congestion impacts (rush hour drivers will pay a premium).
I’m trying to find out more about the program, but since I don’t speak Hollandaise (or whatever) I’m having a hard time tracking down the details. But it sounds similar to the distance-based tax that’s been tested in Oregon as an alternative to the gas tax, and also like a full-scale implementation of the Traffic Choices study that the Puget Sound Regional Council did a few years back. By switching from an “all-you-can-drive” to a “pay-as-you-drive” system, the Dutch government says they’ll trim CO2 emissions by 10 percent while unclogging traffic. (And I thought the Dutch actually liked clogs.)
To me, it totally makes sense switching from point-of-sale taxes to a pay-as-you-drive system would reduce driving. After all, I’m likely to gorge myself at an all-you-can eat buffet, but I eat more reasonably when I pay a la carte. So here’s hoping that the Dutch are on to something: if they work out the technical kinks, this could be a great model for for fighting congestion and reducing fuel consumption in our part of the world, too.