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one way to fix traffic woes? fewer and better drivers

Listening to my local NPR affiliate the other week, I heard some experts talking about traffic, volumes and policy, and one of the ideas mentioned was a local test where drivers — including some of the people on the program — had their travels logged and a theoretical bill prepared for those miles. I didn’t get to hear all the upshot of it, but there was a mention of privacy concerns associated with it.

What possible privacy concerns can anyone have on a public roadway? There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public park or on a sidewalk or street now: how is the interstate or any other street different? So yes, it would be legally possible to log drivers and bill them. Interesting to see how that works out.

But a more interesting thought experiment would be to have the same transponder that allows your vehicle to be counted also log your speed and location, for purposes of enforcement. Imagine if we didn’t have to have traffic cops running speed traps or roadblocks: all your movements — speeding, illegal turns, even illegal parking — would be reported.

Don’t like it or or find yourself on the wrong side of things, law-wise? Easy: get smart or don’t drive. This would be universally unpopular, unless it could be accompanied by verifiable projections of enforcement revenue (which would decline) and traffic efficiency which should improve as drivers opt out of driving and/or choose less expensive routes. If road use pricing were made to reflect time of day usage patterns, congestion might be solved and road improvement funds collected all at once.

Feb 12, 2009

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