The state of Oregon recently became the latest devotee of a variation of congestion fees. The system falls short, even if the goal is worthy.
It’s a sort of tax on road use more commonly directed at motorists and commercial vehicle drivers who access the central area of a city. Those drivers presumably add to traffic congestion, and increase commuting times, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
This plan has attracted a fair bit of attention, and a version is being studied in various Canadian cities, particularly Metro Vancouver as it struggles to pay for new bridges.
The Oregon plan is for electric vehicles – EVs – and high-fuel-economy vehicles such as hybrids and compact, or ‘smart’, cars to be registered for an alternative tax to the fuel tax. These vehicles pay little or no fuel tax. So this is principally a way to induce those motorists and commercial vehicle operators to help finance road maintenance and construction – as well as bike lanes, paths and public transit – which they would not otherwise directly support.