Bikeshares As Evidence for Pay as you Use Road Pricing

I have been writing a series of articles explaining my SFU Master of Urban Studies thesis results, which can be found hereherehere, and here.  This time I want to present evidence for pay as you use road pricing.

The gas tax does not provide enough revenue to cover the cost of building and maintaining roads, the shortfall usually comes from general tax revenues which everyone pays for. Regardless of how often some people use their cities’ roads, everyone pays similar rates of taxes for road construction and maintenance.  So for those that choose to not drive or simply can’t drive (children that can’t get licenses, elderly and the the disabled that cannot drive anymore, which can make up to a third of the population), they are actually paying a disproportionate share for a service they will never use.

A solution for this is for people to pay for what they use.  With transit you have to pay some sort of fare before you can use the transit services, so why shouldn’t access to roads be the same?  If you want to access the road network that supports driving you should have to pay for that access.  Not only that, but busier routes should have a higher cost because they are in more demand.  Simple demand and supply economics, let people decide how important each roadway connection really is.  This will mean that those that prioritize time over cost will opt to continue driving on that route, and others that don’t will find alternative routes or modes.  The most famous examples of this are downtown London’s congestion charges and Stockholm’s congestion charge (I highly recommend you watch this TED talk by Jonas Eliasson). No city to date has implemented a city wide road pricing scheme, however the Netherlands came close.

Despite this the London and Stockholm examples show how charging a few dollars is enough to have dramatic shifts in travel behavior.   My research also shows this, the following table shows that 88.7% of all 1.5 million trips were 30 minutes or less.

trip duration stats

Why does it matter if trips were 30 minutes or less?  Based on the Capital Bikeshare pricing structure, after paying for access to the system, the first 30 minutes of every trip is free.  The table below shows that by going over 30 minutes is a small fee of $2.00.  This is a very small fee, but the impact is huge, only 11.3% of the trips studied were over 30 minutes.

Capital Bikeshare pricing

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