I recently read this article in The New York Times regarding tracking miles that drivers travel, and taxing them accordingly. I recall having discussions on this same topic in a sustainability course during my fifth year of university. We had debates on if this was actually fair to drivers: What about housing prices? Or family situations? Or transit options? All of these factors could change if a person could afford to live closer to work compared to the need to commute longer distances.
This system can to be used as a multi-layer tool. Some pros to the project could include:
- Making people conscious of their road impact
- Reducing the amount of gases being released into the air (e.g. greenhouse gases, etc.), as people may choose to try different means of travel that produce less harmful toxins like public transit or bikes.
- Reducing individual carbon footprints (you can calculate yours here)
- Alleviating some tax burdens as well as associated fees (gas tax, vehicle tax, road tolls, etc.)
- Encouraging alternate routes or alternate transit options
- More fair, usage-based cost
There are different issues associated with this project depending on the system being proposed. If we focus on the system that the Netherlands is using, the cons would include:
- Privacy issues – using a GPS based system could allow officials to know where everyone is, or has been
- Some car owners may not be able to afford to live close to work (e.g. downtown cities), or homes close to work might not suit their lifestyle (e.g. size of home, family neighbourhood, etc.)
- Transit systems may not be adequate to accommodate demand and ease of travel
What in-car metres could achieve is a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, produced by cars. In Canada, 73.8% of employed persons drive an average commute of 7.2 kilometres (2001 Canadian Census). With average fuel consumption of approximately 9 litres per 100 kilometres (average calculated based on 2011 mid sized vehicle using data from NRCan fuel consumption ratings) and creation of 2.3 kilograms of CO2 per litre of gas consumed (Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Environment Canada) approximately 7 billion kilograms of CO2 is being released into the atmosphere per year on work days alone! (Based on the number of vehicles found in the 2007 Canadian Vehicle Survey).
These suggested metres could be a useful tool in raising awareness of consumption, and also properly distributing tax charges. I believe that with some fine tuning, Canada could consider running a similar program.
I would love to test a metre out to see it in action!
Lauren Wingham-Smith is a Municipal Peer Review Team Project Assistant with Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Port Hope. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering, specializing in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Economics. This multidisciplinary background allows Lauren to view both the environmental and human effects of engineering projects. She is also passionate about green innovation and design.