Paying People not to Drive

Using Money to Get Cars Off the Roads

I recently wrote a post about traffic congestion and how small decreases in driving levels can lead to huge reductions in traffic. A study had found that even when given the option to take public transportation to work and that even when it would be cheaper and result in less travel time, Americans prefer to travel by car. Instead of just hoping that people would get off the roads, the government could step in and start paying people not to.

Yes I'm talking about a government subsidy. Before you write me off as crazy I would like to remind you that the government subsidizes all types of things, such as not to grow crops.

If we could reduce driving by even 5% during rush hour, commutes would be much more pleasant for the other 95%. I believe that the best way to go about a program like this is to develop a contract of some sort where a driver agrees to take public transportation in a city say 1 day per week and on that day not drive and in exchange the city could pay for the cost of his or her transportation. One caveat is that this program could only work in very dense cities with good transportation networks such as New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

I have a budget plan as well. This program would not be free and I do not advocate increasing the deficit. I think that in cities that enact this program they should also create a density gas tax. Gas stations would be charged a gas tax in proportion to the density of the area. The tax would be highest in the densest areas because it is in these areas that public transportation usage would help the most and therefore those who do choose to drive and fill up in these areas would have to pay extra. In return this money would go into a fund to pay for the public transportation subsidy.

My plan may be radical, but I bet it would make everyone's days go a bit smoother and faster on the roads.