Would You Rather…

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 12.16.55 PMStarting next week, Austin drivers will have a chance to make their commutes even more interesting: they will be able to choose between paying a per-mile driving fee if they choose to drive solo to and from work, or they can pay a prohibitively expensive fee each time they drive into the central business district.

Nah, we’re just kidding – delete that angry tweet you were about to send out to City Hall.

But you know what is serious? Some states and cities are actually doing those things, and it’s helping cut down on the hidden costs of driving.

Driving costs a lot of up-front money. It’s easy to see those charges when you pay for your gas, registration, and insurance. But there are hidden fees, as well. For instance, the congestion that freight trucks sit in (think of the rows of them on any given day along I-35) means the prices you pay at the store for those goods goes up.

Then there’s the cost of road upkeep. In the face of an about-to-be-broke Highway Trust Fund, California and Oregon have approved pilot programs for mileage-fee programs that would charge drivers varying amounts per mile, based on the type of vehicles they drive.

Driving also has costs beyond the green stuff. An MIT scientist recently took a look at how much air pollution from cars contributes to U.S. deaths. The answer, in 2005, was 17.9 deaths due to particulate matter from road transportation per 100,000 Americans. That’s higher than the number of deaths in that same year due to car crashes – that number was 14.7 per 100,000 Americans.Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 5.32.59 PM

Some cities are trying to cut down on the health impacts from car pollution. London’s hefty Low Emission Zone fines have helped improve air quality, and the city is planning to add a new charge for an Ultra Low Emission Zone in order to curb pollution-related deaths and illnesses.

So maybe understanding the true costs of driving up front – and paying toward those costs – isn’t such a bad idea after all.


image via Paolo Bona/Shutterstock.com

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