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GPS Based Variable Road Pricing vs. Gas Tax Road Funding

Location:   MC6-720
Begins:   Sep 25, 2008 12:00
Ends:   Sep 25, 2008 14:00
Contact Person:   Cholpon Ibraimova

 BBL Sep 25

Thursday, September 25, 2008
MC6-720, 12.00 pm
Speaker: Bern Grush, Founder and Chief Scientist, Skymeter Corporation More...
Presentation (Microsoft PowerPoint)


Variable pricing, based on peak periods of use, is a common form of pricing in other industries. It is used when capacity is fixed in the short-run, and demand fluctuates significantly between the peak and off-peak periods. Before cell phones, phone companies used peak-period pricing to encourage consumers to shift their use of the fixed capacity of the phone system to off-peak hours (e.g., by charging lower rates evenings and weekends).

Some energy utilities use peak pricing. So do theaters. Economists recommend congestion pricing of roads for the same reason private firms use peak-period pricing: to use available resources more efficiently.

How would such pricing work for roads? Imagine that the vehicle you drive could tell a computer what road it is on, and at what time. Location and time correlate to the amount of congestion and delay you are experiencing. Higher (variable) prices during peak periods would encourage you, or travelers with less pressing needs, to shift to other routes, modes, or times.

That system has many advantages. By charging selectively at certain locations and times, one can influence the amount of congestion during peak periods. Variable pricing could reduce the immediate need for building new highway capacity.

By knowing where people are willing to pay tolls, planners would have a direct measure of where to build more capacity: namely, where drivers are willing to pay high tolls because the travel is so important to them. When those signals suggested that new capacity would be beneficial, the accumulated toll revenues would provide money to pay for those improvements. Fairness could also be improved, as revenue is collected from those who burden capacity directly.

Source: Traffic Choices Study – Summary Report Puget Sound Regional Council


 12:00      Arrive

Talk: As vehicles become more efficient and alternate energy sources emerge, the gas tax is becoming unworkable as a funding engine. Time-Distance-Place charging enables market pricing to address funding, congestion and emissions.

  • Why and how Time-Distance-Place (TDP) charging is more effective than Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) tolling
  • TDP’ reliability, utility, usability, acceptability and privacy
  • Outline a 12- part roadmap to move from fuel-and-property-tax dominant road finance to affordable and reliable TDP road-use charging.
 13:00Roundtable Discussion
 14:00 Adjourn


Bern Grush, Founder and Chief Scientist, Skymeter Corporation, is a technical visionary who has cofounded three companies over the past three decades. He founded Skymeter in 2002, combining his experience in satellite imaging, systems integration, and evidentiary records for financial  industry. Bern’s previous startups include PCI Geomatics, which has grown into one of North America’s most successful satellite imaging firms, and metro Concepts Inc, an integrator of document management systems in the financial services industry (1990). Bern speaks regularly, and is the most published author in English on satellite tolling system.
He has an MSs in systems design from University of Waterloo.     

Last updated: 2008-10-08

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