Travelling is unavoidable for most of us. From local commutes to international journeys, human lives are in constant movement from one point to another. Most of us believe that the price we pay for our transport, even personal transport, is all it costs. However, there may be hidden external costs that we are not aware of.
Given that these costs are linked to the environmental and social effects of transportation, there is a need to reduce these. A Pigouvian tax, or Pigovian transport pricing, is an idea that encourages taxing activities that generate negative externalities. In the case of transport pricing, this will be a tax paid by commuters to combat the effects of travelling and the cost associated with it. While the notion of such a tax finds support from some sections, there are also some criticisms against it.
While the debate over this century-old concept may keep going for another century, a new experiment showed that if required to pay for their transport habits, commuters demonstrated a change in their road-using behaviour. The experiment, conducted in Switzerland by ZHAW, ETH Zurich, and the University of Basel, tracked the transport behaviour of 3,700 participants. These were French- and German-speaking urban commuters who agreed to have an app on their phones to track their transport habits for eight weeks.
At the end of four weeks, the participants were divided randomly into three groups. The first group was an information-only group. Participants were given weekly summaries of the external costs generated by their transport, along with tips about reducing them. The second group was a pricing group. These participants received information akin to the first group, plus an individual transport budget which factored in external costs. If they did not exhaust the budget, the surplus was paid to them at the end of the study. The third section was a control group, who received neither information nor budget.
While no significant changes were seen in the behaviour of the information group, the pricing group showed behavioural changes that led to a decrease in external costs. While their total distance covered daily remained the same, they altered their routes, changed modes of transport, and adjusted their travel behaviour.
“The results show that transport pricing is technologically feasible and has the desired effect, namely to reduce the external costs of traffic in respect to health, climate and congestion,” said Professor Beat Hintermann of the University of Basel. “There are also a number of arguments suggesting that effects would be greater in the long term than in this eight-week experiment.”
The overall results of the study also showed that depending on the revenue generated, participants are more willing to accept the internalisation of the external costs. The researchers also suggested that fair implementation of price incentives in transport may help reduce peak hour traffic.
I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.