These principles are now well-established. Traffic evaporation is occurring gently each time a bus lane is created. High parking charges applied universally across the city are a form of demand management. But parking charges are unpopular as they are perceived to do more damage to commerce in the city than good to reduce congestion and emissions, since through-traffic is untouched whilst shoppers and tourists are penalised.

A combination of reducing demand through road pricing and transferring of road space and revenue to public transport, cycling and walking may well be the best way of keeping York moving, and making York sustainable.


...yet more taxes on motorists?

There is a widespread perception that motorists are already unfairly taxed. This is simply not true(1). In the year 2002-03 26.5 billion was raised from fuel and road tax(2). Around 6bn went toward roadbuilding and maintenance that year(3). The cost of policing the roads and the expense incurred by the judicial system is estimated to be between 1bn and 3bn(4), while congestion costs businesses and other drivers 20bn in delay(5).

The costs of the effects of air pollution and accidents due to road transport were estimated at 12.3bn(6) and 16bn(7) respectively. Then add global warming, the potential effects of which dwarf our entire economic system(8). Clearly all of us, motorists and non-motorists alike, are paying for motorists to sit in their cars and pollute the environment, and paying heavily(9).


The A64 thousand-dollar questions:

How much should people be charged?     
...and for which journeys?    
Can it be fair to people on low incomes?   
What should be done with the money?  
What should be done with the roads? 
and how should the charges be monitored and collected

Notes and References

This point was most definitively made in an audit of transport revenues and costs in the the year 1993, called "The True Costs of Road Transport" (Maddison, Pearce, Johanson, Calthrop, Litman and Verhoef, 1996, Earthscan Books). Maddison reviews and updates his figures for air pollution in a 1998 report composed for the ETA. Results of this work demonstrate a total subsidy to the road network of between 11.2bn and 17.2bn per year. I do not quote the figures in full in the leaflet as a significant proportion of them is based on highly theoretical economic valuations of the value of human life and health. My intention here is only to demonstrate that the roads are heavily subsidised in both monetary terms and human terms - this is incontrovertible.

From Department for Transport figures "Transport Statistics for Great Britain" (DfT, 2004) Section 7.15 pg. 20.

6bn is an average per-year spend over the 10 year investment programme announced by the Government in July 2000, which earmarked 59bn for road infrastructure. The figure is corroborated by figures of 5.47bn spent on roads in England (from "Transport Statistics for Great Britain" (Dft, 2004) Section 7 pg. 18), 266 million spent on roads in Wales (from "Welsh Transport Statistics 2004" Table 12.1), plus 356 million in Scotland (from Scottish Transport Statistics No 23: 2004 Edition, Table 11.1), making a total of 6.09bn.

No authoritative figures are available for this. In Transport Trends and Transport Policies - Myths and Facts (Transport 2000) the figure of 400m is quoted for police costs directly related to road traffic, based on 1996 information. This equates to 445 million in 2003 (adjusted according to the Retail Prices Index - as with all prices quoted on this page). According to Road Safety Spending in Great Britain: Who stands to gain? (PACTS, 1996), the road safety budget of the Home Office, Departments of Transport and Health in 1995 amounted to 835m. A figure of 3bn is estimated for all police and judicial costs by Norman Bradbury, Peter Hayman and Graham Nalty in "The Great Road Transport Subsidy" (I-Greens, 1996). This figure is almost certainly a high-side estimate. It only seems safe therefore to put the figure in the range of 1bn to 3bn.

This is the 'standard' figure widely quoted for the public cost of traffic congestion, based on research originally carried out in the 1980s by the British Road Federation and the Confederation of British Industry. See "Utilities' street works and the cost of Traffic Congestion" (Phil Goodwin, 2005). A more complete description of what this figure means is given and discussed on the next page.

Figure calculated in "Air Pollution- A Fair Payment from Road Users" (David Maddison, Environmental Transport Association, 1998) as 11.1bn and adjusted to 2003 figures.

Quoted in a Royal Society for the Provention of Accidents document on road safety. No year is given for this figure, so I have not adjusted it, however the rest of the document refers to 1999/2000.

Many attempts have been made to calculate an economic cost of climate change, often in terms of the marginal cost incurred by the addition of a particular amount of CO2 to the atmosphere. The paper "The Environmental Benefits from road pricing" (Santos, Rojey and Newbery, 2000) quotes a range varying from 4.6 per tonne of Carbon(tC) to 68.5/tC. In fact any figure quoted will be highly disputable.

The massive uncertainties both in the predicted effects and the economic cost of the damage and suffering make me unwilling to quote any figure for this. This complexity is a significant problem for economists, as estimates of the cost form a significant part of deducing appropriate levels of Pigouvian taxation to activities, like transportation, which have climate effects.

The Royal Society made this point in their submission to the Stern Report in February 2006: "Standard economic models inadequate to cost long term climate change impacts"

When the factor you are examining has the ability to change over decades the value of the currency unit, and the value of anything else you might use to compare it with, not to mention the structure of the economy itself, arriving at a meaningful figure is a Sysphian task. Edward Goldsmith, in "The economic cost of climate change" concludes "Whatever may happen to the economy, what is absolutely certain is that we cannot live without a relatively stable climate".

If you are still in any doubt, consider these less well studied costs not mentioned in the leaflet:

  • Water pollution, in the form of run-off into rivers and drainage of leaking oil, break fluid, exhaust and soot from vehicles, rubber particulates from tyres and salt used in winter. Estimated at between 500m and 1bn in 1993 in "Charging transport users for environmental and social costs" (David Newbery, Cambridge University, 1997). Compare with estimates of 6600 million DM (3.13bn in 2003 prices) per year for Germany in 1992, quoted in "Transport for a sustainable future - the case for Europe" (John Whitelegg, Belhaven Press, 1993), and $29bn (16.2bn) per year for the US in 2004, quoted in "Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis" by Todd Litman (Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2005).
  • Noise pollution, in the form of lowered house prices, spoilt natural areas, ill-health and disturbed sleep. Estimates include 3.9bn from "The True Costs of Road Transport" (Maddison, Pearce, Johanson, Calthrop, Litman and Verhoef, 1996, Earthscan Books), and 3.1bn (both at 2003 prices) from "The Real Costs of Motoring" (Chris Bowers, Environmental Transport Association, 1996).
  • Safety, in the form of fencing, footbridges and other structures used to separate pedestrians from traffic. This includes costs paid by local councils and private landowners.
  • Vibration damage, to buildings and utilities such as gas and water mains. The costs are born by users of the utilties and owners of the properties and probably also easily run into billions of pounds. An estimates for vibration damage in New York City alone came to $869 million in a year - see "The hidden costs of car and truck use in New York estimated for the year 2000" (Konheim & Ketcham, 1996).
  • Cost to health due to lack of exercise. In the current obesity epidemic it is worth noting that motorised road transport demands less activity than almost any other form of transport.
  • Insurance. Car insurance is a competitive business. Figures released by the Association of British Insurers show that the payouts to road users were not covered by the premiums. The average shortfall for the five years from 1988 to 1992 was 626 million per year. In other words, insurance companies are charging more on other kinds of insurance to subsidise motorists.

One major problem is that these costs are dispersed among different people or institutions - drivers, taxpayers, Local Authorities, landowners, the Environment Agency, and so on. This means that there are plenty of ways to slice the problem to make it look smaller, typically by examining the costs to the treasury alone, for example.