Let’s charge rent to drivers for the land they are getting for free


Including its braking zone, a car at full speed deprives others from using as much land as shown in yellow.

Including its braking zone, every car at cruising speed occupies as much land as a house. In a lifetime, most drivers will spend at least two years at the wheel, enjoying free rent of a house sized (moving) parcel of land. A generation ago, we thought allocating land for cars to hurtle along, free of charge, would be good for society. But now we see the obesity, alienation, accidents, emissions, congestion, depreciation and repair costs, etc, and we’re changing our minds. Never mind charging drivers vehicle registration, and tax contributions, to help toward the cost of patching the potholes they make, I’m looking at the value of the actual land, land they’re getting for free. It is in recognition of this theft going on—"grand theft auto," let’s call it—that some cities are charging congestion taxes, and reallocating some land to pedestrians, buses and cyclists. Let’s push this trend to its logical and rightful conclusion.

For the right to handle machines, that transform quarter acres of public land into deadly no-go zones, drivers should have to pay market rate rents for that land. Most, let’s assume, will be paying for two years worth of rent across a lifetime. Given the rental value of land in the city, the cost of driving in town would be prohibitive, for all but a few billionaires. Renting driving space in inner suburbs, would be a rare privilege, while out in the farms and exburbs, the cost of renting driving space wouldn’t be such an issue at all. Sounds fair to me.

If you like this idea, do share the link, or find ways of disseminating the concept in your own words. Let me point you too, to a website by the bicycling journalist Carlton Reid, who has given a lot more thought to the subject: IPayRoadTax.com

p.s. Thanks Carlton, for mentioning this post to everyone who follows you via twitter. That’s 5417 people, my godfather! 

6 Comments

  1. Steven says:

    A remark I received via email. I won’t mention who from.

    “Not too keen on the idea of billionaires buzzing around, mind. How about index-linking the price of the cars (or a person’s income) to the land rental charge? Not quite so regressive then.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: A remark I received via email. I won’t mention who from.

      haha – sounds like Singapore exactly, right? they effectively do charge for the land you are using via the certifcate of entitlement. at last look, a lazy 70K just for the right to drive a car. then you have to buy a car, and then pay congestion charges, insurance, blah blah blah… no wonder there’s so many shitbox hondas and hyundais driving around at one price bracket, and then ferraris and lambos in the next one…

    • Steven says:

      Re: A remark I received via email. I won’t mention who from.

      Yes, I’ve lived and worked in Singapore—though some time ago now—and have thought Singapore Inc. (or the PAP, whatever they like to be known as), are indeed very near to a commercialization of every square inch of that island. The problem for my thesis, is they have so many cars there, and give all their road to them, lest cyclists get a free ride. When I was architect there, working for the public housing authority (HDB) I was puzzled that every housing development had to include a new multi level car park. I should have known then, the COE was not to reduce traffic, but to make revenue. They want the roads choked with cars, darn it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: A remark I received via email. I won’t mention who from.

      ah sorry, didn’t put my name on that last comment – it’s tom again.

      i kind of see it as a sad but inevitable road (haha) that developing (aspirational) cities have to go down where they do eventually get eaten by cars (jakarta, beijing, sao paolo), before they can come back and start to fix things. when (if!) singapore does eventually slow to a crawl, it’ll be great because finally cars will be driving at bike speed instead of the regular 10-20 ks above the 60-90k speed limit they’re doing at the moment, because there’s space to. BUT, sing is cutting back the numbers of available COEs after an “administrative oversight” let the numbers balloon (3 years after the cost bottomed at $1, they’re now $70,000), as well as building more bike paths (we saved the green corridor as a 24km long dedicated cycleway!), so there’s hope yet.

    • Steven says:

      Re: A remark I received via email. I won’t mention who from.

      Fascinating stuff. I had no idea the COE had bottomed there for a while. By “green corridor” are you referring to the old line to Malaysia?
      Last time I looked, I remember seeing there is a bike route along the waterway from Lower Peirce Reservoir right the way down to the harbour. I could live in those HDB flats I designed out at Bukit Panjang, ride across the reserve to meet that bike track, then ride down to the city. If only people there knew how fricking accessible everything is! Or am I dreaming?

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: A remark I received via email. I won’t mention who from.

      please check out the map on this page. non-zoomable, but it shows the government’s plans (that they haven’t formally announced, or at least not made a huge fanfare of, yet.)

      http://www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor/about.html

      they cop a lot of flak (not least from cranky expats like me) but in all honesty, they’re doing some good stuff. you have to second guess and read between the lines a lot of the time.

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