Charging drivers for the environmental damage they cause is one part of the solution to maintaining sustainable transportation systems in urban centres, says a report by two U of T civil engineers.
"Our research shows people are prepared to pay a lot more for things related to automobile use like gasoline, tolls and parking before they will agree to change their behavior," says Professor Richard Soberman, co-author of the report Full Cost Pricing and Sustainable Urban Transportation.
Using the Greater Toronto Area as a case study, Soberman and colleague Eric Miller investigated the impact of full cost pricing on travel patterns and fuel emissions. Full cost pricing refers to charging road users for social costs such as taxes for road repair, the hospitalization of car accident victims and the damage caused to the environment by fuel emissions. The report analyzed the effect of three factors -- an increase in the price of automobile use, better management of urban growth so there is less urban sprawl and a combination of the two -- on driving habits. It found the most significant shift in road behavior occurred by combining the two.
"If we manage growth better so that we have more concentrated development and higher densities, then it will be easier for people to use public transportation," Soberman says. "Their trip lengths would be shorter which would mean less fuel consumption and less environmental damage."
The report also recommends ensuring public transit is more accessible to people outside urban centres rather than expanding the existing capacity of downtown transit systems. "The inference here is that there must be reasonable access to public transportation as an alternative if fuller cost pricing of automobile use is to have much impact," the report says. The report was prepared for the Ministry of Transportation.
Professor Eric Miller
Department of Civil Engineering
Steven de Sousa
U of T public affairs