I have just read a report by one of the large transport and planning consultants which looked into why drivers use ‘managed lanes’ on Motorways (that is where variable tolls are charged according to the time of day in order to manage demand and control congestion).
An interesting thing they found was that more drivers than might be expected used these managed lanes and paid the tolls despite the time savings being very small – very little over the time taken on the un-tolled lanes. In other words, people paid a toll when there was no reason to do so.
To me this illustrates what I have been thinking for some time – the tolling of roads and motorways is being pushed not by the need to save time or to manage congestion but by the suppliers of the technology and the operators of the tolled roads, all of whom are more interested in making money for themselves than making our economy work more efficiently. And this argument also applies to ‘real-time’ and variable tariffs for energy which will become possible once we have smart-meters which are being rolled-out at great expense to the consumers but with 80% of the benefits going to the energy companies.