When my mom lost her drivers license she complained at how much she was spending on taxis. When I tried to point out that they were a lot cheaper than owning a car, she replied that her car was a sunk cost and the roads were free, and the car was her ticket to freedom to go where she wanted when she wanted.
That's the case for most people who don't have to pay expensive downtown parking. The problem is, it's not fair. People who don't have cars have to pay as they go for transit, whereas cars get to use most roads in cities and towns for free. And as often happens in the tragedy of the commons, when things are free, they get over-used.
In the Telegraph, Alex Proud writes Motorists have ruined England - and they need to pay the price. He calls a pay-as-you-go system good conservative economics.
So what I want to know is this: why, the moment we get into our cars, do we all turn into screaming, pinko commies? Why do we reject the free market solutions that we embrace everywhere else. Why, rather than accept the idea that we should pay when we use a scarce resource (roads) do we ration them in the worst possible way. Why do we agree that, for a once-a-year fee, you can drive as much as you like, wherever you like and whenever you like?
He calls for road taxes based on time of day and congestion. "You want to drive more in crowded places, you pay more – and if you can’t afford it, we’ll provide you with good quality alternatives."
It's economics 101 and capitalism at its best. Read the whole thing at the Telegraph.
NOTE: A lot of commenters claim that they already do pay as they go through gasoline taxes. These make up a small portion of the costs of supporting the road infrastructure and are not paid out to cities.