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Patents IBM

IBM Patents Pricing Motorists Off Highways 805

theodp writes "Self-professed patent reformer IBM snagged a patent Tuesday for the Variable Rate Toll System, which covers the rather anti-egalitarian scheme of pricing motorists off of the roads by raising tolls as congestion increases. 'Congestion pricing of traffic is emerging as a completely new services market for IBM,' boasted Jamie Houghton, IBM's Global Leader for Road Charging."
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IBM Patents Pricing Motorists Off Highways

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  • Genius! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snl2587 ( 1177409 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:06PM (#22141324)
    Now there's a way to simulate the sagging economy! Have them pay more for commuting to work!
    • People don't drive into rush hour congestion because they like sitting around in their car waiting for lights to turn green. They drive into rush hour congestion because they have places to go, and because if you can avoid it, public transit is by and by large garbage. Congestion charging won't stop people from driving into work so they can save a few bucks by climbing onto a cramped bus next to the homeless people, in the same way that rising fuel prices hasn't led to the abandonment of automotive or airpl
      • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:27PM (#22141718)
        I have more faith in human ingenuity than you - people will carpool.
        • Carpools? I won't join a carpool. If I wanted to be around other people while commuting, I'd take the bus. I don't get nearly enough time alone, and my 20 minute drive to work is one of the times I have alone with my thoughts (such as they are). Why should I give that up?
          • Re:Screw carpools (Score:5, Insightful)

            by leenks ( 906881 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:49PM (#22142134)
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jedidiah ( 1196 )
              Well, if there was someone else that need to go EXACTLY where I
              want to go, EXACTLY when I want to go there and then also come
              back at EXACTLY the same time, then more likely than not there
              would be a mass transit option available for the same route.

              More mass transit would certainly be nice. It would make this whole
              IBM thing moot. Often it takes very little to get a lot of benefit
              out of this too.

              On some potential routes you have commuters clamoring for new routes
              but the beaurocrats aren't interested.

              This is on
              • Re:Screw carpools (Score:5, Insightful)

                by saider ( 177166 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @04:15PM (#22142656)
                Well, if there was someone else that need to go EXACTLY where I
                want to go, EXACTLY when I want to go there and then also come
                back at EXACTLY the same time, then more likely than not there
                would be a mass transit option available for the same route.

                Self-centered thought will lead nowhere.

                1) You won't carpool because you want an absolute minimum commute time.
                2) Property developers spread out industry and residence because they want the absolute maximum profit.

                #1 leads to no demand for more cooperative arrangements (high density development with good mass transit) which encourages #2.

                We will perpetuate this cycle until we start thinking about the overall best way to do things, instead of the individual best way to do things.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by jedidiah ( 1196 )
                  > Self-centered thought will lead nowhere.

                  Clueless parent-basement dwelling moron.

                  I have responsibilities beyond work. I also have a job
                  that is not entirely predictable. If my town had a mass
                  transit system like Amsterdam, I might be able to manage
                  using it.

                  Something that's "more American" just isn't going to cut it.

                  It won't go where I need to go.
                  It won't go there when I need to go there (or leave).

                  That's not even getting into how inefficient it will be.
                • Re:Screw carpools (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @04:48PM (#22143330) Homepage
                  not everyone's vocation fits into a nice little car-pool/public transportation package.

                  For instance I have a friend who owns a plumbing company with a fleet of trucks used by his employees. Exactly how do you "car-pool" a truck full of tools and supplies?

                  For those of us who work in IT with some semblance of responsibility, how exactly do we car-pool to work at 3am when a server crashes and we need to get it up and running before the next day's business?

                  What about those of us who leave work somewhere in a fuzzy 2 hour window depending on what needs to get done at the end of the day? Carpool in the morning and sleep on the server room floor in the evening when the rest of your carpool buddies leave without you? Not to mention, unless you live in and work in a major city, most areas are completely devoid of useful public transportation.

                  Maybe not true of all people but I think at least the /. crow have jobs that require us to be more than a simple 9-5 automaton.
                  • Re:Screw carpools (Score:5, Informative)

                    by jjn1056 ( 85209 ) <jjn1056@y a h o o .com> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @05:20PM (#22144040) Homepage Journal
                    With all respect, I don't think rushing to the office at 3am to restart a server will be affected much by congestion time pricing, since every plan I know of (and I live in NYC with a plan like this on the table) doesn't increase prices at 3am. Anyway, perhaps you should look into improving your remote access in order to reduce that need in the first place.

                    As to the point about people working 'fuzzy' hours, well this is exactly the kind of situation congestion pricing is trying to encourage, that is to get employers to realize not everyone needs to be at the office at exactly 9am. By encouraging employers to look hard at who really needs to be in the office at that time we can hopefully spread out the road usage over greater time, thus reducing congestion, which will save fuel and reduce pollution.

                    All this will do for your friend with a fleet of plumping trucks is to encourage them to consider making non emergency appointments during non congestion time. Remember, this is not just about carpooling, cars sitting in traffic and not moving also waste a lot of fuel and cause pollution. If you can reduce your commute time by 20 minutes because your boss allows you to come in at 10:30am instead of at 9am that is going to 1) let you sleep 20 more minutes, 2) reduce the amount of fuel you waste idling in congestion, which incidentally saves you some money and 3) reduces the pollution spilling out your exhaust pipe. So even if you don't carpool this can end up being a win-win solution.

                    Also, for those people not living and/or working in a major city I very much doubt they have congestion trouble that needs fixing.

                    Maybe it's easy for me to not understand your objections since I live in NYC which has had the foresight to develop layers of useful and reasonably prices public transportation. All I can say for those of you living in big cities without it, well, the gov't you elected failed to have that foresight and guess who is to blame for putting those officials in place?

                    • Re:Screw carpools (Score:5, Informative)

                      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @06:03PM (#22144906) Homepage Journal
                      The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic is full of them; it's not purely a East Coast phenomenon, but it's definitely more prevalent here. There are a few of them in Texas and the Midwest, I think. Definitely not as many, though.

                      It's going to increase though, because there's a lot of infrastructure out there in dire need of maintenance, and people really hate taxes. Nobody wants to pay for crap they don't use. As the technology makes it more and more feasible, I think we're going to move towards a 'use-tax' system pretty quickly.

                      I was listening to CSPAN Radio the other day and they had a speech by somebody (head of the Federal Highway Dept, I think), talking about the future of transportation funding. He was pretty set on the idea of a miles-driven based tax rather than a gas tax. The idea is you either have an RFID transponder in your car, or maybe they just go low-tech and check your odometer reading, but that's what you're taxed off of. Obviously this is a privacy nightmare but I don't see it disappearing. It's an easy sell to the public because you can say you're "cutting" all sorts of taxes. (Particularly because the plan calls for doubling or tripling the gasoline tax before moving to a mileage-based tax. Carrot, meet stick.)

                      In Virginia, transportation money is one of the biggest issues. Here you have a state where one rather small part (the northern suburbs, around DC) are in desperate need of money for infrastructure, but the rest of the state doesn't really give a flying fuck about it. And why should they? If you don't come to Northern Virginia, it's pretty hard to see how you benefit from a few billion dollars in improvements on I-66. The state government has fooled around with alternative funding sources (the recently repealed extra-special tax on speeding tickets), but in the medium- and long-term I don't see any alternative to tolls and congestion pricing.

                      There's no point in expanding the roads without implementing congestion pricing -- if you just widen the highways, it just encourages more people to use the roads at the same time. Very quickly, the volume just increases until you hit the failure point again. You can't just keep building roads and hope to keep ahead of the demand. You need to encourage people to use the roads at different times, carpool, work from home, etc. Maintaining the infrastructure we have while charging the people who actually use it for the construction/upkeep (and all the negative externalities associated with their use, which congestion pricing tries to do) seems eminently fair.
                  • False Dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by EgoWumpus ( 638704 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @05:30PM (#22144252)

                    I have to admit, I find it fascinating that in the discussion of an article on a technology that applies a variable solution to a variable problem, the naysayers all waffle between two points; all or nothing.

                    You're absolutely right, sometimes carpooling is inefficient. Sometimes it will only work if you go it alone. But you fail to ask the question, "How often can I get away with it?" Are you and your buddies so inflexible that you can't communicate about what would be a good compromise time for leaving? Surely they have end-of-the-day tasks, too? And maybe, just maybe you can put in the extra effort to not have to stay late?

                    My point is that generally speaking you could, if you put an ounce of effort into it, find a workable carpool solution. Lots of people do, who recognize that resources aren't infinite - their's or the world's. And if everyone carpooled even 20% of the time that they commute, that's a big difference - a 10% decrease in cars on the road. So why is it that it's such an impossible thing? Is it really that un-doable, or does it just necessitate a change and the acceptance that to-date you haven't been doing it the optimal way?

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by syousef ( 465911 )
                      I trust you're smarter than all that.

                      Well you certainly get points for setting the tone for the rest of your message. An insult disguised as praise.

                      I'd challenge you to actually record the times that you leave work, and measure the variance by day of week to see if your claims are actually all that you claim

                      I don't need to record it, I have a detailed roster that goes back a few years.

                      Where I work there are 5 people covering four shifts in summer (starting 7:15am, 9am, 11:15am, 1:15pm) with the 4th of those
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by toddestan ( 632714 )
                    For instance I have a friend who owns a plumbing company with a fleet of trucks used by his employees. Exactly how do you "car-pool" a truck full of tools and supplies?

                    I don't see how it is a problem. Either he keeps the trucks at some depot, and the workers have to commute there to start their day and could just as easily carpool like anyone else. Or they could let the workers keep the company vehicle and tools at home, in which case they could just drive directly to their first job instead of having to
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MightyYar ( 622222 )
            Your aversion to people is of very little interest to me when discussing ways to reduce traffic. You can just pay the surcharge or be part of the solution.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dubl-u ( 51156 ) *
            Carpools? I won't join a carpool. If I wanted to be around other people while commuting, I'd take the bus. I don't get nearly enough time alone, and my 20 minute drive to work is one of the times I have alone with my thoughts (such as they are). Why should I give that up?

            Nobody's asking you to give it up. They are asking you to pay your share, though. Is that so bad?

            Right now, when you drive during a peak time, you impose costs on all the other drivers. They pay in wasteful delays. With congestion pricing,
      • Congestion charging won't stop people from driving into work so they can save a few bucks by climbing onto a cramped bus next to the homeless people

        If there's even a bus to climb onto. I live in the suburbs north of Tampa Bay and commute into Tampa for work. Public transit to take me from home to work simply does not exist. To top it off, the only viable north-south route from my town into Tampa is the Suncoast Parkway, which is a toll road. There aren't even any alternate north-south routes that wouldn't add an extra 45 minutes to my commute. I would LOVE the option of taking a bus or train to work, but that's just not possible here.

        Leaving aside all

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ajehals ( 947354 )
          It's a cultural problem, if enough people wanted to use public transport some entrepreneurial sort would provide some, unfortunately it would seem that compared to other places around the world, the US places a disproportionate value on owning a car whilst at the same time stigmatising the use of public transport.

          Hell one of the parent posts even suggests that the 20 minutes he drives to work is important to him as it provides solitude, something that he feels he does not have enough of, personally, I'd rat
      • public transit is by and by large garbage

        First of all that is not really true. People dont like it becuase they wouldn;t want to be caught dead as an adult riding the bus. In many areas there is good public transportation that only takes slightly longer to get where you are going. People still wont do it and its a cultural thing. In plenty of other countries public transportation doesn;t ahve the same stigma. In America if you ride the bus people assume you got a DUI, or are a loser, or are a hippie.

        It is precisly becuase of the perception that public transportation is no good that it is held back from being truly good. I know someone is going to chime in here about how they live in an area with no bus service but please don't. Im not talking abnout where there really are no other options. I am talking about where there is perfectly good service and very few people use it.

        The things you own begin to own you. Try riding a bike sometime. The more you rely on the car the more of your life is dedicated to maintaining that car. Its a vicious cycle that leads to lots and lots of time wasted in traffic.
    • On the other hand, it strikes me that parking has long been this way; in many places, on weekdays you must feed the meter, but at night and on weekends it's free.
      • On the other hand, it strikes me that parking has long been this way; in many places, on weekdays you must feed the meter, but at night and on weekends it's free.

        Everything has long been this way. The summary suggests that IBM are trying to patent the demand curve. If on the other hand they'd found a cool new algorithm to set the prices, maybe that would be worth something (haven't read the article, btw).

    • I don't think they want to stimulate anything other than their income.

      Also, a trillion dollar hooker couldn't stiffen this sagging economy.
  • GOOD. That's the whole point of congestion charges. I am a motorist
    • by ktappe ( 747125 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:26PM (#22141692)

      motorists being forced off the road and into buses. GOOD. That's the whole point of congestion charges. I am a motorist
      There are no buses or trains or any other mass transit anywhere near where I live and commute from. Give me the mass transit before you start charging me for not using it (and acting holier than thou.)
    • by Snowgen ( 586732 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:29PM (#22141750) Homepage

      motorists being forced off the road and into buses

      You know, I would love to take public transportation to work. I mean really love it. The hour I spend in my car driving to and from work every day would suddenly be converted from "chore time" to "me time". I could read a book. I could watch a movie on my iPod. I could even do some work on my laptop, if I was feeling generous to my employer.

      But the it seems to me that the truth is that "they" (the public transportation authority) really don't want me to ride the bus. Why do I say this? Let me tell you.

      The nearest bus stop to my house is 2 miles away. The nearest bus stop to my work is 1 mile away. That's 3 miles in the morning and 3 miles in the afternoon. I just happen to walk at about 3 miles per hour, so now my 60 minutes of daily commuting time has now turned into 2 hours of commuting time just to walk to the bus stops and back.

      But it gets better. According to the online "plan your trip" schedule, they pick me up at the bus stop, then there is a layover (oops, transfer) as I wait for another bus to take me to work. Total rode-and-wait one-way time to work: 3 hours! Coming home at night is a bit better, at only 1.5 hours.

      So my 60 minutes of daily commute is now a whopping total of 5.5 hours! As if that wasn't enough, due to the times the buses run I can only work a 6 hour day. On top of all this, I have to pay!

      So, yes, I'd love to take public transoprtation. Too bad there's no such thing, practically speaking, where I live.

      • Let me add my anectdote to the pile; except for the city, it's the same as yours.

        I could take public transit to work. I wouldn't even have to walk that far (a few hundred feet at each point). But I'd need to make two transfers, for a total of 57 minutes of my time, and pay $3.10 in fares. (I checked their trip-planner site to get that accurate.) Which isn't that bad.

        But if I drive? 8 minutes and 55 cents in gas.

        Seven times more costly; there's no comparison.

        Public transit is a joke in this country.

  • anti-egalitarian? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:09PM (#22141356)
    It is egalitarian if everyone is surcharged equally based on traffic peak times.

    And this seems to be as much the rage amongst liberal urban planners as evil corporatists.

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      This is a tax. Flat dollar rates for taxes are NOT egalitarian, percentages of income are.

      A ten dollar per head tax is regressive. A ten percent tax per head is egalitarian. Personally, I'd like to see gasoline taxes based on a) the cost of the vehicle, b) the size of the vehicle (larger vehicles tear up the roads more) and c) the mileage of the vehicle. If you're driving a beater you should pay less than a new car, a new SUV you should get the shit taxed out of you, if you're driving a hybrid you should ge
      • How about not taxing income at all? It favors the already wealthy, and helps keep the less wealthy from becoming wealthy. How about taxing ownership only. The more you own, the greater percentage of your net worth you have to pay. Helps stop the runaway feedback loop of wealth generating more wealth, regardless of whether the wealth owner even works at it.
      • by snarkh ( 118018 )
        This is a tax. Flat dollar rates for taxes are NOT egalitarian, percentages of income are.

        Reinventing the definition? []

        Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level) is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals from birth. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law, the church, and society at large.

        A ten dollar per head tax is regressive. A ten percent tax per head is egalitarian.

  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:09PM (#22141362) Homepage Journal
    As congestion increases, tolls increase, so more people, instead of traveling on toll roads designed to take the kind of abuse that volume and congestions provide, begin taking surface streets which are not designed for these kinds of volume.

    So the toll makes out even, or slightly ahead at best. While the tax payers have to pick up the tab to repair the surface streets that are now getting heavier traffic because of increased pricing on toll roads.

    So people with money get to work faster, and people with out will get taxed more. Sounds like a great idea.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      If the money gathered goes into improving transport links, then everyone wins. It's better than taxing the crap out of everyone to help out the rich. If people could get out of their cars and into a more efficient transport solution, then that would be even better.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by keithjr ( 1091829 )
      So people with money get to work faster, and people with out will get taxed more. Sounds like a great idea.

      Incorrect. The people without money, and also the sensible people, will start taking public transportation. The elitists in the equation are actually the people who continue to drive regardless of the negative reinforcement. And they can pay all they want.
      • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:36PM (#22141860)
        Incorrect. The people without money, and also the sensible people, will start taking public transportation.

        Depends on where you live. There are large cities in the USA that have very poor public transportation. At a former job one of my co-workers was a "flower child" from the 60s and although she had a car, she usually took public transportation to our office. I'd say she could have driven to work in 30-40 minutes most days and driven home in roughly the same time frame. Riding the bus took between 90 minutes and 2 hours each way. While it's certainly cheaper to ride the bus, most rational people would conclude that saving 50-90 minutes each way by driving instead of riding the bus made a lot more sense.

        • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:42PM (#22141990)
          Depends how you define saving. You can't read a book, use a computer, watch a movie (yay for portable media players) or think deeply about something while driving, at not legally and sanely. In that sense you waste more time driving than taking a bus as those 40 minutes in the car can't be used for anything else.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sconeu ( 64226 )
            Full disclosure: I live in L.A., which has probably the worst public transportation system of any major metropolitan area in the US.

            I would define that time as wasted. Why would I spend 4 hours roundtrip commuting, thus essentially minimizing any time I might have with my wife and kids?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by JonBuck ( 112195 )
        What you're saying is that my unwillingness to spend 5 hours commuting to and from work each day using the bus makes me "elitist"?

        I'll put it this way. My time is valuable. It is not sensible for me to spend five times as much of it each day using public transportation to commute. You are punishing those of us who simply cannot afford to move closer to their workplaces.
      • Many places do not have public transportation. Or if they do it's such a poor example of public transportation that the only people who use it are so poor they can't afford soap or the laundromat. Thus making it that much worse for "regular folk". (Yes, I mean the bus doors open and a wall of stink hits you in the face.)

        And by poor example I mean.. takes 15 minutes by car, 70 minutes by bus. To most people time is more valuable than just about anything. So when public transportation is that bad, th
  • by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:09PM (#22141370) Homepage Journal
    To show up at work at 10:30 AM :)
    • by qbzzt ( 11136 )
      Not really a joke. This is the same as paying people a small amount for telecommuting 7:30-10, driving to work 10:30 and working 10:30-5 instead of driving 7:15-8 and working 8-5.

      That's the way the market is supposed to work to allocate resources more efficiently.
    • Hell, that should be modded +5 each Informative, Insightful and Redundant for obviousness.

      Every job I've had for the last decade I've made the simple, usually accepted, case that coming to work an hour earlier costs me two to three hours of my own time, which comes out to roughly 500-800 hours of my life per year just to entertain some pointless mark on the clock and I'm not willing to write off an entire MONTH of my life every year for something wholly without purpose, much less am I willing to come in whi
  • anti-egalitarian? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:11PM (#22141398) Homepage Journal
    You mean, they're charging people differently based on their religion? Their race? Their social class? Are they not charging people regardless of who they are?

    Charging people more for things in higher demand is called "capitalism". Perhaps that is anti-egalitarian, but this particular instance is no more anti-egalitarian then, say, charging people more for higher quality health care, or charging people more for better quality food.
    • Nah, what it means is, taking public transit out of the equation because many places with toll roads do not have effective public transit: rich people pay proportionally less of their income to use the road than poor people do. That's regressive [] and anti-egalitarian. It makes an unlevel playing field even less level. If the system charged people a percentage of their income, that would be egalitarian. That's why sales taxes are regressive too.

      This isn't even about making more money. This is about reducing d
    • by BK425 ( 461939 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:39PM (#22141920) Journal
      It's called -"markets"-... it may seem a small nit but markets exist whether or not your economy is capitalist. The title on this fine article couldn't be whinier or more wrong. People aren't priced off roads any more then I'm priced out of tomatoes in winter, they're priced into more efficient alternatives. The beauty of markets is that they allow consumers to be the most efficient "decider". Really, they admit that consumers ARE their own best "deciders". Not government. Congestion pricing makes sense, it takes normal price/supply/demand features of the market to transportation. This will help fund critically needed transportation where I live in Washington and if more people get on the bus it will have immediate impact on traffic (even before add'l critical lane space is built). bk425
  • ... and it's been kicked around for a long time. There is no reason IBM should get a monopoly on this.

    The fact that Friedman thinks that (1) this is innovative, and (2) that the fact that IBM has a monopoly on this helps anybody just shows again what an idiot he is.
  • by doombringerltx ( 1109389 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:13PM (#22141446)
    That if you really need to get somewhere you take the tollway to get there faster. Tollroads always have less traffic than their free counter parts. You pay a little bit to get their faster. I hate the morning commute enough that I'll pay a little extra for a road like this. And on the other hand I always feel like a moron when I'm taking a tollroad home at 3AM and I'm the only one on the road. I'm glad to pay to different charges for the two different times
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:14PM (#22141450)
    The tone of the summary is pretty snotty.

    When demand outstrips supply, you have 3 choices:
    1. Endure lines (traffic jams). This sucks for the environment and our dependence on oil, makes the roads less useful for everyone, and costs society a bundle in lost productivity.
    2. Create more supply. Build more roads. We've been trying that for a long, long time. I don't think the Jersey Turnpike can get much bigger.
    3. Curtail demand. Many ways to do this, including building more public transit and taxing fuel.
    4. Raise prices. This affects the poor more than the rich - big surprise there! So does everything else, why are roads special?
    Now, I understand the appeal of helping out the poor. But this isn't health insurance or food stamps or housing. The "right to drive a car to work" is not exactly a basic human right. I think that a nice balance of 2-3 is the way to go.
    • sigh... preview. I meant 2-4 is the way to go.
    • by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:53PM (#22142262) Journal

      The "right to drive a car to work" is not exactly a basic human right.

      Maybe it ought to be. For many people in the US no car = no living.
      I have lived in a handful of major US cities, and from what I've experienced it is not possible to have a reasonable quality of life without a car unless you live in NYC or San Francisco. Other than those two cities public transit in the US is virtually nonexistent, so price those motorists off the roads and you are looking at one gigantic economic crisis.

      Maybe building useable public transit before we price Joe Average off the roads would be wise? You know, cart before horse and all...
  • I don't think driving on a toll road is one of them. After all, poor people are by definition, not as valuable as wealthy people so why should anyone care about their commute times?
  • by Mydron ( 456525 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:15PM (#22141474)
    What's egalitarian about the free rider problem [] Why don't we let drivers pay the real cost of driving rather than letting everyone else subsidize the construction of roads (oh, and wage wars in oil-rich countries).

    BTW, please save the commerce-needs-transport retort, it costs four times as much to ship something by truck compared to rail.
    • by kabocox ( 199019 )
      BTW, please save the commerce-needs-transport retort, it costs four times as much to ship something by truck compared to rail.

      I doubt that's an accurate stat. Why? Because if it was, UPS, FedEx, or the US Postal Service would stick their trucks on the train to transfer packages from point A to point B. That those companies don't do that, means that it isn't cheaper for a business to use truck transport than rail transport. Let's be honest, most businesses use shipping companies to transport everything excep
  • Mass transit... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by snarfies ( 115214 )
    I like this idea. No, really.

    If you live in the sticks, I imagine this won't be too much of a problem for you. I don't live there and don't intend to find out for sure. Me, I live in Philadelphia (home of the useless muni wifi). I used to work in the far suburbs. I had two options for getting there: 1) Drive on the Schuykyll "Expressway," or 2) take the train. Of course, I had to wait for the train, but then again I didn't have to wait in traffic - evens out. But I could read a book on the way to w
  • Prior art in LA (Score:2, Informative)

    by simpsone ( 830935 )
    I didn't exactly RTFA, but they already do this in LA. It's not the entire road, just the commuter/carpool lanes. As traffic increases the toll does too. There's no tollbooths either, it's all run via FasTrack.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the book Jennifer Government, there is a part where a character is looking for a quick exit from a "premium road" that a wrong turn inadvertently placed him upon. Sad to see this dystopia coming to a reality near us. :-(
  • IBM thinks it has a good idea, adding insult to injury?

    There's no joke here. Their parent is funny enough. I could add nothing to this to make it any more funny. Wow.

    This is exactly the same thing that's done with the on-ramp lights in Los Angeles, only here with toll roads there is a pricing scheme just like the Vegas hotels.

    How is this not an obvious, yet ignorably stupid, idea?

  • BTW, congestion tolling on I-95/I-395 from Northern Virginia into Washington, DC is projected to be up to $1.60 per mile [], or $41.46 for a round trip.
  • IBM patents a Variable Rate Troll System?

    Slashdot, time to get a lawyer, a real good one..
  • Anti-egalitarian (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:22PM (#22141608)
    *sigh* When you have a limited resource, you have to discriminate. Either you'll have the people you can pay or the people who don't mind waiting in line. The great thing with price discrimination is that it introduces an incentive to produce more of the scarce resource. This is what the entire economy if not the entire civilization is based on. Yes, discrimination is anti-egalitarian, but guess what, everything cannot possibly be available to everyone, that's a physical impossibility, discrimination is natural.
  • 2 things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Protonk ( 599901 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:25PM (#22141652) Homepage
    1. Congestion charges are the goal for the reduction of traffic while you maximize welfare. You force people into making choices both about WHEN they drive and WHERE they drive. a variable charge based on traffic is much better, from an efficiency standpoint, than a flat charge simple to use the road. a flat charge will keep pople off the road who need to use it, and provide an incentive for those who DO use the road to overuse it.

    2. That being said, we don't live in an ideal world. Congestion charges work very well from a welfare standpoint when there are easily accessible alternatives to dirivng on the highway. I can't afford to live in a city, but I have to work there. I can't make a light rail system appear tomorrow, but now I have the economic incentive to ride light rail. We can see the impact of congestion charges at work in a place like london, where public transport is a viable alternative for ANYONE. It is much harder to see it at work in wisconsin.
  • by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:25PM (#22141656)
    How about using taxes to pay for roads because they are part of the public infrastructure?!

    Using the PA turnpike as an example, almost all of the tolls go to pay for the state employees and their benefits, heated booths, etc, and very little if any goes back into the road. The toll system is in place to pay for itself and not the road. It's a sham. If they got rid of all the zombies in the toll booths and put up those buckets that you toss change into they could charge a fraction and have more money to put toward the road, but still... that's what taxes are for.

    As a result the PA turnpike is the worst highway in PA to drive on, full of potholes, poorly maintained, half finished construction sitting empty and idle most of the time.

    The other huge reason toll roads are a BAD IDEA is that there is no competition, no other option. There's almost never a parallel highway going the same place, and who would really want that anyway. So you have to pay the toll or not go at all, or spend hours and gas $$ going around. It's taking a critical public resource and using it for legal extortion. Imagine if you had to pay a sidewalk toll to walk to lunch every day.

    This idea of congestion tolls seems to have yet another bad idea behind it... Most people aren't on the roads for fun. They're on the roads because they need to get somewhere.
    If skyrocketing gas prices aren't thinning out the traffic why would congestion tolls thin it out?
  • Look to Singapore for prior art. An article at [] suggests that *many* places have done this. I'm sure that IBM has added some "non-obvious" twist to an obvious idea.

    • "Look to Singapore for prior art. An article at [] suggests that *many* places have done this. I'm sure that IBM has added some "non-obvious" twist to an obvious idea."

      God I hope it's the Spanish Inquisition. Nothing obvious about that!
  • This is the basic free market concept of letting the price fluctuate based on supply and demand.

    Airlines/Hotels change prices all the time based on supply and demand.

    With more and more highways going under private ownership, this day wasn't far off.
    IBM just automated it.

    Egalitarianism-shgalitariniam. This is your basic free market Capitalism at work.
    Be proud and if you can't afford the toll, take the bus.

  • | ...Probably the biggest green initiative coming down the road these days, literally, is congestion pricing -- charging people for the right to drive into a downtown area. ...|

    Give me another reason not to drive downtown from the suburbs, and watch the Urban Blight of the 70's come back with a vengeance as the infrastructure crumbles.

    Since this is a new way of taxing people and raising revenue, I am sure it will be adopted in all the 50 state's largest cities by the end of the year if not sooner. When tha
  • The patent abstract:

    A method and system are provided in which average vehicle speeds of tolled and non-tolled road segments between two locations are monitored and saved for reference in providing dynamic adjustment of the toll amount to be charged for use of the tolled segment in order to insure an efficient use of the tolled segment and a determination of an appropriate toll amount to be charged drivers in the tolled segment in view of real time traffic conditions of the tolled and the non-tolled segment.

  • The existing "egalitarian" approach is that everyone is stuck in traffic equally — you can not pay more to get better commute.

    The proposal would certainly be an improvement. The "(non)-egalitarian" is a red herring — I don't see anyone complaining, that "the rich" have better TV-sets, jewelry, or, indeed, cars.

    What we really need is some accountability for the road-maintainers, which are, unfortunately, mostly local governments, who are paid, mostly, by the Federal government... But, at leas

  • by brusk ( 135896 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:38PM (#22141894)
    Isn't this what already happens with public transit? Many systems have lower fares for "off-peak" times and weekends (or offer things like weekend passes, which amount to the same thing). And theaters have cheap matinees. Restaurants have early bird specials, and charge less for the same food at lunch. Power companies sell electricity for less at off-peak times.

    What's weird about this debate is that you have libertarian types complaining, "I paid my taxes dammit, you liberals keep your hands off my free roads," while liberals are saying, "let's let the market take care of this." A role reversal. I know that's an inaccurate generalization, but the sides taken in the above posts have sometimes been rather strange.
  • This would suck for people that actually car pool. Groups of people trying to do the right thing, but yet get slammed by some toll system that is only looking at one item. What happens when weather is bad and cars slow down, or construction? This will not work.
  • by Buzz_Litebeer ( 539463 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @03:41PM (#22141964) Journal
    Sir, I could not come to work today as the fee to use the road was higher than my daily pay + gas.

  • TFA "The percentage of your working day spent in a commute will go down and the time you spend being productive and being paid, or simply relaxing, will go up. Also, more people will do business in the city, because they can get to stores, offices or the theater more easily."

    Really? And how exactly will more people do business in the city if less people are travelling in by car?
    London implemented a large congestion zone five years ago and the city has pretty much the same levels of conegstion as ever. Be
  • Hummers, SUVs and semis charged more. Electric and smaller vehicles charged less. and/or by purchase price. Camera get a shot of license plate, looks up assessed value in the database, GVM, cross references vehicle mileage and charges large gas guzzlers more.


    Now how do I patent this idea?
  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) * on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @08:00PM (#22146740) Homepage
    I'd have to agree on the tone of the document for it is well deserved.

    The only concept that comes out of this is it being a new form of Revenue Enhancement. While it may be pushed as some form of environmental "benefit", it is just the same kind of force, just with an "unassailable target".

    Instead of a cop hiding behind a speed trap, it's now a congestion charge that hides lawmakers and environmentalists behind an "unassailable target". The difference is that I can avoid a known speed trap, a congestion zone is (by design) unavoidable by all practicality.

    If you're a proponent of this kind of stuff, just drive through a state such as Ohio. City-set speed limits for small towns, speed traps the size of large suburbs, and unsafe speed changes (45-25 in unbelievably short distances). That is what your congestion pricing will end up being (on a larger scale) - revenue enhancement. The difference is that if they can't get enough revenue to do transit, they'll end up expanding the zone (even if that still does no good, and they won't remove the increase).

    This is only a (regressive) money grab with the feel-good environmentalism touch to it. If only IBM would have used this to deep-six the entire concept, they'd have done a ton of good.

    No thanks, but keep the business out of my government.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.