The Netherlands

Technology Facilitating Vehicle-Miles Traveled Fee in The Netherlands

While elected officials in the US were quibbling over the debt-ceiling and putting off a reauthorization of the federal transportation bill, Dutch officials were piloting an innovative, but contentious, new revenue stream for the transportation sector: a vehicle-miles traveled (or VMT) fee. In the US, transportation improvements (e.g. building bridges, maintaining highways, striping new bicycle lanes, upgrading transit vehicles) historically have been funded almost wholly through the gas tax – a. 18.4 cents per gallon fee leveraged on drivers as they fill up their tank.  This tax has not been raised since President Clinton’s deficit reduction plan passed in 1993Several factors, including inflation and fuel efficiency improvements, have left this funding source inadequate for an ever-expanding and ever-degrading transportation network.  The idea of a fee based purely on how far one drives, as opposed to the proxy that is the gas tax, has been floated around, but its inclusion in a full reauthorization of the federal transportation bill seems unlikely with an election looming and a Republican promise of no new taxes.

In The Netherlands, a 6-month trial charging drivers a fee based on how far, where, and when they travel demonstrated the program’s ability to change drivers’ behavior.  Seventy percent of drivers decided to avoid rush hour traffic and use alternate routes.  The trial may have even underestimated success, though, since participants knew they would be redeemed for the fees.

The experiment and the success were enabled with a wireless connection to the internet and GPS, which enabled the system to “tabulate a charge for each car trip by using a mileage-based formula that also takes account of a car’s fuel efficiency, the time of day and the route.”  At the end of each month, a driver would receive a bill in the mail with a detailed summary of the usage fees, similar to a cell phone bill.

Wave of the future?  Seems like the future will be found sooner in Europe than in the US, unfortunately.

- Terra Curtis



Getting back to the theme of the Living Labs Global Showcase Awards, I wanted to highlight a project that is being developed in the Netherlands called “SolaRoad.”  I think it is particularly relevant to Stockholm’s search for innovative intelligent transport systems to encourage less driving and more biking (among other alternatives).

A Netherlands-based company called TNO has developed technology for a solar-panel road surface.  As cycle tracks have fewer strict design requirements and lower traffic load and physical impact, the company decided to pitch their initial SolaRoad pilot at cycle tracks in the Netherlands (15,000 km exist so there is high expansion potential). The construction includes a concrete base layer topped with solar cells, which is then covered by an optical layer and topped off with a transparent top layer.  TNO claims the technology produces the exact same amount of energy as is harvested by the typical rooftop application of solar panels and would cost roughly the same amount.  They predict the technology to earn back its costs within 5-8 years of implementation and after that to be profitable.  Their first pilot is set for 100km of cycle track in Noord Holland to be completed in summer of 2012 and to extend through 5 years of experimentation.

-Terra Curtis