LETTER: Carrots for car drivers

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The Independent Online
From Mr Nigel Seymer

Sir: Nicholas Schoon concludes his article (5 May) by saying that public attitudes towards car use, while deeply ambiguous, are "in a state of flux and ready to be led", but, in the absence of political leadership, there is no sign of advantage being taken of this mood.

But which sticks and carrots for motorists most deserve to be applied? The ones he mentions (motorway tolls, road pricing in cities) depend on the price mechanism. But how effective are they in reducing traffic, and are they equitable? Oslo has a "ring toll" system; but it has failed to reduce traffic appreciably. In London the toll would have to be very high indeed to "price off", say, 20 per cent of the car traffic. And the "fat cats" would still drive in one per car at peak hours, while the less well- off would be "priced off": hardly a policy a Labour government is likely to adopt.

There is a fairer way; and it is one that has proved acceptable in a car-owning democracy: the US. It dangles the carrot of a faster drive into a city for those willing to form "car pools": sharing their cars with others (often colleagues at work). The faster run is achieved by reserving lanes on radial motorways for car pools - and buses. Such HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes are now quite common. It is also common for employers to reserve parking spaces for car pools - a highly effective carrot.

Yours faithfully,

NIGEL SEYMER

Transport Planning Consultant

Sway, Hampshire

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