Here's how it works: every car owner will be required to purchase a GPS machine that is able to send data tracking the distances of trips to a billing agency. Any motorist caught without the device will be fined. People driving a standard family sedan will be charged 3 euro cents per kilometer in 2012, with the tax going up every year until 2018, when it is expected to top out at an average of 6.7 cents per kilometer. So, for instance, a trip from Amsterdam to Eindhoven and back — a distance of about 250 kilometers — will cost the driver of a standard sedan about €7.5 ($10.75) in 2012. Rates will be higher during rush hour and for people who drive gas-guzzlers instead of fuel-efficient models. All the revenue will go toward improving road and rail infrastructure.
According to Traffic Minister Camiel Eurlings, the hope is that commuters faced with paying a hefty tax on their driving will opt to start carpooling or riding bicycles to work, and may, in the long term, even move to live closer to their jobs. "The goal is a different manner of paying for mobility that is more fair," Eurlings says. "Not paying more, but paying differently, with a positive income effect for most households."
Naturally, the plan is not without its critics. The environmental group Friends of the Earth says it will do little to reduce traffic, since driving, for the most part, will still be cheaper than using public transport, even on long trips. And some transport experts argue that road improvement projects — such as building better links connecting the main highways that crisscross the country — would be more effective at reducing congestion. "It's not simply about using cars and roads less, but about using them better," says Christophe Nicodème, head of the European Union Road Federation (ERF).
a congested Netherlands Highway
Being that this is eco-conscious Holland, however, there hasn't been a huge outcry from motorists over the proposal — everyone agrees that something needs to be done to ease the country's overloaded road network. The Netherlands may be known overseas for its cycling culture, but outside the country's city centers, gridlock is the more dreary reality. Vehicle use has risen sharply over the years, but road capacity has yet to catch up — in part due to lack of space. Previous attempts to reduce traffic — from offering incentives to people who carpool to giving away free croissants and newspapers on public transport — have had little effect. The government estimates that a typical rush hour has about 270 kilometers of traffic jams, although the GPS maker TomTom often records up to 1,000 kilometers of back-ups during peak hours.
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