These days, if you want to go to work without a long, stressful commute, you have to expensively live near work, or find work in a smaller town. Current methods of solving this sprawl-related transportation problem have proven woefully insufficient. The losses due to being stuck in stop-and-go traffic every day are huge: the time lost, the pollution that's not contributing to any transportation, the stress on drivers, and more. Here I propose a solution, which I have suggested in previous threads:
Electronically administer peak-hour tolls high enough to make peak-hour traffic not significantly higher that off-peak traffic.
-The tolls would be determined experimentally, and vary between cities. The sole criterion for assessment on the various vehicle types would be "What toll sufficiently reduces the congestion?" It would not be designed to favor any other social goal, such as punishing wealthier/poorer drivers, more/less polluting cars (those should be handled with a separate fee), etc. While I can't know in advance what the exact amounts would be, I expect the amounts needed to accomplish this would be something like: Compact cars -- $30 each way; SUV's, vans, and large pickups -- $40 each way; buses and large trucks -- $100 each way, just to give you an idea.
-Yes, it has to be electronic. The toll collection must not itself be congesting. For those with privacy concerns, there could be anonymous transponders you'd attach inside your car that could be "charged up" with cash. All the machines would have to check is that the transponder has enough in its anonymous account, and that it matches the vehicle toll-class it claims to be. (So you can't buy a compact-car transponder and stick it on your 18-wheeler.) Rush hour non-regular passers-through would have to stop and buy one.
-The plan creates a new, large market for private buses, which would almost certainly be (assuming they can get regular ridership) cheaper per person than driving alone. You should expect lots of newer, more convenient private bus lines to open. If you periodically need to stay late, you can take a taxi home. You would probably still drive to the bus depot.
-For those with concerns about, "But I done paid for the road alriddy!", you could modify the plan to have a government-run free bus that would allow you to still travel for free. You could also refund all toll revenues net of operating costs to drivers, but this would be rather pointless. If people get the free infusion of money, they will just revise up the amount they're willing to pay for peak hour road usage, which means you'll have to raise tolls to quell the congestion again, creating a viscious cycle. Best use that money to reduce taxes elsewhere.
-Tolls should not be charged at all for the times where there is no congestion.
-"Just build more roads!" is not a solution. That just makes people live farther out and swallow up the new capacity. Also, the biggest road still has to, at some point, dump its load onto smaller roads, at which point it backs up and eliminates the entire benefit.
-This would significantly reduce commute time, allowing you more free time, or work more hours for the same time away from home. I expect two thirds reduction in commute time. Is it worth it to pay ~$7/day tolls and ride on a private bus and not have the stress of the traffic, for that? I think so.
-The plan would be liberating in how it can reduce or eliminate a person's reliance on cars and gasoline. If you don't drive nearly as much, you also pay less in insurance, and have lower risk of death.
-No pollution wasted while stalled in traffic.
-Greater incentives for denser development, which is more compatible with bus lines. And it wouldn't require city government micromanagement to happen. This would also lay the ground work (in terms of dense transportation modes) for transition of current cities to the type of city where you don't need a car, like New York.
-You can still use your car for errands.
I'm sure I left out something, but this gets the main idea in. Thoughts?