Dutch drivers paid to leave cars at home
In the government’s latest experiment to reduce massive traffic gridlock, 800 drivers are paid to not drive during rush hour.10 September 2008
THE HAGUE – In an attempt to alleviate the massive daily gridlock on Dutch roads, the government is launching an experiment Wednesday in South Holland where motorists are paid not to drive during rush hour.
Eight hundred volunteers who use the A12 motorway between Gouda and The Hague to get to their work place will receive EUR 4 each time if they avoid the stretch of road during rush hour.
It is a public-private initiative involving the universities of Amsterdam, Delft and Utrecht, plus transport organisations and companies.
Previously, the government has tried all kinds of schemes to reduce traffic jams: higher speed limits, lower speed limits, carpooling lanes, multi-level motorways but were unsuccessful.
Apart from the cash reward, the volunteers can also receive an NS Business Card giving them a discount on train travel.
Cameras along the A12 will check that the volunteers do not cheat and use the road at the wrong time.
Two hundred and fifty volunteers will receive a smartphone at a nominal price so their exact movements can be tracked by GPS, providing the researchers with extra data.
Employers will be cooperating to allow the participants more flexible working hours. The motorists will receive their cash rewards in a "mobile wallet", a new system that enables payments to be made to anyone with a mobile phone using an SMS text message.
The stretch of motorway between Gouda and The Hague has been chosen partly because it is easy to monitor, as it has few exits.
The A12 motorway is also particularly busy and frequently comes to a standstill - it features high on a traffic jam top 50 drawn up by the Traffic Information Service.
The main aim of the experiment is to test the effect of rewards on motorists' behaviour. An earlier smaller-scale experiment on the route produced promising results, with participants cutting their number of rush-hour journeys by 50 percent.
The Netherlands has more motorways per square kilometre than any other country in Europe.
Most of them have only two lanes and exits are often only three kilometres apart. With an average of one car for every two people in the country, it is not surprisingly they frequently grind to a halt.
The morning peak period lasts up to four hours, and there can be up to 500 kilometres of tailbacks around the country. According to Transport and Logistics Netherlands, this costs the Dutch economy well over EUR 0.5 billion a year.
The Transport Ministry actually forecasts a 50 percent increase in traffic jams by 2020.
Carrot or stick
It remains to be seen whether paying motorist to stay off the road has a viable future in slowing this ever-rising tide of traffic.
The approach contrasts starkly with the road-pricing scheme to be introduced from 2011 onwards, which will hit motorists in their wallets. Rather than receiving a bonus to leave the car at home, they will have to pay for each kilometre they drive and busier roads will be more expensive to use.
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]