Reclaiming the commons - government's increasing role in mobility

Tuesday, 5 March 2019


Two news items today highlight that the boom in mobility is causing a tragedy of the commons: increased congestion on the roads and at the curbside.

In London, ridehailing drivers are suing the city government to fight the imposition of an £11 per day congestion charge (other cars in London have been subject to the charge since 2003). The number of licensed private hire drivers has doubled to nearly 120,000 in the last decade, increasing journeys and substituting for public transport. Coupled with the increase in e-commerce deliveries there has been a marked increase in congestion in some areas at peak times of day.

In Cincinnati, the city's mobility lab has created the Curb Productivity Index, to ensure that the scarce asset of parking space is being used effectively, reflecting new mobility trends. In particular, pay-per-hour parking bays will be replaced by designated ridehailing pickup/drop-off spots - modern day taxi ranks. Ultimately the most scarce pickup/dropoff spots could be charged for, included in the fare price.

Both are examples of the regularisation of mobility - the Wild West days are over - and the reassertion of a traditional government role in mitigating externalities. For governments, this will be a source of revenue that's impossible to resist. For ridehailing companies and their customers, it means less profit and higher fares.

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