How Washington, DC is trying to crack down on people owning large cars

Originally published at: How Washington, DC is trying to crack down on people owning large cars | Boing Boing


Which isn’t even a factor for some of the heaviest vehicles we’re about to start seeing on the roads:


It’s kind of a shame they can’t do more but in normal times a lot of the folks on the roads were commuters from MD and VA.


I’m open to considering any measure that reduces the many negative (sometimes literally so) impacts of cars on urban life. In DC’s case, congestion charges for non-work vehicles might be a more effective solution in terms of cost-benefit. However, there are a lot of (usually right-leaning) vested interests in the U.S. that deploy the familiar array of bad-faith arguments combined with obstructionism to block these initiatives for years if not decades.


Road tax here in NL is based on the weight of the vehicle, the thought being that’s what drives the amount of wear and tear the vehicle causes.


EVs are going to be unfairly penalized by this, because batteries weigh a lot. A Chevy Bolt, which is by no measure a “large” car in America, weighs 3589 pounds putting it in the same penalty category as some F-150 pickup trucks.


It is weight that causes most road damage so the heavier the vehicle you choose to drive, the more you should pay to maintain those roads you (otherwise) freely use.

Whether there should be an offset for EVs depends on whether the local authority here is trying to generate revenue for road maintenance or is trying to reduce air pollution.

But EVs are not as much better as everyone thinks, re that. Tyre dust is a major problem. (Also related to vehicle weight.)


Designing transport systems around the car is a really bad idea, part 3,904.


Weight is weight in terms of wear and tear on the roads, but I agree there should be extra disincentives on top of these charges for choosing to drive any kind of ICE vehicle. There are ways to make sure the fees for driving a Ford F-150 that runs on petrol will always be higher than those for a Chevy Bolt.

The details are important, but so is the larger vision of urban cores that are free of car traffic and their associated blight.


A tax on gasoline, for example? (In California it’s $0.68/gallon. I’m all for raising it even further, but it sure isn’t insignificant.)


Obviously, but in the context of the weight-based municipal fees being discussed here a little extra penalty there as well to redress the issue @jaded brought up.

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Congestion tolls are an easily-abused rabbit hole. I-66 inside DC’s beltway introduced these during rush hour shortly before the pandemic, but the threshold for “congestion” was/is set so low and no limit was imposed such that the cost to drive 10 miles into the city quickly shot up to over $50 at peak, entirely eliminating the route’s viability to all but corporate-paid vehicles and 1%-ers, and shunting all its prior traffic onto side streets or, in my case, halfway around the beltway to 395 from the south, adding 45 additional minutes to my commute. Small blessing that covid let me work from home, then eliminated my office entirely.

Before anyone suggests mass transit, the metro doesn’t go anywhere near my residence or workplace and would run 3.5-4hrs each way by car+bus+metro+shuttle.

No paywall:


I’m thinking of the lane width on streets like Western Ave and I can’t imagine driving one of these behemoths. I feel like I don’t have enough space with my mid-sized sedan.


Yes, I know that heavier vehicles cause more damage to roads. But Thom’s writeup specifically mentions the danger of large pickups and SUVs to pedestrians in an urban environment, which is why I brought up the EV issue.

However, I just looked into the actual proposed law, and this is what it says (emphasis added):

Subtitle G. Motor Vehicle Registration Fee Act of 2022: This subtitle amends the
District of Columbia Revenue Act of 1937, to modify the motor vehicle registration fee schedule.
It increases registration fees for heavier vehicles; add an additional fee for trucks and SUVs;
provide a weight discount for electric vehicles; and directs the Mayor to create an assistance
program to help low-income vehicle owners afford increased registration fees.

So it looks like they’re going to try to do everything: increasing fees on heavier vehicles to offset weight-based damage, increasing fees on larger vehicles to disincentivize their ownership in the urban environment, reducing fees on EVs to incentivize their adoption, and provide relief for low income residents.

As is typical with so many well-intentioned laws, I’m sure this will have its problems. But at least they’re trying.


TDS epidemic.

Cherry picking particle pollution is a very disingenuous argument though. Particle pollution is unfortunate. Carbon dioxide is murdering the planet.

Nothing else matters until we fix that. This is like complaining about asbestos in the attic when the house is on fire.


68c/gallon tax:

/UK has entered the chat.


This is a regressive tax unless complicated exceptions are put in place to protect lower income people.

EVs are still a massive luxury. They are expensive and you need a suburban single family home to charge them in at night. It’s primarily low income people with no other choice who would be hurt by a gas tax.

A more general carbon tax can work well though, if properly implemented. This is evidence-based policy. Canada has been doing this for a bit now. Too soon to say how well it’s working, but I’m a fan of it.


Given the price of big vehicles these days, $500/year for registration is lost in the noise.


As long as a substantial portion of the taxes are put towards funding public transportation options so that people do have other choices then I’m fine with it as a necessary evil. Even with gas taxes we as a society already subsidize the costs of private vehicle ownership in the form of building toll-free roads and massive publicly-funded infrastructure projects to facilitate them. We should divert more resources to subsidizing and incentivizing public transportation instead.

Also: one of the cheapest new cars available today is a hybrid truck from Ford that costs less and gets better MPG than a Honda Accord or a Kia Soul. That tells me that automakers still have plenty of room to step up their game on cheap, fuel-efficient cars if they were properly motivated to do so. If Ford can build a 5-passenger truck that gets 42 mpg in the city for $20k then why the hell aren’t other automakers offering small commuter cars that are cheaper and even more efficient? Because we haven’t provided enough incentives for either automakers or car buyers, is why.