(12t) Kilometres charge and other ways to reduce traffic and invest in other ways of travelling

That's why I don't go in Belgian or Flemish politics. Nothing can be done. Another reason is that it's difficult to understand everything from about half the Belgium population. An example, certain Flemish politicians were in favour of a kilometers charge. Indeed, there is too much traffic in Flanders that result in daily traffic jams, a waste of money in time and fossil fuels that also cause air pollution. A charge would be able to reduce traffic and if not, at least the government would benefit from it to invest in better public transport and safer streets.

No longer, the politicians who said they were in favour are too long members of certain political parties so they are now convinced that the charge can be consideredas an extra tax for which citizens receive nothing in return. Indeed, I too am in favour of as low as possible taxes but in Belgium this will never be achievable except for short periods during which budgets derail so afterwards even more actions are needed to balance the budget and as requested by the EU. Unless politicians finally understand that income needs to be generated so it can be spent and thus not always first spend before receiving money; little happens.

And thus, now those same politicians who were in favour argue that this charge is only possible when there is something in return such as good public transport, something that is not available everywhere. Indeed, the province Limburg is an example of a region with bad train connections such as one train per hour, something that can be fixed by demanding for example two trains per hour and thus minimal investments, certainly when certain regions can do with less trains. But, for local use the province has excellent cycling lanes that don't need much additional investments. Thus, each area needs its own investments and the charge can earn money to finance those investments.

Also, now they say it should not be throughout Flanders as first discussed and they continue that people will not understand why they change their mind; therefore they stop even to talk and think about its introduction. I disagree. They can discuss during the current election period why they changed and suggest something better so people can understand and vote for those they think are right. For instance, maybe they should explain they will start the easiest way, i.e. inside city centres (maybe this is a new plan that's not yet communicated but will be introduced after the elections?). But, that doesn't mean they should stop the introduction of the charge completely.

And yes, also a fairer tax system whereby the wealthy pay their part of taxes instead of finding new ways to avoid paying them would also help, even allow lower taxes for everyone, rich and poor. If they continue to avoid paying taxes, the government can do little and climate change may punish.

How to finance clean air and reduce traffic should be discussed during election periods so people know what they may expect.

 Reasons why kilometer charge is good

First, the charge should be sufficient so it hurts a little and results in a reduction of the number of cars on the streets. As public transport is not perfect everywhere and people who live in such areas should not be penalized for bad public transport, politicians can decide (each year?) that every person (and thus not each car) for private use receives a certain number of kilometres as a gift. The advantages: people who use their car not / not often pay little or even nothing (apart from a general tax to be paid by everyone). This should stimulate carpooling as more people may travel together such as up to 5 persons per car to extend their kilometres free from charge, allocated per person. This will reduce the numbers of cars and thus traffic jams but also may prevent a sudden large increase in train passengers as trains are already overcrowded. In addition, fewer cars on the streets means less spending on maintenance of streets. Finally, general taxes to maintain streets can go down as users contribute more than those who use less private transport.
Per person, of course with exceptions such as truck drivers and ambulance and fire brigade personnel, otherwise their free driving period would be gone in a day. Here governments earn because these vehicles have to pay for the use of streets (maybe here a better solution is a fee each 3 months instead of a kilometers charge) while the person keeps the free private kilometres.
For people who drive around with a company car, then certain hours can be dedicated as work hours (maximum 38h per week) so the company pays the kilometres charge and the person doesn't use its own free kilometers while outside those hours are private driving hours and the free kilometres are used until they are finished and the person starts to pay. It shows this needs to be discussed and not simply be removed from discussions. Because, probably it will be introduced one day.

Second, the charge earns money that can be used to invest in better train connections, good and save parking space close to stations, good cycling lanes between and in cities and towns and improvements of the infrastructure for pedestrians. This costs money and thus a moderate kilometres charge (free for a certain number of kilometres, not too high later) earns money to invest in a better system. And general taxes of which part are used to renew / maintain streets may even go down.
But, are the children who demand since months climate change actions punished? Indeed, they have no vote yet but put the need for climate actions on the political agenda. Thus, by not introducing the charge now but first to suggest that the infrastructure should improve, is this a way to increase debts as money needs to be lent that the climate change protesters will have to repay plus interest ones they are adults? Politicians should know also their own children will have to pay. And, as people live longer, even pensioners will have to repay the debts. Indeed, comments under articles concerning these climate change protests mentioned often that children should shut up and go to school to study e.g. about climate change if they wish (while their actions illustrate they understand the not so far away troubles).
Further, it's only normal that people who drive pay for the maintenance of the streets when they are damaged by those vehicles while general taxes should exist to finance part of the maintenance as all of us use streets.
Finally, specifically for Flanders, a concrete stop should be enforced now. More houses means more streets and sewage that need maintenance and the cost may reach a breaking point; I think more people should live in cities, towns and villages that need less streets, sewage, electricity lines between the houses while a good public transport should exist to transport persons.

Third, how much kilometers people drive can be followed by an apparatus that send information to a computer that calculates the kilometers driven and thus what people have to pay. These payments can also be used to invest in the new 5G network, thus resulting in a modernisation of internet connections.

Of course, a tax on cars is possible, even with gradations according how polluting the car is. Still, I'm more in favour of combination of a tax and kilometers charge because, if someone has a car that pollutes much but is hardly used, than a combination of a kilometers charge multiply with a factor according how much the car pollutes (e.g. multiply with 1 for clean cars while multiply with 5 for major polluters), then all drivers contribute by paying for the use of and thus also damage to streets and air pollution while this results in a stimulus to buy clean cars. In this way, the general taxes that everyone must pay to maintain streets can go down as those who use cars pay a larger amount. This, together with a reduction in company cars (whereby the driver uses its own free kilometers) as discussed before, will result in lowering of traffic taxes. Further, people who earn below a certain amount should receive financial help to buy a cleaner car as the poorest have often the most polluting cars because newer cars are more expensive to buy. And, if the poor may get something for free, the rich will agree that the poor should earn more, as long as the rich don't have to contribute to the poor. Of course, I can be wrong.

But, Belgium is a good excuse not to act: either one part of the country wants something else or it is too generalised. Whatever. Almost every political party now agrees this kilometers charge is unfair instead of thinking of a fair charge that mainly targets those who travel a lot by car. But, as events throughout the world show, climate change is very expensive but also deadly. In the end, it will force actions upon us, whether we like it or not.

London, the example

Compare this with London. Indeed, the richest city in Europe. And you know why? Because the people who rule that city dare to take decisions that are even supported by many and they don't hide behind the excuse there is no consensus. They introduced a congestion charge, £8.00 per day, not cheap but in the centre so everyone, including wealthy people and tourists pay (although the wealthy may reduce it from their general taxes). The success was overwhelming and even bigger than anticipated so income from the charge was lower than budgeted. Still, this money was invested in world-class public transport: extension and modernisation of underground, electric and hybrid buses but also good streets with cameras that not only check that everyone who enters the congestion zone paid but also to check that everyone obeys the laws, resulting in a relatively smooth and safe traffic for such a big city.
People who want to be politicians should not be scared to explain what they think is best for society. Indeed, people may not vote for them but than these people should accept the consequences, i.e. traffic jams, money borrowed by banks to maintain streets that need to be repaid plus interest and thus probably higher taxes.

Other possibilities

Of course, other ways can used such as increase of the taxes on the fossil fuels. This way, everyone pays, including foreigners, and those who use their vehicle more pay more. The problem is that Flanders is small and people can go over the border where the fuels may be cheaper. In that case, in Flanders the fuels may have another colour than in surrounding regions although then this must be checked. Best thus to have a common price throughout a large region. And, with the additional income, the above mentioned things can be fine such as better and cleaner public transport, good cycling lanes, ... .

Another way is as used in France where people pay to use the highway. It can be automated: each car is linked to an account. Cameras can recognise the cars that enter the highway and leave it. This way, people pay for the number of kilometers but only for the highways and thus, the free kilometers may not be given for this as the use of public transport should be encouraged. Foreigners either create a link between their vehicle and account or get a ticket before they enter the highway and pay when they leave; this may be slightly more expensive to encourage the link between car and account. To increase safety, the account may be a fill up one and not your main account to lessen the likelihood a criminal get your details.

Whatever way, this should be discussed during an election period that results in a consensus how to move forward. Maybe a referendum may decide what people want or towns and cities can decide what system they prefer or a combination, either way but I'm sure it will be introduced one day (and so do organisations), certainly when the numbers of people who don't use their car increases but still they must pay a large amount of general tax to maintain streets. The new systems will still ensure some solidarity but also individual responsibility when each driver pays for using streets. Similarly, I think public transport should be cheap but not free so people understand everything costs and thus will respect more the trains, buses, metro, ... . Introduce this charge one day while during the election campaign politicians seem to suggest it will not and people will be angry as they need to be told why it is done.

Renovation of museums - side note

It's not only about revenues from cars that is impossible to introduce in Belgium, also other things suffer from the same logic.
For instance, museums that need restoration. The whole building is closed for many years and thus without any income. More efficiently would be that first the bar is renovated and part of the museum so that later smaller exhibitions and an open bar can continue to generate income while other parts are closed for renovations as I understand it is not possible to renovate everything at the same moment. No, in Belgium, everything is closed so it costs lots of money and earns nothing.

Old Citroen garage that will be closed for years to transform it into a museum. Keeping an area open for smaller exhibitions as well as a bar would generate income to partly pay the transformation


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