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It is not easy to determine what, for example, a road user or train passenger must pay to cover infrastructure costs and the costs of negative effects.

The Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (KiM) recently published an in-depth analysis of the economic and social impact of passing on mobility costs to users and polluters. The study, entitled 'The unpaid bill of mobility use', sheds light on the complexity of fully passing on infrastructure costs and the costs of negative impacts such as air pollution, noise pollution and traffic jams. This research is crucial in the debate about how society deals with the hidden costs of mobility.

According to KiM, the 'user and polluter pays' principle offers a fair approach to sharing the costs associated with mobility. By making these costs explicit, travelers and freight transporters are encouraged to make more conscious choices about means of transport, route and time, which can lead to less environmental impact and traffic congestion. This principle could also increase overall prosperity by encouraging behavioral changes that reduce the negative externalities of transport.

The income generated from charging can also be used to finance infrastructure, such as the construction of cycle paths and road maintenance, or for measures that combat the negative effects of mobility, such as subsidies for electric vehicles or the installation of noise barriers.

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Photo: Pitane Blue - Utrecht station

However, the calculation of the actual costs that need to be charged appears to be a complex issue. Determining these costs requires quite a few assumptions and choices, such as exactly which costs should be charged and to what extent. Moreover, accessibility to detailed data on infrastructure expenditure from different levels of government – ​​central government, provinces and municipalities – is often limited. This makes it difficult to prepare an accurate 'unpaid bill'.

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In addition to the technical and administrative challenges in determining these costs, the implementation of the 'user and polluter pays' principle also entails significant implementation costs. The question is whether these costs outweigh the social benefits. Lower income groups in particular may be disproportionately affected by higher travel costs, which can limit their access to mobility and thus increase social inequality.

This KiM report underlines the need for careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of passing on mobility costs. It provides a framework for policymakers to assess which approach is most effective in promoting sustainable and equitable mobility.

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