Congestion Charging: Stay Home, Get Paid?

In these times of lockdown, what could be better than being paid by the road to stay at home a little bit longer?

It may sound strange, but there could be a way to make this unprecedented period financially rewarding, even for small businesses, says Eric Masaba, founder of the Transit Exchange for the 21st Century (Texxi) and the man credited with inventing the ridesharing phenomenon over a decade ago,

“We are aware of energy contracts that reward subscribers with lower bills for not using power at certain times. In extreme cases, these contracts even pay people for not drawing power in order to increase the overall energy distribution capacity. But what is less known is that is can also apply to the road network.

“A conventional congestion charging scheme is rife with negative connotations,” says Masaba, “but it simply provides incentives for people to choose how and when they travel in order to maximise the utilisation of a scarce resource – roadspace.”

As an example, Masaba cites Embarcadero Station in San Francisco that was famously able to quadruple overall capacity with the simple expedient of requesting that the largest employers stagger the start times of their employees by up to half an hour each. The resulting “smoothing out” of demand led to more people overall being able to use the transport system.

Adds Masaba: “If transport pricing does the same thing, we would see a large proportion of people choosing to use different transit modes (such as shared taxis or coaches) at peak times, without being told to do so, since the financial and convenience incentives would exist. This works in the same way as paying tolls, except the tolls are negative.

“Such an arrangement increases the revenue for the road operator, replacing road tax with “pay as you go” charges, in much the same way a Netflix subscription model would replace an annual television licence fee.

As a large part of the UK is not effectively accessible by public transport options, on demand transport in the form of taxis, minibuses and coaches have to be available for the vast majority of trips that are intended to replace the private car, he continues.

“For those trips that must be completed by the private car, market pricing to encourage users to buy slots to make the best use of the available capacity is key.”

As for who and what is responsible for paying drivers not to drive, and how those funds are collected and distributed, Masaba has a crystal clear vision.

“The payment to the lower use driver is funded from the collected payments of other drivers who must use the roads at peak times. Think of congestion charges being collected but of limited benefit to those who manage their road use better. By moving the ‘fulcrum’ from 0 to negative, we, and by we I mean Texxi, can pay someone a cut of the total revenues for participating in staggering the start and end times of their working day – a very important incentive in changing behaviour.”

Click HERE to listen to Episode One of our new SHARED MOBILITY podcast series, featuring Thinking Highways editor Kevin Borras and Texxi’s Eric Masaba.

To find out more about being paid by the road network to stay at home you can find him on LinkedIN at or visit