Matt's Blog

A Most Stupendous & Audacious Undertaking


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I don't know how it will be done up there, but last year when I was in Dallas and rented a car, I was aked if I wanted a toll tag. It was like a $5 or $10 add on and they already have a couple toll roads that are people free.

If Enterprise (from whom I rented) already has it set up in other markets, it *shouldn't* be that big of a deal to adjust it to another.

I simply don't grok toll-roads. My lack of understanding is undoubtedly related to the lack of these contrivances in my home state.

It seems to me, though, that if a toll road exists, it is for the dual purposes of funding the road's maintenance and to employing the local population. To remove the toll-collector is to destroy the larger number of local jobs and employ a single individual to maintain the technological alternative, thereby removing those wages from the local economy and possibly sending them out-of-area.

If you're removing the job-creation element, why have the toll at all? Could the maintenance for the road not be paid by sales taxes placed on fuel, automotive supplies, vehicles, vehicle registration, driver's licenses, car rentals, and other goods and services related to motoring, thus removing the need for individual toll-collection entirely?

I haven't heard of the idea of toll roads as a way of employing the local population. The number of jobs created by them is very small (only 34 for the GG bridge), so it's unlikely to have any impact. I think toll-takers are just part of the cost of collecting toll revenue. Each GG bridge toll-taker probably collects over $600 an hour during the daytime, so their salary is almost negligible.

Maintenance for roads does come from the sources you mention (gas taxes etc).

In my ideal world, there would be usage and congestion based pricing for the entire road system, with rates fluctuating based on the time of day and current traffic patterns, as well as the size of the vehicle and the fuel efficiency. It's only in the last few years that we've acquired the necessary technology to actually implement this. Congestion pricing is also great at reducing traffic -- it's done wonders for downtown London.

Maintenance for the roads depends on the system. The Bridge tolls are for the bridges themselves (they started as a way to repay the bonds issued to build the GG. One can even refuse to pay the GG toll, by going through a large hassle, and filling out a form, because the bonds have been repaid).

In other places (New Jersey, Pennsylvania) the tolls are a use tax on the road, and dedicated to maintaining them. They have a toll plaza at every offramp, and the toll is distance based.

The problem with no collector at all, is that it penalises those who don't live in the area. If one is from elsewhere knowledge of the tolls on the Dumbarton isn't automatic. I got stuck with that in Delaware, because the road I was on became toll without my knowing it.

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