With the nation’s freeways clogged past the bursting point, and government funds barely able to maintain what exists, the need for a new transportation solution is increasingly dire. Better planning & usable transit are part of the equation but for the car-driving majority the increasingly likely solution is privatised toll roads.
Before cringing at the thought of shelling out even more of your hard earned cash for commuting, ponder a few of the benefits:
1) It’s a free market solution – you don’t pay if you don’t want to, and no taxes are needed – putting the cost of the roadway (and by extension, externalities like pollution) more squarely on the wallets of those who use the roads.
2) Sophisticated toll technology can charge higher prices when the road is crowded, and less when there are few people out – encouraging people to spread out their driving across the day, resulting in more efficient use.
3) It can be used as a way to encourage car pooling when the government lets carpoolers avoid the toll. From the NY Times:
The tolls have also succeeded in doing what no amount of cajoling and public service announcements could do: get people to car-pool. The 91 now has the highest occupancy per vehicle of any major road in California, state officials said.
The two projects to watch are happening on the DC beltway and the Chicago Skyway. In the latter case, the city of Chicago scored $1.8 Billion in badly needed cash to turn over near-total control of the notoriously rickety skyway to the Spanish firm Cintra.
Finally, the colossal Trans-Texas-Corridor will, for better or worse, take the cake as the ultimate public/private transportation route. Notably, the project’s scope (the thing is going to be 1/4 mile wide) is so over the top, it’s raised protests from all ends of the political spectrum, from conservative ranchers who want to keep their rural way of life at peace, to environmentalists. But that’s another story.