The Coming of the Private Toll Road

tollbotth.jpgWith 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.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

One response

  1. All seems well and good in this scenario, if privatization remains limited to value neutral settings such as roads. Unfortunately, the proliferation of privatization does not end there. This is happening in jails already, and “public” schools may be next on the horizon. Welcome to WalMart…now offering your child’s education!!!

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