I’ve seen people drive all over creation to find a gas station that sells gas for $0.02 cheaper than they can get at their local fill-up. In fact, they’ll spend 15 minutes to obtain cheaper petrol. I see the same thing with folks wanting to buy a CD, or a book or a video game.
People react to price variance, often outrageously so.
Further, I acknowledge that we need to pay for roads. Society needs to be burdened to cover the cost of building and maintaining this infrastructure. Currently we use gas taxes to cover this. However, with the advent of more fuel efficient cars, and all electric cars as well, that tax may no longer be appropriate. It is continuing to fall short of requirements, though I suspect this is in large part due to the fact that gas taxes fund other things besides roads and bridges, and so another method is required.
I think that method is tolls.
We have long ago mastered the technology that allows us to gather and collect tolls without having to stop at toll booths thereby slowing traffic. We can do this automatically and accurately. Now the only thing preventing us is fear of change.
By tolling a rod we are able to directly collect funds from the vehicles using those roads. AND we can tax some vehicles more than others. For example, an 18-wheeler is going to impact our highways much more than a Prius. We can tax the truck more. And, from a capacity perspective, we are able to tax our roads in order to increase capacity.
As I mentioned above, people will go to great lengths to avoid even a small increase in price. It is my expectation that as we increase the cost of driving on a road during peak times, fewer people will drive during those times. This will spread traffic out more evenly and allow for much more traffic on our roads than we currently experience.
And I’m glad North Carolina is going to experiment with this use:
Raleigh, N.C. — Growing congestion on Interstate 540 could require an expansion of the state’s first toll road, part of which is set to open to traffic next month, a regional transportation planner said Wednesday.
The Triangle Expressway is an 18-mile stretch of road that includes the western part of 540. Tolling is scheduled to begin in January on a 3.4-mile stretch that runs through Research Triangle Park
The rest of 540 is currently free, but planner Chris Lukasina said that could change in the future.
The long-term plan for the road, slated for completion around 2035, includes widening it from six lanes to eight, Lukasina said. Two of those lanes could become toll lanes, with varying costs throughout the day depending on traffic.
“At different times of day, or as congestion picks up or slows down, they can change the toll on that particular lane,” Lukasina said.
In other words, drivers will be able to pay their way into a faster lane.
I’ll be fascinated to see how this works.