Where Should Your Toll Money Go?

Should the tolls you pay to traverse a bridge or highway go directly to the upkeep of that roadway, or should they go to fund transportation projects, such as public transit? Five experts debate this question in the New York Times Opinion Pages.

With cash-strapped states raiding toll revenues in their search for funding sources for a range of transportation projects, Sam Staley, economic development policy analyst with the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University and the Reason Foundation, argues against "robbing Peter to pay Paul," because he believes "[d]iverting toll revenue reduces transparency and undermines public confidence over the long run."

Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in British Columbia, delivers the counter-argument, that due to shifting demographic and economic trends, and the "uncompensated costs" of vehicle traffic, "it makes sense to shift money and road space away from automobile use and toward alternatives, like walking, cycling and public transportation, particularly in large urban areas where vehicle traffic imposes significant congestion, accident and pollution costs."

Other viewpoints are offered by Lexer Quamie, policy counsel for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Edward Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia; and C.W. Marsella, former general manager and chief executive of the Denver Regional Transportation District. 

Full Story: You Pay the Toll. Where Should That Money Go?



Lost in this predictable "debate"

is that a Silver Line to Dulles would seem to create better access to the inner DC Metro area for fringe Loudon County locations, thus increasing property values in those areas, thus pricing out house seekers who located there for the affordability/house size trade off thus encouraging new residents seeking the same to seek homes even further from the Beltway, thus having them drive from even further locales knowing they can now get to Tyson's Corner or equivalent in the same 35 minutes or whatever. Long term, doesn't it just shift the traffic west or northwest? Soon enough, those new residents of those new suburban sprawl communities will "demand" wider roads relieving congestion and so the cycle goes on and on...

I don't agree with Litman and most of the other NYT folks that want to toll roads to pay for transit, but I do think we should charge by use through vehicle registration fees through smart tags or whatever the latest technology is. This would essentially create one big toll road beginning and ending at your driveway and perhaps a portion of that could fund transit capital costs (for those routes believed to be able to support their operating costs). Roads don't have either defining characteristic of a public good and probably should not be treated as such.

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