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Tolls. Oh yippee



User fees are the most "fair" way to pair for infrastructure. It's not economically efficient to collect taxes on fuel in the aggregate, and then piecemeal out highway funding by any other metric than usage (although it makes for great politics).


Far from it, toll roads reduce congestion on non toll roads so non toll payers also benefit from them.

If you want an improvement then paying by weight and mileage would be more fair unlike our current system which discounts trucks which do far more damage than their fuel usage accounts for. But, tolls are on net an even worse system than we already have.


>so non toll payers also benefit from them.

That's just a glass half full way of saying that tolls keep poor people from taking trips that would involve those roads so the roads are less busy. $5 or $10 isn't much when your lunch is an overpriced $15 bagel at some trendy authentic restaurant. People who are packing PB&J to the job side avoid the toll road even if it takes longer

Road tolls are just another regressive tax. If the state senators don't want to sit in the same gridlock as the plebes they should take the train, not tax the plebes off the road. If the train is also too crowded they should increase infrastructure spending on one/both counts until the clusterfuck is reduced to a point they're ok with.

Tolls never go away. The best the poor people can hope for is that they don't get inflation adjusted so that there's a 10-20yr run where it's affordable to use the road before the politicians realize that the toll is low and raise it again.


It's not just about people making the same trip from A->B now using the toll or not. Local roads backup when highways backup. So, the difference can end up very significant even for trips that don't go near the toll roads.


This is a good point, but road use tolls don't have to be the same all day long. Charge more during rush hour, and poor drivers will find ways to use the road at other times.


In practice that means that the tolls are expensive enough to be a PITA for poor people all the time and a PITA for everyone but the rich during peak times. See the DC area for examples.


It may be grim, but in the short term that's probably the best we can do. DC should have fewer drivers and more public transit commuters: that would be a better place to live and work. They're not going to hold a lottery to let one poor dude drive in his own lane and stick some rich dude on a bus.


Your argument applies to congestion charging on existing roads. Using tolls to fund additional capacity that wouldn't otherwise exist is a different thing.


Could you go into more detail? I always wondered why public roads would opt for awful toll plaza back-ups over increasing the gas tax.


Trucks cause more wear and tear, not all people use highways either who purchase gas


Gas tax wouldn’t solve congestion on a specific piece of the road. Also, there is no need for toll plazas with the new high speed camera setups. They’re not even really new, Canada has had them for decade(s).


You don't have to put a toll gate and slow everyone down to 15mph to collect a toll. Open-road tolling, such as in the Chicago region, can easily read a transponder (or a license plate) at 70mph. Some places have gone so far as to move to all-electronic tolling, with no toll booths (e.g., Mass turnpike).


Many more crossings in the NY metro area are now open-tolled for both EZPass and toll-by-mail: Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Tappan Zee


Yep, the tolling in the Seattle area works similarly - no booths, just profit, even if you're hauling ass at 85mph


All-to-real scenario: you pay $X in gas taxes and use Road XYZ every day. Unfortunately, Road XYZ is constantly jammed and full of pot holes because all the gas tax cash is funding an extremely under-used fancy new highway connecting Nowheresville, USA to SlightlyLessNowheresville, USA. Why? Because the general assemblymen from Nowheresville and SlightlyLessNowheresville are senior members of the transportation committee.

> I always wondered why public roads would opt for awful toll plaza back-ups over increasing the gas tax.

Open-road tolling with a combination of transceivers and a "pay online later" solves this problem. Toll plazas (and the people who work them) are entirely unnecessary.


It's not really an issue these days. In this area, EZ-Pass is pushed hard, and makes toll plazas a non-issue for the most part. There is very little need to slow down as most can just capture your license plate number and charge you that way, making the entire experience easy. This ensures that the roads that actually get used get the money from people using them, something that doesn't happen with a gas tax.


>In this area, EZ-Pass is pushed hard

Because it has the side benefit of being an easier/cheaper way to track people than license plate cameras. They could just do pay by plate and give people a paperless discount if they only wanted to save money. I bet EZpass gets a cut too so that adds yet another dimension to it.

>There is very little need to slow down

Yet morons still feel the need to do so creating the same traffic jams that high speed tolling was supposed to solve...

>This ensures that the roads that actually get used get the money from people using them

This is what they said about I90 in MA "the tolls will just stick around long enough to pay for the cost of construction." The it was "it'll only be used to pay for maintenance". Famous last words. We all know how that turned out, just another revenue stream it's impossible to take away or account for the use of.


> Because it has the side benefit of being an easier/cheaper way to track people than license plate cameras. They could just do pay by plate and give people a paperless discount if they only wanted to save money. I bet EZpass gets a cut too so that adds yet another dimension to it.

A lot of the E-ZPass system is about the simplification of the back-office processing. When you get a transponder, you have an account set up to do the debiting and also identify your current mailing address. License plate recognition, by contrast, requires getting details from different databases, and the mapping to the vehicle owner is less robust. It really is easier for the toll providers if they use a transponder system than it is to do license plate recognition.

Also, E-ZPass is an interagency consortium, not a company. It's actually largely run by the Port Authority of NY and NJ. The only fee that appears to be collected is a one-time $10 to use the trademark.


>Yet morons still feel the need to do so creating the same traffic jams that high speed tolling was supposed to solve...

In Chicagoland, everybody seems to have no issue ripping through toll gates at 75-80 miles per hour. I assure you we are no smarter than anywhere else.


They can be a good allocation method, but often you get 'premium' roads and weird routing because of splitting things up.

Now if there was a toll on all major roads of 2c a mile for cars and ten times that for trucks, then I'd be all for it.


Economically, that's pretty much what a gas tax does.


If you ignore the part about allocating money, yes. But the allocation was rather the point of the comment I was responding to.


The problem with tolls, and gas taxes and vehicle registrations for that matter, is that they disproportionally affect the poor. I, and many on HN might not give the marginal cost second thought, but for many it adds up.


Does it? Unless you mean the poor will have a harder time shouldering a similar tax rate, I'm not certain why poorer people would be using the roads more often than richer people. That said, there's no reason a toll system couldn't be given a progressive by setting different rates for different tax tiers or something. Rates could be associated with individual vehicles.


For those who drive, certainly. Road tolls in my experience have been either a flat fee (e.g., the ones around Chicago, IL) or by distance traveled (e.g., the Ohio Turnpike). This is effectively a flat tax rate, not a progressive rate. Thus it will have a greater financial impact on someone with a low paying job who drives.


You have a point, and charging too little in certain taxes is one strategy to help the poor.

I'd rather keep the tax and give them money, but that seems... difficult in the current political climate.




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