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Old Posted Jul 15, 2019, 9:40 PM
SFBruin SFBruin is offline
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Should Toll Roads in the US be Expanded?

There has been discussion in this forum about whether toll roads should be expanded / exist at all in the United States.

I know that there are already some toll roads and / or bridges in many parts of the country, though they are not ubiquitous in all places.

Should the practice of toll roads be expanded in the US?

I guess a corollary to this is to ask whether they should exist at all in the United States (at their current level), though I assume that is mostly resolved.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jul 15, 2019, 11:46 PM
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I don't like the idea of building (and paying for) all the infrastructure that will be required to charge tolls in the old fashioned way, but I do like the idea of people paying more directly for the road they use. People with the mindset that they pay for the roads with gas tax money are 1) incomplete (gas taxes provide only a portion of road funding) and 2) disengaged from the process.
Paying for roads as you use them seems more honest to me. It makes the comparison to other modes - biking, walking, transit, ride-sharing - more fair.

It could be argued that a VMT method of paying for roads would turn all roads into roll roads. With GPS tracking enabled, you could even charge different rates for different roads (such as by making bridges more expensive to use than regular streets). As Electric autonomous taxis owned by corporations become the norm, I predict this is the direction things will go. Until more than 50% are autonomous taxis, though, the public will probably continue to demand roads be free of "invasive" tracking and tolls.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 12:29 AM
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Hell no. The pay-as-you-go approach is short-sighted. Everyone benefits from roads whether they directly use them or not. How do you think your Amazon order gets delivered? How do you think emergency services will get to your house if you ever need it? How do groceries get delivered to your local market? If you take public transit, how do you think the building materials for the system got there? How did the construction workers get there? It's just dishonest and disengaged from reality to say "I don't use it, why should I pay for it?"

Our whole economy and modern civilization is dependent on good roads and their upkeep. Everyone benefits and everyone pays - individual drivers already pay more through gas taxes and vehicle registrations. Wealthy people would hardly notice the extra couple of dollars here and there, so toll roads hit the poor and working class the hardest. It amounts to a punitive and regressive tax on the people least able to afford it, in order to fund a piece of critical infrastructure that everyone uses.
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Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 4:16 AM
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If 30 people on a bus share the same far as the single person in a car, great. Transit is far more efficient.

Same with construction. Speaking as a construction guy, that's a very small expense.

It would certainly put more of the cost onto the people who drive by themselves 500 times year...the people who cause most of the transit. It's their choice, but let them pay fairly for it.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 2:58 PM
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You do realize that public transit is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, right?
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Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 3:21 PM
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Yes absolutely. The gas tax is too indirect (and insufficient). Road users should be tolled by weight.
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Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 4:52 PM
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Arizona is planned to potentially get its first toll road as an interstate 10 reliever heading west/sw out of downtown. I dont know if the Toll Road idea will come to fruition but it has been floated.



However the Toll road portion is more of a way to make sure it acts as a reliever and disincentive to use not as a funding mechanism
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Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 8:29 PM
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Tolling is practically the only option for Alabama to be able to build the new bridge across the Mobile River and The Bay. The Wallace Tunnel (I wish they'd change the effing name...) is completely inadequate and the bridge is estimated to cost ~$1.2 billion.

As part of the project both the new bridge and the tunnel will be tolled (used as a disincentive to keep people from using the tunnel to avoid the river bridge toll. Toll free crossings of the Mobile River will remain with the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge and Bankhead Tunnel (just one lane each direction). Both are north of the Wallace Tunnel and proposed bridge.
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Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 9:37 PM
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I'm all for this. I agree with one of the above commenters who mentioned that Americans are typically too disengaged with how these roads are being paid for. Here in California, our "freeways" are generally in a terrible state. Not only would this incentivize more people to use transit, it would also greatly improve road condition. One of the few toll roads I can think of, I-73 which runs through OC to Long Beach, is total bliss (although it's a total crime how they basically provide no signage or warnings, let alone no toll booths, that you will be charged LOL) in terms of road quality and it's not as congested.
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  #10  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2019, 10:44 PM
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I think tolls are necessary. The whole thing with the Interstate Highway System, Autobahn, Autostrada, Autopista, etc... is that they're meant to be "controlled access", meaning that access points are limited to major interchanges to prevent them from becoming common roadways. That concept/theory/method no longer functions as it should due to changes in communting habits, suburbanization, or grose abuse of the "controlled access" theory by states using them for purposes of encouraging suburbanization and increasing access to nowhere-lands all across major metro areas.

I think tolling is highly appropriate for purposes for regulating traffic volume on shortcut/express roads that have an alternative, yet congested, road generally leading along the same general route. I also support tolling for public-private ventures to build large-scale, new infrastructure (such as the new Mobile River and Bay Bridge I mentioned above). I do not like the idea of using tolls explicitely discourage use of a road, but in certain cases it is necessary. For example, without tolling the Wallace Tunnel alongside the new Mobile River and Bay Bridge, (I'm just pulling #s out of my ass here) you'd have 80%-90% of commuters taking the tunnel to cross the Mobile River, not at all solving the present problem of dangerously high traffic congestion along I-10.

In the end, I don't at all agree with tolling for tolling's sake. If that money is used solely for maintenance and safety work on the tolled road, I think that is appropriate. I somewhat have an issue with tolling situations that you see in Orlando, though. I realize that a much of the tolls are charged to maintain and expand their controll access highway system, and I realize that the city has plenty of traffic and capacity issues, but it really just seems like another example of induced demand...
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  #11  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 12:44 AM
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In principle, I'm against road tolling.

Tolling as a revenue source to fund new road construction:
Are you MAD? This isn't the twentieth century. Stop building more roads!!! We need mass transit, and in most places we can't even manage to properly maintain the road infrastructure we have.

Tolling to regulate traffic volume on express roads that have an alternative, more congested route:
Unfair. It's cruel to punish the poor by making them spend more time in traffic than those who can afford to pay tolls. They already have the longest commutes. Part of the reason for that is public transit sucks pretty much everywhere in America outside NYC. Until that changes, deliberately increasing the time or the cost of people's commute by car is insensitive and mean.

Making road users pay their fair share:
Here's a better idea: increase taxes on everybody but make public transit totally free. Here's why that's better: you decrease, rather than increase, the extent to which money intrudes by warping the decisions we make in our daily lives. You decrease administration, bureaucracy, waste. Getting around the city becomes an experience of freedom, and one that makes equals of everybody, rather than dividing us into express lane and slow lane, haves and have-nots.

Having said all that, I do on balance like the Congestion Charge here in London. Effectively, it's a toll on all the roads bringing you into the central city -- it doesn't allow some people to travel on less congested routes by paying more money. Since public transit in this city is fantastic, I don't feel that poor commuters are penalized by it. It's not perfect, though, and I would still prefer transit to be free!
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  #12  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 2:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badrunner View Post
You do realize that public transit is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, right?
It's massively more efficient no matter what the measure. You could tax per vehicle, per ton, whatever...and it won't fall hard on transit.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 5:21 AM
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Originally Posted by mhays View Post
It's massively more efficient no matter what the measure. You could tax per vehicle, per ton, whatever...and it won't fall hard on transit.
If you go user pays for all transportation, I suspect the average driver will actually see a modest tax cut. Meanwhile, the average American transit user (outside of NYC) will see fares jump by a magnitude.

Here's DART revenue and expenses as an example:



https://www.dart.org/ShareRoot/debtd...cialReport.pdf

Revenues generated from operation don't even cover 1/4 of employee costs. It only survives by the tax revenue it gets from the general population (who overwhelmingly get around by car), both to cover the majority of operating expenses and all of the capital costs.

Even for the Greater Vancouver area, which has a successful transit system by North American standards, revenues from transit operations can't cover 40% of operating expenses, depreciation and interest.



https://www.translink.ca/-/media/Doc...5122B7CA7B5D6F
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 1:16 PM
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In an era of declining transit use and in an era where about 5% of the population actually rides the bus, we should be investing in roads, not road diets or bus lanes or light rail.

We should be investing in heavy rail in cities where it makes sense and the rest to roads. The future belongs to automated ride share technology.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 4:19 PM
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I don’t disagree with the “market urbanism” approach to transportation in principle, but in the real world I see problems.

Most people already live in auto centric places so they have no choice but to drive. Tolls and parking fees become a regressive tax that is more burdensome to lower incomes.

The other issue is that places change in time. New suburban home buyers may prefer to pay tolls on a highway, but 50 years later that area might become more diverse and quasi urban and the tolls and legacy sprawl infrastructure becomes an albatross.

A compromise is to separate public general mobility planning and suburban growth oriented planning. No tolls or user fees in streets or intercity highways while developers who freeways to greenfield areas can get public private partnerships going where the government lends money but doesn’t subsidize those roads at all.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sun Belt View Post
In an era of declining transit use and in an era
where about 5% of the population actually rides the bus, we should be investing in roads, not road diets or bus lanes or light rail.

We should be investing in heavy rail in cities where it makes sense and the rest to roads. The future belongs to automated ride share technology.
But again, this is due to inertia and more complex factors. I wouldn’t interpret these trends as a reason to go 100% cars only.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 4:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sun Belt View Post
In an era of declining transit use and in an era where about 5% of the population actually rides the bus, we should be investing in roads, not road diets or bus lanes or light rail.

We should be investing in heavy rail in cities where it makes sense and the rest to roads. The future belongs to automated ride share technology.
That'll just give us really wide city streets with really bad traffic congestion.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 4:37 PM
Encolpius Encolpius is offline
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Even for the Greater Vancouver area, which has a successful transit system by North American standards, revenues from transit operations can't cover 40% of operating expenses, depreciation and interest.
And you imagine that driving isn't subsidized? Actually, in percentage terms the subsidy is about the same:



In dollar terms, of course, in North America we spend billions more on roads than transit. And that's not even counting externalities, which are the most pernicious cost of driving -- the fact that it's polluting our cities, encouraging sprawl, driving up health care costs, acidifying oceans, raising sea levels, destroying our planet.

Besides, what's the alternative to transit? Building more roads? Expanding our highways to twenty lanes? As we've learned from experience, that doesn't reduce congestion: only public transit reduces congestion, because it increases capacity without promoting further sprawl.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 4:48 PM
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^ Not to mention parking minimums, cheap or free street parking, traffic enforcement costs, and other hidden subsidies afforded to drivers.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 5:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badrunner View Post
Hell no. The pay-as-you-go approach is short-sighted. Everyone benefits from roads whether they directly use them or not. How do you think your Amazon order gets delivered? How do you think emergency services will get to your house if you ever need it? How do groceries get delivered to your local market? If you take public transit, how do you think the building materials for the system got there? How did the construction workers get there? It's just dishonest and disengaged from reality to say "I don't use it, why should I pay for it?"

Our whole economy and modern civilization is dependent on good roads and their upkeep. Everyone benefits and everyone pays - individual drivers already pay more through gas taxes and vehicle registrations. Wealthy people would hardly notice the extra couple of dollars here and there, so toll roads hit the poor and working class the hardest. It amounts to a punitive and regressive tax on the people least able to afford it, in order to fund a piece of critical infrastructure that everyone uses.
I fully agree.

I'm generally against toll roads, but I grew up in SoCal so toll roads to me were always a foreign concept. I first encountered toll roads in New Jersey, and then when Orange County opened up some toll roads (kind of fitting for a conservative county, huh?) back in the early 90s, I drove down one just for the curiosity factor, and I've never used it again.

And now, LA County has HOT lanes which I've never used, on two different freeways, and in my opinion, they just add to the traffic congestion for the general purpose lanes. They essentially turned what were originally HOV and bus lanes paid for by California road taxes into toll/bus lanes, for the people who are willing to pay to use them. People do zip by on them, but at the expense of people who can't/won't pay to use them.

I drive between northern and southern California fairly regularly, and in my opinion, California's roads are generally good---It's some of the freeways in the LA area and Bay Area that can be pretty bad, condition-wise, but they take a pounding, but I guess that's no excuse. So build them better with the tax money, then. For example, in LA County, I think the worst freeway is the 710, which goes from Long Beach to just southeast of downtown LA, but it's used by many big rigs because of the Port of Long Beach, so it does take a hard beating. It gets pot-holed and worn down regularly.

When it comes to the condition of city streets, it varies by municipality. The city of Los Angeles has some really shitty streets; that city really needs to do some serious street paving. From what I've read some years ago, a lot of the concrete streets in LA were laid down almost a hundred years ago, with just some minor crack repairs done over the decades. Long Beach has nicely-paved streets, as well as some of the smaller suburbs in LA County. Torrance has nice streets. Glendale has nice streets. Norwalk and Lakewood have nice streets...

California voters have recently voted to keep the higher gas tax to fix our roads, and I think it's working. On my most recent drive through the state, I encountered a number of road projects with those signs touting "our tax dollars at work" thanks to SB whatever it's called.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2019, 5:50 PM
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I'm fine with toll roads, and expanding them. Tolls are user fees, which are fair and more direct than general taxes. With gasoline taxes covering roads, I am paying for roads that I may not be using. I'm paying to maintain a road that I did not contribute any wear and tear to. But when I pay a toll, I am using the road, so I am effectively paying for the wear and tear that I've caused.

To anyone that says tolls are worse or more regressive than gasoline taxes, I would say that gasoline taxes could be worse for all, especially the poor. If someone poor owns a car, they pay that tax any time they drive, even if it's down the street to work or to the supermarket. But with tolls, someone poor only pays that tax when they cross that bridge or use that expressway. With tolls, poor people have options: they can use free surface streets instead of the tolled expressway, and save money and pay with their time (instead of paying for the convenience of saving time, like buying milk at a corner drugstore instead of a supermarket farther away). Or, they can drive around the bridge and find a free bridge. Or, they can take public transportation across. Someone poor can't avoid the gasoline tax if they still need to drive, though.
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