yes but it sounds like even if the money they were "spending" wasn't their own, they got to "keep" the remaining money (that wasn't their own) at the end.
I'd take the bus every day for 8 months if it meant $3000.
I'm all for tolls, even though they'd cost me a (tax deductible) fortune, given how much my business requires me to drive. Then again, I'm for taxing everything to the true cost. Meat should be $20/pound, non-organically grown vegetables should cost more than organically grown vegetables to factor in the cost of the environmental impact (though all vegetables and fruits should be subsidized to recognize their positive impact on national health coffers). If we put targeted taxes and subsidies on things to price them for their true cost to our society, we'd have better priorities.
I may disagree with a lot of your transit ideology, ECB, but I support tolling 520 and perhaps even the viaduct to buy each respective road time for and to fund their replacement.
I'm with Gitai. I have always been slightly baffled by the lack of tolls here. Tolls are nice and simple...the drivers pay for the roads they drive on. Not like confusing ballot initiatives to charge homeowners with extra property taxes to pay for roads (huh?). It's much easier to come up with a buck here or there than a lump sum ($450 monorail tax for example) when you have to get your new car tabs, too!
I am no free trader, but it seems like tolls are a good way to introduce pseudo-supply and demand economics to transit. Rather than getting social welfare (free roads even if you don't use them), people who use them can vote with their dollar. I have always wondered why opponents of government programs for the poor are not opposed to things like government intervention in transportation. I guess I shouldn't really be surprised, and now that I think of it I am not.
The problem with tolls is that they're difficult to apply universally (if you toll 520 you'll just force more traffic on 90 - if you toll the viaduct people will clog the surface streets) and they are expensive to implement (either with booths or monitoring equipment). Instead of tolls, what we need is a $2 per gallon gas tax.
Y'all are apparently too young to remember this, but there were tolls on the 520 bridge for many years after it opened, 1963-1979. I remember those booths well. Tolls are an old idea that has been abandoned, not a new one that hasn't been tried. Tolls don't collect enough money to be worthwhile; sometimes they barely even pay for the collection workers.
There's also no way you're going to gain much support for any idea that reduces mobility. Stopping for toll booths is a pain. If we put on instead of tolls an electronic congestion-pricing system, or other program featuring automatic collection, you'll have much better luck. That's the real future, not old-fashioned tolls.
The wonderful thing about tolls is they're a conservative means to a liberal end. Conservative means in that they're market-oriented and they amount to more of a user fee than a tax. Liberal end in that they encourage people to drive less and hopefully take transit more. (Okay, never mind that in Seattle we don't have mass transit yet, but that's the hole we've dug ourselves.)
Now, there's one other end that tolls achieve that's neither liberal or conservative, and that's reducing traffic congestion. Today, with our freeways, we have a classic example of "the tragedy of the commons." Collectively, it's in nobody's interest for everybody to drive rather than take transit. Individually, though, it's too often in one's own interest to drive. By the way, I believe the textbook example of the tragedy of the commons is shepherds whose flocks share the same grazing lands.
Still, how do you make tolls more palatable to voters, and how do you keep tolls from becoming just another revenue stream on which government can fatten itself? One way is to phase them in. Another is to make sure any funds raised are dedicated to specific and relevant projects, whether it be paying the debt on the road being tolled or transit in that corridor. But to me, the most intriguing way to make tolls more "conservative" is to offset the tolls' revenue increase with tax cuts elsewhere.
And this brings me to a more intriguing tax/user fee than tolls, and that's a carbon tax. The most simple and effective way America can combat global warming and achieve energy independence (and in the process reduce the threat of Islamist terrorism) is with a carbon tax, a fossil fuel tax, an oil/gas tax. Yes, it's not a free lunch; that's the whole point of anything that's effective. But to make a carbon tax more palatable and fairer to working folks, you'll notice that Al Gore, for one, never talks about a carbon tax alone; he talks about a carbon tax that is offset by a cut in payroll taxes. The idea is simple: you use the marketplace to encourage people to work and discourage people from polluting and compromising our national security.
Oh, and for those who call this social engineering, it's just as much social engineering as Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan's effort to cut tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and to cut taxes on investments. The idea, explicitly, was to encourage the accumulation of wealth. Heck, it's social engineering too when we tax cigarettes more than other products -- we want to discourage smoking. "Social engineering" is done all the time by government; it's nothing to be ashamed of. Goodness knows, though, ExxonMobil probably pays its PR hacks a reward every time they can work in the phrase.
FNARF, don't you think tolls would be more successful now? I have no stats, but the everyday traffice on 520 is way more than it was in 1979. Even if folks made efforts to use 90 (which I think should be tolled too), I can't believe that 520 wouldn't generate enough $$ in tolls to support itself and then some.
I grew up in the east where tolls are the norm, so I don't get the big deal.
Fnarf: There's also no way you're going to gain much support for any idea that reduces mobility. Stopping for toll booths is a pain. If we put on instead of tolls an electronic congestion-pricing system, or other program featuring automatic collection, you'll have much better luck. That's the real future, not old-fashioned tolls.
I think it's a safe assumption that, when it comes to any new tolls in our region, they're not going to involve drivers stopping at a tollbooth. It's all going to be automatic collection. I don't quite understand how it works, but apparently it's working elsewhere.
In response to Fnarf's other observation that "Tolls don't collect enough money to be worthwhile," well, it all depends on how you define "worthwhile." If your goal is to reduce congestion, then that's all just a function of how high you make the toll. If your goal is to pay for a road or a bridge, that's a different story. At the risk of regurgitating news stories I've read, I don't recall tolls ever being envisioned as raising more than a few hundred millions dollars for any given project.
Yes, Fnarf, I do recall that 520 originally had tollbooths.
Tolls aren't always a great idea, but in the case of 520, there is leverage in implementing it: 520 is one of only two direct throughfares between Seattle and the Eastside. Sure, someone in Kirkland COULD go 5-10 miles out of their way and sit in gridlock on I-90, or spend forever going up and around Lake Washington via 522. But there are many who will just say, "Ah, screw it," and pay the $1-3.
Having visited the Bay Area many times, I assure you that tolls are certainly no deterrent to drivers taking the Bay Bridge, or even lesser spans like westbound on the Dumbarton Bridge. There is leverage in tolling bridges over large water bodies: "Well, sure you don't have to pay. You could just drive around."
I thought it was a given 520 would be tolled. I'd like to see a study of converting the I-5 express lanes to a two way toll road. The commute is not nearly as directional as it used to be. It would make more sense to have one/two lanes each direction for buses, carpools and those willing to pay for it.
What? Why toll the express lanes alone? Why not just toll the entire highway?
I am certainly in favor of 520/viaduct tolls, but to extend a tolling regime to a bunch of other roads would work for about a year, until Eyman would be resurrected by another easily passed initiative.
If you want people out of their cars, give them a real transit system around here. Folks would gladly give up their cars if the transit system(s) served their needs. Our current 'system' is such a joke; no wonder everybody drives.
This is off topic, but someone told me a long time ago of some scam the 520 toll-booth operators had. Paying cash (or probably change back then) was slightly more expensive than paying with a ticket (or token or whatever), so every time the operators were paid in cash they would just insert a ticket/token and keep the quarter, thus amasing a few cents per car, which added up. If anyone was alive at that time to confirm or deny this, let me know (it may actually have all happened in a dream).
By the way, FNARF, if tolls are so inefficient and obsolete why are they so common on the East Coast? Hasn't anyone told them? (serious question)
So is it Ed Murray or my 43rd District neighbors who don't know what they're talking about? I mean, whose uninformed mind does "This isn’t Amsterdam — this is the West" come from?As reported in this guide to renting cars in Holland,
There are no toll highways in the Netherlands.
The post following yours illustrates my reasoning. Tolling existing facilities isn't feasible without some offseting benefit: new bridge, added capacity, etc.
Converting the I-5 express lanes to a two-way High Occupancy Toll road helps more people than it hurts. Buses and carpools running outside the traditional commute hours would be much faster. Those alone and late for work can pay the toll, an option that didn't exist before outside rush hour.
The mainline remains unaffected, so it would be easy to implement and shouldn't stir up much driver outrage. Better transit reliability and speed, a new option for those in a hurry, and extra revenue for the state.
Yes, on tolls, I say. Toll every mile with GPS or the intarweb or whatever.
The only thing that makes it a less than perfect user fee is that it doesn't fully offset what you use up when you drive: the heavier vehicles put more wear and tear on the roads than the light ones, and of course pollute more.
So a carbon tax isn't only about air quality and climate change. It collects a fairly-portioned fee for road repairs.
It isn't quite perfect: Ferrai drivers will pay too much because their cars don't actually mash up the pavement the way a big truck does, even though their mileage is just as shitty.
But so what? Screw the Ferrai drivers.
Hey, I'm all for having those that use the roads, pay for the roads, but isn't that what the gas tax is for?
I wonder why no one in Seattle's proposed a congestion zone. That shit worked wonders in London (average traffic speed: 6 mph, three times faster than pre-congestion charge), and it's implemented in a very clever way that doesn't have any toll booths. Just eye-in-the-sky cameras that snap your license plate.
SJ, except that the onramps and offramps to these lanes are only one lane, and buses use the express lanes. You'd hold them up by instituting tolls, which is counterproductive.
Late to the game on this one, accursed holiday!
I was actually a participant in this study. Surprising even to me, the "cost" of driving affected me, even when I was job-hunting during the study. I found myself focusing almost entirely on short-commute positions.
I am a big fan of actual per-mile road use taxation, modified by road availability, and possibly by vehicle weight.
The big concern I had about the method used in this particular study though was that if it was actually put in place, the taxing authority would have a complete record of all of my travel. That would be a bit disturbing, and is probably one of the "political" issues that nay-sayers are considering.
BC - yes, you would think that advertisers would like to get their hands on where you drive and your demographic info, to say nothing of the government's potentially more sinister uses.
The tolls would be EZ-Pass only. Variable message sign tells you how much as you enter. Registered car/vanpools and buses get free transponders. Those getting on without an EZ-Pass get a picture of their plate taken and a $100 ticket in the mail. No slowdown necessary.
The author completely misinterprets my comments (again), but it does not surprise me.
Consider what I said about tolls in the P. I. earlier in the month:
"We know we need a new bridge, and you can't finance a bridge without tolls. Tolls are in our future."
My comments dealt with the political reality we face to change the transportation culture we live. Honesty about the obstacles is not an attitude; it is this case, it is a regrettable fact, one we must understand to overcome. It was just twelve years ago that last SR 520 proposal was killed, because of opposition in my own district, in part because of tolls.
The author’s blog ignores that fact that I fought for a passed legislation creating tolls for a hot lane on SR167 and passed funds to research in implement tolling is central Puget Sound.
To N in Seattle: The comment about Amsterdam was in regards to the reporter’s question about a new program the Dutch are proposing. The issue related to land use; the Netherlands has some of the highest density in the world, and our region has some of the lowest. To a great extent land use drives transportation. It appear the mistake I made in the article in question was speaking in complete paragraphs….you would think I would know better after all these years.
Great to see a response from Ed Murray here.
Mr. Murray, I do have to take exception to your conflating HOT lanes with true toll roads:
The author’s blog ignores that fact that I fought for a passed legislation creating tolls for a hot lane on SR167 and passed funds to research in implement tolling is central Puget Sound.
HOT lanes are a very, very different beast from toll roads practically, politically, in terms of changing behavior, in terms of environmental impact -- in just about every way imaginable. As an environmentalist and a transit supporter and someone who's against not driving but the supply-and-demand distortion created by always making freeways free -- I have no passion for HOT lanes; in fact, they could be interpreted as a step backward. And I just end up scratching my head when transit champions like you and Transportation Choices Coalition start claiming HOT lanes on 167 as one of your legislative "victories."
Well, I do agree with you that we need to "change the transportation culture we live." And I agree that, if we attempt too great a change, we just wind up with a backlash. Yet, I can't help but think that the transportation culture has already changed in those 12 years since, as you say, "that last SR 520 proposal was killed, because of opposition in my own district, in part because of tolls." Hasn't a certain sense of inevitability -- and even acceptance -- set in among the public about tolls being used for new road projects like 520? I get the impression that voters want tolls for 520 because tolls mean lower taxes for non-users. Am I wrong?
Cressona, you are absolutely correct, they are not same. But the hot lane proposal on SR167 was a priority for every environmental organization in the state. It provides an opportunity to figure out how to use the latest technology to toll a major freeway, as well as begin to use congestion pricing (which tolls, hot lanes, etc. are) to change our automobile-centric culture.
Good to hear your input. Assuming the 167 pilot is successful, would you consider a two-way HOT I-5 express lane conversion as I proposed above? It seems to me to be a good way to complete the I-5 HOV system without expensive freeway widening.
SJ: I think a better idea is to use congestion pricing throughout the system, so you are charged once when entering I-5 or I-405, etc. (think of a box you enter in central puget sound). But your idea may be step along the way.
Re #18: Yeah, that's just what I want. The government having a GPS tracker in my car all the time so they can toll me. I bet it'd be less than a year before it was also used for speed enforcement and to question people with 'suspicious' driving patterns.
Besides, such systems are not without their problems. In places that have tried to implement them, incidents of vehicles being charged the toll for driving on a surface street *parallel to* the toll road have not been uncommon, thanks to GPS position error.
The whole funding base is going to have to be rethought in the not so distant future. The gas tax is actually set up so as you increase MPG, you decrease the amount of input into the system. This has been going on for 20 years. I think we should move to a pay per mile system. This has worked very well in New Zealand for a number of years (for diesel fueled vehicles).
As for tolls, I agree that they should be implemented system wide. If you drive on a freeway, you pay a toll. There is a cost savings to get from point A to point B more quickly. Many of the toll roads back east have old US highways running relatively parallel to them- and people still use the toll roads because they save time. To keep our roads in good shape I'd toll all interstate highways in the state of Washington. Cheaper tolls out in the rural areas, and tolls that fluctuate according to time driven in the metro areas. Maybe I-5 from Tukwila to downtown costs 30 cents at 2am, but 2 bucks at 8am.
I think that we have to think outside the box here as well and have a rethink about funding on a holistic basis. To me, there is no reason why road tolls shouldn't be used for other transportation needs such as rail and proper transit.
If we really want to change people's behavior, we're going to have to impose congestion charges as well. It's worked well in London, and it's going to start happening in other places as well. You build public transport that everyone can use (be rich, poor) and is relatively convenient and you'll see some major changes. People won't stop driving completely, but what can happen is that the car will be used for those really important trips, and public transport will be used by people on a general basis.
However, to append briefly to 32, I still firmly believe a throughfare has to be reconstructed on the waterfront, and that we must advance proper rapid transit.
Seems to me that the participants couldn't lose. If they wanted to earn/save the money, they could...by driving less, driving at less-crowded times, combining errands. If they preferred not to change their habits, they "spent" their credits.
But could easily do the same thing with general populace, by charging a one-time (or annual) "Seattle Transportation Fee" (like colleges charge lab fees) of, say, $500 (perhaps when you buy your house/move into the neighborhood?) which could be earned back/saved through careful use of transportation resources for those who needed the money or wanted to "do the right thing;" used up by others.
And we all know what the 1,000-lb gorilla is here: the viaduct. Comes back to the same thing: if the viaduct DIDN'T EXIST, we'd never build a new one. Certainly not along our waterfront!
The notion that ALL tolls can be magically collected electronically on regional throughfares such as 520 and the AWV is pure fantasy - there will always be some out-of-town occasional user who needs to pay cash, and that means tollbooths (and I'm old enough to remember the 520 tollbooths backing up nearly all the way to I-5 on busy days).
Cross the Bay Bridge sometime - they have several FASTRAK electronic lanes, along with cash collection booths, and big-ass lines of cars along with em.
As it happens, congestion pricing is probably illegal on Federally-funded Interstates unless it is accompanied by significant improvements to said road (and it's also just imposing regional Lexus-lanes on heretofore open routes, and is really a pretty regressive tax for the working stiffs who will still have to get from point A to point B regionally).
So did folks see the paper today? The Feds are expected to annoucne support for getting Link Light Rail to the U-District - IN FUCKING 2016 (so the westside of the City will get effective mass transit in, what, 2040?).
Yup, there sure are lots of viable transit alternatives for the working folks that transportation planners intend to punish over the next 10 years and beyond....
Melbourne has developed its toll roads without toll booths. There is a methodology in which a picture of your license plate is taken, and you have a certain amount of time (usually a day or two) to pay the toll. For those without credit cards or want to pay on the spot, kiosks could be made available at exits or in a variety of locations. Tolls don't necessarily have to involve the old fashion New Jersey style booths.
Jude: the reason the east coast has toll roads has nothing, but nothing, to do with efficiency. It has to do with entrenched, and extremely competitive, transport agencies, and political corruption. Those are "magic dollars" and fighting over them is a tradition.
Cressona: I said that any plan that involves reducing mobility is a non-starter. Your "reducing congestion" is, or at least will be played politically, as exactly that.
The political fight over these kinds of suggestions, most of which I could support if made coherently, is going to be stunning. Eventually, I'd like to see a carbon tax (not just on vehicles) and congestion pricing on the five major roads (5, 405, 90, 520, and central 99), but it's going to be nasty, nasty, nasty.
Why do you hate America so, Erica?
Seriously, I'm in the 43rd (heck, I'm the outgoing Secretary of the 43rd Dems), and even I don't like tolls.
This is why the underwater tunnel is doomed doomed doomed. Thank god.
oh, and I'm all for ZERO tolls for HOT lanes (transit and HOV) and tolls for SOV (single occupancy) lanes - that's different.
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