Thursday, February 15, 2007

Free roads are anything but free

Historically, we've spent billions on roads and provided them for free. This approach has given us endless traffic jams, because as any former Soviet commissar can tell you, if prices are too low, endless queues follow. Our free roads end up being anything but free, as massive congestion causes us to pay with time instead of cash.

Tolls should be used to charge people for the congestion they create. If I drive during peak hours, I slow everyone else down. Congestion-based tolls help us make the right decision about when and how often to drive. Granted, if we just raise tolls on major highways like the turnpike, then we push people onto the already crowded side streets. Knowing that, London Mayor Ken Livingstone in 2003 introduced a congestion charge throughout much of his city. That led to an 18 percent reduction in traffic and a 30 percent drop in congestion. The change made the city more livable, especially for lower- and middle-income residents who rode buses.
I hate traffic, and would definitely be willing to pay tolls to avoid it. Even more so if the toll money could be used to offset other taxes I pay.

via Boston Globe

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