Rudy Marconi has a billion-dollar new idea. Not all of his fellow aspirants for governor do.
Marconi’s idea: Instead of continuing to slash Connecticut’s government to the bone, bring back highway tolls (but with the modern drive-through plazas, like the one pictured).
As the 2010 campaign for governor rolls into high gear with the new year, Democrat Marconi is one of at least 10 candidates struggling to distinguish themselves and emerge from the pack.
No one among the declared and “exploratory” candidates has yet emerged as a clear frontrunner. No one has captured the public’s imagination yet (it’s early) or draped his or her campaign in a fresh new idea.
When the Independent asked candidates to name one Big New Idea of their campaigns, two candidates responded with specific, detailed, large-scale, fresh proposals: Marconi, Ridgefield’s first selectman; and Gary LeBeau, a seven-term East Hartford state senator. LeBeau wants basically to demolish the legislature, reducing it to one chamber with 60 full-time members.
Former House Speaker Jim Amann had a new program to offer too, on a more modest scale. (Two candidates failed to respond to requests for comment: Republicans Michael Fedele and Tom Foley. Democrat Juan Figueroa, who’s expected to announce his candidacy soon, wasn’t yet fielding questions about a platform.)
The Post-Kluttz Era?
Marconi gave his answer in one word: “Tolls.” Then he explained. (Click on the play arrow to watch the conversation.)
Connecticut abolished tolls on I-95 in 1985, then on other highways soon after. Legislators did so after a tractor-trailer driver named Kluttz killed seven people in a crash at the Startford toll plaza after he fell asleep behind the wheel.
“Bring tolls back,” Marconi said when posed the big-idea question at a political gathering in New Haven last week. “We need to generate revenue in Connecticut. Everybody’s talking about ‘cut cut cut.’”
Marconi advocated placing the tolls on interstates at Connecticut’s borders. He doesn’t advocate a return to toll booths. Modern toll plazas enable drivers to whip through at 55 or 65 miles per hour. Either they pay through E-Z Pass or they receive bills later after the toll plaza camera records their license plate numbers.
The state could generate $1 billion a year that way, Marconi said.
“We don’t have a problem traveling to Massachusetts and paying tolls there. We don’t have a problem traveling to New York State” and paying, he said.
Gary LeBeau (pictured) wants to make Connecticut the second state in the country, after Nebraska, to make laws with a unicameral legislature. He’d combine the state House of Representatives and Senate into a single chamber. He’d cut the total number of legislators from 187 to 60; and pay them more to make them full-time, in order to attract higher-quality people who don’t need to keep running to another job in between making laws.
Under LeBeau’s plan, the legislators would probably by limited to three four-year terms. That would enable them to stop running for reelection continually, while also preventing a class of permanent professional politicians.
In the end, the Capitol would operate more efficiently and effectively, and cost a lot less to taxpayers, LeBeau argued.
He came to that conclusion after watching the leigslature up close for a long time—13 years as a state senator, four years before that as a state representative.
“Every year we start fresh like it’s brand new,” he said. “We introduce bills. Then nine-tenths of them die. The next year we come back. The same bills come back. We have hearings on them.”
LeBeau would cut the number of legislative committees in half. Appropriations and Finance, for instance, would become one committee, Ways and Means.
The large number of committees enables the House speaker to give supporters more leadership positions, LeBeau said. He argued that government would work more efficiently—and legislators would be more accountable—in his scaled-down version.
One objection to smaller legislatures: They’re less democratic, because legislators represent larger areas of constituents. LeBeau countered that state senators represent 90,000 people; in his scheme every 60,000 people in Connecticut would have a state legislator. They’d just no longer have both a state senator and a state representative. And with fewer committees, those legislators’ committee votes would mean more, making the legislators more accountable to constituents back home.
Amann: A Nurse Idea
Some gubernatorial candidates said big ideas are coming; they just need to be fleshed out in coming weeks. Former Democratic state House Speaker Jim Amann, for instance, said he’s releasing a job-creation “blueprint” in coming weeks with lots of details about how to create new positions and how to pay for them.
In the meantime, he offered another new idea aimed at two challenges: keeping young people in the state and addressing a shortage of nurses. The state faces an estimated shortage of 75,000 nurses, Amann said.
Under his plan, the state would spend $20 to $30 million a year over five years to help new graduates with nursing degrees to pay housing costs and college loans if they agree to stay and work as nurses in Connecticut for two years. “The return on that,” Amann said, “is going be five to one.
Dannel Malloy of Stamford said he, too, has a jobs plan he intends to roll out soon. He offered no dollar figures or details yet, beyond creating jobs, lots of jobs, through state investments in roads, mass transit, schools, and bridges.
The newest entrant in the race, Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, said her idea is “regional cooperation”: more state incentives to cities and towns to regionalize services like emergency dispatching.
“The next big idea,” offered Susan Bysiewicz, the current secretary of the state, “is just getting back to basics. I don’t think there is one silver bullet or some secret formula to fixing the state. I think we need a leader who’s going to work hard, somebody who’s going to make tough decisions, and someone who will build consensus and get things done. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require some shared sacrifices to make this happen on everybody’s part.”
“My big idea: ‘Let’s get back on offense,’” said Democrat Ned Lamont.
Lamont said he’d have Connecticut aggressively recruit businesses from other states.
“Young people are getting poached away out of state. Businesses are leaving,” he said. “Let’s tell life sciences and green tech why they want to be in Connecticut. Other states are poaching our businesses. We’re going to go out there to get jobs to relocate here, just as they did in Research Triangle and Route 128 and Silicon Valley.”
One candidate who offered a detailed big idea is running for lieutenant governor, not governor.
That candidate, Kevin Lembo (pictured), said state government would “easily” save $1 billion—and deliver better care for people—by combining all its different health insurance programs into one purchasing pool with one formulary, or list of approved medications.
“We can’t continue to spend $7 to $8 billion in seven or eight different ways,” Lembo argued. “Taxpayers rely on us to do that in a more thoughtful way.”
posted by: fedupwithliberals on January 4, 2010 11:30am
No matter how much money you give the government, its never enough. How did we ever survive without state income tax, lottery and casino money? What did they do with that windfall? Did they lower my tax burden to the state? Answer. No, they grew the government 100% and are asking for more money to support this new age job program.
I got a suggestion. How about finding ways to do more with less?
posted by: john on January 4, 2010 12:08pm
Tolls theres a great idea . Wonder how many nights he stayed up to think that one up? How about getting rid of all the long term people up in Hartford . They are so mired in party lines, nothing is ever accomplished for starters.Fiscal responsibility is what we need not hot air talk.We need to start thinking out side the box.
posted by: streever on January 4, 2010 12:20pm
Wow, I really like the suggestion to make the legislature smaller & full-time. that type of sweeping proposal is impressive & certainly useful.
I also like the suggestion to bring back tolls: We need to raise revenue. We’ve endured years of “spend & spend” republicans, people who don’t realize that to spend money you have to first—earn money. Hopefully we can get a democrat, the only political party that realizes that you can’t spend money without first having money.
posted by: William Kurtz on January 4, 2010 12:53pm
I’ve heard some good stuff about Marconi, but I think he’s off base with a return to tolls. As a matter of fact, I do have a problem with tollbooths when driving to or through New York and Massachusetts—not so much with the fees, more with the chaotic and dangerous traffic situation created by the booth itself.
posted by: Funky Chicken on January 4, 2010 1:05pm
I don’t know why anyone would want to be the next Gov. of this state - the Federal ARC money is going to dry up real quick and what are you going to do for years 2-4 for funding? It is so bad that Jonny D is not running! But I wish them the best of luck.
The only one that stands out in my mind is Kevin Lembo (yes I know he is running for Lt. Gov.)
posted by: robn on January 4, 2010 1:27pm
We survived in CT without an income tax by having the highest rate of investment tax in the country…but that was “reformed” by former Republican, Gov Lowell Weicker who instead institued a regressive tax system that favors wealthy people and people who live in Fairfield and Greenwich who commute to work in NYC. (Gov Weicker BTW, ran on a platform against such a “reform” but then went ahead and did it anyway….remind you of anyone?)
posted by: Tom on January 4, 2010 1:32pm
In true conservative fashion, you’ve presented a simplistic argument that doesn’t hold water when you take a look at the facts. Taxes continue to go up and money continues to be short for demographic reasons. People are living longer, but state and local employees, as well as many private sector workers, are not retiring much later. The cost to the state in terms of pension plans and health care is enormous, and it’s only growing. Add to this the fact that the state’s population is essentially stagnant. The result is that we have a shrinking number of workers paying for a growing number of retirees. This is bound to cost more money, regardless of who’s in charge in Hartford. It’s not a liberal or conservative point, merely a fact based on the demographic shift we’re going through as a state and as a country.
We’re going to have to, as you suggest, do more with less, however the unfortunate reality is that in the coming years we will have to pay more taxes even with continued cuts to spending. The math has changed and we all have to deal with it, as unappealing as that may be.
It’s great to see Gubernatorial candidates putting out some big ideas. This state is suffering from a number of serious problems that will result in long term and permanent economic decline if we don’t boldly confront them and change the way we do business in the coming years.
posted by: DingDong on January 4, 2010 2:37pm
Even if you don’t think tolls are a good idea (and I think they sound like a great idea for a number of reasons), you have to admire a politician who has the courage to say he intends to put the state’s finances in order by raising more money, even making tolls his signature issue:
—not the typical Democratic promise just to spend more money without saying where it will be from, or the typical Republican promise to cut more programs that help the poor and disadvantaged and politically powerless.
It’s nice to be treated like a grown-up by a politician. Of course, we voters may not deserve to be treated like grown-ups.
I also applaud Lebeau’s idea to move to a unicameral state legislature. Good to think big and not be afraid to shake things up - why do we need a Senate and a House in Connecticut anyhow?
posted by: concernedwestvilleres on January 4, 2010 2:40pm
There are ways to raise money but the issue isn’t the CT State Income Tax or Federal Income Tax. I pay more for property taxes than the other two combined- real relief comes by reducing city property taxes. The cities could be given the ability to charge their own sales taxes. Another way to reduce property taxes could be to levy a security fee on college students (if there are 12,000 college students in New Haven then a $500 per year security fee could bring in $6 million per year. Either the colleges could pick it up or the students could add it to the tuition bill. Charging residents a small fee ($5 or $10) for Lighthouse Point Park usage and zoning the parking around the park to prevent those who park outside the gates but use the park from getting a free ride. Another tax could be a small tax on gasoline (2 cents or so). It will be small enough not to reduce driving and raise some funds. It might cost the average driver $10-$12 per year and raise money for the cities. The only problem is once you increase the revenue base the politicians take control and you are in worse shape than when you began or the state will decide the cities need less money and reduce their outlays by the amount they raise.
posted by: Pioneer on January 4, 2010 4:06pm
Tolls are a great way to gather some much-needed revenue. I think it would be great if highway tolls were re-introduced into Connecticut.
posted by: mikepc45 on January 4, 2010 4:21pm
This man has no sense of reality. When they foisted the income tax on us they said “its all we ever need.” But, I would be willing to swap the income tax for tolls. How bout that sports fans.Cut spending, reduce government. Why would any one raise taxes in a recission. Take a course in EC101. Give working people their money back. By the way I am retired and pay no state income tax because I do not make enough money.Sixty year of liberal Democrat control of our states and cities have created an underclass off of which they feed. Break the cyle, tough love.
Hey Paul, great article. It is truly frightening that they want to bring back the tolls. We definitely cannot afford it nowadays. Anyway, I found a new blog you may want to look into, not sure about it. It was anti-toll so I liked it! Check it out in the URL box.
posted by: Fix This Mess on January 4, 2010 7:28pm
Glad to see some momentum is gathering to bring back the tolls. The E-Z pay technology minimizes the safety risk. Meanwhile, Mass., New Englanders, New Yorkers, and Jerseyites pound our free highways into oblivion on a daily basis and we don’t get a dime from them! CT folk pay every time they cross into another state. Having tolls on our highways would be a disincentive for truckers and others to clog and wear down our roads. Plus, it’s a user-fee, where people who actually use our state’s highways would pay for their upkeep. High-tech tolls at our borders is a no-brainer for the state. Unicameral legislature, I’m not sure about, but it’s moving in the right direction. There are lots of folks in Hartford spending our income, sales and other taxes who have nobody watching them. The average person on the street thinks that their State Sen. is Lieberman and their State Rep. is DeLauro. We do need to rethink the legislature. The state legislature is very big and very remote from public view, but they spend all our money, our tax dollars, as well as funds that come in from D.C.
While I am still somewhat neutral on the issue, they should consider that bringing back the tolls will discourage highway use and increase pollution. While I’d like to think that discouraging highway use is a good thing (less vehicles on the road), it’s probably more realistic to think that these drivers will just switch to local roads, making them more crowded.
An idling automobile runs much less efficiently and generates more pollution than a moving vehicle. That said, vehicles driving smoothly on the highway will generate less pollution than those in stop and go traffic (both waiting at tolls and on local roads).
However, if everyone had EZPass and if they can really pass through at 55MPH (I think you currently need to slow to 15 or 25, right?) then maybe this would work.
posted by: City Hall Watch on January 5, 2010 9:48am
The only good government is a limited one that encourages freedom, self reliance and individual determination. Help for the less fortunate or the incapable should be available but it should not be the dominating, controlling behemoth it has become.
What we face in CT is a state government gone completely native. It’s out of control in terms of its spending; it’s debt; it’s social programs and its maniacal fascination with how to generate more revenue with so many gotcha taxes and fees they can’t even track them ($40 million in real estate conveyance taxes on people losing their homes in foreclosure, a tax nobody is willing to admit they put into the FY 2010-11 budget plan.)
Government’s only ability to generate revenue is to take it from you. It doesn’t create any jobs. It creats no products. It sells nothing. All government can do is take the byproduct of work that we do. So, disabuse yourself that “government generates revenue.”
Therein lies the problem. There are fewer of us with something the CT GA can take. Any public official whose “Big Idea” is to tax us more should be disqualified in the minds of voters. A toll tax? We already have two gas taxes, half the revenue from which is already siphoned off to pay for anything but roads. What - I should pay for the freaking road a third time in order to fund something else? It’s not just those passing through Connecticut that will pay, it’s all of us who work or visit our neighbors across the border.
We have been promised solutions and financial stability in exchange for higher taxes and fees over and again. None of it has come true. Not a single time on either the state or local level. In fact, since the income tax has been gushing nearly $7 billion into the state coffers - the GA “big thinkers” have simply spent it and more, borrowing when they must, and grabbing more through higher taxation when they can. When they can’t balance a budget, a chorus of whining begins, the band strikes up the tired refrain of predictable, sad and hypocritical rhetoric about “taking care of the least among us.” Meanwhile, in the back corridors of power, the political elite hatch new ideas to take even more from Connecticut families - especially from those who can least afford it - the middle class and the poor. What heartless wretch votes to tax the transfer of a foreclosed home adding to the deficiency that will be ultimately charged to the homeowner further eroding their credit and creating an even bigger hardship and liability?
Creative solutions in government that are not associated with spending more money or taxing us at every increasing levels are rare and deserve a close look. I don’t know how Lembo’s numbers add up, but it’s worth investigating. LeBeau’s idea for a unicameral legislature is promising. Lamont’s idea to rob other state’s of their jobs is a non-starter. We have nothing to offer. Why come to a state where your employees are taxed to death and there’s a surcharge on your corporate earnings because the state can’t manage it’s finances? Why not come up with ideas to spur organic development of jobs and businesses right here? As for the rest of the ideas, they are shallow at best and sadly, forecast just what kind of governor we can expect if those candidates are successful.
posted by: robn on January 5, 2010 12:50pm
Paying for the things you consume IS self reliance. Asking highway users to pay tolls is reasonable and fair.
posted by: Yair on January 5, 2010 1:08pm
Tolls are an incredibly good idea. I was astonished to learn a couple of years ago that a single bad crash in 1983 was used as an excuse to eliminate tolls here. If we are THAT sensitive to danger then nobody should ever get in a car. 277 traffic deaths in CT in 2007, for example—is anybody canceling their weekly trips to the grocery store or the mall?
On the other hand tolls are a reasonable way to raise revenue and to place a cost on what is arguably a harmful activity for the community and the environment. I hear Bruce’s argument that tolls might take people off the highway and onto local roads, but this would only affect very short trips so I don’t believe the effect is so strong. A more believable effect might be that more people would choose to commute by train.
As for the people who are always arguing that we should “do more with less”, and therefore every tax is bad, I have a better slogan for you: “nothing is free”. You want roads, a power grid, police protection? Pay up. You want the freedom to do your own business and make your own decisions? You want a free market? You need the rule of law, and social stability, so that these “free” systems can work. It all costs money. So stop bellyaching and pay your share. City Hall Watch: don’t make me laugh about the gas tax. The American gas tax is much too small considering the huge subsidies to highways and the environmental impact of gasoline.
posted by: fedupwithliberals on January 5, 2010 1:44pm
In case you didn’t see it in CHW’s post, we already pay 2 gas taxes on every gallon of gas. How many taxes on road use do you consider to be “reasonable and fair”?
posted by: ThinkBeforeSpeaking on January 5, 2010 2:03pm
Marconi isn’t just talking about bringing back tolls—if you listen to the video, he’s talking about doing it in an efficient, updated and safe way. That type of innovative thinking in all areas of government just might create a light in this otherwise depressingly murky tunnel. I’d like to hear more of his ideas. I’d also like to hear more about LeBeau’s idea about our part time government.
posted by: The Count on January 5, 2010 3:17pm
Tolls might not be so bad, depending on where they’re placed. After all, unlike a tax, a toll is a “user fee,” paid for by the person actually using the service. I think a toll booth would do rather well at, oh, say Exit 40 on I-91?
posted by: City Hall Watch on January 5, 2010 3:21pm
We are already paying for the highways via two gas taxes. Whe the state takes all $300 million in gas taxes it currently gets and leverages that on roads, bridges and highways, they can put up tolls. Unless and until, no. Tolls then become just another way to grab cash to fuel government programs unrelated to roads. If on the other hand, you are proposing tolls and the elmination of one of the gas taxes, I’m all ears. That would be fair for all
posted by: robn on January 5, 2010 6:24pm
You make a good point about the spending of current gas taxes, however, another good point is that those taxes (wherever they might be spent) are not neccesarily charged to out of state users who can easily bypass the state with a tank of gas purchased elsewhere. The toll is infallibly directed at users.
posted by: Doug on January 5, 2010 8:52pm
The legislature has been avoiding this topic like the plague. The new tech works great. I’ve driven through tolls in the midwest without even slowing down - zero traffic disturbance. We need the revenue because it’s lunacy to think we can cut the gov’t payroll to close the deficit. I frankly think it’s selfish to suggest that it’s appropriate to shut down whole gov’t departments to save the taxpayers a few dollars. It’s also not a solution because those people would then be on unemployment and the cycle of lost tax revenue then continues.
We need a solution that will maintain our current services and not have a devastating tax impact. High tech tolling is probably not even enough of a solution, but it could be a BIG step in the right direction.
For instance - if we’re going to use federal stimulus dollars on road projects, those road projects should be designed to maximize revenue. As such, the trick to avoid huge traffic backups is to divert the cash traffic away from the main highway about a half mile from the toll. . . that kind of road construction would be money well-spent.
posted by: FixThis Mess on January 6, 2010 12:08am
One of this state’s strengths is that it has excellent, centrally located highways in the heart of the NY-Boston corridor that huge numbers of folks in the northeast metropolis must pass through to access places like the beaches, the mountains, the casinos, etc. It’s foolish not to set up hi-tech tolls at our borders to harness this source of revenue from out-of-staters, a user-fee for taking advantage of our state’s infrastructure. I would think it would also lessen pollution, congestion and wear and tear on the roads because truckers and out-of-staters will have to take the tolls into consideration when expensing their route. (Our highways are overburdened by a traffic volume that exponentially exceeds what they were designed for in the late 1950s.) The off-highway routes are principally known by locals, so I can’t see the average out-of-stater or trucker diverting onto back roads. On any given summer weekend, I-95 is clogged with NY and NJ cars heading to the beaches. In the fall and winter, I-91 is clogged with cars accessing the mountains. Cars are pouring in on the eastern border into the casinos. You could have a reduced E-Z Pay pass for CT residents who have to cross the border. But this works on all levels. User fees are always preferable to taxes whenever possible because the person directly accessing the service chooses to use and pay for that service.
posted by: William Kurtz on January 6, 2010 2:25pm
The user fee argument only takes us so far—a gas tax is a user fee, too, and while I concede that in Connecticut, it doesn’t do a great job of getting money from through-state drivers, it’s arguably a lot more fair than a border toll. For example, someone who drives five miles to work each day but crosses a state border to do so is likely to get whacked a lot harder than someone who drives 50-60 miles a day now. As it stands, a gas tax affects people in proportion to their fuel-use habits and not simply by geography. You can exercise some control over the amount you pay in gas taxes by driving less, buying a more fuel-efficient car, shutting your engine off when parked rather than idling and driving more sensibly to increase your mileage.
posted by: Stephen Wilcox on January 6, 2010 9:55pm
Tolls are the most inefficient way ever devised to raise revenue. Just because the technology to collect tolls from drivers has improved does not make the idea any better. A gas tax accomplishes the same thing without having to make someone waste their time sitting in a traffic jam just to pay a paltry 50 cent tax. My time is worth much more than that. A few months ago I was sitting in a traffic jam outside of Boston waiting to pay a 50 cent toll. It took me 25 minutes just to get to the toll booth to pay. It is ironic that in the birth place of the Revolution, a war fought over unfair taxes, the people of Massachusetts routinely waste their lives sitting in traffic just to pay tolls. I am thankful that I live in a state with the decency to spare its citizens this indignation. The gas tax is an infinitely more efficient way of raising revenue. We all have to stop to fill up our tanks, so it does not take any more of our time. EZ-pass will never be quicker than that. A gas tax charges all drivers equally, not just those who use certain roads. The more you drive, the more gas you use, the more you use the roads and the more you pay to use those roads. Very fair. Residents of other states run out of gas and need to fill up at our state gas pumps. Not all of them do, but a lot of them do. The big appeal of tolls seems to be that we can get people from other states to pay our taxes for us. Aside from how unfair that is, it defies logic. We live in this state so it is obvious that we will drive on the roads more than the people who do not live here. People from other states drive through a couple of times a year. We are always here. Connecticut residents will end up paying the majority of the tolls and spending hours in traffic jams waiting to give a toll collector a couple of quarters. Tolls are the worst idea ever devised and we should not support any candidate who would bring them back.
posted by: anon on January 7, 2010 8:00pm
Stephen, technology has advanced since the MassPike. These types of toll booths do not cause traffic jams. And in terms of residents who cross state lines, this is a fair tax. It could easily be waived and/or reduced for employees in certain categories who have to cross the border often.
Besides, the gas tax doesn’t even begin to cover a fraction of the cost of these massive highway systems. As mileage improves and wealthy people switch from Lincoln Navigators to hybrid or electric SUVs, the gas tax will result in even less revenue.
Even with a moderate toll AND a quadrupling of the gas tax, those residents crossing the border on trips would still be HEAVILY subsidized by the rest of us who don’t drive or drive very little.
The tolls should be enacted, and should be very high - that’s fair. That’s the policy used in many other countries. I would support a $100 toll to drive across Connecticut. The users of the roads should be the ones paying for these billion-dollar boondoggles; those who do not want to pay for their cost of their personal activity can take buses or trains (which would be much improved).
Let’s have some good old-fashioned conservative personal responsibility and FAIRNESS here. You use the highways, you should pay for most of the cost of them. How about adding a fee on top of that so you can pay part of the cost of your environmental footprint, too (e.g., a fee to help individuals who are impacted by the massive destruction currently created by gas refineries and oil extraction).
Continuing to rely on a gas tax which doesn’t even cover a small fraction of the roadways’ cost, and is declining, is not fair - it is just a subsidy to higher-income drivers, sucking money away from those of us who struggle with mediocre/nonexistent mass transit and pedestrian facilities.
posted by: J. Hart on January 8, 2010 10:09am
Bill, one major issue that you don’t seem to be considering is that funding our roads based on a gasoline tax while simultaneously pursuing a national energy policy that is attempting to reduce our dependency on petroleum is fundamentally contradictory and counter-productive.
Our need for transportation infrastructure will continue to grow at a tremendous pace, as will the cost of providing that infrastructure. But if fuel-efficiency and the use of alternate fuels continues to increase, our funding sources will continue to decline. So how do we fund these needs? Yes, there are many things we can do to lessen our dependency on roads and the need for travel, and we should do these things. But that is a long-term solution and would require a fundamental shift in how we structure our communities.
As for fairness, this is a far more egalitarian way to pay for roads. If you use the road, you help pay for it. If you don’t use the road, you don’t pay for it. The more often you use it, the more often you pay. I’m always stunned when people with a strong belief in the market economy and less government intervention oppose tolls. Tolls roads can implement a market for transportation far more effective and immediate than a gas tax can. Moreover, toll revenues are most often used to fund the operations and pay off the bonds of the toll roads on which they are implemented. The opportunity for accountability and the direct application of revenue is far greater than a muddled and mired tax system. Granted, there are many issues that tolls don’t address, but in my opinion road pricing is the only way we will be able to fund our growing transportation needs going forward.
As for speed, I would point Mr. Wilcox in the direction of open-road tolling such as the systems employed by the Illinois Tollway, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, and many others. Cashless tolling virtually eliminates queues and most safety issues. As for your point regarding the value of your time, I agree completely. The concept of tolling is based entirely on the idea that your time is worth money. If you save time (and therefore, money) by using a toll facility, you will use it. You will use it up to the point that you are no longer saving time or distance equal to the value of the toll. There is always and alternative route to the tolled route, which everybody is free to use. Again, quite egalitarian. If you don’t want to use the tolled route, use the free route. Meanwhile, all of those people who are using the toll route are taking up less space on the free roads. So you’re benefiting either way.
Note the overhead gantry and electronic tolling equipment. There is literally no impedance to traffic.
In the interest of disclosure, I am a professional urban planner, specializing in transportation and transportation economics. In short, I often work in the toll industry. However, I am not a passionate supporter of tolling because I work in the industry, but rather work in the industry because I have a passion for fair, equitable, and workable transportation solutions for all people. When tolls work, I say so. More importantly, when tolls don’t work, I say so. Nobody would hire me if I did any differently. I have no financial stake in the matter and am speaking from experience and genuine interest in the well-being of Connecticut.
posted by: Brian Tang on January 8, 2010 12:50pm
Personally, I like the idea of tolls on overly congested highways. It seems like a no-brainer to me. If so many people are using your product (space on a freeway) that you have a shortage (severe congestion), then you are clearly not charging enough for your product.
If implemented right, tolls (or even just an increase in the state gas tax) would make everyone better off by improving the movement of people and goods throughout the state.