20/20 Segment on Private Roads (& Some things to ponder while in traffic)

Some other things to ponder for the next time you are sitting on a congested highway…

When I talk to people about tolling roads, most people immediately reject the idea entirely.  I like to ask them to think about it next time they are in a traffic jam.  Hey, if you sit in traffic, you probably spend a lot of time thinking…  So, next time you are waiting for the car ahead of them to move, think of what dollar amount you would be willing to pay to avoid the traffic jam in order to get to your destination. 

Then, think of waiting in a long bread line, as if the only source of food were free government bread.  Obviously, the bread is underpriced.  How much would you be willing to pay for a loaf of bread to avoid the line?  Recall the price you were willing to pay to avoid traffic and ask yourself whether roads are priced correctly. 

Interestingly, almost all people are fully willing to pay for bread, a staple of life, while we tend to think of roads as “too important to leave to private companies.”  So from now on, think of a bread line every time you are sitting in traffic.

After a few commutes, you might be ready for some more thinking on the subject.  Once you’ve learned to recognize the socialism of the highways, think about how tolled roads might affect where you decide to live.  Would you live further away from your destination, and gladly pay for a congestion-free commute?  Or would you choose to live closer to work, to pay less in tolls? 

Now, keeping in mind that most highways are congestion-free when they are originally built, ponder how socialized roads effect living patterns.  Had roads been priced properly, would the outlying areas of your metropolitan area have developed as they did?

  • http://blog.robpitingolo.org/ Rob

    Interesting analogy. It’s ironic that the people who suffer the most from excessive traffic are often the ones most vehemently opposed to policy like tolled roads or congestion pricing.

  • http://blog.robpitingolo.org Rob

    Interesting analogy. It’s ironic that the people who suffer the most from excessive traffic are often the ones most vehemently opposed to policy like tolled roads or congestion pricing.

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  • Andy Sharpe

    I would hope that this would encourage mass transit. Driving is already expensive enough with the cost of buying/leasing a car, maintaining the car, filling the car up with gas, and parking (for some). Hopefully, this added cost would be the final straw for some drivers, being an impetus to switch to rail, light rail, or bus transit.

  • Andy Sharpe

    I would hope that this would encourage mass transit. Driving is already expensive enough with the cost of buying/leasing a car, maintaining the car, filling the car up with gas, and parking (for some). Hopefully, this added cost would be the final straw for some drivers, being an impetus to switch to rail, light rail, or bus transit.

  • http://marketurbanism.com MarketUrbanism

    Great point Andy. Transit will have a hard time competing with roads that politicians love to pump money into…

    Private transit might even make a comeback if roads were priced appropriately.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Market Urbanism

    Great point Andy. Transit will have a hard time competing with roads that politicians love to pump money into…

    Private transit might even make a comeback if roads were priced appropriately.

  • Jessie M

    It depends really. I’m not always in a rush to get where I’m going. Sitting in traffic isn’t something I want to do but will most of the time. It doesn’t bother me that much.

    We do have some toll roads here in Houston. When I’m in a rush or don’t feel like sitting in traffic, that’s when I take it. But most often, I’d rather keep my money in my wallet and sit in traffic.

  • Jessie M

    It depends really. I’m not always in a rush to get where I’m going. Sitting in traffic isn’t something I want to do but will most of the time. It doesn’t bother me that much.

    We do have some toll roads here in Houston. When I’m in a rush or don’t feel like sitting in traffic, that’s when I take it. But most often, I’d rather keep my money in my wallet and sit in traffic.

  • Bill Nelson

    Underpriced roads preform well below capacity; when they fail, there is almost no throughput.

    Properly priced roads would maximize capacity and permit many more cars through, hence making outlying areas more attractive. Think of a properly-priced road as delivering the extra capacity of a few more lanes.

    As it is, congested roads are very expensive to use. Not in tolls, obviously, but in time. A $300/hour lawyer who sits in traffic for an hour every day is paying a daily toll of $300. And that is why congested “free” roads discourage long commutes.

    That lawyer would probably choose a shorter commute to a “free” congested commute — from his suburban house to his suburban office. If he had to pay a $20 toll to avoid traffic, he might consider moving to the city.

  • Bill Nelson

    Underpriced roads preform well below capacity; when they fail, there is almost no throughput.

    Properly priced roads would maximize capacity and permit many more cars through, hence making outlying areas more attractive. Think of a properly-priced road as delivering the extra capacity of a few more lanes.

    As it is, congested roads are very expensive to use. Not in tolls, obviously, but in time. A $300/hour lawyer who sits in traffic for an hour every day is paying a daily toll of $300. And that is why congested “free” roads discourage long commutes.

    That lawyer would probably choose a shorter commute to a “free” congested commute — from his suburban house to his suburban office. If he had to pay a $20 toll to avoid traffic, he might consider moving to the city.

  • Bill Nelson

    Correction:

    If the lawyer had to pay a $20 toll to avoid traffic, he might consider *commuting* to the city. (Or maybe living in the city and commuting to his suburban office…)

    Sorry!

  • Bill Nelson

    Correction:

    If the lawyer had to pay a $20 toll to avoid traffic, he might consider *commuting* to the city. (Or maybe living in the city and commuting to his suburban office…)

    Sorry!

  • http://marketurbanism.com MarketUrbanism

    welcome back, Bill. Long time, no comment.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Market Urbanism

    welcome back, Bill. Long time, no comment.

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