Gotta Pay The Toll

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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133 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    So a few comments: There are several toll roads and some that use variable pricing in my area. The variable pricing is fixed. X amount between these hours and Y amounts on other hours. The info is posted a mile or so in advance of the on ramps to the toll roads. I have no issue with this and seem a smart way to go.

    Secondly, there are some toll LANES on a major road in my area that is suffering from a lack of use because few people are willing to pay the tolls, or at least, the current price of the toll I think the gov’t ‘crats got greedy and tried to squeeze the commuters. So the taxpayers paid hundreds of millions of dollars to widen the roads to put in toll lanes and now that cost isn’t even being covered by the tolls. Seems to be some poor pricing/need analysis on this road. Ergo, I’m not sure the ‘crats know what they are doing very well in this area.

    Third, all the new tolls use the “EZ pass” method and do not take cash. I’ll never use these roads. I don’t want a transponder in my car and I’m not comfortable with a company like EZ pass storing my car make/model/lisc plate info and monitoring my driving habits, even more so now that lisc. plate scanners are being installed in many parts of the country. I see no reason why I should provide this info to use a “public” road. Additionally, the “pay per mile” scenario, is, a camel’s nose, to continued driving monitoring. Do you really think that once the ability to track someone’s driving (and speed) are available to gov’t you won’t be sent a speeding fine for every mile you exceed the posted limit? This isn’t how I want to live.
    Now, as to the gas tax itself. I’d have a lot more sympathy for raising taxes if I knew that the money already in the transportation fund hadn’t been wasted. Case in point: My state has repeatedly raided its transportation fund to pay off short falls in its general operation fund and/or used the gas tax monies to subsidize public transport, neither of which are what the fund was established for. So my position on higher taxes for gas is this: talk to me when you have replaced all the money you looted from the fund back and can tell me it’s still not enough to fix the roads. Given that my state has looted hundreds of millions of dollars, I’m going to find that hard to believe. This may not be 100% exactly applicable to the federal case, but I’m pretty sure it’s a factor as well.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      I assume you’d have less problems if the gas-tax money had gone towards public transportation? 😉 Yeah, we all know it hasn’t.

      We have had EZ passes for YEARS, and there’s still no “fining for speeding.” We won’t ever see fining for speeding, in my estimation (we’ll have automated cars first, which will get somewhat better mileage without having to speed — well, less so on interstates, of course).Report

      • Damon in reply to Kim says:

        Color me the pessimist but I think we will. Gov’t ‘crats never stop trying to expand their sphere of influence and raising taxes goes along with that. Gotta fund the regulatory growth. EZ pass keeps nice records, quickly assessable by LEOs. I’m not going to hand info to someone that easily.

        I don’t know about driverless cars, but I’m not interested in one. I enjoy driving.

        As for taxes. That public transport was actually on the highways? Doubtfull. It was looted for the light rail boon doggle most likely.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Kim says:

        “We have had EZ passes for YEARS, and there’s still no “fining for speeding.” ”

        We had “no tolls on interstate highways” for YEARS, and now, um, not so much.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        They’re not using EZ Pass to do it, is the point, contrary to constant speculation that they would. Reason being that they know that people would stop using them. Now, as more become tolls are EZ Pass only, that does become more of a concern, though one the marker would provide a solution to.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kim says:

        My stepfather had his account suspended because of too many speeding violations.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        As in he kept getting pulled over or they monitored it with the tag? If the latter, was he given any tickets from the reading from tags?Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Kim says:

        I don’t quite understand the argument against automated speed ticketing. Is the concern that these systems have some false positive rate or that drivers should be able to break the law as long as no one is looking? Door this apply to speed and red-light cams as well?

        What if the false positive rate of traffic cops was demonstrably higher? What if it was racially skewed?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        People want to speed, is the main reason. Speed cameras also being a subject of objection.

        More legitimately, perhaps, there is concern that there will be more tinkering with speed limits. I don’t think so because I think that ship has sailed to whatever extent it might, but that sort of thing is why I oppose a lot of red light camera schemes.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        Red light cameras are notorious for catching people they probably shouldn’t.

        There are better ways to fix the issue, in my opinion.Report

      • j r in reply to Kim says:

        I doubt we will see automatic ticketing for speeding anytime soon. The discretion that localities, police departments and individual officers have is sort of the point. They can ratchet up ticketing when they need the revenue and plead down moving violations to keep people from fighting the too hard.

        Almost everyone speeds. If they started ticketing everyone, people would start to question the posted speed limit on most roads. And if people actually started driving the speed limit, good luck getting anywhere.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        we’ll get people driving the speedlimit when we have automatic cars. And, with them communicating with each other, we’ll all get to where we’re going faster.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        JR is exactly right.Report

      • Damon in reply to Kim says:

        @Jim Heffman

        Yep, and I was around when seat belt laws were secondary offenses and the public was told that there was NO way the pols would change it to a primary offense. 5 years later in my state it did change.

        I was there when when speed cameras were put around schools because it was about “safety” of the kids. So why do those cameras still operate during summer break when summer school is not in session and the schools are empty of students?

        So, yes, I expect this, in some form, to happen. I’ve recently been informed, via a car website, that some new cars coming out have a “speeding” icon on the dash:

        “For about the past year, I’ve noticed that – irrespective of make or model – new cars with factory installed GPS have this creepy little icon on the LCD display screen that reminds you (oh-so-helpfully) of the speed limit on whatever road you happen to be driving on at that particular moment. It’s white with black letters – just like the real (physical) signs. And it updates in real time, as you drive.

        Think about that.

        What do you suppose it portends?

        I’ve long suspected that it’s like Lego. This – a helpful notification about the speed limit – is the first piece. A building block. Onto which the next block will be placed.

        Last week, I got to see the next block.

        A brand-new (and all-new) 2014 Mazda3 sedan arrived for me to test drive. All the latest bells and whistles. Including an updated take on the oh-so-helpful speed limit “sign.” It now turns angry red in real time whenever and wherever you exceed the speed limit.

        It shifts back to black on white once you reduce your speed to within legal parameters.”

        Next up, that icon will buzz like a seat belt warning buzzer and won’t stop until you decrease speed? Who knows.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        thanks for the evidence. Your slope is looking a lot less slippery when we’ve already taken a few steps down it.Report

  2. North says:

    I’m all for the Feds dumping tolling restrictions and letting states toll their roads. It’d be a slight decrease in the blue state to red state welfare so I’m all for it.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to North says:

      I’m all for the Feds dumping tolling restrictions and letting states toll their roads. It’d be a slight decrease in the blue state to red state welfare so I’m all for it.

      Since I just drove it a couple of days ago, I’ll remark that letting Wyoming toll I-80 is another way for Wyoming to tax other states. I-80 across Wyoming is largely a badly designed and run freight railway carrying goods between the West Coast and points east of Omaha. Certainly the vast majority of the wear and tear on I-80 across the state is done by the big trucks (damage is a fourth-power law based on axle weight — increase the axle weight by a factor of 10 and it does 10,000 times as much damage). A transit toll levied on the big trucks wouldn’t actually be paid by the trucking companies; it would ultimately be paid by consumers of the goods on those trucks. Wyoming could levy a pretty hefty per-ton toll/tax and trucks would still be cheaper than real rail.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

        PA wants to toll I-80 too.Report

      • When I wrote about this on Hit Coffee, the very first comment was from a Wyoming-born commenter who basically said that Wyoming has wanted this for years.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Cain says:

        There would likely be constitutional issues with levying too high a toll, as states are prohibited from interfering with interstate commerce*. Not exactly sure how this would shake out in the courts, but I’d guess they’d rule that it would have to be reasonably related to the cost of maintaining the highways.

        *This is the actual documented purpose of the interstate commerce clause: to prevent states from interfering with interstate commerce, not to give the federal government a blank check.Report

      • Dave in reply to Michael Cain says:


        *This is the actual documented purpose of the interstate commerce clause: to prevent states from interfering with interstate commerce, not to give the federal government a blank check.

        General welfare for the win because…well…general welfare!!!Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

        There is at least one section of the NY Thruway where trucks without EZPass are required to pass through a toll gate. Trucks with EZPass and all cars pass under a sensor. The trucks are presumably “read” while cars pass through with no fee assessed. This is on a stretch that is otherwise free (there is a toll in Yonkers, you pay for the TBZ, and then you enter the toll system in Harriman; in between you have heavily developed Westchester and Rockland counties). I assume they are charging trucks and trucks only for this stretch, allowing daily commuters to travel free but making sure the multitude of trucks passing through pay.Report

      • I see a lot of weigh stations, though most have been decommissioned. From what Rod says here, it sounds like they found a better way.Report

      • North in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I think that’s a risk I’d be willing to take. And if it drove the freight to rail well there won’t be many tears shed by me over it.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @will-truman , weigh stations have nothing to do with fuel taxes. They’re about… well, weight. Legal limits on interstate highways are 80,000 gross, 12,000 on the steering axle, and 34,000 on a tandem pair. They can also pull you in for a mechanical and paperwork inspection, and if they’re suspicious for any reason, a whizz quiz. Technically, they can also check for dyed diesel fuel, which is sold for off-highway use–farm tractors, construction equipment, generators, etc.–and hasn’t had fuel tax paid on it. I’ve never seen them do it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they like to check farm trucks from time to time.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @north , I see that sentiment expressed here from time to time and I understand where you’re coming from. We’re big, a little scary, and more often than not in your way, dammit. And truth be told, some truck drivers suck–aggressive, tail-gating, speeding–to the point that they should probably have their licenses yanked. Actually, the DOT is working on that. For instance, I can pull a fine of almost $3000 for using a cell phone while driving.

        But it’s more complicated than just shifting more freight to rail. A few years ago I picked up a load of locomotive sets in Kansas City to deliver at the Union Pacific yard in Long Beach, CA. A locomotive set is basically a big, frigging motor with two big steel wheels attached. They bolt onto the bottom of the locomotive and make the train go.

        I was sort of curious, so when I got there I asked the foreman why they didn’t just ship it out on a train.

        “How long did it take you to get here?”

        “Three days.”

        “Would have taken closer to three weeks by rail.”

        “Huh? Why?”

        “Priority. Most of our business is bulk, mostly dedicated coal trains to power plants. That and inter-modal between big terminals. A single car like that would spend most of its time sitting in yards not going anywhere.”

        Trains are like pipelines for freight. They’re great at providing economical service between established depot terminals. We provide door-to-door service just-in-time.Report

      • I was in a hurry this morning — headed off to spend the day at the zoo with my daughter and granddaughter — and didn’t make my main point very well. Namely, that a claim that using federal gas taxes to pay for I-80 in Wyoming was a blue state to red state subsidy isn’t accurate. That the vast majority of the wear-and-tear that requires ongoing expensive maintenance is done by vehicles that are benefiting producers and consumers in high-population blue states whose goods transit Wyoming, not originate or terminate there. In large part that’s a matter of geography; anyone building a high-tonnage rail line or railroad from the West Coast ports or California Central Valley vegetable farms to Chicago or the Northeast is going to go through the South Pass in Wyoming if at all possible.Report

      • North in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @Road Scholar rest assured I don’t carry any particular breif against eighteen wheelers. The stuff has to get where it’s going somehow. I’m still positively inclined for more tolling and less blanket taxing to maintain roads. It is a significant transfer of wealth from urban high density population clusters to low density rural and generally conservative regions. If the result of more precise use targetting is that rural areas suffer more expensive goods as a result in the cost of dragging those goods out there being more accurately attached to those goods then I’m all for it. The truckers will get paid either way.Report

  3. Vikram Bath says:

    Perhaps it’s my naiveté, but I actually don’t see what’s wrong with just increasing gas taxes. Yes, I know that people don’t like gas taxes, and they are perceived as regressive, but if the people involved are actually serious about the issues that they say they are serious about, they need to at least pitch the idea of increasing gas taxes and then following up with something else, let alone complicated systems like tolls and GPS monitoring that require apparatuses to be constructed from scratch before a single cent can be collected in the hope of offsetting the costs of collection.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Food expenditures are “regressive,” too. Most expenditures are, except luxury goods. It’s not clear to me why some people believe that taxes should be the sole exception to this rule.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Because we have large numbers of politicians and voters that are politically dedicated to not raising any taxes or giving the government more revenue. If you raise the gas tax than you need to find another tax to lower by an equal amount to make it poltically feasable. Even than, lots of poiticians would object on the general principle of rejectionism.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Cosigning on to what Vikram said, and adding this: gas taxes don’t increase infrastructure installation, require maintenance, or inconvenience drivers.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The biggest shortcoming of gas taxes is that they’re hard to localize. People drive hundreds of miles, right through Delaware, without having paid Delaware a dime, but for tolls.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I know there are plenty of people who think the concerns of the coastal states should dominate all others. This is the first time, however, that I’ve heard that the concerns of Delaware should override the concerns of all others.

        And isn’t this simply not true? Has anyone in human history gone to Delaware and not paid tolls?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Delaware is a stark example of the fact that there are differences between where we drive and where we pay for gas. Toll booths can be a corrective.

        I still prefer gas taxes, but they do leave holes I don’t have a problem with using toll booths to fill when necessary. (I also don’t mind tolls to finance a new road and localize the costs to those using it, but the politicians have screwed that up as well.) (On the other hand, this all goes back to the public unwillingness to increase gas taxes.)Report

      • Mo in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @will-truman Deleware also has a large rest stop. They don’t seem to mind collecting gas taxes for cars that don’t use their roads.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think we disagree on what Delaware is a stark example of. Any discussion of Delaware seems to cite it as an example of a place that gets more than its fair share of revenue from outside commuters. To elevate this particular potential issue with gas taxes and ignore those associated with the other solutions just exposes you as a shill for Big Delaware.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It seems a relevant statistic to have would be the amount of gas purchased in a particular state divided by the amount of gas consumed in that state. Obviously some gas purchased in Delaware will be consumed in Maryland, and some gas purchased in Maryland will be used to drive around Delaware, but I think it is likely that the above statistic would vary significantly from one for any state.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @vikram-bath Dude, I hate Delaware. I only speak on this because the last time I went on a tear about it, a commenter (remember David Alexander?) mentioned this issue and I thought it was a good point. And it may not be important in the grander scheme of things… unless, of course, you’re Delaware. Then it matters a great deal.

        But it’s not just Delaware. It’s an issue for localities as well. If we’re talking about a user fee system, it’s hard to tell local counties to raise gas taxes because people can shift not where they drive, but where they refuel. Tolls are limited in this arena, too, of course, as it wouldn’t make sense for every county to put up a toll. But this post is mostly on the incompleteness, problems, and benefits of each form of taxation.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think it is likely that the above statistic would vary significantly from one for any state.

        This part is true. It only becomes a perpetual issue when there is a perpetual discrepancy. I cite Delaware because it’s exactly a place that I have passed through multiple times and have not once filled up and I suspect I am part of a trend.

        (Though, to repeat, I hate Delaware. They represent a big problem of tolls, which is “tax the outsiders!”)Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Putting aside the fact that Joe Biden and Dave Weigel are going to gather a posse to put a Diamond State smackdown on you if you keep talking that that, why is ‘tax the outsiders’ wrong? To semi-repeat myself, it’s been the usual method for governments to raise money since time immemorial. It’s done now all the time in the form of special ad valorem taxes imposed on the procurement of restaurant meals and lodging services in just about every jurisdiction in the country. Many jurisdictions have, or want to have, ‘commuter’ taxes, despite the fact that commuters use a mere fraction of the services of a typical resident (they don’t use schools, generally don’t use public healthcare, and their employers are already paying property taxes in one way or another).

        Don’t hate Delaware because they’re the Singapore of the Eastern Megapolis. Everyone else in that situation would do the same exact thing. And has.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        That it’s a common form of taxation doesn’t make it a fair or reasonable one. I have similar objection to commuter taxes when taken to excess.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It’s more fair than most in that most ‘tax the outsiders’ taxes are somewhat optional. The Del Tpke, specifically, as said before, is more optional than most – either don’t take a trip that takes you through there, take a form a transit that either spreads the cost around or bypasses it completely, or merely take a time penalty, but not much of a distance penalty (a scenario, to be sure, that can’t be replicated with a toll bridge, for instance most of the Hudson and Delaware River crossings – otoh, those things are even more capital and maintenance intensive on a per mile basis, so tolling makes even more sense).

        (Btw, I never understood why anyone drives the lower half of the New Jersey Turnpike – I-295 is right there, for free)Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        One of the virtues of tolls is that they are supposed to act as user fees. It comes across to me like Delaware is using it (for which there is significant federal funding) for revenue enhancement and lucrative building.

        Anyway, avoiding the New Jersey Turnpike is easy. Avoiding Delaware less so. They’re fortunately situated in that regard.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      People have serious psychological issues when it comes to gas. They’ll drive all over town to save $0.02 a gallon for a 9.5 gallon fill up. When you ask them whether inflation is high or low, the only thing they consider is gas prices (as if all they do all day is burn big barrels of gas and dance around the fire). They’ll spend a fortune on fuel efficiency gimmickry that may not ever pay off. They grumble about a sales tax increase but go into full freakout mode over a gas tax increase that doesn’t add up to nearly as much money.

      I can’t think of any other consumer product (except maybe guns) where our buying behavior and valuing methodology are so driven by miscalculation and emotion.Report

  4. Citizen says:

    The bigger problem I see here is that this opens up the possibilities for citizens to have to pay for the same service multiple times. State or fed, chosoe one but not both.Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    “No, they’re not justified in collecting that much”

    Don’t like it? Take the bus or the train. Or drive through Elkton and Newark.

    Big, big fan of toll roads. Converting all our freeways to toll roads would permanently solve the so-called ‘sprawl’ problem.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kolohe says:

      They’d have more justification if they’d built it. Even then, there comes a point where you’re just cashing in on your geography. “Hi, we’re Virginia and Maryland. We’ve prevented any roads from being built to take you to the nation’s capital. If you wish, though, we have a ferry service. It will cost you $100. If you don’t like it, you can fly.”

      There are limits to how much control we’re talking about.

      In the case of Delaware, they managed to get a crucial Interstate to pass through their state. Which just so happens to provide an outstanding revenue enhancement opportunity, geared towards people who don’t vote there. It’s like a speed trap, but easier and more lucrative.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Will Truman says:

        What are the tolls there? I’ve only driven through their once — when I left behind and flat and dismal southern state to move to Boston — and I don’t remember what I paid.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Will Truman says:

        I believe it’s a $4 toll on about 15 miles of highway. I make the drive from south Jersey to NC pretty frequently, and the tolls are very inconsistent. I pay $14 total to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge, toll booths in Delaware, toll booths in northern Maryland, and tolls on the tunnel in Baltimore (the first 100 miles), then pay no tolls at all from the south end of the tunnel all the way to central NC (the remaining 400).Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Will Truman says:

        on my car, that comes out to an effective $9.34 per gallon. Not too shabby, Delaware.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Will Truman says:

        Oops, it’s 24 miles, so make that about $5.85.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Will Truman says:

        “Even then, there comes a point where you’re just cashing in on your geography. ”

        Which is the entire economic history of civilization, in one sentence.

        (and the history of the collapse of civilization, when people get to greedy and/or other people figure out the work-around)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        The tolls between NY and DC are enough that it is more effective for a person traveling alone to take public transportation than to drive him/herself. Even two passengers could break even depending on their car’s fuel efficiency.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Will Truman says:

        “The tolls between NY and DC are enough that it is more effective for a person traveling alone to take public transportation than to drive him/herself”

        exactly. This thread demonstrates why climate change advocacy is focused on the ‘deniers’ instead of arrest or mitigation – because when actual steps attempt to be taken to reduce carbon output, The People freak out.Report

      • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        When one of the deniers is Exxon, yes, indeedy it’s appropriate to focus on the money source.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        I didn’t freak out! I rode the bus for two years. Even now, I’m more likely to train or bus it if I don’t need the convenience of a car when down there. And public transportation is considerably less convenient now than it was then.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy The traffic between DC and NY is also terrible (for about a year my GF lived in NYC while I was in DC so I got very familiar with the trip). Given that buses are a much more space-efficient way to transport people than single-passenger cars, we should be pushing as much travel as possible on the corridor to be mass transit.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


        I was in a similar situation: me in NYC, her in DC.

        The other issue with NYCDC is that there is really only one way to go. With NYCBoston, you have a variety of routes (some of which are closed to trucks/busses). It helps considerably with traffic, both in terms of simply having more lanes between the two cities and allowing for alternate routes if one is bogged down.

        Amtrak has dropped prices considerably between NYC/DC. Round trip is available for under $100 at times. I hadn’t seen it that low since pre-9/11.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Will Truman says:

        Right. I just did the drive from Boston to NYC and back this weekend. And yes, I really think I’ll take the train next time. Not just for the tolls, which aren’t so bad, but for the $70 to leave my car sitting in a garage for two days while I rode around on the subway. Plus the gas, etc., etc. It just doesn’t make sense to drive to someplace, particularly a place with amazing public transit.

        “More cost effective to take the train” sounds like a total win to me.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        NYCBoston tolls aren’t bad. You pay on the Mass Pike and then only when crossing into Manhattan or Queens. If you take the Henry Hudson Bridge, it’s only $5 (half that with EZPass).

        If you are just going to stash the car for the weekend, there are plenty of neighborhoods that are easier to park in and which you can then subway out/in of when coming/going. Safe ones, too.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy — Thing is I barely know one end of NYC from the other, so I basically just park in the garage by the hotel, ’cause that’s where the hotel people say I should park. Mostly I use Google maps to get around, which tells me what subway to get on and it seems to work because I didn’t get lost. (Someone needs to invent a “get me to the nearest designer shoe store” app. Or better yet “find the nearest dyke bar.” That would be golden.)

        But anyway, I’m a naturally nervous person who stresses and frets, so it’s probably worth the $70 to just not worry about the car. But then, the train would be even better. I feel so free when I don’t have to worry about parking.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        Heh… as someone who is generally immune to nervousness or anxiety, I often have to check myself when I start sentences with, “Why don’t you just…” Sprinkle in male privilege, white privilege, cis privilege, hetero privilege, etc., and I’ve certainly put my foot in my mouth before.

        Let me know next time your in NYC. I’m less than an hour outside the city and am always looking for an excuse to head in.

        Lastly, I’m kind of surprised there isn’t an app to help find bars of particular stripes. I haven’t spent too much time exploring NYC’s gay scene (not that I’ve spent too much time exploring any city’s, but certainly others more than NYC, despite living there), but working in Chelsea, hanging out in the West Village, and working out at the NYSC on 15th and 8th has educated me to at least a few spots.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy — I think I’ll take you up on the offer. Next time.

        Funny thing, this weekend this dude I used to work with ended up taking me to a totally cool dyke bar, to hang with his queer girlfriend her her gorgeous friends. Which, well, the whole situation was completely unexpected and totally mega!

        Actually, one of the good things about being an enormous obvious transsexual with great taste in shoes is I pretty much wander aimlessly around the west village and cool stuff will come to me.

        Is this trans woman privilege? I sure hope so!Report

      • This thread demonstrates why climate change advocacy is focused on the ‘deniers’ instead of arrest or mitigation – because when actual steps attempt to be taken to reduce carbon output, The People freak out.

        The Denver suburbs voted to increase their sales taxes in order to build the light rail system here. The transit folks keep raising their annual ridership estimates, and still keep underestimating how many people will use it. Big jump in ridership should happen in 2016 when they open two more regular lines plus the line to the airport.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


        Glad to hear you had a good time. NYC is a great place — though, like you, we see ourselves ultimately settling back in Beantown (we both did undergrad there… BC…). I’ll be in the West Village this weekend, staying at my sister’s in Meatpacking.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy — Heh, funny thing a recruiter just now wrote me with a query about some finance outfit in NYC. Maybe I should write back, but I’m not sure how my wife would feel. Up till now she’s been, “No Move!”

        But maybe a nice but cramped Manhattan apartment would change her mind. After all, the Balenciaga store is there!Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        Now you’ve lost me. Balenciaga?Report

      • dhex in reply to Will Truman says:


        “(Someone needs to invent a “get me to the nearest designer shoe store” app. Or better yet “find the nearest dyke bar.” That would be golden.)”

        yelp? it’s how i’d find anything back when i lived in the real world.

        most of the reviews are still youtube commenters smashed into people who refer to themselves as “foodies”, but not joking about it. 95% of these people are “hard to impress” but impressed nonetheless. the focus on service is way too ugh as well. that said with a large enough pool (or a small enough niche pool) it’s perfectly useful.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Will Truman says:

        @dhex — I kinda avoid Yelp on principal, mostly because of the times they got caught squeezing small business. (I know they supposedly stopped doing that, but I am slow to forgive.)

        @kazzy — This is a Balenciaga:

        Ain’t she the prettiest thing you ever saw!Report

  6. Kim says:

    I’d rather we incentivize low maintenance forms of transportation. Roads, as currently built, are cheap to build and a devil to maintain. Politicians get super happy constituents for putting in the roads, but maintaining them is a different story.Report

    • Citizen in reply to Kim says:

      Well built roads are actually easy to maintain. The devil of maintenance is found in poorly constructed roads. 35 Plastic Index clay in road base makes for crappy roads. Built to fail is a well paying industry, no smoke filled rooms, it happens out in the open.Report

      • Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Da, of course. Cityplanners that have them, swear by the old CCC roads. They’re a dream to maintain, because there’s never any problems.Report

      • Damon in reply to Citizen says:

        Bidding strategy: Intitial bid is always low. Any losses you have or lack of margin are made up on the services that come after. Usually CORs only look at the intital price since the follow on work will be bid out the following year or so.Report

      • Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        MD takes median bid, and has a set period of “free repairs” (so if you put in crummy work, you fix for free!). It seems to work way better than PA, which takes lowest bid.Report

      • Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        Even free repairs on a cracked up street after six months in service equates, to having to maintain a cracked street for many more years.

        Contractor evaluations help, if you see many cracks the first year they get a sad face. If their streets hold up for 20 years they get a hap…. well it doesn’t matter, because they aren’t in business anymore.Report

  7. Brandon Berg says:

    Use fees and pigovian taxes are the least awful ways for governments to raise money. I’m fer it.Report

    • Citizen in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      “One might point out that we wouldn’t have to engage in slippery slope Interstate funding if we more properly funded such construction and upkeep. This is, as much as anything, a biproduct of our unwillingness to consider higher gasoline taxes.”

      I have seen repeated patterns that point more towards management problems. Managers that cut budgets tend to get more promotions and “at a boys”. Soon the maintenance crews are running on less than skeleton crews, filling potholes and cracks with unsuitable products. 20 years of that non-sense and the roads in that district are terrible.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Actually, “least awful” is damning by faint praise. People should pay for the things they use and the externalities they generate. This isn’t even a lesser of the two evils kind of thing.Report

  8. Mo says:

    I prefer gas taxes to toll roads for one simple reason, building toll booths is expensive increasing the gas tax, which is a decent enough proxy for mileage, is dirt cheap. The other issue is that toll road exacerbate traffic, even the ones where you don’t have to stop.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mo says:

      Great points, @mo . I recognize that roads need to be payed for and am relatively ambivalent about which method is employed. As Will makes clear, each method has its pros and its cons but I don’t really see massive differences between any of them. I wonder if the varying support is more about signaling than anything else.

      Practically, gas taxes seem the preferred way to go about it. The issues Will raises seems like they would largely come out in the wash big picture.

      Semi-related, the new Tappan Zee Bridge project is going to lead to toll hikes on the existing span (which will then be carried over to the new span). This was initially sold to the public as the fairest way to pay for it. It didn’t go over well, so the government then spun the story and said that motorists were bypassing the GWB (currently $16 peak pricing) to take the TZB (currently $5) and this was wrong and we had to get the these scofflaws!Report

      • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy What’s interesting is that while toll roads poll better than gas taxes, a significant portion of those polled do not deal with tolls locally and such an unrealistically high percentage of people said that they would use toll lanes that it seems like the results are utter garbage. I grew up right near the 91 freeway toll lane boondoggle when it was being built and all that it led to was worse traffic, a government bailout of the company and no new highways being built that could reduce traffic due to non-competes.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think people tend to instinctively think of tolls as something that other people pay, and gas taxes as something they do.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Mo says:

      @mo ” building toll booths is expensive increasing the gas tax, which is a decent enough proxy for mileage, is dirt cheap”

      Only because there is already a sunk cost legacy infrastructure for collecting the gas tax – imposed on the private sector.

      The people and infrastructure that collect tolls, (public, private, contractor, hybrid of any or all three) they are in the business of collecting tolls. The people that collect gas taxes, they are in the business of *selling* gas (and cigarettes and Twinkees) – collecting the gas tax is an unfunded mandate on them for being in that business. (though, of course, that sort of thing isn’t uncommon either – it’s how all sales taxes and the bulk of the IRS work, for instance)Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Kolohe says:

        Well, OK, but then the upshot is still that the infrastructure is all in place, whereas if we want to switch to tolls we have to build new infrastructure to collect them. So if we are going to switch, in theory we need a good reason to do so, and I’m unpersuaded that the Delaware Problem is good reason to ditch gas taxes.Report

      • Mo in reply to Kolohe says:

        @kolohe True, but the difference in infrastructure there is between gas tax of $0.00 and $0.01. When the change is from $0.18 to $0.36 or whatever, the change in required overhead is close to zero.Report

  9. T G M says:

    the goal of the proposal to privatize all roads so that Moneyed Interests can profit at the public’s expense. the first phase is to make sure the roads are underfunded by keeping the gas tax low; Eric Cantor will not allow any bill that increases the gas tax to pass. the second phase is tolling the roads and that’s what the obama administration is doing now. the final step is to sell the newly tolled roads to Internationalist Bankers for pennies on the dollar former obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel(who got rich working as a banker) has done this to most city assets in Chicago while at the same time busting unions. once the Internationalist Bankers control the toll roads they’ll raise tolls tremendously and profit at everyone else’s expense.Report

  10. clawback says:

    Yeah, all we need are more local bureaucratic fiefdoms running the tollways. Why the hell do we have to put in place all the expensive infrastructure and bureaucracy to collect tolls?

    Just raise the gas tax already. The Delaware problem is easily solved by doing it nationwide.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to clawback says:

      If you fund Interstates federally (which I assume is what you mean by “nationwide”) that opens up the problem of Interstates being subject to both state and federal interests. Delaware might have its own reasons to want to add lanes to a particular Interstate or upgrade it, independent of the fed needs. Or vice-versa. That’s why you are optimally sharing costs.Report

      • clawback in reply to Will Truman says:

        One would hope Delaware’s reasons for adding capacity would be more or less the same as the criteria by which the federal gas tax dollars would be allocated; i.e., miles and/or traffic volume. If, say, rising traffic levels necessitate upgrades, presumably their allocation of the federal gas tax would rise along with the traffic.Report

      • Mo in reply to Will Truman says:

        “One would hope Delaware’s reasons for adding capacity would be more or less the same as the criteria by which the federal gas tax dollars would be allocated; i.e., miles and/or traffic volume.”

        That’s adorable.Report

  11. Saul DeGraw says:

    The problem with the concept of avoiding traffic is that traffic is often unavoidable. The reason there is a lot of traffic at the start or end of the day is because that is when people head to or from work. Only flex-timers can avoid traffic and I imagine that a lot of people don’t want to get up at 5 if they don’t have to.

    Tolls are interesting in NY v. California. NY charged low amounts but charged them more frequently. California charges more but at less frequent intervals. I don’t get charged if I take the Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge out of San Francisco. But drivers get charged everytime they cross into San Francisco on those bridges. The charge is 4-6 dollars depending on time of day. Luckily I don’t do this often, I imagine daily commuters would grumble.Report

  12. Saul DeGraw says:

    Also as a New Yorker-Californian, I am amused whenever non-Coastal residents complain about high gas prices because their high is still significantly lower than our prices.Report

  13. Herb says:

    No to more toll roads. You know they’re going to sign 50 year contracts with companies that view the toll booth as a profit center.

    Taxing is the worst possible method of funding roads. Except for all the others that have been tried.Report

  14. Road Scholar says:

    For commercial vehicles the problem of equitably collecting and distributing gas tax revenue has been mostly solved. The way it works is carriers have to track the miles traveled in each state, gallons of fuel purchased, and gas taxes paid to each jurisdiction. Then that info gets run thru an algorithm that figures how much you should have paid to each state by tax rate x miles / (average mpg). Basically you’re pretending you purchased just enough fuel in each state to run the miles you ran there. It doesn’t matter where you actually purchase your fuel, each state/province gets their fair share.

    It sounds like a pain, but at least now with modern information systems it’s pretty easy, mostly being a matter of reporting information you would already be recording for other purposes anyway. The routing software for trucks will spit out the miles/state and states accept those numbers in lieu of actual odometer readings. Close enough for government work.Report

  15. Mo says:

    Another problem with tolls is the Northern Indiana problem (the big brother of the Delaware issue). Illinois and Michigan would like a nice big, well maintained road between Chicago and Detroit, Indiana don’t care, so they’ll put up a toll road and maintain it just enough for the residents to be happy, but no more. Add to the fact that it got privatized and no other competing routes can be built and you have a whole mess of bad incentives.Report

  16. dand says:

    I think tolls are preferable to gas taxes because of transparency; people have no idea much tax is in a gallon of gas. Gas taxes are more efficient my ideal solution would be to raise the gas tax, allow people who uses gas things other than motor vehicles to get a refund and allow gas station to list the pre-tax price of gas. Of course to many people the lack of transparency is a feature not a bug(see also the Obama Administration making it illegal for airlines to list pre-tax fares).Report

    • Will Truman in reply to dand says:

      Back home they had stickers on the gas tanks that told you what the tax was.Report

      • TrexPushups in reply to Will Truman says:

        I prefer gas taxes to a high degree.

        1) I hate the actual process of going through the toll booth
        2) gas taxes discourage the emissions of CO2
        3) toll booths are not the best use of human labor ever concieved.

        So go ahead and increase the gas tax. If we switch to something else we can be happy and figure out a new road funding methodReport

  17. Kazzy says:

    You know what would solve this? Flying cars.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

      We’ve underfunded and deferred maintenance & modernization in the ATC system for years, too.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kolohe says:

        True, but ubiquitous flying cars would force a massive upgrade.

        I can go either way on Tolls vs Taxes, as long as it is either/or, not both. Also, we really need to stop letting our governments raid funds. Money in the transport budget should be used only for transport projects. It’s one of the big problems here as well, with transport money getting passed around when there is a surplus. If you have too much, find ways to spend it to enhance the local transport infrastructure, or start offering refunds/rate reductions. If you are short, raise rates.

        I have little problem with rates going up because a number of critical projects all happened at the same time, but if they go up because last year the state decided to give everyone a raise & the transport budget is what had money… well then I want to start warming up the tar & taking apart the down comforter.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kolohe says:

        Multiple people have mentioned transportation funds being raided, but my understanding is that with the amount raised by usage fees is exceeded by costs for interstates and interstates are the most user-charged roads out there. With money’s fungibility, it seems like that diverted funds isn’t the problem.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kolohe says:


        WA only has one toll road (the SR520 bridge across Lake Washington), so the majority of our transport budget is taxes. SR520 is only tolled because the bridge needs replacing (which is fair enough as it is, floating bridges aren’t cheap to replace).

        Of course, in this case, state engineers & the contractors screwed up building the first punch of bridge sections & they have to be redone. Which comes out of taxes & increased/extended tolls.


      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kolohe says:


        Oh, and yes, politicians raid the transport budgets at all levels quite often out here.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      You can blame Big Asphalt for that.Report

  18. Kolohe says:

    I agree with the part in the original post on skepticism on variable price tolling. “Spot” pricing is only useful in certain situations with high liquidity and high information symmetry, and sometimes not even then. It can go very badly very quickly – California electricity at the turn of the century, extreme HFT on the stock markets now.

    I do support a kinda ‘long term contract’ model, where one could pre-pay for tolls at a (lower) fixed price, and have the ‘spot’ price vary over the course of weeks or months, or on certain high demand times (like holidays) – so basically, like the airlines do now.Report

    • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

      Spot and long term pricing would be awesome.
      “I drive to work everyday” meets “I wanted to go out for coffee”. So, you’re appropriately incentivizing the people with the most time flexibility to pull off, while the other people continue unabated.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

      Great point, @kolohe . When you factor in that the government is the one setting the prices, transparency and predictability is key.

      The TZB doesn’t do variable pricing, but it does offer a “bulk discount” if this is preselected. The toll is normally $5. If you have EZPass and sign up for the TZB commuter plan, you pay just $3. However, you have to make at least 20 trips a month. If you make fewer than that, they automatically charge you the $60 ($3*20). In reality, you only need to make 13 trips to come out ahead. I assume the benefit to them is greater knowledge about traffic flows. It’s the difference between having a subscription and buying at the newsstand.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Kolohe says:

      I live in CA and we just changed our electrical billing plan to one that lowers the average per-kwh rate across the board, but has a few days a year (always business days) when the price from 2:00pm to 7:00pm skyrockets (something like a $0.30+ per kwh surcharge). You get a notice by email and text message the day before and take steps to avoid using electricity during that window.

      It’s a new program, but I have high hopes that it will be effective. Anybody with the flexibility to do it (and most noncommercial users have that flexibility) is much better off and the grid is happier for it. It’s pretty easy for a home user to power down during that time. I work from home and I have a half rack of development servers in a spare bedroom, and I’m still going to be able to come out ahead.Report

      • I think variable pricing is a good thing as long as there is room to maneuver. It’s weird that it’s a “few days a year” but I’m glad that they give you notice.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        I haven’t experienced one yet, but I assume that they’re associated with peak temperatures when offices and server rooms in Silicon Valley will have their AC cranked to the max and start stressing the grid. I think that the limit is 9 days per year or something like that, but there were no other rules beyond the fact that they’d be M-F. I suppose they could do 9 business days back to back if whatever criteria they use are met.

        In any case, I think the key problem is to keep the grid from going into the danger zone, so having people generally behave during peak hours is good, but having people seriously and aggressively conserve during the few times when it’s really critical is even better.Report

  19. Dan Miller says:

    Unlike most on the thread, I support both tolling and gas taxes as a way to fund infrastructure (including mass transit that gets people off the road). After all, burning gas has negative externalities (local pollution, CO2, etc) and so does merely driving your car even if it’s electric (traffic congestion). So we should probably charge for both.Report

  20. Matty says:

    Paying tolls without stopping is entirely possible without a transponder in your car. The London congestion charge uses cameras that scan your numberplate. Of course this can be used to track you but given the number of cctv cameras in London anyway it wouldn’t be that much harder to track people on foot or public transport. You’d probably need people watching rather than a computer (unless facial recognition software is better than I think) but it would be doable, hell I’m sure it’s done in at least some cases.Report