Congestion Tolls

The Deseret News is recommending congestion tolls to help pay for our transportation needs. I have previously stated my generic approval of tolling while recognizing that there are issues of fairness to be addressed. (Toll roads on the west side, but not the east side is not fair.) One comment on the editorial suggested a possible approach to the fairness issue and also the issue of leaving the roads free for those who can’t pay a toll:

. . . one possible solution is only impose congestion pricing in certain lanes, leaving other lanes open to general use. We could eliminate the current HOT lane on I-15 and do two lanes of congestion priced expressway instead. Do a lane or two congestion priced on I-215 as well. And do a lane or two congestion priced on the MVC while leaving a lane or two open for general use.

(unfortunately you have to scroll down for the comment – they should provide anchors to individual comments)

The suggestion of congestion pricing on some lanes but not all is illustrated in a video by Drew Carey that discusses traffic congestion. (The video showing congestion pricing is between 4 and 5 minutes into the video.) I think that idea deserves to be explored.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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16 Responses to Congestion Tolls

  1. Reach Upward says:

    I agree on congestion pricing and tolling. While it is easiest to do this on new installations, there must be some fairness about location.

    But private measures should be considered as well, where they can work. We have a privately owned one-mile toll road that connects South Weber with South Ogden. It costs $1 to use it each time. It’s never busy, but it turns a profit. At certain times of day it can save as much as 20 minutes for some drivers. No one is forced to use it, since there are several different public roads by which the same destinations can be reached. This is an example of a good private solution to congestion.

  2. David says:

    You are absolutely right that we should consider private options. I think the fact that a short, private toll road that is never very busy can turn a profit with such a nominal toll should get help some people realize how valuable tolling can be. During busy times you pay your dollar and save your 20 minutes (a trade-off that most people would probably make) and at other times you take the free roads to get where you are going.

  3. Carl says:

    Again scooters are the answer. Well, scooters in the right situation, all factors of weather, distance, etc. taken into consideration. One scooter takes up about 1/4 the space of a car, it’s even better if the measuring car is an SUV. I think instead of building more roads, we should encourage smaller cars and place a penalty on using bigger vehicles for simple commuting. I understand that people will protest that they need the truck for work, but let’s be honest, was there EVER a hummer used for legitimate work (i.e. not just for advertisement)? Let’s use some common sense in choosing our commuting options.

    Having said that, I really think the next five years are going to be a revelation with higher gas prices. The people who need the trucks will be able to buy them for cheap to compensate for gas prices. The people who do not need the large vehicles (other than to compensate for emotional insecurity) will begin buying smaller cars. I think that will do a real number on congestion.

    Speaking of scooters, Utah has horrendous scooter laws. They’re treated like any old motorcycle and have massive registration fees and there’s no classification for “Motorized bicycle”. My brother-in-law registered his 50cc scooter (the same size as mine) for $250 for one year, same as a $35,000 Harley built the same year. Colorado asked for $5 for three years because 50cc and smaller is a motorized bicycle. I think Utah needs to come to terms that an age-based registration fee is not good to promote use of small, cheap transportation. Utah should use an ad valorem tax instead.

  4. David says:

    Carl I would say that I agree with essentially everything you said except – what is an “ad valorem tax?”

  5. Carl says:

    Sorry, I thought that was a common term. I’ve been in school too long.

    An ad valorem tax is one which is based on the value of the car instead of Utah’s special interest* tax based on the age of the car. Think of it as property taxes for cars.

    Ad valorem means that a hummer is taxed more than a Sentra because of their respective market values.

    * This proposition was sponsored by a senator who sold luxury Cadillacs and wanted to get his customers a benefit

  6. David says:

    Thanks for the explanation. An ad valorem tax sounds just fine to me – that would be one more disadvantage to Hummer drivers – many of whom need no more disadvantages than they already have. 😉

  7. Reach Upward says:

    Utah moved away from an ad valorem tax on purpose a few years ago. The flat rate system was favored especially by car sellers. There are pros and cons to either system.

    Scooters are fine in some situations, but many people factor in the safety issue. No scooter is as safe to drive as a truck. My teenager drives our 15-year-old minivan. It moves slow and gets horrible gas mileage. But if he has a minor collision, he’ll be just fine physically. The same cannot be said for scooter drivers, even if they are wearing helmets.

  8. David says:

    From a safety perspective, scooter drivers definitely have a severe disadvantage.

  9. Carl says:

    Sorry Reach, the first sentence of your comment made me laugh. I have a scene in my head where the legislators are on the floor trying to take back their votes for the age-based car tax because they accidentally voted for it. Senator X says, “OH NO! We accidentally passed this tax, how did that happen?” Just a little FYI, an ad valorem tax would be deductible for federal taxes, the age-based tax is not.

    As to safety on scooters, yes, you’re right they are less safe. My oldest brother is a cop in NM and when I told him I was buying a scooter, he said that in his experience as an officer, the question with motorcycle accidents is not if but when and how bad.

    I have taken a spill on the scooter and I was lucky. I hit an ice patch and tipped over. My only injury was that the ice I slid on got my keester wet. If traffic had been bad, it’s possible that much worse could have happened.

    One last comment and one last corollary.

    Comment: I have a friend who is a neurosurgery resident and he commented that 7 out of 10 fatal motorcycle accidents would not have been fatal if the rider had had a helmet. I joke with people that scooterists and motorcyclists who do not wear helmets are people who have not invested in their brains. Sadly, I see lots and lots of people who don’t wear helmets.

    Corollary: I agree with Reach that a teenager should be put behind the wheel of a very dull car. They shouldn’t be given any nice vehicle because they aren’t cautious enough to take advantage of whatever safety caution brings. So, I think my original comment still holds true, scooters are good in the right circumstances, i.e. maturity of the rider, traffic conditions, and weather conditions are are vital considerations. Having said that, I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years of riding (except the <30 degree days), and it has saved me a bundle of time and money.

    Dave, can you do html stuff on comments?

  10. David says:

    Yes, you can do limited HTML. (Links, bold, italics, blockquote – did you have a specific need?)

  11. Carl says:

    Also, Reach, you mentioned that ad valorem taxes have cons. I was about to disagree when I thought of one. If you have a car that lasts longer, you’re going to pay more in taxes. I think we’ve learned something important: buy a cheap, old lemon to avoid all registration taxes.

  12. Carl says:

    I was wondering about underlining. I thought HTML for that was <u>

  13. David says:

    The <u> tag was deprecated. You should just find another way to show the emphasis. – if you own the site you can define a class in CSS to do underlines (class=”title” in my CSS, but <span> won’t work in comments)

  14. Carl says:

    I’m gonna go with all caps

  15. Reach Upward says:

    When the state shifted to the age-base tax system, most Utah car owners saw their car taxes go down. That was the reasoning presented to the public for dumping the ad valorem tax. But it was also not a secret that the bill was pushed by a legislator that owned a car dealership.

    I have helped people prepare their taxes for years (as a service, not as a job). Many friends were pretty steamed when I told them that they couldn’t deduct the age-based auto property tax. Many of them go ahead and do it anyway — against my advice. It doesn’t amount to enough for IRS to audit them, so most of them get away with it.

  16. Carl says:

    Ah yes, the audit lottery. It’s a fun game. You’ll want to be careful though, even if you’re not paid, in theory the IRS can still come after you as a return preparer.

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