Author Topic: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy  (Read 2419 times)

Zamboni

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Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« on: November 17, 2021, 09:00:37 PM »
Thankfully I don't drive very much on a daily basis, and there are not many toll roads where I live. However, there is one toll road, a stretch of highway, that is often the fastest and most convenient way to get certain places (like my dentist). For this reason, several years ago I went ahead and got a toll transponder and set up an account with autorefill of funds from my credit card. . . because I just don't want to be bothered with "bill by mail" tolls for amounts like $2.13 when I go to the dentist or go to an away soccer game to watch my kid play.

So my EZ Pass transponder seems to work fine as long as I stay in my state. However, when I head on road trips to visit family, I frequently come home to a month or two of continuous petty toll bills.

Recent examples:
PA wants $6.00, but I can spend several minutes filling out a paper appeal form for a lower rate if I have an out of state transponder.
NY has a $3.20 toll but they've tacked on a $12.50 fee because my transponder wasn't picked up for some reason (it regularly works . . . no idea why it didn't in that moment).
MD has a list of separate video tolls. Hey, I went through this tunnel, but the video thing glitched, so here is a bill with double toll showing that you went through it twice in 2 seconds. Call if there's a problem, though! We answer the phone M-F 9-5, and you'll probably be on hold 45 min.
Oh, and here's another toll road in NY that doesn't even accept EZ pass, so I guess everyone has to get a bill in the mail because they also just snap a photo?

Also, are you rich?! (Why, yes, thank you, and this still annoys me). Here's a separate couple of lanes just for you, because you are too rich and important to sit in this traffic, so just pay this little fee! Sure, we could alleviate much of this jam by just making these two extra lanes open to all the cars . . . but then richie riches would be inconvenienced instead of feeling special!

So I'm here to say definitively that toll roads suck ass. I wish they would just fold it into the annual excise tax on vehicles or make it part of a state emissions inspection fee or whatever. Even the one by my house is just one section of a loop around the city . . . the rest of the loop is not a toll road and was paid for by our taxes in the form of DOT funds, but for whatever reason they decided that about 12 miles of the circle of it just south of my home needs to have expensive and time-wasting toll monitoring.

All such a waste of our collective life energy.

Morning Glory

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2021, 09:08:23 PM »
Agree.. the overhead has to eat up most of what they get from these nickel and dime fees.

I actually had a great grand uncle (not exactly sure the relationship or which side) who was shot and killed many years ago while working in a tollbooth.

effigy98

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2021, 11:12:35 PM »
Just get a job where you don't need a car. I don't think I have driven my car since the lockdowns. Working from home can suck at first, but after you embrace it you question why ever commute again

bmjohnson35

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2021, 02:44:20 AM »

Toll roads have really taken off in our state over the past 25 yrs. I assure you that plenty of money can be made.  It's a numbers game and it's all about volume. 

JoePublic3.14

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2021, 04:49:15 AM »
An acquaintance of mine once stated that while he is against littering, he does not mind tossing out a wrapper along a toll road 'clean up is baked into the price…' ugh. Also had a guy in the army who tossed his MRE (food) envelope over his head and said 'Fort Benning, largest trashcan on earth'.

I really need to hang out with better people.

Yeah, toll roads out of your area are quite the pain. I have had to figure out how to get rental cars set up to cover crossing the Golden Gate that was particularly annoying.

 I am surprised some walkways have not been tolled. Some airport people movers come to mind. Sort of like paying for VIP access at a concert. So many nickels out there to collect. It just sucks to not be on the collection side of it!

former player

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2021, 04:59:56 AM »
So many nickels out there to collect. It just sucks to not be on the collection side of it!
You need to keep an eye on UK property listings -

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2009/nov/17/swinford-toll-bridge-for-sale

https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/toll-bridge-sale-164781

dblaace

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2021, 05:39:22 AM »
Unintended consequences.

Most states use the gasoline tax to pay for road construction. https://igentax.com/gas-tax-state/#table

As a result of cars becoming more efficient the tax revenue decreased. The states are reluctant to raise the tax because it would make gas more expensive and they would be out of a job.

Although I hate the toll roads, especially express lanes, they are actually more fair. Those who use them pay for them.

Ron Scott

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2021, 05:47:59 AM »
LOL—have to agree!

I thought gas taxes were supposed to pay for roads—the more you use the asset the more you pay.

Having said that, I do think congestion pricing is worth considering for cities and their surrounds when there are readily available alternatives to cars and driving is a choice. Even no-fee HOV lanes are defendable (before the EV lobby snuck in an exception).

And speaking of EV, it will be painful to watch the politicians’ responses to a dramatic reduction in gas taxes. More tolls??

« Last Edit: November 18, 2021, 05:56:25 AM by Ron Scott »

fuzzy math

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2021, 06:42:03 AM »
The best part is that the companies who own these toll roads aren't even all American! It makes one wonder how states are actually getting revenue for roads if all the profits are going overseas.

https://slate.com/business/2006/03/why-sell-toll-roads-to-foreign-companies.html

chemistk

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2021, 07:07:49 AM »
I have mixed feelings about them, honestly.

On the one hand, the PA turnpike is the most expensive toll road in the world - if you drive the entire length without an EZ Pass you're paying over $112 in tolls. Tolls that are collected largely for the profit of private corporations can go die.

On the other hand, many states' infrastructure maintenance is chronically underfunded. PA already has some of the highest gas taxes ($0.771/gallon!) in the country, and the PA turnpike subsidizes a large part of PA road & bridge repair and construction. Nobody seems to want to pay for these infrastructure projects, but they need to be completed. There are 9 major bridges in PA that need to be replaced - they're at the end of their designed life and repairs are only a bandaid. The estimated total cost for these repairs, in 2021 dollars, is over $2.2bn. This, mind you, is in addition to all the current 'minor' projects - most of which are smaller bridges across the state. These are things that can't just be abandoned or bypassed. PennDOT is already subsidizing these projects, with much of the rest coming from the highest gas taxes in the country. Plus PennDOT still has to maintain the toll roads. That includes the Allegheny tunnel bypass which will probably be $0.5bn.

One of the proposals is to set some of these bridges up as toll roads and charge the bare minimum to fund the replacements. There's a lot of nuance there, the least of which is that it selectively affects lower income drivers more but I personally feel there's ways around that (state income tax deduction for tolls under a certain income level comes to mind...). Our legislature is crying foul, saying that the replacements are too expensive (fuck, I don't want shoddy construction), that they're not needed (bullshit), that there are other revenue sources that can be tapped (where?), or that the Federal government needs to pay for it (there are better things the BBB money can go toward).

So yeah, tolls suck, but our nation's road infrastructure is GUARANTEED (https://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme) to cost more than we can make up in taxes as it ages. It's one of the biggest lies-by-omission we've been sold with our car-centric infrastructure. As a stopgap until carbon tax and road usage taxes (not gas, but by mileage @time of registration/inspection) are enacted I'd much rather see toll roads. At least in PA, they're borderline necessary, and other states are definitely necessary too (looking at you, I-75 in SE Michigan).


YttriumNitrate

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2021, 07:35:05 AM »
The best part is that the companies who own these toll roads aren't even all American! It makes one wonder how states are actually getting revenue for roads if all the profits are going overseas.
https://slate.com/business/2006/03/why-sell-toll-roads-to-foreign-companies.html
At least for the Indiana toll road, it wasn't that profitable and the foreign company ended up going bankrupt about 5 years later.
https://www.southbendtribune.com/story/news/2015/03/11/australian-firm-to-assume-indiana-toll-road-lease-pay-573-billio/117213072/

lucenzo11

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2021, 07:35:33 AM »
I work for a consultant that has supported multiple states in adding tolls so I can add some additional points for consideration. Please note, I'm not trying to say that tolls are perfect or the best solution to the problem, just want to add more insight into how we got to now with all the tolls.

The gas tax is used to pay for road maintenance in most states, but in many cases it has not increased with inflation. That coupled with increased fuel efficiency has made the revenue stream for state's decrease while costs continue to go up. It's a tough sell to increase taxes at a state level. Additionally, the gas tax might only cover road maintenance and ongoing operations, not improvements, so when a state wants to upgrade a highway or replace a bridge, they need to get the money somewhere. And sometimes the money generated from the gas tax is raided for other uses if laws are not in place to protect that revenue for specific purposes.

Additionally, taxes would mostly apply to residents of the state. But what about all those trucks that drive through the state? For example, the state of Connecticut doesn't have tolls but serves as a major corridor of travel between NYC and Boston. While a smaller state than most, it can be driven through without any stop for fuel and is essentially free. From a national point of view, it makes sense to invest in these roads, but from a state point of view, many would view a tax increase on the residents as paying for a highway that others will use, especially when they have to pay tolls whenever they go to another state. A toll would share the cost to all users of the highways. So in many cases, coupling shared costs with a separate revenue source is enough to convince state's to implement. A toll is essentially a tax just charged in a different way, and sometimes it's all about the optics.

I agree with the OP that the system could be simpler especially if there wasn't a separate system in place for every state. But the technology is still improving. Just think of how far we've come. Not sure how many are still out there, but the physical toll booths of the past were quite dangerous. "Let's have everyone driving at highway speeds come to a temporary stop and then have all those cars merge back together in a completely free for all manner." This was incredibly dangerous for drivers and for the toll workers. The completely electronic tolling does remove many of those problems and reduces unnecessary traffic. Hopefully the transmitters, receivers, and cameras keep improving and the process keeps improving.

Last note, with the passage of the infrastructure bill, this could help state's to push some projects forward without the need for tax increases or new toll revenue.

hudsoncat

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2021, 08:33:07 AM »
LOL—have to agree!

I thought gas taxes were supposed to pay for roads—the more you use the asset the more you pay.

Having said that, I do think congestion pricing is worth considering for cities and their surrounds when there are readily available alternatives to cars and driving is a choice. Even no-fee HOV lanes are defendable (before the EV lobby snuck in an exception).

And speaking of EV, it will be painful to watch the politicians’ responses to a dramatic reduction in gas taxes. More tolls??

In my state if you own an EV you pay an additional yearly fee with your registration. $150 for fully electric, $50 for a hybrid.

GodlessCommie

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2021, 08:48:35 AM »
Voters want roads and bridges. Voters get angry when politicians try to fund roads and bridges with taxes. Voters get angry when politicians try to fund roads and bridges with tolls. Voters get angry when politicians try to borrow to fund roads and bridges.

But we are a country of mature, responsible adults. Supposedly.

On a less snarky note... In the US, there is an unspoken expectation that infrastructure supporting our car habit must be plentiful and free. It makes building and maintaining that infrastructure insanely difficult. It makes funding any non-personal-car-related transportation project even more insanely difficult. Because why are you wasting money on some strange people, who (gasp) don't want to drive cars? Or, even worse, can't afford a car. You can't possibly be helping THOSE. Ok, maybe it wasn't much less snarky.

There are exceptions, of course. If you are a state with an especially valuable senator (like West Virginia, which has been blesses with a succession of those), you don't need to bother. The rest of the country will fund your highways and bridges. Same happens within states. Part of the reason many LCOLs can afford low property taxes is wealth transfer from HCOL areas within the same state.

Kroaler

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2021, 12:43:18 PM »
Unintended consequences.

Most states use the gasoline tax to pay for road construction. https://igentax.com/gas-tax-state/#table

As a result of cars becoming more efficient the tax revenue decreased. The states are reluctant to raise the tax because it would make gas more expensive and they would be out of a job.

Although I hate the toll roads, especially express lanes, they are actually more fair. Those who use them pay for them.

This still seems fair. I imagine that even a hybrids wear and tear on the road is proportional to its gas usage.   Electric cars would be a bit trickier.

dcheesi

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2021, 01:53:54 PM »
First, I haven't run into issues like the OP's as of yet; I've driven as far as NY, and everything just nicely landed in my MD EZ-Pass account, which automatically paid it all from my credit card... Maybe OP's state is just bad at interfacing w/ other states' toll systems?

That said, I hate tolls, and especially the pay-to-play "express lanes". Our governor wants to expand the local beltway to add express toll lanes. Millions of dollars, and countless homes and businesses destroyed or disrupted, just so the rich can bypass traffic. Meanwhile the rest of us would see practically no benefit, especially once the forces of induced-demand had their inevitable effect.

AlanStache

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2021, 01:59:36 PM »
My area has in the last few years started to put tolls on the bridges and tunnels, while I dont like paying for the service I do think it is a good idea as there is a very limited capacity for cars to get from one land area to another and if we can use a financial incentive to get people to drive less - great. (there are low income subsidies for some drivers).  Seriously go look at google maps around Norfolk Va and tell me there should not be some tolls or congestion charges to get form one land area to the next.  We have horrible bottle necks at the bridges and tunnels, some of the toll revenue is being used to build new crossings but also I hope it serves to get people to move to different sides of the water that make more sense for there life. 

simonsez

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2021, 02:30:45 PM »
Not like this was a HUGE reason, but it was definitely a factor in moving away from the East Coast and to my home in the Midwest that is toll-free.  I think the closest toll roads are hundreds of miles away (Chicagoland, Indiana on I-80/90, Kansas Turnpike, I-44 in OK, the few around Minneapolis, etc.).

It's also a factor, again a minor one but it still exists, when choosing where to spend my travel-for-leisure dollars.  A place that has high tolls and parking is outrageous will be taken into consideration, not only due to the cost but also just the hassle and anxiety of having to learn more rules.  If a place is still worthwhile in spite of the nickel and diming for having a car in those areas, then I would just fly or use public transit and build that into the trip's logistics.  But I do love a good American road trip on occasion - I'm willing to pay a premium for doing so but I have limits.

Tolls grate me.  Tax me if you must (including at the DMV on non-gasoline vehicles, that makes sense!) but I'd rather we put a higher priority on infrastructure with the taxes already being paid.

GodlessCommie

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2021, 08:05:30 PM »
A place that has high tolls and parking is outrageous will be taken into consideration, not only due to the cost but also just the hassle and anxiety of having to learn more rules.  If a place is still worthwhile in spite of the nickel and diming for having a car in those areas, then I would just fly or use public transit and build that into the trip's logistics.  But I do love a good American road trip on occasion - I'm willing to pay a premium for doing so but I have limits.

See - "outrageous" parking fees are working as intended. They discourage driving, and encourage using transit.

And I put outrageous in quotes because most often parking is significantly underpriced, considering alternative use of land.

Zamboni

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2021, 08:12:55 PM »
Just get a job where you don't need a car. I don't think I have driven my car since the lockdowns. Working from home can suck at first, but after you embrace it you question why ever commute again

Oh, I barely have any work-related driving at all. The tolls are from visiting family.

From a scientific standpoint, almost all of the wear and tear on the roads and bridges come from the heaviest vehicles (loaded semis, construction dump trucks, etc.)

The West Virginia thing makes sense. My own state had an extremely powerful Senator for a very long time who was the king of cooking pork into other random bills . . . that's probably why we had no tolls at all until after he died. Kind of stupid that state infrastructure funding levels rely on such things, though.

chemistk

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2021, 05:40:42 AM »
Tolls grate me.  Tax me if you must (including at the DMV on non-gasoline vehicles, that makes sense!) but I'd rather we put a higher priority on infrastructure with the taxes already being paid.

It was mentioned already but it's worth mentioning again - for you, as the local resident the tolls are an onerous burden but they often carry some discount. Plus as a local, you may be very aware of alternate routes that out-of-area drivers aren't.

Look at it another way, are you comfortable being taxed for something that generally speaking, is used more by people from whom the tax is NOT collected? Be it trucks or motorcycles (and everything in between) many toll roads are collecting tolls from people who don't live in that area and under other conditions would be using that stretch of road free-and-clear while you, the local, are saddled with the responsibility of maintaining that infrastructure.

A place that has high tolls and parking is outrageous will be taken into consideration, not only due to the cost but also just the hassle and anxiety of having to learn more rules.  If a place is still worthwhile in spite of the nickel and diming for having a car in those areas, then I would just fly or use public transit and build that into the trip's logistics.  But I do love a good American road trip on occasion - I'm willing to pay a premium for doing so but I have limits.

See - "outrageous" parking fees are working as intended. They discourage driving, and encourage using transit.

And I put outrageous in quotes because most often parking is significantly underpriced, considering alternative use of land.

I'd even go so far as to say that toll roads also accomplish this. If you're driving on a road and choosing to pay tolls, you're making a conscious choice with your wallet that your destination is worth the effort to get there.

We all grumble about having to *gasp* pay to use something that isn't inherently free - tolls or parking fees or any other type of use fee. Many of us (I know I was) were sold on this idea that the country's infrastructure was supposed to be free once it was constructed. Few people want to actually acknowledge that the pothole-free roads and snowplowed/leafplowed/landscaped infrastructure we all rely on should cost something to use.


simonsez

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2021, 08:41:58 AM »
A place that has high tolls and parking is outrageous will be taken into consideration, not only due to the cost but also just the hassle and anxiety of having to learn more rules.  If a place is still worthwhile in spite of the nickel and diming for having a car in those areas, then I would just fly or use public transit and build that into the trip's logistics.  But I do love a good American road trip on occasion - I'm willing to pay a premium for doing so but I have limits.

See - "outrageous" parking fees are working as intended. They discourage driving, and encourage using transit.

And I put outrageous in quotes because most often parking is significantly underpriced, considering alternative use of land.
I guess?  I just won't plan to go to such places or especially they won't have as much revisit value.  Which is fine on a level as I'll never be able to visit and see everything I want to in a lifetime anyway and implies that these areas are doing alright whether I visit them or not, just it is a consideration when choosing where to spend a portion of my leisure dollars, that's all.

Kroaler

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #22 on: November 19, 2021, 09:37:11 AM »
Maybe my ignorance is showing, but I thought interstate funding largely came from federal funding. 

Are states responsible for that cost?

GodlessCommie

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2021, 09:48:05 AM »
I guess?  I just won't plan to go to such places or especially they won't have as much revisit value.  Which is fine on a level as I'll never be able to visit and see everything I want to in a lifetime anyway and implies that these areas are doing alright whether I visit them or not, just it is a consideration when choosing where to spend a portion of my leisure dollars, that's all.

For a densely populated city, the expense of maintaining free and plentiful parking is absolutely not offset by the additional revenue from tourists who insist on free and plentiful parking. It's not about them doing alright without you, it's about the cost of getting your tourist dollars being too high.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2021, 05:56:11 AM by GodlessCommie »

simonsez

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2021, 09:49:00 AM »
Tolls grate me.  Tax me if you must (including at the DMV on non-gasoline vehicles, that makes sense!) but I'd rather we put a higher priority on infrastructure with the taxes already being paid.

It was mentioned already but it's worth mentioning again - for you, as the local resident the tolls are an onerous burden but they often carry some discount. Plus as a local, you may be very aware of alternate routes that out-of-area drivers aren't.

Look at it another way, are you comfortable being taxed for something that generally speaking, is used more by people from whom the tax is NOT collected? Be it trucks or motorcycles (and everything in between) many toll roads are collecting tolls from people who don't live in that area and under other conditions would be using that stretch of road free-and-clear while you, the local, are saddled with the responsibility of maintaining that infrastructure.

A place that has high tolls and parking is outrageous will be taken into consideration, not only due to the cost but also just the hassle and anxiety of having to learn more rules.  If a place is still worthwhile in spite of the nickel and diming for having a car in those areas, then I would just fly or use public transit and build that into the trip's logistics.  But I do love a good American road trip on occasion - I'm willing to pay a premium for doing so but I have limits.

See - "outrageous" parking fees are working as intended. They discourage driving, and encourage using transit.

And I put outrageous in quotes because most often parking is significantly underpriced, considering alternative use of land.

I'd even go so far as to say that toll roads also accomplish this. If you're driving on a road and choosing to pay tolls, you're making a conscious choice with your wallet that your destination is worth the effort to get there.

We all grumble about having to *gasp* pay to use something that isn't inherently free - tolls or parking fees or any other type of use fee. Many of us (I know I was) were sold on this idea that the country's infrastructure was supposed to be free once it was constructed. Few people want to actually acknowledge that the pothole-free roads and snowplowed/leafplowed/landscaped infrastructure we all rely on should cost something to use.
Or to look at it another way, it's arbitrary (to a citizen living in an area) which interstates are tolled and which are not.  I get what you're saying, it's just not my preference on how I would set up the revenue system if I was the interstate czar.  I'm biased based on where I grew up (no tolls) surely and also super naive as I did not grow up in an expensive, growing, super-dense city.  If I was conditioned to think that an I Pass, K-Tag, FasTrak, Sun Pass, E-ZPass, whatever was the norm for interstate driving in the area I grew up, I'm sure it would change how I view tolls now. 

I also think it's ridiculous how cheap gasoline is in the US (and am aware it can be much cheaper in other parts of the world but I think there are a lot of unpriced externalities in there but I digress).  I like the usage taxes per gallon at the pump whether that person only commutes in their local area or drives across the country.  It's just easy from a mental standpoint and I don't have to think about which interstates cost money to drive on and which don't.  I'm lazy!

If this is coming off as grumbling on a thread about grumbling about toll roads, I apologize.  I LOVE the freedom and variability of destinations that domestic travel via automobile offers.  I'll happily pay tolls (one of my favorite toll roads has been SH 130 in Texas with the highest speed limit, that was a fun day after hiking the Guadalupe River and getting some bbq from Lockhart or another would be taking UT-9 off of US-89 just before sunset as you get closer to Zion NP, I swear you could hear the Jurassic Park theme music), just I would prefer if I didn't have to and that the revenue collection was a little more evenly spaced with driving consumption.  I'm not trying to shirk paying for roads, just that tolls are noticeable spikes, especially if you aren't used to them!  This is a first world problem.  I work from home and walk to the grocery store, library, etc. and rarely drive except on the weekends.  Wife uses our car to commute so admittedly I get juiced up to drive, especially for longer trips as it's a luxury for me to drive in the first place.  It's just nice when I can get behind the wheel and not have to think about something other than enjoying the moment and the upcoming fun destination of wherever we're headed.



GodlessCommie

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2021, 09:50:10 AM »
Maybe my ignorance is showing, but I thought interstate funding largely came from federal funding. 

Are states responsible for that cost?

My (limited) understanding is that not every highway is an interstate highway. States are responsible for plenty of highways which are not designated as interstate.

GodlessCommie

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #26 on: November 19, 2021, 09:56:18 AM »
I also think it's ridiculous how cheap gasoline is in the US (and am aware it can be much cheaper in other parts of the world but I think there are a lot of unpriced externalities in there but I digress).  I like the usage taxes per gallon at the pump whether that person only commutes in their local area or drives across the country.  It's just easy from a mental standpoint and I don't have to think about which interstates cost money to drive on and which don't.  I'm lazy!

I do agree with all of that! For whatever reason, voters are very touchy about gas prices. To tax gasoline at the level that reflects externalities is political suicide. Tolls aren't popular, either - but they are significantly less unpopular than expensive gas. And so we keep not taxing gas enough, and building toll roads.

Channel-Z

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #27 on: November 19, 2021, 10:11:36 AM »
I live in Kansas Turnpike land. The turnpike is well-maintained, and actually feels kind of cheap by comparison to other states. The entire route, about 220 miles, costs $15 cash, or $11.50 electronic. In the next decade, one of our highways in Johnson County, Kansas will have an express toll lane, the first one in the region. That has caused a big hubbub, but driving is so easy around here.

By the way, even though I grumble about electronic tolling, I'm perfectly fine with the state's slow movement toward removing the tollbooths. I've seen the results of some out of control trucks slamming into the barriers when trying to slow down from highway speed.

Long distances between A and B are normal out here, so for most, "get a job that doesn't require driving" is often not available.

dcheesi

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #28 on: November 19, 2021, 10:46:23 AM »
Maybe my ignorance is showing, but I thought interstate funding largely came from federal funding. 

Are states responsible for that cost?

My (limited) understanding is that not every highway is an interstate highway. States are responsible for plenty of highways which are not designated as interstate.
Also, a lot of the time federal money only pays for part of a project; the state is expected to cover the rest.

chemistk

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #29 on: November 19, 2021, 10:48:31 AM »
Tolls grate me.  Tax me if you must (including at the DMV on non-gasoline vehicles, that makes sense!) but I'd rather we put a higher priority on infrastructure with the taxes already being paid.

It was mentioned already but it's worth mentioning again - for you, as the local resident the tolls are an onerous burden but they often carry some discount. Plus as a local, you may be very aware of alternate routes that out-of-area drivers aren't.

Look at it another way, are you comfortable being taxed for something that generally speaking, is used more by people from whom the tax is NOT collected? Be it trucks or motorcycles (and everything in between) many toll roads are collecting tolls from people who don't live in that area and under other conditions would be using that stretch of road free-and-clear while you, the local, are saddled with the responsibility of maintaining that infrastructure.

A place that has high tolls and parking is outrageous will be taken into consideration, not only due to the cost but also just the hassle and anxiety of having to learn more rules.  If a place is still worthwhile in spite of the nickel and diming for having a car in those areas, then I would just fly or use public transit and build that into the trip's logistics.  But I do love a good American road trip on occasion - I'm willing to pay a premium for doing so but I have limits.

See - "outrageous" parking fees are working as intended. They discourage driving, and encourage using transit.

And I put outrageous in quotes because most often parking is significantly underpriced, considering alternative use of land.

I'd even go so far as to say that toll roads also accomplish this. If you're driving on a road and choosing to pay tolls, you're making a conscious choice with your wallet that your destination is worth the effort to get there.

We all grumble about having to *gasp* pay to use something that isn't inherently free - tolls or parking fees or any other type of use fee. Many of us (I know I was) were sold on this idea that the country's infrastructure was supposed to be free once it was constructed. Few people want to actually acknowledge that the pothole-free roads and snowplowed/leafplowed/landscaped infrastructure we all rely on should cost something to use.
Or to look at it another way, it's arbitrary (to a citizen living in an area) which interstates are tolled and which are not.  I get what you're saying, it's just not my preference on how I would set up the revenue system if I was the interstate czar.  I'm biased based on where I grew up (no tolls) surely and also super naive as I did not grow up in an expensive, growing, super-dense city.  If I was conditioned to think that an I Pass, K-Tag, FasTrak, Sun Pass, E-ZPass, whatever was the norm for interstate driving in the area I grew up, I'm sure it would change how I view tolls now. 

I also think it's ridiculous how cheap gasoline is in the US (and am aware it can be much cheaper in other parts of the world but I think there are a lot of unpriced externalities in there but I digress).  I like the usage taxes per gallon at the pump whether that person only commutes in their local area or drives across the country.  It's just easy from a mental standpoint and I don't have to think about which interstates cost money to drive on and which don't.  I'm lazy!

If this is coming off as grumbling on a thread about grumbling about toll roads, I apologize.  I LOVE the freedom and variability of destinations that domestic travel via automobile offers.  I'll happily pay tolls (one of my favorite toll roads has been SH 130 in Texas with the highest speed limit, that was a fun day after hiking the Guadalupe River and getting some bbq from Lockhart or another would be taking UT-9 off of US-89 just before sunset as you get closer to Zion NP, I swear you could hear the Jurassic Park theme music), just I would prefer if I didn't have to and that the revenue collection was a little more evenly spaced with driving consumption.  I'm not trying to shirk paying for roads, just that tolls are noticeable spikes, especially if you aren't used to them!  This is a first world problem.  I work from home and walk to the grocery store, library, etc. and rarely drive except on the weekends.  Wife uses our car to commute so admittedly I get juiced up to drive, especially for longer trips as it's a luxury for me to drive in the first place.  It's just nice when I can get behind the wheel and not have to think about something other than enjoying the moment and the upcoming fun destination of wherever we're headed.
First, I grew up in MI and absent the bridge/tunnel to Canada and the Mackinac I never had to pay a toll until I starting dating someone who lived in a state with a toll road. I'm still not used to them as a first choice of travel, despite their prevalence in the region.

You bring up a couple good points

I do believe toll roads should not be universal across all roads. Using a toll road should confer a benefit, and the choice of skipping the toll road (except in a few circumstances) shouldn't penalize you unreasonably. Whether it's higher speeds, better maintenance, a more direct route, or some combination - I should feel incentivized to take a toll road. A horrible example of bad implementation is DE Route 1. It's very difficult to drive the length of the state of DE while also avoiding tolls. I get very little in return apart from paying for the privilege of driving to the DE beaches.

Gas prices being as low as they are, many people take for granted what it costs to have the freedom and affordability of getting in a car and driving somewhere. The better part of the last 60-70 years has been spent cementing the idea that, in North America especially, car travel is a borderline moral imperative. That may be a little hyperbolic but again, I'll bring up the bridges and tunnels that are so frequently taxed via tolls. The interstate highway system may be federally funded but all the surrounding infrastructure may not always generate the same revenue. State and local governments fund as much as 3/4 of the ongoing maintenance and replacement of road-network infrastructure (https://www.pgpf.org/budget-basics/budget-explainer-highway-trust-fund), thanks in no small part to the perpetually and artificially low federal gas taxes.

I, too, get really excited at being the driver on really long drives. I love the opportunity that our road network affords me and my family, but the fact remains that most people love to complain about potholes and yet want nothing to do with their repair. I can't imagine what would happen if states or even just localities had the sole responsibility of maintaining some of the currently-tolled infrastructure.

I do agree with all of that! For whatever reason, voters are very touchy about gas prices. To tax gasoline at the level that reflects externalities is political suicide. Tolls aren't popular, either - but they are significantly less unpopular than expensive gas. And so we keep not taxing gas enough, and building toll roads.

I'd much rather see some balance. Toll roads can recoup the maintenance costs of highways that see a lot of passthrough traffic - I95, I75, I80, etc. Gas taxes in a general fund are better appropriated to surface streets or back roads (and especially bridges) that can't be tolled but need just as much maintenance.



Blackeagle

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #30 on: November 19, 2021, 01:33:40 PM »
My (limited) understanding is that not every highway is an interstate highway. States are responsible for plenty of highways which are not designated as interstate.

Federal-aid highways extend considerably beyond the Interstate system.  There are a ton of different programs with different requirements, but speaking broadly most federal highway funds can be used on everything but the smallest, most local roads.

Also, a lot of the time federal money only pays for part of a project; the state is expected to cover the rest.

Yup.  Again, various programs can differ, but it's usually a maximum of 80% federal dollars 20% state/local.  And that's on projects that get federal funding.  Many if not most states and localities want to build more highway projects than their share of federal dollars allow, so they put in additional local funds. 

Zamboni

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #31 on: November 19, 2021, 02:29:56 PM »
Toll roads disproportionately punish the poor by making it even harder for them to get from point A to point B. Do we want to just keep making life disproportionately easier for the rich? Or would we like it more gradually get better for everyone?

Also, I've noticed that the "last exit before toll" warnings have practically disappeared in some areas . . . you can be driving along these days and be hit with a plate photo toll when you didn't even realize you were on a toll road until you saw that demonic flash.

Finally, the timeline for paying the tolls is often quite short, making it inconvenient for me if I am on an extended trip when they snail mail something to my home while I am gone. The return home to a mailbox containing an often extremely sternly worded toll bill is a total drag. Pay us or else! It seriously makes some part of me want to tell the companies that run the toll roads to go fuck themselves, especially since I have tried my best to make it so I autopay them with a transponder because I don't want to be bother paying piddly bills.

Morning Glory

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #32 on: November 19, 2021, 02:36:05 PM »
I wasn't aware that some of them were outsourced to private companies. That plus all the effort involved in collecting relatively small amounts probably means that the government gets very little of the amount collected.  There has to be a more efficient way to do this.  Tying it to vehicle registration with an exemption for low income folks sounds fair.

Villanelle

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #33 on: November 19, 2021, 04:18:53 PM »
Thankfully I don't drive very much on a daily basis, and there are not many toll roads where I live. However, there is one toll road, a stretch of highway, that is often the fastest and most convenient way to get certain places (like my dentist). For this reason, several years ago I went ahead and got a toll transponder and set up an account with autorefill of funds from my credit card. . . because I just don't want to be bothered with "bill by mail" tolls for amounts like $2.13 when I go to the dentist or go to an away soccer game to watch my kid play.

So my EZ Pass transponder seems to work fine as long as I stay in my state. However, when I head on road trips to visit family, I frequently come home to a month or two of continuous petty toll bills.

Recent examples:
PA wants $6.00, but I can spend several minutes filling out a paper appeal form for a lower rate if I have an out of state transponder.
NY has a $3.20 toll but they've tacked on a $12.50 fee because my transponder wasn't picked up for some reason (it regularly works . . . no idea why it didn't in that moment).
MD has a list of separate video tolls. Hey, I went through this tunnel, but the video thing glitched, so here is a bill with double toll showing that you went through it twice in 2 seconds. Call if there's a problem, though! We answer the phone M-F 9-5, and you'll probably be on hold 45 min.
Oh, and here's another toll road in NY that doesn't even accept EZ pass, so I guess everyone has to get a bill in the mail because they also just snap a photo?

Also, are you rich?! (Why, yes, thank you, and this still annoys me). Here's a separate couple of lanes just for you, because you are too rich and important to sit in this traffic, so just pay this little fee! Sure, we could alleviate much of this jam by just making these two extra lanes open to all the cars . . . but then richie riches would be inconvenienced instead of feeling special!

So I'm here to say definitively that toll roads suck ass. I wish they would just fold it into the annual excise tax on vehicles or make it part of a state emissions inspection fee or whatever. Even the one by my house is just one section of a loop around the city . . . the rest of the loop is not a toll road and was paid for by our taxes in the form of DOT funds, but for whatever reason they decided that about 12 miles of the circle of it just south of my home needs to have expensive and time-wasting toll monitoring.

All such a waste of our collective life energy.

Actually, more likely would be that if they weren't charging the richies, the lanes wouldn't be built at all and then traffic would be worse for everyone because the richies would be stuff back into the existing lanes.

It may work differently in different places, but my dad was a high level employee and then consultant for a company that did toll lanes.  As I understand it, the lanes are privately funded.  The company builds the lanes--not the taxpayers--so that the company can charge money for them.  So it's not like there are special city busses for people who pay more and everyone else gets stuck on the crappy busses.  It's more akin to there being a totally separate bus service, paid for by private equity, that runs the same routes.  Yes, the non-richies can't use it.  But they also benefit by actually being able to get  seat on the public bus.

It's certainly not quite fair or ideal, but it also isn't the government spending taxpayer's money and then selling access to the high bidders  so that their commute is 25% better, when they could give everyone access and make everyone's commute 5% better.

Blackeagle

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #34 on: November 19, 2021, 04:39:44 PM »
I wasn't aware that some of them were outsourced to private companies. That plus all the effort involved in collecting relatively small amounts probably means that the government gets very little of the amount collected.

If a private company put up the capital to build a toll facility, the government generally doesn’t get any of the toll revenue.  These sorts of arrangements are usually for a fixed term (on the order of 30-50 years) and the government does get the facility at the end, after the tolls have paid back the private investment + a nice profit.

It should be noted that even when the government fronts the money for a toll facility, revenue from tolls is often segregated so that it can only be used on that facility.  For instance, it’s illegal to use tolls from the Kansas Turnpike for anything except maintaining the turnpike and paying down the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s debts.  Obviously, there’s no line item for profit in this case, but on the flip side, the governmental body overseeing the toll facility often exists in perpetuity, as long as there's outstanding debt, rather than for a limited term in the case of a private operator.

PDXTabs

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #35 on: November 19, 2021, 05:33:34 PM »
I'm a huge fan of use-fees (and congestion prices) for roads, but I agree that billing should be seamless.

GodlessCommie

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Re: Toll Road Collections: the Wasteland of Life Energy
« Reply #36 on: November 20, 2021, 05:52:21 AM »
Toll roads disproportionately punish the poor by making it even harder for them to get from point A to point B.

Pricing road maintenance into gas prices disproportionately hurts the poor. Keeping roads in bad condition disproportionately hurts the poor - it's harder for the poor to afford repairs. Having to own a car because no alternative modes of transportation exist disproportionately hurts the poor.

The sad reality is that most anything that we do, and most anything that we fail to do - all disproportionately hurts the poor. Toll roads are no worse offender than the alternatives. They are just in your face, while the rest are sneaky.