Friday, April 24, 2009

Conservatism, highway subsidy, and the Lexus lane

Maryland Traffic - Photo Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
In a thorough, well-researched, and prescient article, Ben Ross of Maryland's Action Committee for Transit clearly lays out the insidious nature of the "Lexus lane." The Lexus lane and road-pricing in general are an attempt by so-called "conservatives" to reconcile their alleged free-market philosophy with their unquestioning support of highway pork. This article is must reading if on first glance you think tolling and privatizing highways are a plausible market solution to traffic congestion.

....These survey results suggest that the "Lexus lanes" moniker is well deserved. Who uses pay lanes is mostly determined by income. For most of the people in the free lanes, consumer sovereignty is a fiction. They haven't made a voluntary decision that their time isn't worth the price of a quicker commute. They are sitting in traffic jams because the toll exceeds what they can afford to pay.
Even if this is true, toll lane supporters respond, the lanes still benefit lower-income drivers. Those who can't afford to use the new lanes benefit from the added road capacity tolls pay for. With the wealthy on the new lanes, fewer drivers are squeezed into the free lanes, and everyone has a faster commute. The argument is logical, but it does not fit the facts. It turns out, excepting rare circumstances, that express toll lanes added to existing highways cannot raise anywhere near enough revenue to pay for their construction cost....Dissent Magazine


Anonymous said...

I still don't understand how you propose we move to a fully transit friendly (and car free) society how we'd actually pay for "free transit"... ever going to write up the math behind the idea? I've been doing some myself lately, and it looks like at current tax rates, current transit costs, etc...

If we had about 30-40% of society using transit at current funding structures it would bankrupt the entirety of the United States (further than it already is)...

We couldn't afford schools, healthcare, or anything except to transport 30-40% of society on transit.

I'm pro-transit, but I'm also pro-logical funding structures.

fpteditors said...

So, as a logical funding structure, what do you think of billions spent on oil wars while commuters sit still in traffic wasting gas? Perfectly logical, but is it right?