Sunday, July 31, 2022

Freeway toll lane bait-and-switch expands in California

The toll lanes and toll roads have yet to eliminate a single traffic jam. They also are one of the great governmental bait-and-switches of all time.

Everyone paid for this state’s freeways via the gasoline tax, highest in the lower 48 states. Everyone expected to enjoy equal access to their land and lanes.

But toll lanes common on freeways in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and soon — if planners have their way — in places like Fresno and San Diego plainly favor the rich.

Tolls are often charged by the mile on carpool HOV and toll roads, with people paying to enjoy the same privileges when alone in their vehicles that are usually provided by carpool lanes. Only a few of those were added to the original freeways — and not merely appropriated from existing lanes — because of public protests over the bait-and-switch. Tolls are higher in peak hours when people have the most need to drive.

Another failed tactic pushed by utopian planners. Remember, these are the same folks who claimed slowdowns and stoppages would be mitigated by metering freeway onramps so that only one car at a time can enter traffic lanes. 

Anyone who has driven the 405 freeway in Los Angeles knows that does not ease traffic loads.

But failure and unfairness do not stop the university departments that create traffic policy. A new study from UCLA’s influential transportation institute once again claims that “congestion pricing” — charging more to use freeways at peak hours — is “the gold standard policy for managing traffic.”

This time, though, the traffic “experts” concede their favored practice is unfair on its face, excluding those who can’t afford high tolls from the fast lanes, and consigning them to traffic jams on freeways like the 880 and the 110, to name just two.

So the planners suggest subsidizing drivers with household incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($55,000 or less for a family of four). Real life in this era suggests far more than 13% of Californians fall into that category.

But how to tell which drivers are in what category? Their auto registrations don’t provide this information, with many rich folks preferring to hang onto older cars they like rather than buying new ones. So the planners suggest matching car registrations with welfare records, thus violating the privacy of many.

Plus, giving those who match up in this way cash does not guarantee it will be spent on toll lanes. In fact, odds are it will be spent on other things, defeating the purpose of trying to make toll lanes fair.

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