As a follow up to my earlier post on the Texas SH 130 toll road, I wanted to elaborate on another reason why I think toll roads are a bad idea: elitism.
Tolls for me, free for thee
Most of the sophisticated toll systems today photograph your license plate or read an RFID transponder in your car, digitize the information and send you a bill at the end of the month. Pretty slick actually, and I don’t doubt that it’s less expensive than paying the salaries of toll collectors sitting in toll booths. But here’s the rub:
Are police and sheriff deputies in their squad cars going to pay these tolls? I doubt they do now, and yet many law enforcement personnel take their cars home at night. What about mayors, governors, city councilmen and their staffs, state legislators, federal law enforcement officials, congressmen, university presidents, etc.?
Pity the little people
Have you ever seen political bigwigs riding around in their caravans with their assistants, deputies, security, publicists and other assorted officials? Do you think they’re going to pay tolls? You think Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner are going to fork over a couple of sawbucks every few miles every time they visit the little people back home?
If we keep building more toll roads I’m certain most people who work for the government will get their toll fees rebated by the taxpayers or use transponders or license plates that identify them as “official business” and hence non-paying toll road users. And the more non-paying cars you have the more paying vehicles will have to shell out to keep these toll roads solvent.
Cops yeah, fat cats no
Law enforcement personnel have a legitimate claim to a toll-free transportation on duty or off. If that means a free ride home and back everyday, no problem. But once the politically connected get a pass on toll roads the benefit will almost certainly trickle down to the least-most, part-time civil servant.
Trust me, it’s going to happen. And given that our government claims 30+ percent of the country’s GDP, this could end up being a lot of people.
So what happens then is we get a two-tiered transportation system. Uncrowded, high-speed roads for government officials and the people rich enough to pay the tolls. Crowded, busted-up roads for all the rest of us. Big corporate trucking fleets will use the toll roads. Independent fleets, owner-operators and start up companies, poor people and even middle class people will use the bad roads.
This is elitism pure and simple, and a policy that favors the haves over the have-nots.