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I don't really want the tolls. It's a rather bizarre system where we won't properly fund the Highway Trust Fund, so to raise the money for road improvements we have to spend extra money on a toll system that costs so much that it takes a large percentage of toll revenue just to pay for installation and operating costs.

All these folks with Rs after their names focus on the transit and bike paths since they're not supposed to like that sort of thing, but really, they could just point to the fact that it's a terribly inefficient way of raising money for road improvements, then work to get the gas tax back up to where the HTF is fully funded instead of needing periodic transfers from the general fund. I guess that's too complicated an argument for them, and they're not supposed to like the gas tax either, but nothing is free--the money for roads has to come from somewhere.


The gas tax is paid by people who drive on uncongested roads at uncongested times of day, as well as those who drive in congestion. To the extent that highway constructions costs are driven by a few congested links (mostly at peak) the gas tax really is an economically efficient way to fund road capacity. A toll both makes those who use a particular expensive to widen road pay for it, and also addresses induced demand by pricing the scarce capacity. To get the equivalent pricing effect, you would not a unfeasible (and probably economically inefficient) increase in the gas tax.

On a congested road like 66, demand tolling has a better chance of getting to free(r) traffic flow than does a higher gas tax. Ideally we'd have a usage fee for all the roads, but that's infeasible--but it still makes sense to add a usage fee where there's the greatest bang for the buck.

pardon ' really is an economically INEFFICIENT way"

True, and there is a good argument for having those who use the road pay for it, but it is a hardship on people who have to use it every day, especially those with less money.

I think we are talking about two different inefficiencies, btw, but you probably realized that.

yes, economic inefficiency vs administrative inefficiency (bad incentives vs cost to collect)

Yes, whenever a subsidy is reduced or eliminated, it's a hardship on those who made financial decisions based on the existence of the subsidy. Yet another argument against subsidies--they warp investment incentives, in this case into direct opposition with other public policy priorities that we as a society have said we want.

Crickey, I agree with that, but with the cost of housing inside the beltway, it's often not just a decision, but a necessity for some at the lower end of the economic spectrum to live far away from the city. And you can't even get an E-Zpass without a credit card.

Yet I have argued elsewhere that since we can't pave over everything, tolls are a good way to reduce traffic and move people over to public transportation, so I do see that side of it. Yet our public transportation here in DC kinda sucks.

I'm just hope that we're able to hold on inside the beltway so that I can continue my bike commute. Those tolls are steep.

DE, I think the idea is to reduce congestion by reducing demand - and pulling in a little money as a bonus. If anneal revenue is $12M and costs are $2M and Capital costs are another $2M a year, that's still $8M a year. That's something, but it's not enough to pay for all the transit, TDM, bike, ped and ICM improvements

...and it's probably not enough to pay for the upkeep on I-66 either, even if combined with other "user" fees.

"Yet our public transportation here in DC kinda sucks."

Maybe the tolls will compel more support for WMATA and public transport from the "outer boroughs" (e.g. Fairfax, PW, Loudoun, etc)

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