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Monday, October 08, 2012

Paved super highway to success. . .if you can pay!

Maybe it's just me.  [I can hear my ever-faithful boo-birds chiming in on me just here!]

But there is something a bit off-center about the expansion plans for I-635 LBJ Freeway and its new toll lanes.

Dallas Morning News columnist, Steve Blow placed the spotlight on the problem in last Sunday's paper ("Untolled to untold inequity on LBJ," B-1).  It seems there is a contest to name the new, super fast lanes that will carry with them a toll.

The extra toll lanes are designed to get more traffic down the ever-crowded thoroughfare.  Those who can pay will be able to access the new lanes and will get down the road faster.  Those who can't afford them will not be able to take advantage of the new passage.

Some have suggested that the toll lanes be named "Lexus lanes."

What's really revolutionary about these lanes, as Blow points out, is the fact that the toll on the lanes will be recalculated every five minutes based on the number of cars attempting to access the new lanes (three lanes in each direction).  The more cars in the lanes, the higher the toll.  And, once fully implemented, there will be no cap on tolls.  Electronic signs will notify drivers of the "going rate" at the time.  Classic matter of supply and demand.

Here's Blow's conclusion:  "It's just inevitable that the fast lanes will be filled with the well-heeled and the slow lanes with the paycheck-to-paycheck crowd.  And are we OK with that?. . .Can any nation remain strong when the gap between rich and poor grows wider in every way--right down to the streets they drive on?"

Here's an idea.  With the current technology available, we could read the license plate number and charge a toll based on the make, model and vintage of each car that passes through the toll lane.  If I drive a Lexus or a Jag, my toll will be higher.  If I drive a 12-year-old Chevy, then the toll is assessed accordingly.

The ability to pay out of pocket should not be the measure of everything.  The enterprising desire to work and to drive to work, even at a low wage job, should be rewarded by equity in public transit.

Fast lanes should be for everyone who's battling to get somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Won't these toll funds be used to pay for repairs on the "free" lanes as well? Looks to me like another Democrat ploy to squeeze more from the "Lexus" rich to care for the impoverished masses

Anonymous said...

I feel ambiguous about this. I do see your point. However, just as the guy in the Lexus can afford to pay for a much nicer ride, if he can afford to pay for a less congested lane, why not let him? Is driving in the slow lane any different than driving the 12 year old Chevy with the a/c out and the windows down? And if it helps pay for our whole traffic infrastructure, that's a good thing. We already have tollways, they just aren't side-by-side with free-ways (pardon the pun). Does that positioning change anything? When I cram myself into my coach seat when I fly, others are stretched out in first class up front. I roll my eyes a little, but it helps the airlines stay in business for the next time I want to fly.