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Reason Foundation

Surface Transportation Innovations #83

Value pricing, heavy trucks and buses vs. high-speed rail

Robert Poole
September 17, 2010

In this issue:

  • Heavier Trucks on the Interstates

  • Value Pricing's Latest Grants

  • Marine Highway Questions

  • Natural Gas Trucks?

  • Bus versus High Speed Rail

  • In Defense of Gravel Roads

  • Upcoming Conferences

  • News Notes

  • Quotable Quotes

 

The Case for Heavier Trucks

ong-time readers of this newsletter know that I think there is a powerful case for increasing the productivity of over-the-road trucking by adding truck-only toll lanes to key Interstate corridors and allowing longer combination vehicles (triples and turnpike doubles) to operate on those barrier-separated lanes. But that, admittedly, is a rather long-term project. There is a near-term opportunity to increase trucking productivity as part of the upcoming reauthorization: increasing the allowable gross weight on Interstates from the current federal ceiling of 80,000 lbs. to 97,000 lbs. for trucks equipped with six axles.

As proposed in identical House and Senate bills, this proposal has aroused fierce opposition from railroad groups (who fear increased competition), independent truckers (who don't want to have to buy new rigs), driver unions (since more payload per truck means relatively fewer drivers in relation to freight hauled), highway safety groups (who claim such trucks will have greatly increased stopping distances), and some state DOT people (who worry about pavement and bridge impacts). The measure is supported by a coalition of shipping groups and the American Trucking Associations, who point to significant shipping cost savings ($15 billion per year) and greater truck market share, respectively. To the best of my knowledge, environmental groups have not engaged in this debate, even though-other things equal-this proposal could significantly reduce truck vehicle miles of travel (VMT), fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions.

Ignoring the self-serving complaints of railroads, independent truckers, and unions, what about the safety issue? Trucking interests point out that with six axles instead of five, there would be two more brakes per rig, and they cite a Transportation Research Board study showing that current braking distances would be maintained thanks to the extra brakes. I haven't reviewed that research, but I will note that six-axle rigs are common in Canada, and we haven't read about any highway bloodbaths there. In fact, many other countries have heavier truck weight limits than we do.

My most serious concern has been about impacts on the highway infrastructure. In terms of pavement damage, we know that it is proportional not to gross vehicle weight but to axle loading. Spreading the increased weight of a tractor-trailer rig over six rather than five axles takes care of basic pavement damage. So if there's a problem, it concerns bridges. The federal bridge formula is intended to limit stresses on bridges caused by trucks. Highway bridges are designed to one of two standards: HS-20 for major bridges (98% of those on the Interstate system) and H-15 for lighter loads on numerous state highways. The formula, which includes both weight and axle spacing, is intended to avoid overstressing HS-20 bridges by more than 5% and of H-15 bridges by more than 30%. Trucking sources tell me that a 97,000 lb. six-axle truck would exceed the current bridge formula but by only a small amount.

In response to the bridge concern, the pending legislation would increase the current Heavy Vehicle Use Tax from an annual maximum of $550 to $800, and dedicate those funds to the federal bridge program. That tax last year contributed only $600 million to the Trust Fund; with the higher cap, that could rise to nearly $900 million. Advocates also point out that the legislation would only increase what is allowed on Interstates. It would be up to each state DOT (and its legislature) to decide what routes, if any, could accept the heavier trucks. They would also be the ones to prioritize bridge repair and replacement.

I've been unable to find any solid research on the extent of possible bridge damage from the higher weight limit, although it's plausible that a relatively smaller number of truck trips (again, other things equal) at heavier weights might not produce more total stress on the bridges in question. Without good engineering analysis on that point, the best approach would be to expedite bridge strengthening and replacement on the Interstate routes states select for heavier trucks. And the trucking industry should be willing to pay enough user fees to make that possible.

 

Value Pricing Program Promotes Further Innovation

The Federal Highway Administration's innovative Value Pricing Pilot Program recently announced this year's grant awards, which promise to advance the progress of pricing in seven states. Four projects (in California, Minnesota, and Washington State) will explore pricing incentives in parking, and another (in Santa Barbara) will test a carpooling system with pricing incentives. A Texas project will try a new approach to pay-as-you-drive auto insurance. And the Virginia DOT and the Washington, DC metro area MPO will study public acceptance of region-wide road pricing, including on existing freeway lanes.

In the SAFETEA-LU legislation, Congress "mainstreamed" projects that convert individual HOV facilities into HOT lanes, so that kind of project is no longer eligible for Value Pricing grants. But metro areas that are going beyond that with Managed Lanes are still eligible, and three received grants in this round. One will define a regional ML network in the Charlotte, NC metro area. Another picks up on the Bus Toll Lanes idea that I wrote about in Issue No. 80 (June 2010). Its originators at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority are partnering with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to study the costs and benefits of a network such lanes in the greater Tampa metro area. And the Florida DOT received its grant to develop the first "concept of operations" for a regional Managed Lanes Network, which could become a model for other planned ML networks around the country.

It wasn't that long ago that HOT lanes (now generally called Managed Lanes) were highly controversial. When the pioneering 91 Express Lanes were opened in Orange County, California in 1995, officials in neighboring Riverside County were outspoken opponents, since "their" commuters from inland bedroom communities into jobs-rich Orange County would be the ones having to pay tolls (if they chose to use the priced lanes). But the continued success of that uncongested alternative has, in recent years, led to a far more positive appreciation of the value of value pricing. Riverside County is well along on planning a $1.2 billion project to extend the Express Lanes eastward to I-15. The bill to officially approve tolling these new lanes was signed recently by Gov. Schwarzenegger, after the state senate unanimously approved it at the end of August. Praising the project, Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R, Corona) said "It will ease traffic, give taxpayers a break, and create thousands of high-wage jobs where we need them the most."

Marine Highways in the (Not So) Fast Lane

August brought a raft of headlines announcing a very small ($7 million) allocation of federal grants to eight "marine highway" projects. These projects, selected from a larger number of applications, supposedly "offer the promise of public benefit and long-term sustainability without future federal operational support," according to an article in EnoBrief, the newsletter of the Eno Transportation Foundation.

Before looking at the winning projects, let's first review an important new report on the subject from the Transportation Research Board. "North American Marine Highways" is Report 5 in the relatively new National Cooperative Freight Research Program (and can be found on the TRB website, www.trb.org). It provides a good overview of what we know from recent experience about the viability of shipping containers (or trailers or rail cars) by barge or other maritime means, as an alternative to truck or rail. The relatively successful examples operate at a range of distances up to 1,000 miles, target essentially niche markets, operate on reliable schedules, offer something like door-to-door service, and use relatively low-cost equipment.

More relevant, when it comes to federal "investments" into this mode, are the characteristics of unsuccessful marine highway ventures:

  • Door-to-door cost not competitive with truck or rail alternatives;

  • Attempting to build a business model around a specific type of vessel;

  • Time-chartering of vessels (which interferes with longer-term schedule reliability);

  • Reliance on a single vessel (hence, vulnerability to breakdowns and maintenance);

  • Serving international, rather than domestic, cargo.

Citing numerous examples of problematic ventures, the researchers conclude that most failures "can be reduced to one issue: these services are not cost-competitive with alternatives that exist." (emphasis in original)

Since reducing emissions (by "getting trucks off the highways") is one of the goals frequently cited by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, I was surprised that the report did not include an analysis of emissions per ton-mile for these diesel-powered maritime services. My impression, from previous comparisons of urban ferries vs. other commuting modes, is that marine diesel is one of the dirtiest alternatives in transportation, and marine diesels are not covered by the sweeping EPA regulations that are dramatically reducing emissions from diesel trucks.

Of the eight projects selected last month for federal assistance, five would use the money to expand current services: three of these are container-on-barge, one is a passenger ferry across Long Island Sound, and the other is a rail-car float service between New Jersey and Brooklyn. Those may well be viable niche markets. The three new ones have the makings of being boondoggles. These include a new container-on-barge service on the notorious Tenn-Tom waterway in Alabama and Mississippi, a passenger ferry between Detroit and Windsor, and most of all, a highly ambitious coastal container ship venture linking Gulf coast ports with Florida and ports up and down the entire east coast. Start-up American Feeder Lines plans to buy 10 German-designed (but American-built) 1,300-TEU container ships, at a cost of $70 million apiece, which the Journal of Commerce notes is "twice the price of the same vessel in Europe and triple the cost in China," but is that high due to the protectionist Jones Act, which mandates that all U.S. coastal shipping be done in U.S.-made vessels with U.S. crews.

And that brings me to a significant flaw in NFCRP Report 5: its discussion of potential federal policy. Besides ignoring the obvious (repeal the Jones Act), it suggests possible "targeted assistance to the U.S. shipbuilding industry" and "potential elimination of the Harbor Maintenance Tax for all North American non-bulk shipments." In other words, instead of having to compete on a level playing field with other modes, which pay user fees for the rail or highway infrastructure they use, this allegedly superior alternative would be exempted from the token user fee that applies to this sector, in addition to potentially receiving new subsidies for vessels.

Incidentally, one of the eight winners of the Marine Highway competition announced the termination of one of its long-time services just a week after the grant was announced. Columbia Coastal Transportation is ending its 20-year-old weekly container-on-barge route between Boston and Elizabeth, NJ, due to shrinking volume caused in significant part by the start of international container service directly to Boston by ocean-going carriers. The company will continue to serve the Norfolk-Baltimore and Norfolk-Philadelphia routes.

Natural Gas for Trucks?

I made some negative comments in Issue No. 81 (July 2010) about proposals to substitute natural gas for gasoline and diesel fuels in surface transportation. Those comments prompted Alan Krupnick of Resources for the Future to send me his June 2010 paper, "Energy, Greenhouse Gas, and Economic Implications of Natural Gas Trucks." I learned a lot from the paper. (www.rff.org/documents/features/NEPI/RFF-BCK-Krupnick-NaturalGasTrucks.pdf)

There are two types of natural gas in question; compressed (CNG) and liquefied (LNG). Both have less energy content per unit volume than gasoline or diesel, so require much larger and heavier tanks for the same range. Due to space and weight constraints, neither is really practical for cars or light-duty trucks. CNG is currently used for some heavy fleet vehicles that can be refueled at local depots-transit buses, school buses, garbage trucks. For long-haul trucking, only LNG would be suitable, due to range considerations. Krupnick's paper concentrates on heavy-duty, long-haul trucking, where LNG is not yet a meaningful player. There are only 39 LNG fueling stations in the whole country, as of now, so a whole refueling infrastructure would have to be created.

In the paper, Krupnick estimates the degree to which LNG use by heavy trucks could reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum use nationwide in coming decades, and what it would cost to achieve this. For CO2, he uses the entire "well-to-wheels" cycle, to account for emissions during fuel production, processing, transportation, and distribution, as well as fuel use in powering the trucks. The "wells to tank" portion is expected to go down significantly if, as expected, the United States becomes self-sufficient in natural gas thanks to fully exploiting shale-gas resources (thereby avoiding costly and energy-intensive importation).

Many of those factors must be estimated from various studies, and that also applies to the fuel cost differential between LNG and diesel in future years, the price differential between diesel and LNG trucks, maintenance costs, and fuel economy. These kinds of studies also rely on calculations of the present discounted value of future costs, which involves a decision about what rate of interest to use. Although the federal Office of Management & Budget prescribes 7% for infrastructure studies, Krupnick uses 5% as a "social discount rate" in some cases, and other times uses 10% "to reflect partial market failure."

One table provides an array of possible payback periods, based on different assumptions about discount rates, fuel economy, vehicle cost differences, etc. Using the most favorable assumptions, the payback period could be as low as 1.6 years. Yet 30 out of 81 boxes in this table show infinite payback periods, with many others in the 6, 8, 10, 13, 16 year time frames, or higher. The shorter payback periods (under 4 years) almost all assume the lowest vehicle price differential (just $35,000) and the highest fuel price differential ($1.50/gallon). Krupnick then estimates the effect of various rebates and subsidies in reducing the payback period to something trucking companies might find acceptable.

His other exercise is to use the National Energy Modeling System model to see how much of a difference in oil use and CO2 emissions there would be if LNG trucks were somehow to achieve an aggressive penetration rate into the heavy truck fleet. The model enables him to calculate the social cost of this change. Using the most favorable assumptions about cost and price differences, the net social cost would be $78 billion, but using what he terms "the most reasonable current truck purchase price differential," the social cost would be $186-209 billion. And for that case, the cost/ton of CO2 reduction would be in the $76-88 range-well above the generally accepted ceiling of $50/ton for cost-effective GHG reduction.

Given those results, I cannot agree with Krupnick's conclusion that "LNG trucks, under certain conditions, can be a good deal for society" and therefore worth subsidizing.

Bus Continues to Challenge High-Speed Rail

I've written previously about the remarkable come-back of the inter-city bus ("coach") industry this decade, as typified by the highly competitive New York to Washington, DC market, kicked off by new-entrants BoltBus and MegaBus. These services offer reserved seats, power outlets, free wi-fi, and other amenities. That plus their low fares makes them highly competitive with both the airline shuttles and Amtrak's Acela service in this corridor. But this concept has begun spreading to the Midwest and the Southeast, and is also invading some of the short-haul and commuter markets on which some high-speed rail (HSR) plans are depending for part of their fare revenue.

To begin with, Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University recently explained to the readers of Practical Traveler (July 16, 2010) the service features that have enabled these bus services to attract a growing market share, beyond the typical inter-city bus clientele of relatively low-income people and students. These features include:

  • Online ticketing-which ensures that most passengers are internet-savvy;

  • Guaranteed seats-which ensures a comfortable travel experience, with no pre-trip anxiety over seating vs. standing;

  • Curbside departures-which avoids the typically downscale bus stations many prefer to avoid;

  • Onboard technology-again, appealing to business and professional travelers.

Competition in the northeast corridor has led Greyhound itself to introduce upgraded buses on its routes linking Montreal, Boston, New York, and Washington, offering wi-fi and power outlets, three-point safety belts, and increased leg-room.

Schwieterman's researchers found that most of the new services of under four hours are operated as express, with no stops along the way. They also found similar services in the Midwest (e.g., Chicago to Madison, Milwaukee to Madison); in fact, about 40 cities in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as nearby Canadian locations, now have new-generation  bus service.

The South appears to be the next frontier. RedCoach, owned by one of the largest transport companies in South America, is now offering daily express bus service in Florida and Georgia. The new buses seat 27 instead of 56, offering far more leg-room and including a foot rest, lap desk, and power outlet, in addition to wi-fi. Service between Miami and Orlando is scheduled at just four hours, and this month is being offered at an introductory price of just $40 round-trip. RedCoach serves six Florida cities thus far, plus Atlanta. Its expansion plans include Tampa, meaning that it will offer express service between Orlando and Tampa-an alternative to the planned $3 billion (of taxpayer money) high-speed rail line for that corridor, as well as the much more costly Miami-Orlando HSR line that proponents hope will follow. Yet like all the other express bus operators, RedCoach receives no tax money, and pays highway user taxes like all other motor vehicles do. Plus, if a particular route turns out to be a loser, it's easy for the company to shift the vehicles to other routes. You can't do that with HSR.

Luxury bus service is also entering commuter and other short-haul markets. In Silicon Valley, Bauer's Limousine Service is well-known for operating the corporate buses that transport numerous Google and Facebook employees to and from work. Recently, the company has begun offering premium commuter bus service to others in the Bay Area. Under the brand name Wi-Drive, Bauer has introduced four $500K luxury buses. For $5 to $9 per ride, the service offers leather seats, power outlets, free wi-fi, restrooms, and even coffee and pre-ordered breakfasts. In its first year, Wi-Drive buses are running at 60-70% occupancy, with routes serving destinations both north and south of San Francisco.

Another completely unsubsidized short-haul service is Disney's Magical Express, which links Orlando International Airport with the various Disney resorts. It provides door-to-door service for both people and baggage, sparing families of the hassles of lugging bags and renting cars. Magical Express averages about 6,000 passengers per day, about 7% of the airport's total. It is so popular that low-fare carrier Allegiant Air, which typically serves secondary airports, is shifting about a dozen of its flights from Orlando-Sanford Airport to Orlando International, so that its passengers can make use of Magical Express. Orlando International to Disney is one of the planned markets for the $3 billion Orlando-Tampa HSR service.

I continue to view HSR, as currently planned in the United States, as largely a solution in search of a problem to solve. Why this nation should commit tens (and potentially hundreds) of billions in taxpayer dollars to create this new mode of inter-city passenger travel, when the entirely unsubsidized luxury bus industry can do the job, is beyond me.

In Defense of Gravel Roads

Earlier this summer the Wall Street Journal reported on the "unpaving" of 100 miles of rural road in South Dakota, and several other media reported similar small examples in North Dakota and a few other rural states. That prompted New York Times columnist Paul Krugman to a burst of outrage. "America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere," he wrote in his column on August 8th. And the very next day, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow followed suit, calling the replacement of pavement with gravel "a wacky Luddite solution."

I was dismayed by the Journal article, not because I agreed with Krugman and Maddow but because I think it failed to provide the proper context. Only in the very last paragraph did it point out that North Dakota Highway 10 carries next to no traffic, which for decades has shifted to parallel I-94-and that local voters have not once but four times rejected tax measures that would have enabled the road to be repaved.

I'm indebted to Slate columnist Jack Shafer for doing the kind of context-setting homework that other media should have done. His Aug. 16 column, "Paved and Confused," pointed out the huge increase in paved roads over the past 50 years and the tiny fraction of paved roads that a few rural states are converting to gravel-because the cost of maintaining them is not justified by the miniscule amount of traffic they carry. (www.slate.com/id/2264109)

The larger point here is one of wise resource allocation. State DOTs have limited resources, and should allocate them in ways that produce the most bang for the buck. Just because a road once carried enough traffic to justify the cost of asphalt does not mean that will be true forever, as economies evolve and people move. State DOTs vary widely in how well they do at delivering value for their customers and taxpayers, as Reason Foundation's 19th annual highway report documents once again (see News Notes). North Dakota, in fact, ranks number one overall in this year's report, as having the most cost-effective state highway system (and South Dakota's ranks 12th). And overall, contra Krugman and Maddow, the report finds highways are in the best shape they've been since the report began tracking the data 19 years ago.

Upcoming Conferences

Note: I don't have space to list all the transportation conferences going on; below are those that I or a Reason colleague are participating in.

 8th Annual Preserving the American Dream Conference, Sept. 23-25, Orlando, FL, Doubletree Resort. Details at http://americandreamcoalition.org. (Sam Staley speaking)

Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association Annual Fall Meeting, Sept. 29, Madison, WI, Marriot Hotel. Details at www.wtba.org. (Robert Poole speaking)

TEAMFL Fall Quarterly Meeting, Oct. 20-21, Coconut Grove, FL, Mayfair Hotel Spa. Details at: www.teamfl.org. (Robert Poole speaking)

Public-Private Financing and Investment Strategies, Dec. 13-15, San Francisco, CA, Grand Hyatt. Details at www.iirusa.com/public-privatefinancing/home.xml.

(Shirley Ybarra speaking)

News Notes

Reason's Annual Highway Report Makes Front-Page News

The 19th annual report on the performance of all state highway systems, by the research team headed by David Hartgen, was released early this month. In its first week, the report garnered nearly 600 print and online media reports, including USA Today, the Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, the New York Post, the Chicago Tribune, and many others. The report provides cost-effectiveness assessments for all 50 state systems, as well as specifics on key indicators such as congestion, pavement conditions, bridge conditions, etc. (http://reason.org/studies/show/19th-annual-highway-report)

New International Center for Bus Rapid Transit

The Volvo Research and Educational Foundation has made a five-year, $3.5 million grant to establish the Center of Excellence in Bus Rapid Transit, an international collaboration between researchers at Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Chile, MIT's Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Portugal's Instituto Tecnico Superior de la Universidad Tecnica de Lisboa, and the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney. The new center will do research, publish case studies, and provide guidelines on establishing and operating BRT systems. (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/rapid-transit-grant.html)

FRA Withdraws High Speed Rail Directive

On August 20th, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced that his agency was withdrawing its proposed regulations for shared use of freight railroad tracks for high(er) speed rail service. The guidelines were widely denounced by the freight railroads. Szabo promised to engage in "productive dialog" with the railroads, and said "We are not going to let anything harm our world-class freight railroad network."

Truck Toll Lanes Under Way in Texas

What will ultimately be 10 miles of truck toll lanes that provide a new link to the Port of Brownsville had their ground-breaking last month. Designated SH 550, the truck tollway will be built in the median of FM 511. The initial stretch is being paid for by $34 million in federal stimulus (ARRA) money. It's a joint effort between Texas DOT and the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority. All toll revenues will be used for local transportation projects.

New Report on Highway Freight Bottlenecks

The American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration have released a new report on the most congested highway interchanges nationwide. Data on truck speed were collected using GPS on 100 Interstate highway routes, with each congested interchange getting a "total freight congestion value" score. The top two were both in the Chicago metro area, with the third worst in Fort Lee, NJ.(www.atri-online.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=248&Itemid=75)

New Report on Value Pricing Pilot Program

The FHWA has released the latest update report on the Value Pricing Pilot Program, covering all projects funded since the program's inception through May 2009. It includes useful overviews of the project as well as lessons learned and suggestions for moving forward with congestion pricing. (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tolling_pricing/value_pricing/pubs_reports/rpttocongress/may09.htm)

Quotable Quotes

"There is no 'transportation trust fund.' There are four (Highway, Airport and Airway, Inland Waterway, and Harbor Maintenance), though Highway is by far the largest. Historically (ever since the Ted Kennedy bill in 1970), when people in the know say 'transportation trust fund' they mean 'making the Highway Trust Fund pay for more things that do not give any significant benefits to the people who pay the gasoline, diesel, and truck taxes that support the Highway Trust Fund."--Jeff Davis, "Obama (Finally) Asks for Surface Reauthorization; Proposes Extra $50 Billion in FY11 Spending on Highway, Transit, Rail, and Aviation Infrastructure," Transportation Weekly, Sept. 8, 2010.

"Before you get all excited, realize that all the administration proposes is only giving the states what they would have gotten if a new bill were authorized at about the same level. This is not new money on top of current funding levels. Reading the details reveals a push to reduce congressional earmarks in favor of more grant programs administered by the Administration. Keep your seats-this isn't anything to get excited about."--Tom Warne, The Tom Warne Report, Sept. 10, 2010 (TomWarneReport.com)

"Today we have trillions of dollars of capital sitting on the sidelines earning almost no return, and millions of long-term unemployed workers who would be thrilled to receive a steady paycheck again. The task is to bring these two factors of production together around projects that make sense. Setting aside details, the new model has three key structural features. To attract private capital, projects must earn a reasonable return, which means increased reliance on user fees (tolls or levies per unit consumed) rather than general taxation. Because most infrastructure projects generate public goods (such as economic growth in the areas it opens up) as well as private goods (such as easier commutes), user fees cannot capture their total worth. The market, then, will undersupply these goods unless public subsidies fill the gap. The new model requires a shift from traditional appropriations to subsidies based on the economics of individual projects. To promote economic efficiency and growth, projects must be chosen on economic rather than political grounds. The new model requires a shift away from congressional dominance of the selection process toward an empowered board substantially insulated from day-to-day political pressures."--William Galston, "How to Lower Unemployment," The New Republic, August 3, 2010 (www.tnr.com)

"We are almost broke wherever we turn. And yet the instinct to reject foreign capital, no matter where it comes from or what it is going to do, is to reject one of the things we are most in need of in the next 10-20 years."--Felix Rohatyn, quoted in "U.S. Told to Seek Foreign Partners," Financial Times, July 6, 2010.

"With railroads reaching only one-fifth of U.S. communities, it's a gross misconception that the ability exists to significantly ease congestion by shifting freight from the roads to the rails. Even if intermodal tonnage doubled by 2020, intermodal rail would account for just 1.8 percent of freight movement, compared with the 1.5 percent that is currently projected for 2020. By comparison, trucks will move 71 percent in the same time frame."--Bill Graves, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations, letter to Secretary Ray LaHood, April 30, 2010.

"It is widely understood in public finance that a transparent payment mechanism is a good payment mechanism. Those who use scarce public resources-including space on the roads-should pay for what they use, in proportion to what they use, and know that they are paying. Knowing that resources have a cost is essential to using those resources judiciously, and our road network will function better when drivers pay the costs of their travel. It is entirely appropriate to worry about the burden tolls place on the poor, but the solution is not to forego tolls altogether. We should not subsidize all drivers (and charge all consumers) to help the small number of poor travelers who use congested freeways in the peak hours and peak directions. Rather, we should help those who are less fortunate, and see to it that the rest of us pay our own way on the roads."--Lisa Schweitzer and Brian D. Taylor, "Just Road Pricing," Access, Spring 2010.


Robert Poole is Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy


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