Commentary

Paying to commute

Los Angeles commuters already live in a state of chronic agitation. So with all the psychological costs Angelinos endure, it’s almost cruel to remind them that transportation also carries hefty financial costs. But a new study faces the financial ugliness head on, and finds that Angelinos devote nearly 18 percent of household expenses to transportation. According to the Surface Transportation Project and Land Use Collaborative of Southern California, the over $8000 per year Angelinos spend on transportation costs is more than they spend on food and health care combinedââ?¬â??and over 10 times what they spend on education. Some transportation costsââ?¬â??like car payments, maintenance, and gasââ?¬â??are nearly unavoidable. But others aren’t so much facts of life as they are twisted results of bad policy. We can decrease artificial costs by treating commuters more like customers. Customers choose what they buy, and in return they expect greater service. Motorists familiar with the rules of customer service at the mall or the grocery store rarely imagine how those rules could improve their commute. Enter HOT lanes.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.