Uncongested Toll Roads Provide Greater Value for Drivers

We’re seeing stories like this one about drivers using Miami’s toll roads less this year. Both state highways paid for by gas taxes and toll roads paid for by toll payments are experiencing decreased revenues this year, as people cut back on discretionary trips. Nonetheless, I remain bullish on toll roads. All across the country, the last few years have seen important shifts from old-fashioned, 20th-century tolling to a new model for the 21st century. This 21st-century tolling replaces toll booths with high-speed electronic toll collection and is beginning to vary toll rates as a tool to control congestion; higher toll rates at rush hour shift non-essential trips to off-peak times. So increasingly, toll roads are going to be providing greater value to commuters than congested freeways. Even in these times of high gas prices, this effect is already being seen in Texas. A survey in four major Texas cities by NuStats found that while most people are responding to $4 gas by eliminating some trips and combining other, about 25% in Dallas and 20% in Austin are using toll roads more often, to save time and hassle. That’s a preview of things to come, as more congestion-relief toll lanes are added to freeway systems in large cities.