Early last year, I wrote about how the California Department of Transportation and local transit entities were in the process of transforming California’s legendary highway system – legendary “free” highway system – into a two-tier system, one for the haves, and one for the have-nots (“California’s Metro Express Ripoff“). Since then, the initial long-term tests of the new normal have produced conclusive evidence that they have created one system of crowded roadways, insufferable delays, strangling exhaust fumes, and bureaucratic insolence, and another one of generally wide-open spaces, flowing traffic, and delighted oligarchs. It is class warfare on the highways!
Early last year, the high occupancy lanes on Interstate 10, the San Bernardino Freeway, through much of the San Gabriel Valley, and on Interstate 110, the Harbor Freeway,
|through portions of south-central Los Angeles, were converted to not just pay-only lanes, but lanes where you had to open state run accounts, deposit funds in advance, purchase a transponder, and then keep your account replenished, as varying amounts of cash, determined according to not just distances traveled, but also by time-o-day and traffic||
levels, was taken from that account as you drove the new pay lanes. The real kicker – actual car pools, vehicles with “x” number of inhabitants – were exempt from having money taken from their accounts, but the vehicle’s owner still had to have the account and buy the transponder. No transponder on your car, and regardless of having the number of occupants that for 40 years had entitled you to use the HOV lane, and you get a ticket.
One needs to ask, “What is the purpose of HOV lanes?” The correct answer is to reduce traffic by influencing people to car pool, getting some hopefully significant number of vehicles off the roads. Then, the follow up is, “What is the effect of charging vehicles to drive in those lanes, especially letting vehicles with a single occupant pay to play? Then the
|answer is, absolutely, positively, NOT to reduce traffic and the number of vehicles on the road, but rather, to generate income.
Toll roads create a class-based privilege that further serves to tear apart society, in this case creating animosity between harried working moms, retail clerks and office staffers
stuck in traffic, worried about being late to a job they cannot afford to lose, on one hand, and the doctors, bankers, and big pharma execs tooling on down, transponders blinking, without a worry in the world, on the other.
The result, obvious to anyone driving the 10 or 110, is that traffic in the regular lanes is worse than it ever has been, and the HOV toll lanes are zipping by, with little traffic, except
|for very limited time periods. The increase in the number of vehicles in use, caused by the new toll system, also spills over onto surface streets, the exact opposite effect that the principal of HOV lanes was designed to alleviate. |
Now, it has been announced that yet another previously free HOV lane will be mystically transformed into a pay-to-play toll road, a large section of Interstate 405, the San Diego Freeway, in Orange County.
The federal gasoline tax has not been raised in decades,
which is the single biggest reason that the nation’s highways are in such horrific disrepair, and why expansion is at a virtual standstill. In California, a gasoline tax increase would be a much more fair method of increasing transportation revenue that by expanding the new normal system of toll roads.