Freeway Tolls “Inevitable”?

So says King County Executive Ron Sims.

11 responses to “Freeway Tolls “Inevitable”?”

  1. I think part of the issue here is how to force people to pay for improvements they’re demanding.
    Tolling freeways sounds like a good idea, however I wonder if people would simply skip the tolls by driving on surface streets, even if that involves driving miles out of the way.
    Another concern I have, is instead of setting up tolls for their legitimate purpose, that it instead creates an infrastructure for domestic checkpoints (even if they’re automated like the red light cameras).
    I wonder if a better idea would be to impose a “Commute Tax,” where they would say ‘okay, you live here and you’re working there, there’s this much infrastructure between those two places, so your commute tax is $n.’ Then, no matter what route you drive, you’re footing the bill.

    It’s probably also worth noting that in Seattle proper, they’re currently paying a sales tax that includes .9 for King Co. Metro (which happens to be a 24/7/365 agency), .4 for Sound Transit; a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax for Sound Transit, and there was another (now discontinued, but not refunded) Motor Vehicle Excise Tax for the now-canceled monorail. Just the other day while checking out the K.C. Metro site, was an announcement that the City of Seattle is imposing a ‘Head’ Tax on employees that drive to work within the city alone (looks similar to the TriMet Payroll Tax here), and a ‘parking lot tax:’

  2. The potential for domestic checkpoints aside, we need a usage fee to be fair. What about people like me who use public transit to commute? Do I have to pay the infrastructure tax for the distance between my apartment and my employer’s office even though I already pay for a TriMet pass? And if you make an exception for that situation, what about when my girlfriend drives me to work, as she does nearly 50% of the time? Or at a previous apartment and job, I lived a quarter mile from home, but I’d drive all over the place for fun. Should I have only been taxed for that quarter-mile of infrastructure even though my usage exponentially exceeded that distance on a daily basis? The mileage fee program tested by ODOT and OSU last year is the best model I’ve seen yet for a fair and inobtrusive means for a usage tax, and the NIMBY’s wouldn’t be able to avoid it by clogging up the surface streets. I also really like the idea of charging a “premium” rate for driving in the Portland area during rush hour.

  3. Any tolls that are used to add auto capacity need to pay the full cost of that capacity. The problem with most of the tolling proposals is that the entire public pays most of the cost, but only those members of the public who pay the toll get the benefit.

    If you are going to toll a public road, then the toll charges ought to be used to provide alternatives for people who either can’t or don’t choose to pay it.

  4. A commute tax, based on how far your office is from your home is a great idea actually. Certainly it works better for people that have the same job in the same location for a long time, than for people like construction workers, that have different jobs every other week and then get laid off when there is no work, but, it is still a great idea. Why do you assume that it would be dedicated to freeways though? If the city spent 3.5% of the commute tax money on bicycle infrastructure, (instead of the .7% of the PDOT budget that they actually did spend,) we would have an amazing bicycle system…

  5. Matthew,

    I understand your reasoning for 3.5% towards bicycle infrastructure, but that’s really a huge chunk of money for blue and white paint. If the streets are designed right to begin with, then bikes would be accommodated appropriately. So we should concentrate on making sure that any new or renovated street includes bike lanes.

  6. I wouldn’t spend it all on blue and white paint… :-)

    No, you have a point, many of the problems for the streets are not strictly bicycle problems. For instance, it is about 2 miles as a crow flies from my sister’s house to my house, but it takes 3 because there isn’t any place to cross I-5 near there.

    That said, 2 vs 3 miles in a car isn’t a big deal, but on foot or on a bicycle, it is a big enough deal to convince some people to drive instead. And, building another road bridge across I-5 near there would probably get a lot of local opposition from the people on the street that would be reconnected, so the city wouldn’t do it. But, a road bridge solution to the problem would be a lot more expensive than a pedestrian bridge solution anyways…

  7. The Monorail MVET should be off the books by now, with the last debts paid off. The Sound Transit MVET is in effect for the life of bonds sold in 1998, which should be paid off by 2028.(Although voters within the Sound Transit District voted no on I-776, but King Tim decided to enlist the help of the rest of the state. Snohomish County Sub-Area(which is from the county line at North 200th St to North Everett, and from Puget Sound to Bothell) voted No, so did East King County, and the Seattle/North King County Subarea. The latter by 70%, at the same time the Monorail passed(2002) by a mere 300 votes.

    Now as for KCM being a 24-7 agency, you are right. Less than 10 routes are running between 3 and 5 AM with frequencies of roughly every 60-90 minutes. They are routes 81,82,83,84,85,86, and 280, with regular routes 7 and 174 also running Night Owl services. I know, I have had to use it the past few days, and it gets every seat full at least. Waiting downtown for 40 minutes for the first run of the bus I need to get to my Temp Job is the scary part. As I get on board the 7-Owl, the first 7 of the day passes by in the other direction bound for the starting point in Ranier Beach(has to, it is a trolleycoach, the Owls are exclusively Diesel), overheard the driver telling somebody that it leaves Atlantic Base at around 4AM.

    One thing in the articles, the people commenting on why they don’t take the bus are right. There are times when it is not convenient, and still areas of King County that it only serves during Rush Hour. Sound Transit on some routes dispatches there first buses before 5AM. Between 5AM and 6AM, Metro is still putting more buses into service, so it is still sporadic.

  8. If anyone’s fuming over my previous comment, it was an attempt to provide a different idea than tolls, this one specifically for people that insist on driving to work vs. using available alternatives (ex., someone has an 8-5 job in Downtown Portland, there’s a bus or MAX stop right in front of their home with a route that takes them directly into downtown, but they still insist on driving). I probably oversimplified on the idea, but I did say “…no matter what route you drive….”

    Another thing worth bringing up is ‘that’s great, but what about people that either have to go to work or go home when TriMet is out of service for the early morning?’ IMO, since no viable alternative is available (I wouldn’t consider taxis to be a ‘viable alternative’), there would be no tax collected/due for those commute trips. (Before anyone says ‘HA! there’s your loophole!,’ who really wants to be at work at 4 AM?!)

    The concern I have is if, say, I-5 becomes a tollway from Tualatin to Portland, that people will scoff at the idea of paying a “road tax” and will instead clog up Pacific Hwy./Barbur Blvd. more than it already is, unless 99W was tolled as well; in which case the “I shouldn’t have to pay” types will instead use SR 217 to US 26, unless that was also tolled… see where I’m going here?

  9. I wonder if a better idea would be to impose a “Commute Tax,” where they would say ‘okay, you live here and you’re working there, there’s this much infrastructure between those two places, so your commute tax is $n.’ Then, no matter what route you drive, you’re footing the bill.

    I really can’t imagine how you could effectively implement this. I’d rather just go with electronic tolls on freeways, bridges, viaducts, and major arterials, with the tolls automatically rising and falling according to demand throughout the day. Make each individual toll facility charge a rather small toll (say, a nickel), and people won’t feel the need to detour to avoid it.

  10. Ohh, and since I went to the Bike Master Plan Meeting tonight, I should point out that, for ~7% of the population, a little white and blue paint is fine for a bike route. However, with the right infrastructure, (seriously traffic calmed streets that go through and safely cross major arteries,) on the order of 2/3rds of the city would bike. Of course, the cost of doing that is far less than 2/3rds of PDOT’s budget, but it is more than 0.7%…

  11. I really can’t imagine how you could effectively implement this.

    Maybe by placing the tax on employers, like the current transit taxes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *