Phantom Tollbooths

Tollbooths are becoming much more common sites along American roadways, and as more states look for ways to fund transportation infrastructure investment, toll plazas will ...
by | November 9, 2007

Tolls Tollbooths are becoming much more common sites along American roadways, and as more states look for ways to fund transportation infrastructure investment, toll plazas will only proliferate.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, Robert Poole, head of the libertarian Reason Foundation, argues that we should get rid of tollbooths altogether -- but his argument isn't what you might think.

Americans are going to be driving on toll roads a lot more in the years ahead. One of the least pleasant experiences of this form of travel is the toll booth. But it doesn't have to be this way. We can, if we want, get rid of every toll booth and toll plaza in the country.

Technology is leading the way. First came windshield-mounted transponders, like the Northeast's E-ZPass, Florida's SunPass and California's FasTrak. Transponders were first introduced merely to speed up passage through toll booths. Then engineers figured out they worked fine at highway speeds, and that plazas could be eliminated for "open-road" tolling of vehicles with transponders. Only cash-payers, off to the side, would have to queue up. This transformation has been completed on the Illinois Tollway system and is under way on Florida's Turnpike and a number of others....

Why do away with toll booths? No more delays, accidents and pollution caused by long lines of waiting cars. No more need for large swathes of land for toll plazas, making it possible to fit toll roads into tight corridors where congestion relief is needed. Lower payroll costs, no buildings and no cash "shrinkage" (i.e., theft) by collectors.

It's an interesting argument. Tollbooths eat up land, increase air pollution by slowing down traffic, and cause inefficient bottlenecks.

Plus, if we did away with tollbooths -- no more fumbling around for enough change to make $1.75!

Image via Flickr, from jvx2

Zach Patton  |  Executive Editor
zpatton@governing.com  | 

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