Cashless Tolls Will Unlock the Option of Congestion Pricing in PA’s Big Metros

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I’m glad we’re hearing talk about moving to cashless tolls, because that would be an excellent way for the state to save money, stretch taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars further, and improve human welfare all at the same time.

The state would no longer have to spend millions on employing human beings to do the dehumanizing job of making change for motorists in a tiny booth all day. This job is such a sad waste of human potential, and the sooner nobody has to do it, the better. Instead of employing 755 workers to do toll collections, the state could use the money to hire people to do other useful public services. The savings could be used to hire more teachers, or state police, or park maintenance workers, or whatever people want.

Even better, cashless tolling opens up the possibility of congestion pricing in Philly, Pittsburgh and really any city that experiences a congestion crunch during the morning and evening commute:

In what it’s calling one of the most ambitious efforts in the nation, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission plans to convert to all-electronic tolling within five years, scrapping the need for drivers to pass through tollbooths.

Toll plazas along the more than 300-mile mainline Turnpike and its spurs, including the Northeast Extension, would be replaced by overhead gantries that would deduct tolls from E-ZPass users, acting commission CEO Craig Shuey said Tuesday.

License plates of vehicles without transponders would be photographed and toll bills would be sent to owners.

If you’re not familiar with congestion pricing, the idea is that tolls go higher during peak travel times, to discourage people from solo-driving into cities’ central business districts at the busiest times, and encourage car pooling and mass transit.

Aside from the anti-toll politics, the biggest challenge to doing congestion pricing so far has been operational. Where do you put the toll plazas? Won’t you just create more congestion if people have to wait in line to pay?

The adoption of cashless tolling takes away those operational objections. With the overhead gantries, you can toll any road that gets congested, from the Turnpike on down to local highways. Raising more money from congestion would be an excellent way to fund the state’s transportation budget, since the tax on congestion would reduce traffic jams and save people and businesses valuable time, improving the economy.

(Thanks: John Micek)

This entry was posted in Budget, Economy, Transportation.

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