Lot of talk going on these days about toll roads, especially putting a toll on the High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV, or 'Car Pool') lanes.
I'd say, "DGMS" - Don't Get Me Started.
But if I didn't get 'started' now and then, what's the point of having a blog?
To consider whether it's a good idea to have a toll on HOV lanes, shouldn't you first consider whether it's a good idea to have HOV lanes at all?
As I have expressed before, the evidence is clear:
If the purpose of an HOV lane is to encourage car pooling - and is that NOT the purpose? - then the fact that they are used infreqently now suggests they are a miserable failure.
Is the idea that by car pooling we save fuel and reduce congestion? When I cannot run in the HOV lane in my little Jetta Diesel wagon by myself but some dude and his buddy in a 4,000 kg Hemi doolie pickup that is twice as big, twice as heavy, and uses three times as much fuel can?
That's just nuts.
My and your taxes already paid for the building of those lanes. Why shouldn't we be able to use them whenever we want?
One of these days, perhaps when all the Spider Solitaire games have been played and I DO have spare time on my hands, I'm gonna find a bridge over an HOV lane and count how many people are in fact using them legally, i.e., with the required minimum number of people in the vehicle.
Anecdotally, I'd guess maybe half.
So all that putting a toll on them would do is turn it from being illegal to putting a tax on another sin.
I guess it works for cigarettes and liquor.
Would a toll on HOV lanes encourage people to use them more, hence ease traffic congestion?
You can hardly get people to use them now for free; how are you going to charge people to use them?
OK, so maybe if you could legally use them by yourself it might increase utilization a little, even if it cost a couple bucks a day. So, essentially one system for the rich, another for the poor.
But if you just made the lanes available to everyone for free - everyone, as I pointed out, who has already paid to build them - wouldn't that be an even better use of our road resources? It would make better utilization of the investments we have already made in road infrastructure.
If they put tolls on HOV lanes, how are they going to collect the money? Issue permits?
How are they going to do that? How much would that additional bureaucracy cost?
How are they going to enforce it? There's scant evidence they enforce the restrictions now.
Or is every HOV lane going to become like Highway 407, privately run and tolled via transponder?
I doubt it. Who could/would afford the up-front capital costs?
HOV lanes are a stupid idea that is made stupider by putting a toll on them.
Now, IF the point of all these restrictions on our commuting is to reduce car use and encourage public transit, well, that's a non-starter because the bus/street car/light rail/commuter train 'public transit' systems we do have in the GTA are already over-crowded, yet don't service enough citizens to be worth it for countless others.
To expand that capacity, our municipal politicians would have to agree on - well, let's not get into that. You can read about those folks in the front of the paper...
Besides, we have a public transit system - it's called the roads!
If you want to encourage more efficient use of the road system, encourage people to take other forms of public transit, or better still encourage them to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars which would reduce pollution and fossil fuel consumption - who knows, maybe even make hybrids and electric cars financially feasible - there's only one way.
Raise the price of fuel.
Now I know nobody wants to hear this, especially politicians.
Which is why I can say it, because I'm not running for any office.
Anything else is ignoring reality.