SFBG Radio: We fight over tolls


In today's episode, Tim and Johnny battle over whether raising the bridge tolls to fight congestion is a fair and progressive idea. You can listen to the argument after the jump.

sfbgradio8262010 by jangellw


Johnny wins this one. You can't start offering more government services to wealthier citizens. That would suck.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

Could telecommuting replace going to work? To the extent that it can, it has. It does save businesses and workers money, so there is already a strong incentive for them to do so if it is possible. Chefs are not going to cook meals for you by Internet, at least not without a lot of private investment in robotics. The nurse is not going to take your blood pressure from the comfort of her living room.

And, realistically, a lot of work in most offices gets done by chance encounters in the hallway, or over coffee. This is especially true in organizations where developing a common ethos is important to doing the job or where the job involves coordinating complex tasks. Benefit can't be monetized still exist.

Public transportation is critically important to the poor and middle class. To the extent that it is unavailable, they are locked into the local labor market or forced to pay an exorbitant fraction of their income on transportation. Car ownership adds very roughly $5,000 per year to the costs of the American worker. Public transportation can be done for about half or two-thirds of that. In fact, many families are forced to have two cars even if one partner stays at home.

Is light rail the answer? Probably. Wikipedia states that "Over the U.S. as a whole, excluding Seattle, new light rail construction costs average about $35 million per mile. By comparison, a freeway lane expansion typically costs $20 million per lane mile (a lane mile is a mile-long lane) for two directions. Since a light rail track can carry up to 20,000 people per hour as compared with 2,000-2,200 vehicles per hour for one freeway lane, light rail could theoretically deliver significantly more congestion-reduction potential per dollar as incremental freeway lanes in congested urban areas." By a lot. Continuing from Wikipedia: "A typical C-Train vehicle costs only $163 per hour to operate, and since it averages 600 passengers per operating hour, Calgary Transit estimates that its LRT operating costs are only 27 cents per ride, versus $1.50 per ride on its buses."

How to pay for it? That's really the only question to be answered. Raising the gas tax gradually to European levels could be an answer. Tolls can help to relieve peak hour congestion and encourage ridership. The main trick is to spread the benefits as widely as possible, so that the fewest people are taxed without receiving a corresponding benefit. Perhaps this could be done by taxing everyone more or less equally, and giving people a rebate for using public transportation.

Posted by Charles on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 6:35 pm