Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Get Letters: Polls on I-95

From Jason S:

Dr. John Whitehead posted ”It is Hard to Stifle My Outrage When the Government Asks Those Who Benefit to Pay” regarding the wisdom of Tolling I-95.

 I thought that maybe I had something to add that could cut to the heart of the matter. Tolls and user fees are excellent instruments to create value, but this is unlikely to be such an occasion for this multi-billion dollar expenditure. 1. The Draft Environmental Assessment, Purpose and Need, Page 13, Table 1-5, Statewide Average shows that fewer people will use the facility if they have to pay the price(toll) for the facility compare to if they continue with the current maintenance plan.

If the project has less people using I-95, it would seem that the project has increased the overall cost to users based on the laws of supply and demand. 2. This can also be seen quite simply by looking at the need to provide 19 cents in benefit to the users to match the fee being collected. If the new project lets everyone drive at 70mph on the corridor, and in the year of opening people value their time on average at $20/hour, then driving at 70mph with 19 cent toll is equivalent to driving at 42mph without a toll. This is equivalent to Level of Service D that the planners are trying to avoid. I would add that low income users would feel even more disadvantaged with $10/hr value of time. It makes the toll chill[1] equal to 30 mph.[2] 3.

While I have driven the corridor a decade ago and realize there are many large trucks the current traffic, according to Google Maps, is free flowing on Friday afternoon at 5:30pm typically the worst time for traffic. The proposed changes could mean very little if traffic volumes continue to hold steady as seen in the FHWA vehicle mile traveled (vmt) trends. (I looked at the NC data but there was a 2 billion vmt discrepancy going from 2010 to 2011 that makes a good estimate of the recent NC trends hard to enumerate.) I am a big supporter of no subsidies and user pays, but costumers still expect profits from their user fees that they pay. Users are smart enough to know there are intermediate solutions, phased solutions and new technology that can guide smarter investment in infrastructure.

Footnotes: [1] Toll Chill is meant to mean how it feels, in the same vain as Wind Chill.
[2] Safety and Bridge Rehab were not addressed these have only small changes to user benefits proposed.


Tom said...

I wouldn't dispute that "in the year of opening people value their time on average at $20/hour." Driving at 70 mph means spending roughly $12 per hour for gas and probably another $12 in general automotive expenses (unless we are really into clunkers). The toll is 19 cents? That's a rounding error!

I can't be quite sure Dr. Whitehead's piece is parody. I guess that makes it a good parody.

J Scheppers said...

The Toll shown did not show all the units. It is proposed to be 19 cents per mile, making the cost more like $17 per hour which may have a larger affect.