8/3/12, No. 49
Phantom tolIbooths: I don’t compose these letters for stupid people. My writing has such a powerful effect, weak-minded people should avoid it. So, if you are such a person, please stop reading. Either you wouldn’t understand me, or my words will so rock your world, it’ll be kind of embarrassing to see. So, just stop reading before you hurt yourself. [pause while the room clears] Now, the rest of you, the smart ones, listen up: I’m here to tell you that liberty-loving people prefer toll roads.
Your paper’s reporter, Larry Hannan, informs his readers that the state’s main road building outfit, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), wants to build a flyover connecting I-95 to Butler Boulevard. “Fixing that intersection has a very large price tag, and we don’t have the money to do it,” a FDOT official reportedly said. “Tolls would be a way to get it done. .
The state is also planning to widen portions of I-295, and toll the new lanes, and build the First Coast Outer Beltway from I-10 in Jacksonville to I-95 in St. Johns County as a toll road. Read more here.
Toll roads aren’t what they used to be.
These new toll roads won’t have tollbooths. In his article, Larry Hannan writes: “Tolls will be collected using a fully automated system called SunPass. It allows traffic to move at full speed through a toll area that automatically deducts tolls from a credit card account via a transponder that has been attached to the front windshield of someone’s car.”.
People won’t have to stop and pitch money into a bin, pay a toll taker, or slow down enough for their license plate to be photographed.
Instead, these new ones will be entirely high tech. The car will have a transponder on the dashboard, and the driver will just pull onto the toll road, a signal will be registered, and everything will be recorded digitally. A bill then goes to the driver. Totally cool, eh? This takes Norton Juster’s idea to a whole new level. Drivers will be able to play ‘phantom tollbooth’ whenever they are exercising their liberty by using a toll road. They’ll say, ‘Look, kids, a phantom tollbooth!’ Don’t see one? Well, that’s the point.
Finally, and this is the main point, ladies and gentlemen with strong intellects: why limit toll roads to just the I-95 to Butler flyover? Or the widened portions of I-295? Or the First Coast Outer Beltway? The new technology makes it possible to turn every byway, street, road, route, boulevard, thoroughfare, expressway, highway, freeway, avenue, and alley into a toll road. Digital sensing equipment could be installed on every pathway over which cars and trucks travel, and the transponder on the dash would track each vehicle’s course. Then, at the end of the month, the driver would receive a bill. The driver—you—would pay for only the roads you use. And, most importantly, you wouldn’t have to pay for the roads other people use.
With an all-wired road system, the gas tax could be eliminated. The money raised from your driving would be directed toward keeping up the roads you use. Driving down a road would become like voting for a road you like. It’d be like clicking “Like” on FaceBook. Why pay for roads you don’t like. For example, why should I pay for repaving the street you live on. I’m never going to drive down that street. Especially if you live on it.
And, let’s face it: some roads will be more popular than others. Some will lose out and probably eventually have to be closed. But that’s what our system is all about—choice. After all, why should you have to pay for roads other people use but you never use? And especially, why should you have to pay for the upkeep of roads that don’t get much traffic? Like schools earning low grades and post offices in rural areas, low-performing roads will have to be shut.
Also, with the all-wired road system, the bill coming at the end of the month would display a record of every road you’d traveled and every place you’d visited. It would chart the dates and times for both points of departure and destination, as well as anywhere that you might have stopped along the way, and for how long you stopped. It would be a comprehensive monthly listing of your whereabouts, down to the last detail. The only thing the bill would not indicate would be what you were up to and why. And if you were up to no good, like getting a little nookie on the side, you’ll just have to intercept that bill before your wife sees it.
So, there it is, the case for why we liberty-loving people support toll roads.
Now, those of you who chose at the beginning of this letter not to leave (the ones who have strong minds): thank you for listening. As for those who stepped out of the room, you can come back in now.