In our opinion: Congestion toll pricing could be a market-based solution for Utah's road woes

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  • Steve W Cedar Hills, UT
    April 5, 2019 4:21 p.m.

    Solving transportation problems is a difficult challenge when roads are so expensive to build and take such a long time to do so. This is a reasonable proposal.
    You cannot build roads without money. So taxes are needed to build them.
    We pay a gas tax now. Switching to a consumption based tax makes a lot of sense.
    Laws of economics show that allocating scarce resources by pricing them differently works pretty well.
    Right now, we are pretty much "consuming " the roads by paying a gas tax. The gas tax does not apply to all, just those who drive vehicles burning gas.
    However, almost everyone who drives uses the highways.
    If the gas tax were replaced with a tolls that were adjusted to reflect how busy or un-congested the roads were, it would more fairly allocated scarce resources. Freeways at midnight are not a scarce resource. Traffic space during rush hour is a scarce resource.

    By charging a higher toll during rush hour and removing the toll for high occupancy vehicles, we would be incented to change our behavior.

    UTA is already basically free as it is so heavily subsidized. I could easily believe the real cost of a ride on UTA is easily 10 times more than the fare charged.

  • Thomas Thompson Salt Lake City, UT
    April 5, 2019 6:16 a.m.

    A thousand thousand thanks, Deseret News, for this brave editorial. As you will discover, a great many of your readers disagree with you on this issue. But in my view, you're on the side of the angels and have taken a highly responsible position on this issue. Bravo!!

  • Carbon Dioxide Eagle Mountain, UT
    April 3, 2019 11:07 p.m.

    Adding too many tolls on 1-15 would simply make me drive on side streets. It would take me longer to get to work and all the starting, stopping, and idling would add to pollution.

  • Zabilde Riverdale, UT
    April 3, 2019 8:08 a.m.

    Brave Sir Robin,

    Concern about the poor is nothing new to me. I've consistently opposed every tax increase and new tax for just this reason. Contrary to the popular myth shared among the Democrats being a conservative republican does not mean I am rich or only care about the rich.

    Adding a Toll would push the poor off the freeways. You want congestion to ease? As others have said, stop trying to cram all the jobs into SL County. Move the Inland Port out to Toole or up north say by Ogden or Brigham City. Believe me many of us stuck commuting to work in SL County every day would love to work closer to home. But the jobs keep getting put in SL County so that's where we have to travel. How about tax credits for large employers who move outside of SL County, and keep em away from the point of the mountain too. Silicon Slopes is idiotic if you consider the congestion and pollution adding all that traffic to that area will bring. (Keep the Prison in Draper, that 720 Acres will substantially increase the traffic when it's all businesses.)

  • Gil Bates Mayfield, UT
    April 2, 2019 7:07 p.m.

    I was tongue-in-cheek about the speeding tickets.

    Nanny state greed has become a joke. And speeders don't slow down traffic.

    Although some enforcement measures are unconstitutional, radar with camera tickets are legal in construction zones at least.

    And plate reading cameras have passed the privacy test. Orwellian, for sure.

    Politicians get weird when they run out of money and will try all sorts of things.

  • Skinny Skip from Ojai Ventura, CA
    April 2, 2019 4:31 p.m.

    Carpool lanes are one thing. Congestion pricing is a whole different animal. Drivers living within the congestion pricing area are charged every time they leave the driveway. Utah traffic is not nearly bad enough to consider such a draconian measure. I've driven both the I15 during rush hour and the 405. No comparison. Incentives for more people to use Trax should be the first priority, not the nuclear option of congestion pricing.

  • DontTR3@DonM3 Tooele, UT
    April 2, 2019 3:54 p.m.

    "Gil Bates - Mayfield, UT
    April 2, 2019 1:22 p.m.
    Here's a revenue idea: Automated speeding tickets"

    The Photo-Cop has already been tried and struck down as not constitutional, seeing as how you cannot guarantee that the registered owner of the vehicle is the driver of the vehicle at the time the vehicle was tagged. Sandy City was doing this 20 years ago, and if memory serves (city may be wrong), and it turns out that some officer's child had a lead foot one day, and the officer was dinged with the ticket. That did not pass a court challenge, so this idea is DOA.

    The state of Texas uses red-light cameras, but the bigger problem with this is that there's only a couple of companies in the country that make the camera systems that can be used to do this kind of enforcement, and they get it written into their contracts that they get a cut of the fines that their systems catch. I believe there was an article on this in the DN a few years ago, but I'm not sure.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    April 2, 2019 3:08 p.m.

    "Here's a revenue idea: Automated speeding tickets."

    Do speeders actually create much congestion? Or merely offend someone's sensibilities? I'll happily accept photo-radar and red light cameras if we simultaneously implement automated tickets for left-lane lollygaggers and those who yak or text on their cell phones while driving. Anyone looking at their cell phone when the red light changes green should get a ticket for impeding traffic.

    To reduce congestion:

    1-Stop encouraging growth in high population areas. Instead do economic development in rural areas.

    2-Build new roads. A new 2 lane road like Legacy does more to reduce congestion than does adding 2 lanes to an existing road.

    3-Convert the grossly under-utilized HOV/Toll lane to a regular passing lane. More cars can use it and we don't congest the passing lane with cars entering or exiting the Toll lane.

    4-Ticket left lane lolly-gaggers for not moving right.

    5-Ticket cell phone users for taking too long to notice the red light has changed to green.

    6-Anyone who complains that freeway traffic moves too fast should lose their freeway access privileges and be given a bus pass.

  • Gil Bates Mayfield, UT
    April 2, 2019 1:22 p.m.

    Here's a revenue idea: Automated speeding tickets.

    You drive down I-15 and a computer reads your license plate number and documents your speed between point A and point B. They send you a speeding ticket by mail.

    Just change the law to make the registered owner liable for tickets.

    Problem solved.

  • Flipphone , 00
    April 2, 2019 12:27 p.m.

    You could improve traffic flow by just eliminating the HOV lane and opening up that empty lane to everyone.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:28 a.m.

    It's rather inevitable if we're going to add over a million people between Salt Lake County and Utah County over the next 30 years.

  • Traveller Farmington, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:26 a.m.

    Increased tolls would not be a market incentive, it would be a disincentive. I expect most people would just accept it as an additional fee to get to their jobs, and employers would slightly raise salaries to compensate. The only winners would be the toll collectors.

    An incentive would be something like a public transit system that is faster and cheaper than driving (which we obviously don't have), or giving carpoolers a break on vehicle registration fees or gas tax credits.

    In other words, something that rewards the behavior you want to encourage instead of punishing the behavior you want to discourage.

  • Holy-Schamoly-What Baloney Kaysville, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:15 a.m.

    WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY is EVERY solution from government either an increased fee or a tax? Bureaucrats have no way of solving anything without gouging more folks. They build an HOV lane and instead of being smart like Phoenix and enforce it only during rush hour traffic, they restrict it 24-7. Everyone paid for it but you can't use it at 2:00 AM unless you pay for it...ridiculous. And the other lanes wear out sooner because the traffic isn't spread onto all the lanes. The UHP committed to employing troopers paid from these revenues just to enforce the HOV restrictions (which are plenty silly with the double solid white line that you can't enter or leave the lane as necessary to keep traffic moving) and that has NEVER happened. What did they do with the extra money? The legislature and UDOT just are lacking in ability to do anything that will work, always looking at some liberal, taxing freedom-ending other State to set the pattern for them. Not surprisingly (unfortunately) is that the DesNews supports these types of efforts.

  • scrappy do DRAPER, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:12 a.m.

    keep those taxes coming

  • SLC Grandma Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:08 a.m.

    If a new fee, toll, or tax were to be imposed I'd worry about how it'd be spent. Decades ago, if my 88-yr-old memory serves me, a bond was passed to fund synchronization of all downtown and main arterial traffic lights so that if you traveled at 40 mph, you'd seldom have to stop at a red light, thereby reducing idling emissions and keeping traffic moving at a steady pace. Did the proposed synchronization ever happen? I don't believe so. And where did the bond money go? Anybody's guess!

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    April 2, 2019 9:42 a.m.

    Anything, especially related to taxes or fees or political policy coming from New York, or California is a really bad idea, always based on nanny state and big government knows best policies.
    Better options to reduce traffic snarls are to stagger work hours, telecommute, carpool, mass transit, or the obvious one- build more roads.

    Any politician proposing "New York solutions" should be voted out of office, or never elected in the first place. Same for editorial writers.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    April 2, 2019 9:41 a.m.

    That is a bad idea because for many jobs you don't have much of a say in when to go into work. For instance, you can't have half of your manufacturing team come in at 8 AM and the rest at 9 AM.

    If you want to cut congestion you have to open up the arteries.

    All this plan does is just add to congestion at other times, or will just create another tax.

    If they really want to reduce congestion they would make it so that people would want to join a van pool. Make that enticing and you have a chance.

    To "marxist" so you want to replace capitalists with government. Is the government any more benevolent? If the government offered free bus fares during peak traffic time, who will pay for that? If you are worried about capitalists controlling the poor, why not worry about government doing the same?

  • dave_slc Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 9:33 a.m.

    Sounds like a good idea to me - and use the money to improve roads and provide free UTA transit during congested times so alternatives exist to using cars and the poor are not left without transit. I particularly like the idea of incoming tolls to SL County since this is what provides much of the gridlock and pollution in the valley.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:45 a.m.

    I'm all for it as long as it's done right. Everyday, 100,000's of thousands of people drive in from Weber, Davis and Utah Counties. They wear and clog Salt Lake County (that "liberal" County where they receive their paychecks) roads and pollute our air. Install toll roads entering SL County. No toll to leave. Use that money to fix roads and clean our air.

  • Demosthenes Rexburg, ID
    April 2, 2019 8:43 a.m.

    Why punish the poor? Financial penalties like this disproportionately hurt those with lower incomes, many of whom need to go into a "congested area" to work, while not really affecting the wealthy at all. That's not fair in any sense of the word. All fair-minded citizens should oppose this proposal and all like it.

  • Green Truth Sandy, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:36 a.m.

    This is an April Fools joke, right?

  • Flipphone , 00
    April 2, 2019 8:22 a.m.

    New York and example of how to manage anything...Yeah right!

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    April 2, 2019 8:15 a.m.


    "Yes, lets ease congestion by pricing the poor off the freeways."

    Oh, so now we care about the poor, do we?

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:15 a.m.

    The market is a great allocation tool, but socialists like me worry about who will be hurt more by congestion pricing - lower income folk. Adam Smith promised a market utopia where none have market power, but this is not the case. Capital holds most of the cards and labor is always under duress.

    I propose zero pricing for UTA during high congestion periods.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    April 2, 2019 8:14 a.m.

    @we the people

    "Sounds like a new tax to me. Taxes are always a liberal idea."

    Really...always? Tell that to my property taxes, passed by a conservative Republican legislature and signed into law by a conservative Republican governor.

    But I digress.

    Honestly, you conservatives should be standing and applauding at this market-based solution to our traffic woes. It's merely supply and demand! When a service is in high demand, capitalism says you should expect to pay more.

  • t_mca Herriman, UT
    April 2, 2019 7:50 a.m.

    No way. Don't even go there.

  • Den Den West Jordan, UT
    April 2, 2019 7:28 a.m.

    Keep your fingers out of my pockets! That's the problem with these two states! They tax, tax, tax!

  • screenname Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 7:16 a.m.

    Who wrote this editorial? They claim this "solution" is market-based, yet in the very next sentence note that this is the opposite of centrally planned markets.

    Who owns practically every road in this state? Who would be setting the prices?

    In a true market, there wouldn't be a monopoly like the government has, so each owner would have to be competing with other roads to set a price low enough to be competitive. This situation is the very definition of a monopoly--limiting the supply of roads to artificially increase the price

  • deseret pete Springville, UT
    April 2, 2019 6:55 a.m.

    We don't need to copy everything New York or California does. Both states are deeply in debt . Not because they don't tax enough but their policies are flawed. ---- Be careful who you follow

  • Zabilde Riverdale, UT
    April 2, 2019 6:48 a.m.

    Yes, lets ease congestion by pricing the poor off the freeways.

    No, this is not a good idea. We've already paid and continue to pay for the roads via our taxes. A Free market only exists and works when there can be competition. But there isn't any competition for I-15 or any other freeway. The state owns them all. The state charging citizens to use something they already paid and continue to pay the state to use is not free market. Nor can transportation really ever be free market. The State owns the Freeways and maintains them. There is not room for a competitor to enter the market. Where would this competing freeway be built, and by whom.

    Sorry charging tolls on our freeways is NOT free-market. There is no market, as there is only one option, the roads that the state owns already that we already pay to use. The HOV lanes should not be toll either. They should be HOV or stay out.

  • WeThePeople Sandy, UT
    April 2, 2019 6:05 a.m.

    Sounds like a new tax to me. Taxes are always a liberal idea. Liberal ideas always fail!