This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Danny Westneat flags Ron Sims’ latest big idea:
The idea is to turn all our freeways into payways.
There’s nothing new about tolls. But Sims is not talking about a couple of bucks for crossing a bridge. It’s a plan to toll most every mile of every major state and federal highway from Everett to south of Tacoma.
It’s just a concept, Sims says, but here’s how it could work. We’d all have computer chips in our cars to record time of day and lane miles traveled on Interstates 5, 405 and 90 (out to Issaquah), as well as parts of highways 99, 167, 509, 518 and 520. The gist is you’d pay $2 for a short rush-hour commute, with a max of $4 to $8 for longer drives, such as from Bothell to Tacoma. It’d be $1 for driving around in the middle of the night.
Westneat like the idea, but says that tolls are “political suicide.” He writes, “If there’s anything that’ll get the local blood boiling as much as that income tax, Sims has found it.”
I’m not so sure. If you assume that by “local blood” he means the conservative, anti-tax folks who by and large oppose the income tax, he’s mistaken. Pay-for-what-you-use has a lot of support among conservatives, because it involves no redistribution. It’s also insanely market friendly: when something gets more scarce (freeway capacity during rush hour), the price goes up. It’s Econ 101.
For example, here’s Stefan Sharkansky of the conservative blog Sound Politics writing two weeks ago:
Nobody should be forced to pay for infrastructure he considers to be foolishly cost-ineffective and/or environmentally immoral. Nobody should have their desired solution held hostage for the other. Roads should be paid for only by those who want and use them. Likewise with light rail.
Let all highway construction and improvements be paid for through tolls, and let all light rail be financed 100% through the farebox.
Sometimes it really is that simple.
Sounds like an endorsement to me!