The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) opened a new toll road recently. The highway has been in existence since 1982, but the toll gantries are new. Rush hour tolling, between 5:30 and 9:30 a.m., is a test of how badly you want to reach The Swamp.
VDOT uses a system called “dynamic tolling,” which works out to “do you feel lucky?” Instead of a nice predictable toll that’s the same every morning, Swamp Pike tolls adjust according to how much traffic is on the road. The goal is to keep One Percenters and vehicular communes moving along at a nice, even 55 mph.
This is harder than it seems, since many DC-area motorists drive like the last transportation they operated was a burro. Our ‘diverse’ drivers have a tendency to pause and contemplate cars stopped on the shoulder, flashing blue lights and the odd grocery bag blowing across the freeway.
On the second day the inbound toll peaked at $40 dollars one way for a 10-mile trip. Frankly, I wouldn’t pay $40 to drive into DC and watch Roy Moore sign high school yearbooks. If you want to be penalized by the government, it’s cheaper to take up smoking. One would have to inhale 13 cartons of cigarettes by noon each day to reach $40 in taxes.
What’s really interesting was the response of transportation officials to criticism. Their off-hand justification was punish-the-driver propaganda that’s common among transportation wallahs nationwide.
Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane told the Washington Post, “No one has to pay a toll. You simply could have put another person in your car and avoid a toll [sic]...everyone has a choice...we wanted to change behavior, we don’t have the resources to continue to lay asphalt and have congested roadways.”
Lane is offering the bandit’s choice: Your money or your life.
The people on the receiving end of this Let’em-Eat-Cakeism aren’t gun owners or disreputable people like Trump voters. They’re among the state’s most productive citizens who are JUST TRYING TO GET TO WORK!
When it comes to trying to stamp out privilege, solo drivers are right up there with white people as far as the left is concerned. How dare they want to drive to work and have the flexibility to come and go as they please.
Think of the backlash if this offhand dismissal of genuine constituent concern was applied to other areas of life. Would a police chief confronted by women worried by increasing crime tell them it’s time to “change their behavior?” And then suggest they buy a gun and stop dressing so provocatively?
How about parents dealing with over-crowded schools? Would superintends tell mothers their kids are going to have to get used to someone sitting in their lap, and by the way you might consider using stronger birth control?
And isn’t is strange how transportation experts assure us building more roads is pointless because new highways are an automobile magnet. While no politician has ever said the city won’t build more schools because the buildings just fill up with kids.
The real thumb-in-the-driver’s-eye for this particular toll road is the millions of dollars raised won’t be spent on increasing road capacity. Instead, the money will go to increasing bicycle capacity, along with other “transit improvements” that include new bus routes and park-and-ride facilities.
Politicians’ obsession with forcing their constituents into carpools is another example of elected hypocrisy. Like the Washington, DC Metro board members who it was discovered didn’t actually take the subway. I can’t think of any elected official that has ever been a member of a carpool.
The only time most of those hypocrites want to cozy up to constituents is in a hot tub.
The absolute topper though, is that drivers docilely accept the fact their transportation priorities will continue to be ignored in the future. We’ve come full circle in Virginia. In the 19th Century state government was too small to pay for roads and most of its effort was devoted to keeping the black man down. The solution was privately-owned toll roads.
Now state government is too big and too lazy to build new roads, so in a particularly larcenous twist it takes a road like I-66 that has already been paid for and makes it a turnpike. It’s time for driver’s everywhere to rise up and exhibit some roads rage. We should be circling our respective state capitals like Comanches until legislators start expanding the highway network.
If that won’t work then it’s time to go nuclear. Force politicians to use mass transit to get to work until they build some new roads for the rest of us.
Michael Shannon is a commentator and public relations consultant, and is the author of “A Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times.” He can be reached at email@example.com.