Are roads being tolled to benefit the technology suppliers and operators rather than the users?

I have just read a report by one of the large transport and planning consultants which looked into why drivers us ‘managed lanes’ on Motorways (that is where variable tolls are charged according to the time of day in order to manage demand and control congestion).

An interesting thing they found was that more drivers than might be expected used these managed lanes and paid the tolls despite the time savings being very small – very little over the time taken on the un-tolled lanes. In other words, people paid a toll when there was no reason to do so.

To me this illustrates what I have been thinking for some time – the tolling of roads and motorways is being pushed not by the need to save time or to manage congestion but by the suppliers of the technology and the operators of the tolled roads, all of whom are more interested in making money for themselves than making our economy work more efficiently. And this argument also applies to ‘real-time’ and variable tariffs for energy which will become possible once we have smart-meters which are being rolled-out at great expense to the consumers but with 80% of the benefits going to the energy companies.

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2 Responses to Are roads being tolled to benefit the technology suppliers and operators rather than the users?

  1. David Cannon says:

    An interesting psychological question is why people use them. Like VIP lounges at airports and now some stations. Perhaps a fragile ego needing a little boost??? I pay a little extra ‘because I’m worth it’…

  2. stevenboxall says:

    One interesting finding was that it was the urgency of the journey which was one of the reasons the tolled lanes were used, and it was the poorer travellers who tended to value the surety of arriving in time more than the wealthy and thus used the tolled lanes more than might be expected – another example of wealth transfer from the poor to the wealthy (when compared with the roads being funded via taxes) ?

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