Tolling the open road
Massachusetts considers charging by the mile for highway drivers
By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff | October 7, 2007
The monthly invoice could look something like an electricity bill or a cellphone statement. But instead of kilowatt hours or roaming minutes, it would itemize how many miles you drive - with surcharges for traveling during peak hours, premiums for using so-called Lexus lanes that bypass rush-hour snarls, and discounts for sitting through traffic jams.
The free and open road, regarded by many Americans as a birthright, could become a relic under a plan being discussed in Massachusetts and in several other states, transforming highway use from a service available to all into a utility paid for on a per-mile basis.
This philosophical shift is the cornerstone of a landmark report, released last month by the Commonwealth's Transportation Finance Commission, which was tasked with finding the estimated $15 billion to $19 billion needed to fix the state's crumbling roads and bridges over the next two decades.
Under the commission's plan, a 5-cents-per-mile fee on major roads would replace, or minimize, gas taxes and fundamentally change a central aspect of everyday life.
State Route 91 Value-Priced Express Lanes: Updated Observations
Transportation Research Record
Issue Volume 1812 / 2002
Abstract: Recently over 5 years of field observations were concluded of the value-priced express lanes that opened December 27, 1995, in the median of State Route 91, in Orange County, California. Data collection, covering about a year and a half of observations to establish baseline conditions before opening day, included traffic measurements, vehicle occupancy counts, transit ridership, and comprehensive travel surveys of current and former commuters. The corresponding data analysis included the calibration of choice models of route, occupancy, transponder acquisition, and time-of-day behavior of commuters and the estimation of air pollution emissions. Findings are presented on traffic trends, toll lane use, travelers' responses to changing congestion and tolls, shifts in ridesharing and transit use, shifts in trip purpose, differences associated with income and other demographics, public opinion, collision experience, and the results of choice and emissions modeling. As the first practical application of value pricing in the United States, the State Route 91 express lanes provide many important insights, both technical and institutional, some of which are relevant to the implementation of value-pricing projects in other locations.