11.22.2010

Forget the train, toll Wisconsin's Interstates!

Scott Walker is right! Person A should not be forced to pay for something person B uses. Like it is in fact a bad idea to make people who won't ever ride a train pay for train infrastructure somewhere in the state, it is silly for me and the people of Southeastern Wisconsin to be paying for superfluous interstates that we will never drive on, like anything north or west of Milwaukee-Madison.

I mean, already our taxes contribute to a billion+ dollar interchange in Milwaukee that none of my family has even driven on in at least the better part of a decade. (They should have cut off a few zeros by simply building an elevated roundabout!) Or what about that big goofy bridge to nowhere in downtown Milwaukee by the lakefront? How much is that costing us per year in maintenance for just a quicker route to the city's sewage treatment plant? Why would anyone want to drive from Madison south to Janesville or Beloit, both now washed up former factory towns? How much more maintenance will that 50% increase in roadway cost us? Has anyone really even ever been up north on I-39 or anywhere past the Dells? This is ludicrous that I must pay for other people's transportation! The founding fathers would be livid!

Looking at what numbers I can find, the state of Wisconsin gets about $950m, taking the state population as 5.5 million, from the federal government for roads. Combine that with the state's road budget of about $4.1b, and the number of miles the average person drives, 12k per year, that's a cost for roads of $0.0765 per mile driven per person in Wisconsin. However this includes all roads and interstates probably cost a lot more to maintain than farm roads or two-lane normal roads.

For comparison, Illinois has toll highways. The 30 mile stretch across Chicago from south to north (from Urbana to Wisconsin) has 4 toll stops, 3 x $0.80 and 1 x $1.00. That's $3.40 for about 40 miles, or $0.085 per mile. I'd figure that Illinois' tolls more accurately reflect how much it costs to maintain an interstate highway.

Tolls wouldn't be that hard to implement in Wisconsin. Put minimally invasive cameras on the ramps that record license plate numbers, then charge each license plate for the number of miles it has driven between ramps. You could register a credit card to your plate if you want to pay as you go, or you could just let it all accumulate until you need your plates renewed each year and pay lump-sum. If we copy Illinois' rates, a 90 mile trip between Madison and Milwaukee should cost at least $7.65. It'd probably be more because there's less traffic there than around Chicago. (If you commute 40 miles each day on an interstate 48 weeks per year, then that's $816 in revenue the state forgoes every year!)

What?!?! That's ridiculous that I am compelled to pay that much in costs for someone to make that trip for free each time they drive it! Building a national transit system, what was that socialist Eisenhower thinking? How is this fair to all the people up in Green Bay or Eau Claire or Ashland (far from any highways at all) that have to chip in to that? I hope it grinds their gears as much as it does mine!

There are additional bonuses of tolling the interstates:
  1. If someone 'appears' at their destination exit faster than driving the speed limit would have gotten them there, we can charge a speeding penalty for extra revenue!
  2. We can charge double for out of state people!
  3. We'll have a much better way to track criminals' movement and catch them! Criminals are everywhere, after all.

Once we get this improved and much more fair transportation system scheme implemented, then we can start to work to increase the fairness in other spheres of life in the state.

I've always wondered why I pay taxes for other people's children to go to school. Why do I pay taxes for parks, trails, and beaches I'll never visit? Why do I pay taxes for courts I'll never use? Police I'll never call? Jails I don't use? Fire departments I'll never need? Sewage systems I'll never flush poo down? Airports I'll never fly to? Colleges I'll never attend? Libraries and museums I'll never visit? Tax incentives for businesses I'll never work at or patronize? Sports facilities I'll never attend? Farmers that the market wouldn't have farming? Not to mention a myriad other state services I'll never use. Anything that doesn't effect me simply has no value whatsoever. Surely the smallest any of these costs, cost the state way more than $750 thousand to $7 million per year.

Once put into motion, this Great Disestablishment shall draw people and businesses from far and wide, not to mention save us a lot of money and definitely help to pay down the national debt! Scott Walker and the Tea Party will surely show the nation the path into a new century of glorious prosperity! On Wisconsin! Forward!