Rethinking SR 520 Tolls
Posted by Warren Peterson on February 5, 2012
Last year my wife and I drove almost the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike. The tollbooths gobbled up our quarters and dollar coins faster than an old style Vegas slot machine. Yes, you could actually pay with coin of the realm either by using “exact change” lanes or a toll lane where a living human being took our paper money and gave back change, politely I may add. There were numerous lanes for electronic tolling and most of the traffic passed through using them.
Back in the State of Washington, we had occasion to drive to a friend’s summer home on Hood Canal. The route took us over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge where a westbound toll is collected. Like New Jersey, tolls could be paid several ways, by cash, credit card or electronically.
Having a choice of payment method is good for the out of area drivers as well as the infrequent user. No need to purchase a transponder and money on deposit, no extra charge if the toll authority has to bill you by photographing your license plate, just pay cash. Unfortunately, such reasonable customer service is not available on the Albert D. Rosellini (Evergreen Point SR 520) Floating Bridge. One reason electronic (Good to Go) tolling is the only option is social engineering. In an effort to smooth out the traffic and discourage use of private cars, tolls vary depending on the time of day. From 7 to 9 AM and 3 to 6 PM, for instance, the toll is $3.50 each way. Make that $5.00 if the license plate photo is used. Not a problem if you are part of the 1% but fairly expensive for the rest of us. If you had to travel the peak hours for say 40 weeks, five days a week, prepare to find an additional $1,400 in your budget. You could cut this somewhat by adjusting your travel times, taking the bus or using I-90 which is what the social engineers want you to do except there is talk of closing one of those options by tolling I-90.
Since the primary purpose of the tolls is to pay for construction of a new bridge, why not charge a lower flat rate 24/7 and employ a couple dozen toll takers for those who don’t have a Good to Go pass. A flat rate is fair, it allows metering of traffic by funneling cars through toll plazas without the financial penalty and fewer enforcement and billing people could offset the addition of human toll collectors.
Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125 would have instituted a flat rate toll but it failed to pass, probably because it contained too many other transportation issues such as light rail across I-90. Maybe an initiative on the single issue of a flat rate toll for the Rosellini Bridge would pass. How about it, Tim?
Cross posted on: Sound Politics