North Carolina Tolling: Update

As I’ve mentioned in the past, North Carolina is experimenting with toll roads.  As I’ve stated, I’m in favor of this type of taxation.  It more correctly taxes usage than does a generic gasoline tax.  Monies generated from a particular road have a better shot at being spent on the upkeep of that road.  And, the money generated can help build a maintain future infrastructure.

Additionally the tolling can be used to create a market and maximize traffic flow.  By raising rates during peak hours, lowering them during off peak hours, we’ll better be able to move more cars and trucks through than we other wise would.  Sort of a “Tragedy of the Commons” modern style.

But is it working?

It depends upon how you look at it.

If you look at it through the lens of “all things government are inefficient” you might find ammunition for your argument:

Drivers have two options to pay for the tolls – one with what’s called an NC Quick Pass, in which money is deducted from a prepaid account, and another in which drivers are billed.

In some cases, the charge is less than the cost of the postage used to mail the bill.

“They’re few and far between. It’s the exception, not the rule,” Barry Mickle, director of operations for the Turnpike Authority, said Wednesday. “We decided we would treat everybody fairly and equitably. So, if you travel the toll road, you need to be charged.”

So.  Fairness.  Everyone has to be treated equally.  As a result, the tolls collected, if they ever are, result in less revenue than postage.  Say nothing of the administration cost.


But if you look at it through the “this is the best way to generate road revenue” lens, it looks a little better:

Overall, Mickle said, the first stretch of the Triangle Expressway has proven to be a success.

Since tolling began Jan. 3, the Turnpike Authority has counted more than 256,000 vehicles on the road.

“It’s going terrific,” Mickle said. “We’re exceeding all our expectations.”

It has also sold more than 16,000 NC Quick Pass transponders – the agency had set a goal to sell 2,700 by June – which drivers can place on their car. Drivers who use the transponders receive a discounted rate of between 30 to 50 cents.

Now, to be fair, North Carolina has to do the right thing and reduce the gasoline tax just as we raise the tolls.  After all, no one wants to be greedy.



Leave a Reply