Steve Lopez: Stop whining about toll lanes on L.A. freeways
Memo to: U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles)
Re: The proposed toll lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways.
CC: All the angry motorists posting overheated comments.
Relax. Slow down. Use your head and quit your whining.
This is a trial run, and it's about time. Tolls and congestion pricing won't solve L.A.'s traffic nightmare. We need more transit, more bikeways, more carpooling, more staggered work schedules, more people choosing to live closer to work.
But tolls can help manage and reduce congestion, as they have in parts of the world that are way ahead of us.
The fact is that Americans don't pay enough to cover the true cost of driving (road construction and maintenance, as well as smog-related health problems), thanks in part to a federal gas tax that hasn't changed since 1991 and the fact that cars get much better mileage now. Why shouldn't there be entirely discretionary user fees to help balance the equation?
Waters says tolls would create a system of "haves and have-nots."
What she doesn't say is that the "have-nots" benefit, theoretically, in two ways from tolls. First, tolling can help reduce traffic for everyone, because it means fewer cars will travel in the regular lanes. And if it works, any proceeds can be used for maintenance that benefits everyone, or for more transit options.
The two stretches of the 10 (from Alameda east to the 605) and the 110 (from Adams south to Artesia) were chosen because there are times when the carpool lanes are far from busy. So anyone who needs to travel faster, to get home or make an appointment, can choose to pay more, with the fee assessed electronically (no toll booths) and based on the degree of congestion.
It's smart. It's time. Give it a chance.
-- Steve Lopez
Photo: Traffic on the southbound 110 Freeway on Wednesday. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times