NPR recently interviewed Nelson Schwartz, New York Times reporter and author of “The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality Became Big Business”. In his book Nelson examines the parallel but separate worlds of the wealthy vs the rest of us. In September 2018 he interviewed me as part of his research on transportation inequities. You can read my blog post about it here:
Behind The Velvet Rope: Social Class Segregation in our Transportation.
In the NPR interview, they did not really touch on the topic of transportation; so I encourage you to read about it in his book, especially if you are a policymaker in our government. America prides itself on “All men are created equal”, but in practice, that is not the case for Washington state transportation policy.
Express Toll Lanes are the quintessential velvet rope economy of inequality. While it may not seem that way at the current pricing of $10 max on I-405, the foundation is laid for the future when tolls will be affordable by only the wealthiest people. This is already the case in Virginia where their toll lanes peak out at over $50 per trip.
My husband & I are retired, so minimally affected, but we really feel for those that must sit in traffic every day as they can’t afford the TOLL lanes or housing near where they work. So unfair, & as tax payers, we have already paid for a road we can no longer use. Instead of Toll lanes, bring back 2 HOV lanes on 405, then charge a minimal fee ($1.00 or $0.50) for those not in car pools. The state would probably bring in far more money that way, yet free up the ridiculous traffic gridlock we have in this region. Further, get rid of the out of state tolling companies who are making billions off what the state should be receiving of our money.
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Thanks for the comment, Marsha. You are right. The one thing I would note is that these toll lanes are not making billions of dollars. At their best they are making about $20 million per year, nothing more than a rounding error in the total WSDOT budget which is Billions per year. To bring this to a scale we can comprehend more easily, If a Billion were $1,000, then the WSDOT budget would be about $3,500 while the tolls generate about $20.