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Todd: Tell Me I’m Wrong: If you drive in the toll lanes, you’re hurting poor people

(MyNorthwest file photo)

The I-405 tolls are price-gouging devices: people who drive in them just because they can are going to price poor and working people out of their cars.

How Washington’s toll lanes help low-income communities

On Tuesday, Mark Hallenbeck with the University of Washington appeared on our show to discuss his team’s research on tolling the I-405 corridor. Despite the fact that his study ascribed a perceived $52.00 value for a round trip, he appeared upset when I suggested that will lead to $52.00 tolls. The problem is, the government will obviously use that study to shoot for a $52.00 toll. The people who drive in the rich person lanes just so they can save a little more room are paying to make freedom of mobility to privilege of rich people, as poor people will be priced out of using their own property: State highways.

Hallenbeck also said he didn’t want to get political and, in the same interview, he said lower-income people voluntarily choose to use those lane and that is a blatant political statement. The 405 corridor was paid for by everyone who drives or gets products delivered, including poor people who pay gas taxes. It was–and is–taxpayer property. WSDOT stole those lanes and, like a hacker installs ransomware on people’s computers, WSDOT now charges people blackmail rates to use them. Poor people didn’t vote for that, they didn’t have a say, but they do have to get to work.

For poor people late to a job or a job interview, driving in the rich people’s lanes is not a voluntary act, it’s a surrender to government price-gouging or paying a hacker to use your computer. Hallenbeck said his study indicates people put a $52.00 value on an efficient use of what he calls a facility and what poor people and everyone else calls a taxpayer-funded highway. Wrong. Poor people put a life and death value of keeping their jobs. It’s not efficiency for which they are forced to pay the equivalent of $100 per hour, it’s for the right to have a job.

There has never been nor will there ever be a time WSDOT turns down more money. The price-gouging on the 405 tolls will continue forever because WSDOT has bonded money to run that system and, here’s where Mark Hallenbeck’s study didn’t get to in any detail: WSDOT has the perverse incentive to keep traffic at a crawl in the normal person’s lane to drive up the gouging rates in the lanes that rich people can afford and poor people will eventually be forced out of and onto buses or trains or into small apartment near their work.

The people who drive in the rich people’s lanes — because they can — will be jointly responsible when the state drives up the cost of the tolls to $52.00, just like a one-way trip into D.C. from Virginia, about seven miles, often costs $44.00.

Tell me I’m wrong.

“Tell Me I’m Wrong” airs every day on the Candy, Mike and Todd Show at 3:30. The Candy, Mike and Todd Show airs every weekday afternoon from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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