Once upon a time, a wealthy nation decided to build highways in which the average Joe could take his jalopy and ride for free, so long as he could afford to buy the clunker, feed it some gas (at thirty cents a gallon) and occasionally change the oil and equip it with new spark plugs.
The nation was headed by a jovial, former general who went by the nickname of “Ike.”
President Eisenhower either knew economics or had the raw instinct to realize what the professionals in the field call a “public good.” This is what they define as something inherently impossible for private individuals to build, because the upfront capital cost is too high, and the marginal cost of each additional user is too low to make it worthwhile to charge for it.
Highways are the classic public good. The entire society pays to build them, and their use is determined by each individual making a decision that having a car, paying insurance and a tag, passing a driver’s exam and filling the car with gas (in a country where it is particularly cheap) makes economic sense for commuting to work or school.
In Miami it makes particularly good sense to make highways free. The reason is that the cost of maintaining highways is almost nil. Thankfully, we don’t have snow, or the inevitable snowplow; we don’t have freezing water crawling into the little crevices created when the snowplow impacts a little sandstone in the road and splits it apart was if it were a thin reed.
Elevated highways hardly ever need repair; and they are cleaned naturally by the frequent Miami rain as it runs off into lower ground.
Miami failed to build the five rail corridors promised to the people in 2002, when the half cent tax was passed. And so congestion of the highways increased to the point that some bureaucrat decided that the best way to solve that was by charging those who want to use “express” lanes in our highways. It’s very much like charging more to those who sit in the front of an airplane….
Except that both the first class passengers and the “coach” passengers in an airplane get from point A to point B at the same time.
Charging the working middle class more to use highways built thirty years ago with taxes imposed thirty-five years ago is “highway robbery.” It is particularly unfair to the non-professionals – the guy delivering bricks or drywall in a pick-up truck, the gal rushing to a nursing job at Jackson, the clerical employee, hotel-worker or laborer who needs to be at the worksite to do his/her job. Those folks cannot make a cent by using their cell phone – as we lawyers can do.
In fact, we lawyers and many other professionals are figuring out ways to not have to go to the workplace at all. In Pinecrest, fully ten percent of all the workforce has a home occupation….
So we punish the average Joe and Jane who needs to punch the clock but cannot afford the “Express Lane.”
“Let them use their AMEX card,” said the Queen!
God save the queen and also our two legislators, Sen. Manny Diaz and Rep. Bryan Avila, for introducing legislation that will prohibit “Express Lanes.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez can be reached at 305-669-4003 or via email at email@example.com.