Tackling Traffic

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In what State Sen. Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) called “the best presentation I have ever seen at a regular Republican club meeting,” RLCer Bob Poole shared his ideas on tackling Florida highway congestion with the Republican Club of Central Palm Beach County on Sept. 7.

Bob Poole, the Reason Foundation's founder and Director of Transportation Studies

His presentation to about 35 at the Atlantis Country Club in Atlantis, Fla., (south of West Palm Beach) included both Reason Foundation studies and real life examples of market-based approaches to solve what is necessarily a governmental problem. Through both a PowerPoint show and extensive question-and-answer session, Poole urged the addition of variable pricing express lanes and truck-only toll lanes which would permit the use of multi-trailer trucks. Poole sees a greater role for competitive enterprise and consumer choice in highway transportation, an industry usually dominated by government provision.

Poole said even Amtrak recognizes the consumer demand for some choice, even if it is only ‘first class’ versus ‘coach.’ The current thinking on highway transport harkens back to a Soviet-style model where “everyone is equally miserable,” he said.

One of Poole’s ideas is to add an extra lane with variable pricing throughout the day, which would permit drivers to choose whether to pay a (perhaps hefty) toll to bypass the gridlock. The tolls would both pay for the lane and relieve somewhat the congestion in existing ‘free’ lanes by reducing the number of vehicles using them. He pointed to the success of real-life examples of this scheme currently operating in Orange County, Calif.

Ideally, these lanes should be provided by for-profit businesses that would float bonds to pay for the construction, which would be paid off over time through toll collection. However, he pointed out that the discriminatory tax treatment given government bonds – which are not taxed and therefore can offer a lower interest rate – put private providers at an unfair disadvantage.

Much of the talk echoed points he made in a recent article in the Spring 2004 issue of the Journal of the James Madison Institute, which can be found on this website’s Florida Issues page under ‘congestion.’ Other Poole and Reason articles on the subject can be found at http://www.reason.org/transportation/.

Poole was introduced by RLCer Philip Blumel, who spoke briefly about the mission of the RLC.

“The aim of the RLC is 1) to promote the classical liberal, or libertarian, philosophy and policy ideas to and through the GOP; and 2) to assist like-minded Republican candidates to win party and public office,” Blumel said.

Membership materials, including the RLC Position Statement (which includes a membership form) and the recent RLC press release concerning the Supreme Court's recent Kelo decision and private property rights, were provided to attendees.

After the meeting, Poole said he would be happy to speak again under RLC auspices at Republican and other civic clubs in South Florida.

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