I’m continually astonished by how ignorant of remedial economic concepts like supply and demand our local government seems to be. As people’s budgets tighten in these economic times and we find ways to spend less and more wisely for things like entertainment and travel, the consistent mantra of public service providers has been “raise prices”. It’s as if they have no awareness of why people are scaling back on activities in the first place (here’s a hint: they have less money.)
First downtown parking rates increased (thanks to the Orlando City Council’s vote) and now the Expressway Authority is considering a hike of their own. I think the toll road increase is even more aggravating, because they at least partially understand the economics of the issue. They cite “11 months of dwindling ridership” as the reason for revenues being down. What do they think will happen as a result of increased costs of using the roads? If you guessed further decreases in ridership, then YOU are more qualified than everyone on the Expressway Authority.
Every day I face a choice of either taking traditional roads such as highway 50 or state road 436 to get where I am going for free, or jump on the 417 or 408 and save myself somewhere between 10-20 minutes. Under the proposed rates the routes I would usually take that comes out to $3 one way, so each day I would be spending $6, or $30 per week, or $120 per month. Currently that same activity costs me $90 per month. I make that decision to save that 20 minutes about 50% of the time (just mornings), because $90 a month is pretty steep, so say I am worth $45 per month to them. Let’s say that instead of raising everything a quarter, you actually lower the 2 plazas I hit by 25 cents each (keeping the off ramps at 25 cents). Now 100% ridership for me only costs $70, or I am contributing $35 per month at my usual 50%. Say because of the lower prices I decide to take the toll roads just one more day per week than I used to. Now I am spending $49 per month instead of $45. That’s how it works guys, lower prices, keep tolls out from under my personal budget cutting pen, and actually pick up a little extra revenue in the process. People do it everyday selling stuff like cereal and beans, why can’t we put at least as much brain power into transportation issues?
At $120 a month, I will just set my alarm 20 minutes earlier and spend nothing on tolls anymore. How many more people are going to do the same?