Abolish the Thruway Authority

10 Nov

The state DOT, which manages not just highways, but airports, seaports, and some public transportation, has an annual budget of $7.4 billion.

The Thruway Authority, which manages the Thruway and Erie Canal, has an annual budget of over a billion dollars, and a little over half of its money is collected through tolls. I’ve written extensively, critically, and dismissively of the Thruway Authority, and I won’t repeat those here.

The obvious solution is abolition of the bloated, inefficient Thruway Authority. The problem is – if you incorporate it into the State DOT, it will cost money to maintain and service, and the money has to come from somewhere. Most likely, your pocket through gas tax hikes or similar.

But there’s another way.

In the past, I’ve suggested that the Thruway take a hint from Toronto’s 407 and make toll collection something that’s done at highway speeds. But that’s expensive and probably not necessary.

Instead, many European countries share the cost burden of highway maintenance through sales of stickers.

Austria (for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes), the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Hungary have toll motorways (some motorways, though, are toll-free). Payment in those countries is done in the form of “vignettes”, or stickers being affixed to the car’s front window, which are valid for a certain amount of time. The time is always one calendar year in Switzerland; in Austria and Hungary cheaper vignettes with shorter validity are also available. Slovenia introduced vignettes on July 1, 2008. Due to the fact that the vignette with the shortest time-frame available is valid for 6 months and costs € 35, vignettes have been met with fierce opposition.

Naturally, we could follow the Austrian model where 10 days of travel cost € 7.70 of unlimited travel on that country’s highways. The Swiss system is an annual charge of SFr 40. If caught without a vignette, the Swiss charge you a SFr 100 fine, plus the cost of a vignette. The Austrians are stricter, charging between € 400 and € 4,000 for a missing sticker. Given that it now costs almost $20 to get from the Major Deegan to the PA line, a $10 sticker for 10 days’ worth of highway travel is a bargain.

Vignettes could be sold at welcome centers entering New York or leaving bordering states. They could be sold online, in advance, or, as they are in Hungary, even via cell phone text message:

The point here is that the roads need to be paid for, and it makes sense for the people using them to pay for them. People could avoid buying the stickers by using secondary roads, so it’s completely optional. We could abolish not only the entire Thruway Authority, but most of its associated, dedicated toll-collecting costs. We could get rid of its obnoxious exclusive contracts with towing and wrecker services on the Thruway. But something different should at least be examined.

(Photo of Swiss Vignette by g-trieber @ Flickr.com)

5 Responses to “Abolish the Thruway Authority”

  1. Denizen November 10, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    This is actually a brilliant idea; something that may have to get implemented for many states interstate highways as a result of our country rapidly going broke. The interstate highway system has long been a free ride that most Americans have taken for granted.

  2. LC Scotty November 10, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    BP,

    I don’t see why it would cost more-we’re already paying the TA so that money is already being spent. We’d have a net savings because we would not have two huge organizations doing essentially the same thing.

  3. Snarky Snarkmore McSnarkamaphone November 10, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    Remember, America is the greatest country in the world, and we have nothing to learn from anyone, or anywhere else. This “Euro” stuff you’re talking about is socialist.

  4. hank November 10, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    Never thought it could happen, but BP has stumbled onto an issue that the Free New York people have been pinging on for several years now.

    Not just the Thruway Authority, but THE ENTIRE AUTHORITY SYSTEM IN NYS.

    I’ve lived in Illinois,Virgina twice, NC Twice, Puerto Rico, and CT among other places. In NONE of these states is there a mess like the Authority System that NYS has in place.

    As our President elect (NOTE: I didn’t say YOUR President Elect) reaches out to get all of us to come together to solve the nations issues…..

    Let’s see Alan reach out to J.O. and read his Policy Paper on the Authority System–I believe he wrote one a bit back, and see if the citizens—Independent, Liberal, libertarian, etc can get together and petition the state to dis-assemble this mess that is holding back the reform so desperately needed in NYS.

    It COULD happen—Will it?

  5. AntiAuthoritarian November 10, 2008 at 4:11 pm #

    Why stop at the Thruway Authority? How about the NFTA, another sinkhole of dollars and a patronage haven? The NY/NJ Port Authority? ECWA? These entities were created to circumvent public oversight of public resources – and oh they happen to be handy fund conduits for those who pull their strings.
    I recall being stunned when Cuomo jiggered the budget by reneging on the turnover of the Thruway to the interstate system, thus continuing the tolls and the reason for being of the NYSTA. Then saddling it with the canal system, again to diddle the books.
    With huge money comes vast power, and you don’t really expect any politician to voluntarily surrender any access to power, do you?

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