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For whom the freeway tolls: It isn’t for masses

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POSTED November 11, 2012 10:06 p.m.

The rich, they’re different than you and I.

If you don’t believe that drive Interstate 110 in the Los Angeles Basin.

This past Saturday LA officials rolled out express toll lanes. If you can pay, you can play.

It will cost you between $3 and $15 per trip fare - depending upon congestion levels - to take the 11-mile stretch.

The tolls are collected via FasTrak transponders. Carpoolers and motorcyclists don’t have to pay tolls that will range from 25 cents to $1.40 per mile but they need to have a transponder.

LA transportation officials brag that this is an answer to congestion presenting it as a win-win scenario. Those in the toll lane will ideally be moving 45 mph or more. Meanwhile, the other lanes are expected to go somewhat faster than stop and go.

Of course, the low-income will qualify for transponder discount rates.

That leaves those in the middle holding the proverbial bag.

If you have the money you can stick your tongue out at the rest of us who have to either avoid going solo or stay out of the carpool lanes during rush hour. No longer is the mantra to reduce congestion and reduce pollution by accepting a bit of inconvenience and carpooling. Money will let you get special treatment and not have to stick it out in the stop and crawl lanes with the peons.

This might not be upsetting if it wasn’t part of a growing trend. Frequent fliers - who tend to be wealthier fliers - can now get express service through airport screening and shave upwards of an hour off wait time.

And let’s not forget high speed rail, the $80 billion “public transit” project that’s going to do a buzz saw act on the San Joaquin Valley to expedite commerce between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It’ll cost an estimated $220 round trip based in 2008 dollars to ride the rail.

Do you notice a pattern? Have money, can travel in California faster than the masses using taxpayer subsidized freeways and rail systems.

Remember the good old days when Sacramento worried about the little guys instead of shaking them down for tax dollars to make life more convenient for the rich folks?

It’s true that those with the means are paying extra for the privilege of speeding by watching the rest of us creep along on the freeway or else hoe weeds to grow their food as they zip by at 220 mph on a bullet train.

But why stop special treatment from government for those who can afford to pay more just at toll lanes on public on what know must be quasi-‘free’ways? Why not do the same for lines at the DMV? For an extra $20, why not go to the head of the line with no appointment? Heck, for an extra $10 on top of that you should be able to force whoever is at the window to step aside while the DMV helps you first.

This all seems natural to politicians who cater to those with the cash via campaign contributions first and foremost.

Of course academics, planners, and officials believe toll lanes and high speed rail are now all the cat’s meow. But then again they don’t work in the real world where most Californians  are commuters are struggling to keep their heads above water that don’t drive late model BMWs, Mercedes, or Lexuses.



This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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