PRIVATE HIGHWAYS?

Government has monopolized roads for so long we have a hard time imagining it being any other way. We know private enterprise is more efficient than politics: any time we see four people working on a government road maintenance crew, we can be pretty sure the job can be done by three... or two. This isn't so much against the people involved, it's the system that allows it. Private enterprise generally saves at least 25% or more over monopoly government services.

We should imagine streets and roads as transportation corridors that can be used creatively. In addition to the current variety of vehicles, we can add pipelines, railroads, monorails and paths. Currently, wire transmission utilities often pay no fee; that should change. Once the magic of private enterprise is unleashed there will be even more multiple uses.

Business: There are many opportunities for enterprise within the corridor. Gas/cafe/store complexes in the center strip serving both directions are one example. The space over a highway can be used for shops, offices, motels, apartments, etc. Underground shopping malls are common at vehicle/subway/bus terminals and street vendors can rent space. Apartments can be under bridges. There is valuable, wasted space within our current system that can be utilized to lower costs.

Road Associations: Commercial, residential and rural area roads can be financed by property owners. Many subdivisions are currently handled this way. There are a variety of ways to encourage fair apportionment of payments. It's a more businesslike and neighborly method than our current political bureaucracies. Owners care more about upkeep and safety when they have a more direct interest.

Paths can be included in a corridor or be separate for bikes, skates, jogging, strolling, etc. There can be use fees, cooperatives, contributions, commercial sponsorships and space rented for refreshment stands, shops, equipment rentals, etc. This type of path ("strand") connects several Southern California beach cities now; it's heavily used.

Private driver's licenses aren't practical? Race tracks have them. Competition, including involvement by insurance companies, would improve safety and service.

Monopoly/competition: In a truly free market, there is no such thing as a "monopoly"; there is always some alternative. If transportation corridors were competitive, there would be more choices. The rail/car rail/truck combination is just one example.

Buses, flying, monorails, trains, boats and simply not going are alternatives that would cause highway companies to compete. They want their highly capitalized investment used. Providing safe, smooth roads creates more use and fees for them. We see billboards now saying, "Take the alternative scenic route." A classic example of overcoming an extreme road/rail monopoly was the 1948-49 Berlin airlift. Public opinion is also a powerful tool.

There are other transportation opportunities and innovations we've overlooked because of the state monopoly on roads. New York City thought it would be buried in horse manure because they didn't anticipate the auto. Flying is another innovation that revolutionized travel. Someday maybe we'll just close our eyes, say "boo" and be there!

Safety: Roads would be insured, just like any other product liability. If the road is unsafe the insurance goes up or is canceled. There could be independent Road Safety Associations that would pass judgment. If a road had a low rating, then vehicles, particularly trucks and buses, that used that road would be charged more for their insurance. This would be similar to the way Moody and Standard and Poor rate investment bonds now. The affected low-grade roads would have an interest in upgrading. Speed limits, if any, would be the choice of the road manager and insurance.

Advertising, tastefully done, can improve income and lower costs. The trash barrels on a beach are sponsored by a lotion. Train bridges often have a message such as "Ship Santa Fe". Why not a highway bridge sponsored by Coke or Ford? Scenic routes could be exempt, but might cost more to travel.

Rush hour could cost more, just like time varied telephone rates now. This would encourage a more consistent use of roads; we wouldn't have the expense of building for such high peak usage.

Agriculture: In many parts of the country, the median and side strips could be used for crops. Rain runoff from the road apron would make arid areas more productive , as can be observed occurring naturally now.

PRACTICAL?? It all seems a little far-fetched, and who wants to stop at toll booths? Yet a system of private roads has been operating everyday for over 100 years in America. Look at a train: the cars are a mix of owners billed automatically for use of a privately owned road, just like phone bills are computer tabulated now.

Yes, the system is practical!

 

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