The Wasatch Behind: Traveling in the fast lane
Holy Cow, I muttered in utter disgust. I just came back from SLOP (Salt Lake, Orem and Provo) and those folks on the Wasatch Front cant make up their minds. First they put a carpool lane on the freeway to encourage people to double up and cut down on freeway traffic, and then they sell stickers to let anyone drive in the carpool lane. What are they thinking?
Its an evil plot to make money and crowd poor people off the road, Uncle Spud said.
Get serious, I grumbled. Traffic on the Wasatch Front is becoming unbearable. Its an anthill over there. They really need to cut down on freeway traffic. Most cars on the freeway have only one occupant and the carpool lane is a great idea. Letting anyone drive there who buys a sticker is defeating the whole purpose.
Defeating whose purpose? Uncle Spud smiled.
Our purpose, I growled. The whole justification for widening the road and having a carpool lane was to cut down on traffic.
Thats how they sold the idea to taxpayers, Uncle Spud said. But theres a darker purpose too. Charging people to use the carpool lane is the camels nose under the tent. They are conditioning you to pay to drive on your own roads. There has been talk of setting up toll roads in Utah like they have in some states back east.
Dont tell me that, I groaned.
And it only gets worse, he said. Once you get used to buying a $30.00 sticker to drive in the carpool lane, you can be sure theyll be ready to charge you $20.00 for a sticker to drive in the fast lane.
Get out of here! I scoffed.
Think about it, he said. The best way to discourage use or consumption of anything is to raise the price. Thats why we are paying $3.00 for gas right now. Unfortunately, everyone is simply adjusting to the high price, so we will likely have $4.00 gas by next summer. They will simply keep raising the price until people cut back and quit buying. It works great for everyone but the consumer. The oil company can cut back on volume while still making the same high profits, and government can oversee the cutback without loosing any tax revenue. Its exactly the same thing they are doing with freeway overcrowding.
You had better explain this to me, I said.
It works like this, the Spudster said. Soon, every lane on the freeway will require a different, color-coded sticker. The carpool lane will cost you a $50.00 sticker, the fast lane $30.00, the middle lane $20.00, and the inside congestion lane $10.00. If you expect to switch lanes back and forth across the freeway like youve done in the past, youll be required to pay $110.00 for stickers plus a $15.00 handling fee.
You are out of your mind. I said.
Stay with me here, he insisted. This will be a great way to cut down on freeway congestion and make lots of money for the government too.
Only rich people will be able to travel in the carpool lane. Those who work for the government or have company expense accounts might be able to use the fast lane. Those who make a more modest income can have the middle lane. And if you are one of those poor, miserable wretches who teach school or serves in the armed forces, you will all be bunched up together on the inside congestion lane. If you are just starting out in life, work for minimum wage, or are retired on a fixed income, you had better stay home, buy a bicycle, or learn to ride the Trax train.
That doesnt seem fair, I said.
Life is never fair, Uncle Spud nodded. This deal is social stratification at its best, big-brother mandated freeway congestion relief, and one heck of a money making deal for the state, all rolled into one.
Can you prove any of this? I asked.
No, I just make it up as I go along, he said with a big grin. But it could happen. And it looks like thats where were headed. When you have to pay to use the fast lane, could anything less be close behind?