Something for Nothing


Last year the government in Japan changed hands. It was decades in coming, but it was earned at the cost of numerous promises to about every demographic group (with suffrage) imaginable. Some of the promises – like public education through high school – seem reasonable to me. Well educated citizens are more easily employed which generates revenue to pay back for this cost. Additional benefits of this path are not difficult to imagine. Other promises; however, don’t meet with my approval (not that my non-voting opinion carries much weight.)

Free toll on the expressways was a strong promise made. Most people were ecstatic about this because everybody wants something for nothing. Prices for the toll roads are quite high which means people often choose alternate routes resulting in nearly vacant sections of roadway. From an optimization perspective, lowering the tolls enough to make a dramatic increase in usage seems like the best approach. If dropping the price by a third, doubles the number of users, then revenues would increase by 33%. Of course, dropping the fare to free would also drop revenue generation to zero, but maintenance fees would increase dramatically with the increased usage. In many areas, the increased usage would also cause traffic jams, negating the purpose of these roads.

We have automated toll-paying machines in cars which give us a 30% discount on fares and 50% discount during rush hour. I ordered up a card to use in my “ETC” machine. The price is still a little high for my commute, but gets in that range where I’ll use it a couple times a week depending on my schedule.

Last week we got the news announcement that from June to December, low-usage areas will be free on a trial basis. Guess what? My stretch of road is on the list. Although I am opposed to free toll as a system, you can be I’ll be trying it out. My commute on the days I go by car is trouble free… I wonder how many cars will be on the road in June…


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7 Responses to “Something for Nothing”

  1. titus2woman Says:

    WOW! I am LOVING all the pics you’ve taken in Japan!!!! I feel like I’m experiencing something great all the way across the world~thank you for that! And thanks for being such a great e-friend. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  2. Stefanie Says:

    They’ve been doing some major road construction here on a main freeway artery and they have added a toll lane under the theory that if you are willing to pay, your commute could be faster. I have yet to see anyone driving in it and my husband says he’s only ever seen a couple people in it. The state was thinking a toll lane would be a great way to raise additional revenues but somebody didn’t exactly do their homework on that one.

  3. びっくり Says:

    Sandi – Speaking of something from across the world: I still haven’t sent your present. Really, I will send you an email with details.

    Stefanie – For years, the conventional wisdom in Seattle was make a carpool lane to encourage drivers to save fuel. They didn’t think about how bad a traffic jam gets when you remove one lane from use. For many years the lanes were mostly empty, I think the state liked it because they could make revenue by writing tickets to the ‘cheaters’, which also created rubber-necking traffic back ups. Eventually they dropped to two people per car, reduced the hours of restriction, and in many cases – eliminated them. It is kind of humorous that a Hummer with two people can use the lane, but a Fit with one can not. Whenever humans are involved the planning needs to go to some deep psychological levels.

  4. Dave Says:

    Funny, I sent you an e-mail about this matter this morning.

    It shall be interesting to see how many people start using the highways. I expect there will be way more big trucks, which are currently using Route 23 (the local, double-lane road, for your readers who aren’t around these parts). It makes sense for them — no traffic lights, better fuel consumption, faster for long commutes, etc). This could result in more efficiency for the transport industry, which is indeed a plus. However, it also means that car-commuters will have to deal with big trucks on yet another roadway. Can we expect more accidents? Perhaps. Truck drivers around here are also very prone to littering. Presently, the highway is very clean; I expect that will change (Rt 23, especially around Tsu / Matsusaka is disgusting).
    I hope that someone gets the smarts and removes all the decorative shrubs from between the north and southbound lanes on the highway, too. The maintanence thereof must be very costly, not to mention disruptive to traffic. They really serve no pupose.

    Finally, as we discussed earlier today, many of the interchanges are ill-equipped to deal with more traffic. Feeder roads between the interchanges and city centres are likewise not ready for a huge influx of vehicles.

    As you said in your blog, everyone likes the idea of getting something for free; but if time is money, and the commute to work become longer due to heavy traffic, our free ride might end up costing us.

  5. びっくり Says:

    Coincidental, isn’t it? I thought you had read this when you sent the mail. I’m hoping that there just aren’t that many folks needing this roadway. Even if the number of cars doubles, the roadway should move very fast; however, the offramp is already insane. Why they can’t cooperate more, I will never understand.

  6. Dave Says:

    I find it odd that Tsu proper only has one interchange. If I designed the roads, I’d probably go with at least 3 interchanges (South, Central, and North), as well as a connector to the bypass. The roads that run into the city from the highway could be streamlined by eliminating traffic lights, especially near the highway itself (one of the current reasons for congestion).

  7. びっくり Says:

    Dave – I have always found it odd that the expressways are always so far from where people want to go; which makes those long drives to the interchange necessary. If the expressway went through town like route 23, it would be more usable and a much shorter drive from Ise. Maybe we can get hired on at the department of transportation in highway planning. 🙂

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