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…