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ScienceNostalgia101

On the logistics (or lack thereof?) for road privatization...

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Posted (edited)

Roads are often the go-to example of things that need to be a public service. I've always thought health care was a stronger example, given what happens in countries where it's public vs. where it's not, but I'm willing to entertain the idea that roads are a better one.

 

For the purposes of this thread, I want to put aside all concerns about whether toll roads are unfair to the poor in and of themselves. It's not that I want to trivialize that; I'm absolutely concerned about it and I think both Canada and the USA could do with a stronger public sector; but there was one specific aspect of road privatization that stands out to be more than its effects on the poor: what happens when you have a grid structure in a city?

 

Let's say, first street, second street, etc... intersecting with first avenue, second avenue, etc. Assume each of these roads are built by a separate company. Who then gets to run the intersections between these roads? Would it have to be a venture done jointly? If so, who gets to decide who gets the final say in some paving/streetlight placement/etc... decision in the context of these intersections? Would territory be demarked in an sealed-letter-like pattern? Even so, what rules would govern left turns, right, turns, etc...? And at the end of the day, what's stopping the company behind, let's say, first street, from colluding with the company behind, let's say, first avenue, to make their intersections with second street or second avenue harder to use?

Edited by ScienceNostalgia101

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A separate private company is set up to cover promotion and payments to the various road owners, and commuters simply pay the separate company (let's call it Roadmaster, like buying tickets through Ticketmaster). You get a monthly electronic "pass" like any toll road. That ensures all the owners get a guaranteed cut, and the consumer pays extra for the convenience, to cover Roadmaster's costs.

And if the roads are truly privately owned, and get no publicly funded maintenance subsidies, the owners would quickly revert back to curing their asphalt properly by NOT letting anyone drive on it for 90 days. Then they'll really see profits increase.

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The examples I’m aware of are all limited-access roads. On and off ramps, with tollbooths, or gated communities. No intersections with someone else’s roads. And they connect with public roads, not another private road.

I don’t think the scenario you bring up is tenable.

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

I don’t think the scenario you bring up is tenable.

Could possibly work with mass vehicle tracking. I imagine it working more as a tax based on miles driven though.

2 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Let's say, first street, second street, etc... intersecting with first avenue, second avenue, etc. Assume each of these roads are built by a separate company. Who then gets to run the intersections between these roads? Would it have to be a venture done jointly? If so, who gets to decide who gets the final say in some paving/streetlight placement/etc... decision in the context of these intersections? Would territory be demarked in an sealed-letter-like pattern? Even so, what rules would govern left turns, right, turns, etc...? And at the end of the day, what's stopping the company behind, let's say, first street, from colluding with the company behind, let's say, first avenue, to make their intersections with second street or second avenue harder to use?

Think if roads were all privately owned, a single company would likely have most or all of the contract for roads in a given area. That would eliminate most of the issues.

 

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10 hours ago, Endy0816 said:

 Think if roads were all privately owned, a single company would likely have most or all of the contract for roads in a given area. That would eliminate most of the issues.

The proffered scenario is one where this is not the case. Hence my "untenable" observation.

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14 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Roads are often the go-to example of things that need to be a public service. I've always thought health care was a stronger example, given what happens in countries where it's public vs. where it's not, but I'm willing to entertain the idea that roads are a better one.

 

For the purposes of this thread, I want to put aside all concerns about whether toll roads are unfair to the poor in and of themselves. It's not that I want to trivialize that; I'm absolutely concerned about it and I think both Canada and the USA could do with a stronger public sector; but there was one specific aspect of road privatization that stands out to be more than its effects on the poor: what happens when you have a grid structure in a city?

 

Let's say, first street, second street, etc... intersecting with first avenue, second avenue, etc. Assume each of these roads are built by a separate company. Who then gets to run the intersections between these roads? Would it have to be a venture done jointly? If so, who gets to decide who gets the final say in some paving/streetlight placement/etc... decision in the context of these intersections? Would territory be demarked in an sealed-letter-like pattern? Even so, what rules would govern left turns, right, turns, etc...? And at the end of the day, what's stopping the company behind, let's say, first street, from colluding with the company behind, let's say, first avenue, to make their intersections with second street or second avenue harder to use?

It is not only a grid structure that exhibits this difficulty.
And they can be replicated within the public sector as well.

 

I do not have much information about the legal situation in the Americas, but in the UK there are several legal problems to overcome.

For instance,

Most roads in the UK are 'owned' by some public body, but the land the road sits on is owned by someone else.

There are other complex arrangements in other European countries.

We really ough to have imatfaal back to discuss this one.

 

The UK does offer a mix of public and private road that can provide examples of all sorts  of situations for case study.

 

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4 hours ago, swansont said:

The proffered scenario is one where this is not the case. Hence my "untenable" observation.

Ah see what you mean, was thinking only of the toll collection aspect. That part is at least technologically doable, though will probably have to wait until privacy concerns ease up with adoption of more transportation as a service options.

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The scenarios we have in my neck of the woods are highway sections that are privately owned, and for which you pay a toll. Limited access, and there are slower publicly-available options. 

There are also privately-owned roads in developments, sometimes as small as a single cul-de-sac, and sometimes with a small tree of roads within. Only residents and invited guests (including delivery vehicles) are expected to drive there. Sometimes enforces by a gate. It's not a through-road, though, even if there are multiple access points. Non-residents drive around. Money presumably comes from housing association fees, or something like that.

I doubt retail businesses would want to be located where people had to pay to drive to get to them, since it's an additional barrier to getting customers. It would take the parking meter situation and make it twice as bad.

If this were by street in a city, every car needs an E-Z pass-like transponder, compatible with all the monitors, and you need monitoring stations at every access point - which I imagine would be prohibitively expensive if there were multiple road barons. Much cheaper if it's at the entry and exit points, but now how do you collect for residents who never drive through an access point? You have to have a monthly fee in addition to tolls, if you have combination of residents and transients.

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59 minutes ago, swansont said:

The scenarios we have in my neck of the woods are highway sections that are privately owned, and for which you pay a toll. Limited access, and there are slower publicly-available options. 

There are also privately-owned roads in developments, sometimes as small as a single cul-de-sac, and sometimes with a small tree of roads within. Only residents and invited guests (including delivery vehicles) are expected to drive there. Sometimes enforces by a gate. It's not a through-road, though, even if there are multiple access points. Non-residents drive around. Money presumably comes from housing association fees, or something like that.

I doubt retail businesses would want to be located where people had to pay to drive to get to them, since it's an additional barrier to getting customers. It would take the parking meter situation and make it twice as bad.

If this were by street in a city, every car needs an E-Z pass-like transponder, compatible with all the monitors, and you need monitoring stations at every access point - which I imagine would be prohibitively expensive if there were multiple road barons. Much cheaper if it's at the entry and exit points, but now how do you collect for residents who never drive through an access point? You have to have a monthly fee in addition to tolls, if you have combination of residents and transients.

 

I was thinking a national system, where each car has a location tracker and valid account linked to it. Companies or communities could then charge based on actual usage, possibly factoring in income and other considerations.  Be simpler in most respects though would have some issues of its own naturally.

 

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19 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Roads are often the go-to example of things that need to be a public service.

If We (the People) take the perspective of owners instead of consumers of a service, we see that possession of the roads is an extremely strong bargaining chip. Owning something should give us more clout, unless we let con men take that away

19 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

I've always thought health care was a stronger example, given what happens in countries where it's public vs. where it's not, but I'm willing to entertain the idea that roads are a better one.

If We own the roads, We can demand a single-payer option for healthcare insurance, and charge extra for the healthcare industry to use the highways until they help us get one. Roads are power, see Rome.

.

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36 minutes ago, Endy0816 said:

I was thinking a national system, where each car has a location tracker and valid account linked to it. Companies or communities could then charge based on actual usage, possibly factoring in income and other considerations.  Be simpler in most respects though would have some issues of its own naturally.

And you "forget" to bring your transponder with you while you drive, so the system thinks your car is still in the garage. Enforcement would be problematic.

 

It reminds me of the joke about how if the NSA tried to impose a tracking system on people in the USA there would be a revolt, but give them smartphones and they clamor for that system. So maybe it's a matter of making the transponder let you play candy crush...

But I think a database of where you go in your car that's active 24/7 would be a hard sell to some of the people, since there would be no confidence that the government couldn't obtain it.

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2 hours ago, swansont said:

And you "forget" to bring your transponder with you while you drive, so the system thinks your car is still in the garage. Enforcement would be problematic.

 

It reminds me of the joke about how if the NSA tried to impose a tracking system on people in the USA there would be a revolt, but give them smartphones and they clamor for that system. So maybe it's a matter of making the transponder let you play candy crush...

But I think a database of where you go in your car that's active 24/7 would be a hard sell to some of the people, since there would be no confidence that the government couldn't obtain it.

I'm expecting it to be linked to the car even starting lol. Might still get violators but they're going to stick out like a sore thumb to enforcement agencies.

I don't expect this to really start up until various forms of car sharing become widespread.  I think when it is no longer a personal vehicle people won't mind so much and governments can realize the benefits.

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1 hour ago, Endy0816 said:

I'm expecting it to be linked to the car even starting lol. Might still get violators but they're going to stick out like a sore thumb to enforcement agencies.

Agencies? If it’s private, security is their responsibility. Cops tracking down what are basically shoplifters seems like it would be a misuse of resources.

 

 

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

Agencies? If it’s private, security is their responsibility. Cops tracking down what are basically shoplifters seems like it would be a misuse of resources.

But violators represent a HUGE opportunity for private profit. The police department would basically be defunded, and traffic enforcement would be taken off their plate and given to private security. There are already examples of how lucrative it can be for a private company to issue tickets for running a traffic light, especially when you control the timing of the lights.

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1 hour ago, Phi for All said:

But violators represent a HUGE opportunity for private profit. The police department would basically be defunded, and traffic enforcement would be taken off their plate and given to private security. There are already examples of how lucrative it can be for a private company to issue tickets for running a traffic light, especially when you control the timing of the lights.

I think you’re right. Just that it won’t be cops. It’ll be bill collectors.

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In Canada we have a public Health System, and privately owned roads.

The 407 toll hiway that crosses the Greater Toronto area is owned by a Spanish company ( probably Joigus :lol: ), and just like our Health Care System there are rules that company must abide by.
Our Health care is run by individual Provinces, and all differ subtly, but they must abide by the rules set by the Federal Government.

Clear rules, for all to follow, are sometimes a good thing.

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