Those interested in the private and commercial provision of roads see two problems with the HOT lane proposals described in your editorial (“Not so HOT lanes,” Opinion, Monday).
First, it makes no sense to exempt car pools from road tolls. Virginia does not (yet) require hotels to exempt from charges those who share rooms. The car-pool exemption, which is difficult to enforce, weakens the financial base of toll roads and raises the charges payable by nonexempt vehicles.
Second, in free societies, the purpose of pricing is not only to restrict demand but also to encourage supply, by attracting investment to expand congested facilities. To charge fees while prohibiting the revenues from being used to relieve the congestion is not to be expected in market economies.
The behavior of the Virginia Department of Transportation illustrates yet again that roads are too important to be left to the vicissitudes of politics. It is now technically as easy to charge for road use as it is for the use of cellular phones. The time has surely come for roads — like food, water, telecommunications and other essentials — to be provided by private suppliers acting in competition to meet the needs of customers: the road users.