This Sunday my 3 hour trip home from Thanksgiving turned into a 6 1/2 hour crawl. While sitting in standstill traffic on the highway I began to wonder what the problem was. Well clearly more people want to travel over Thanksgiving and Sunday is the most popular day to come back home. But consider this, 20 percent of all turkeys consumed in 2007 were consumed at Thanksgiving, but if you want a turkey during the holidays you can get one quickly and cheaply. Why then do I have to wait in line to drive home? The solution is to allow the market (that is prices) to allocate the scare resources of the road. Here are some practical ways to do so:
1) Raise the gas tax. The United States has one of the lowest gas taxes in the industrialized world. Of all the taxes we pay, the gas tax is one of the most efficient. For one it makes drivers feel the cost of their driving on others (in traffic, pollution, road wear).
2) Use giant screens to keep rubberneckers from wasting our time.
3) Turn our freeways into fareways. Like Six Flags, let people pay extra to cut in line. Have a special toll lane and use that money to subsidize other government projects.
4) The final and best way is to use congestive pricing. This is charging drivers more to drive in times of heavy use. The fareway tag could be used for this too.
5) Wait until everyone has a GPS with traffic conditions. Or as this fantastically named blog suggests, maybe electronic signs can give us the information.