More Random Thoughts About Private Roads

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, Technology | Posted on 15-02-2010


Well, it looks like private roads are going to be an ongoing brain fart here. You can read previous posts on the subject here and here.  Almost every time I get in the car and deal with the frustrations of driving, I can’t help to wonder what private roads would be like.

Yesterday, we were coming to a light by our house, and I usually go straight through the light and avoid the main road, because the main road always has traffic backed up. Of course, there are signs now on the road I normally take saying the road will be closed beginning next week. This is all too typical where I live. Of course, there is no incentive for permanently fixing roads. That would cost government jobs and union votes.

Anyway, of course with my recent posts on private roads, I had to ask myself would this be treated differently with private roads? To delve into this question, let’s just say the roads are toll roads, since that is the what most people think of when it comes to private roads. Now if all roads were toll roads, it would be crazy to think there would be actual toll booths. People would take ages to get anywhere. So, for sake of discussion, we are going to assume there is some type of monitoring technology using either GPS or radio frequency for the toll road charges.

Now, if you are a company who operates the toll roads, do you want your roads closed? This road that I take to save time would not be making the owner money if he closed it for repairs. Maybe he owns the main road too. That is my other option, but he would still end up losing business because people may reroute completely considering they avoided the main road in the first place before additional traffic was put on it.

Maybe a competitor sees an area along the main road that would be better suited for traffic than the road that is closing down temporarily. Wouldn’t this be a great time to open a new road and get a boost in initial business from the drivers that normally took the closed road. Maybe those drivers never go back to the previous road when it re-opens, and you are not able to compete.

What I am getting at here is the profit motive would drive business to minimize the inconvenience on drivers. It also might entice a smaller outfit to get in the business of building side roads to capitalize on the drivers who want to avoid the traffic of main roads.

Another issue that drives me nuts around my house is they have torn up the main road to lay fiber (I believe that’s what it was), and they half assed the filling in. The road feels like you are out four wheeling. Now, if your business depended on tolls, would you let your road be like that? How many people, who take care of their cars, avoid that road, and how much money would be lost if that road was private?

OK. Second thing that prompted random thoughts about private roads was Popular Science magazine. We went to the in-laws house for lunch, and I took my magazines to catch up on reading them. What the heck, right? So, the one article is about how to renovate America’s infrastructure. The article talks about all these new technologies for roads, bridges, etc. You can read it here. There is some very cool technology such as cars reporting potholes, self healing roads, and roads the de-ice themselves (would be huge right now where I live).

So, we already spend a fortune under the government system, and we never get new technology. If you had self-healing roads and roads that de-ice themselves, you’d lose union jobs. So, it would appear that all these technologies would find their way into our road systems much faster under a private road system, because they would increase profits and improve a road operators competitive advantage.

Also, the chances that it would take new technology this long to be developed and implemented would be slim to none. Technology of road systems would constantly be updating and changing. I could see private interstates partnering with carriers to market their roads as having the best cellular access for your long trips. There is no doubt there would be private road operators and other service companies partnering up to make your driving experience better.

As I said, these were just some ideas that came to mind while out driving this weekend. I’m sure I’ll have more as time goes on.

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