October 22, 2011
I don't do much driving, but this year, I've made a couple of long-distance trips. The first was a round-trip between Washington and Akron - about 700 total miles. The second was the round-trip between Washington and Virginia Beach I did back in August - about 420 total miles. The first trip cost an extra $30 in tolls. The second trip was "free" as we often think of it. The first trip was generally low-stress and easy to drive. The second trip was high-stress and challenging to drive. Both trips took roughly the same amount of time (6 hours each way).
(from Joming Lau on Flickr)
When I tell people that I paid $30 to drive on the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes, they usually respond with "oh, what a ripoff" or "that's really expensive" or something of the nature.
I think the price is completely worth it.
See, people want to drive on a road as nice as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, with as little traffic, they just want it to be "free". The problem is that it's counter-factual thinking. It's easy to imagine cruising down the Turnpike at 65 mph with minimal traffic and say "I want to pay less for this," but you can't, because if there were no toll, then a key variable would change, and there's nothing to say it wouldn't be just as packed and congested as any other "free" interstate.
Honestly, I cringe at the thought of ever driving to Virginia Beach again, in slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic. I dread the delays, the red break lights, and the sea of vehicles ahead as far as the eye can see. I hate the complete unpredictability of the drive and not having a good idea of how long it's going to take.
So yes, as a driver, I think tolls can be great. As a consumer, sometimes it makes sense not to always be totally cheap. Often it's better to pay more to get something that's a better value. When it comes to my highway driving experience, I think that's exactly the case.