Gov. Ned Lamont is poised to re-launch his highly unpopular tolls plan, revised to reduce tolling to a rumored 16 to 18 gantries located only on bridges in need of repair. So what happened to the governor’s concern with traffic congestion? Repairing bridges, however necessary, won’t relieve congestion.
It could be that Lamont is holding a Tolls 2.0 plan at the ready, including the remainder of his original 59 gantries and his trademark congestion pricing scheme, ready to be sprung on the public once he’s established his 16-18 gantry beach head.
In anticipation of Tolls 2.0, it’s worth reminding our wealthy governor of the obvious: Most people on congested rush hour roads are driving to work. So, tolls are effectively a payroll tax. Moreover, congestion pricing wouldn’t reduce congestion, because people can’t be late to work — they can’t wait for lower toll rates later on.
Ironically, there’s a simple tax-free way to reduce congestion, and it is already in use across the state. School districts employ staggered “school bell times.” Preschools start at one time, elementary schools at another, and middle schools and high schools at yet other times. This avoids local traffic jams and optimizes bus utilization
The state could follow the same approach, mandating that municipalities and major employers collaborate to devise staggered work days. In Hartford, Aetna could begin its day at 8:15 a.m., while CIGNA in neighboring Bloomfield could start at 9 a.m. and most state employees might be required to show up at 7:30 a.m.
If local school boards can accomplish this kind of system planning, why can’t local governments and major employers?