Lower the Toll rates on holidays!

Mothers all around the country are spending the day….primping, getting dressed up and waiting for relatives to pick them up and take them out to a wonderful Mother’s Day Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. The flower shops were all packed yesterday as the thoughtful children of all ages made the required and traditional buy of posies for Mom! The whole family today will be driving in the SUV and jumping on those various Toll Roads – on the way to Grandma’s house. Even if families don’t go out and make Grandma’s favorite fair at the kid’s house….it will still be required to go pick her up in South, North, East or West County. Because of the thrush of vehicles…..certain times of day are going to be traffic packed. In any event, Happy Mother’s Day to all.

This brings us to the problem with Government owning things. Whatever Government owns..usually closes on Holidays. Saturday and Sunday are also great days for most Government Offices to be closed. National and State Holiday and even in some cases days of National or State mourning for specific personalities or groups. Most times Government never knows how much to charge for things…whether we are talking about State Parks, Museums, Historical Locations and most of all; Toll Roads! The prime trouble with Government is the people that “are charged” to set fees, rates or penalities for things haven’t got a clue and wind up “asking for consensus” from others than “haven’t got a clue!”. You can understand that clearly when someone without a second rider is caught in the HOV or Carpool lane. $371 dollars, plus, plus, plus! Whew, a few of those bad boys….and we are talking real money. But what about the 91, the 241 and the 73 Freeways…which are all owned and operated by the County of Orange? How about those rates – and how fast do they keep going up?

Ridership is down on the Toll Roads…..Duh!!!!!!! Did anyone figure out that when gasoline goes up dramatically, like going from $2.69 to $3.79…it might eventually have a small impact on the monthly budget? Did anyone consider that eventually people at the low end of the financial spectrum might have to go back to Riding the Bus…to get places? Did anyone consider that if Government wants to taut: That Great Evil; “Congestion Pricing”…they may want to try that out on the Toll Roads and other fees and entry pricing as well. Government has a really tough time understanding how places like Knott’s Berry Farm can invite Active Military and Retired Veterans to visit their park every November…free of charge! It gets people into the park at a normally very slow time of year…right after Summer and right before Christmas…which are the busy times! Even Disneyland has caught on with its Two Parks for One pricing at various times throughout the year! But the Toll Road Agency…the OCTA? Nah….Soak ’em, Soak ’em, Soak ’em! Who wants to pay $5.00 bucks every time they get on the 73 Freeway? We won’t go on..with all the many sick pricing schemes “these great minds” have come up with in the last year or two…but suffice it to say: Not too imaginative!

A little history is in order:

Back in May of 2000, then OC Treasurer John Moorlach brought to everyone’s attention that the Public/Private Partnership Group that operated the Toll Roads…was doing a poor job and that the county could pick up the operation for a song. Well, after two hard years of negotiations that original price they thought might be reasonable turned out to be two and half time larger; just for starters! By 2003, it was all part of “The OC”!

Hey, the prevailing thought was: “anyone can run a Toll Road….how tough can it be?” Well, instead of lowering rates…the County was quick to jump on board with the idea..that they could raise rates with the best of them! Whoops! There goes the rates on the 91 Freeway were way out of sight…but “economic times are great..and the people – virtually anyone that is; can afford it” – they thought!

Then there was the economic failure of the 73 Freeway…….a freeway when originally
built; that didn’t use the right construction materials and was causing skidding and accidents on those few rainy or damp days we have in South County. The “corrective action thought” was; to combine the favorable operations of the 241 – which actually was making its way financially along with the dreaded 73….which had never penciled out. All in all, the OCTA again got it’s fingers around the throats of the consumers and raised those rates on the 73, the 241 and of course the 91 in a wonderful Round Robin strategy – of too frequent rate increases!

We should not be too hard on the County of Orange, because they are not the only group that think that the public is stupid and rate increases are a right of passage for any Government endeavor. Our Governor Arnold is looking to raise rates on almost everything except leaves on the trees at State Parks and everything else…during these fast approaching, difficult economic times. What we fault the OCTA and the County on – is not being responsive to or understanding the basics of “market forces”. As the price of gasoline and Diesel go up….ridership on Toll Roads is going to go down and rather quickly. Sometimes businesses have to prime the pump! How would you encourage Bus ridership? Simply, by raising the cost of a gallon of gas and making it economically infeasible to drive your car!

What does the County of Orange think will happen if indeed, gasoline goes to $6 dollars a gallon or more? Adjusting our Toll Road Rates should be part of a basic marketing strategy. “Making Commuting Affordable” should be the buzz! Those that buy the Transponders and are the base of paying customers should be treated to occasional discount rates at renewal times. Not everyone gets the Tax Write-Off for their Transportation costs. The list of “things to do” is endless; but someone in power, needs to take charge and offer leadership in these areas!

As we stated at the beginning of this discussion….Holidays are a good place to start….by reducing rates or even offering….Toll Free days! Odd or Even Toll Free Days…might be creative. Buy a Transponder for a month and get a month free! Things like that…that businesses use…to get people into the game. Staples, Best Buy and Albertsons…all use coupons to encourage patrons..the OCTA might want to follow suit…if they want more vehicles in their system. If not, they can continue – OCTA Business as usual on Mother’s Day and beyond!

About Ron & Anna Winship

Independent News Producers/Writers and Directors for Parker-Longbow Productions. Independent Programming which includes a broad variety of Political, Entertainment and Professional Personalities. Cutting Edge - a talk show...is the flagship of over 30 URL websites developed or under development. The Winships have been blogging for the Orange Juice since back when nickels had buffalos on them, and men wore onions attached to their belts, because it was the fashion back then.