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Tolling Points

As U.S. Cities Grow Farther Apart, Tolling Brings Us Together

Pat Jones

At the U.S. Travel Association’s Connecting America Through Travel conference earlier today, two unique maps were released that show how traffic congestion is pushing American cities farther apart.

Based on travel times, not geography, U.S. Travel showed that the distance between destinations has been growing, not shrinking. The map was a great visual reminder of the $121 billion in lost time and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel that American commuters gave up to congestion in 2012, according to the latest Urban Mobility Report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

“While the rest of the world is speeding up, aging U.S. transportation infrastructure is slowing America down,” the Travel Association wrote in its conference profile. “Everyone agrees on the problem, but solutions are scarce.”

Congestion Stalls Visitor Spending

The morning panel looked at the impact of highway congestion on visitor spending, travel patterns, and market access. And that gave IBTTA a golden opportunity to present tolling as one of the most important tools in the transportation funding toolbox.

I reminded participants that “our roads are never fully paid for, and ignoring the transportation funding crisis in America doesn’t make it go away.” The audience was receptive to the simple truth that congestion exacerbates our economic problems. And we gained ground with the suggestion that travel industry leaders raise their voices in their communities to support alternative funding options, like user fees.

“A user fee, such as tolling, is a proven funding method that helps cut congestion, drives economic growth, and allows communities to keep their transportation funding dollars locally.”

Unusual Suspects

When IBTTA launched its Moving America Forward campaign, we knew we would have to reach out well beyond the “usual suspects” who legislators expect to hear from when highway financing is on the agenda. Travel and hospitality companies are a great example of that wider community of interest.

Their operations are local. They’re job creators. They’re present in almost every community. They give back to the local economy. And they depend on safe, reliable transportation or their business does not grow.

Like IBTTA, U.S. Travel is building a sound foundation of research on what the future of transportation could and should look like. Wednesday’s conference was a great opportunity to explore that common ground.


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