Pimp my Turnpike


Stephen J. Dubner at the New York Times' Freakonomics blog posted this letter from a reader. It's chock full of suggestions for improving the New Jersey Turnpike, including the construction of a Milton Friedman "rest spa":

The citizens of New Jersey must decide how to manage a financial crisis that has resulted from both decades of wishful thinking and their leaders' lack of political courage. A major source of anxiety is the future of the New Jersey Turnpike. Following are a few ideas for improving the finances of the Turnpike Authority, which may have escaped the notice of the planners.

1. Thorstein Veblen would instantly recognize New Jerseyans' need to be conspicuous consumers. How else to explain the holiday mobs at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom? The Turnpike already comprises both car and truck lanes north- and south-bound between exits 8A and 18. Why not convert the car lanes to first class? The surcharge will provide the same function as toll roads in Texas and Colorado (and alas! the late Concorde) that provide faster travel options for those who … er, think it's worth it. And we can do it with minimal adverse travel impact by adding an EZ-Pass Express receiver at the entrances to the first class lanes. If traffic gets bad in steerage, then presto! More people will pay the surcharge. And if that is successful, maybe we can attract Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse to the first class service areas, I mean spas. We can name the first one after Milton Friedman (BA, Rutgers U., 1932)….

reason founder Robert Poole wrote about an America without toll booths here.