Tuesday, August 10, 2010
candy or gum, toll, ticket or tax?
I estimate that I am in the vicinity of logging my one millionth mile behind the wheel. Along the way, I have been unnerved by countless blind potholes, traffic snarls, unexpected detours and scores of aggressive drivers.
Yet vying for top billing of catalysts to induce irritable road syndrome upon me is the toll declaration approaching the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, on the southwestern side of New York City. Here, my self-talk turns to humor, in order to thwart a surge of anger, while I ponder the frills surely available for the hefty eleven dollar fee allowing me to move from one GPS point to another within the city.
Are there carnival booths and water flumes up there in the zebra stripes? Might I be able to take in an Off-Broadway show? Is there a rest stop offering massages and a happy ending? Where’s the value?
To be almost equally outraged, there are other cross borough bridges (RFK, Whitestone and Throgs Neck) that will cost an equal sum for a round trip. But, at the Verrazano Narrows gap, the entire payment is collected on the journey southwest towards Staten Island and New Jersey. This can be unlucky if someone has multiple destinations in the NY/NJ area and plans to circle back northeast of the city, as my schedule sometimes necessitates. A moment of decision develops, requiring a choice. Trek back south, wasting time and gas in order to cash in a prepaid entry, or pay another one way rate to more effectively navigate a northeastern arrival at one of the other aforementioned pricey re-entry points, for a total sum of $16.50. While reversing the start and end points of this excursion would mean subtracting $5.50, instead of adding it, the perpetual crawl of the more nightmarish traffic flow would bring me to my knees.
I view the set-up to be a hidden tax, with a loophole that I cannot apply, rather than a toll. And, in step with recent news accounts, I am beginning to get the same feeling about the proliferation of photo enforced traffic tickets as well.
In spite of all my time spent on the road, I have only been starred in three pictures since the still flicks were rolled out a few years ago. But I see their intense, paparazzi like, frequency of flash every day. I have minimal faith that this technology is without kinks and I have full faith that its primary duty is to increase revenue, as opposed to enhancing travel safety. Hopefully, many of the unflattering snapshots will fall into the mailboxes of justly deserving offenders. I suspect that bags full, however, are destined to fall through the cracks and garnish $50 to $100 from the hands of folks who cautiously waited a bit too long when making a left turn. Truly unfortunate are those who may stop outside the crosswalk to let an emergency vehicle pass. And beware to all those who are camera shy when driving on a wet or snow slicked road. If the driver behind you can’t stop in time, forfeiture of wages may suddenly appear more attractive than showing off your rear end.
When corporations snare our money in arbitrary fashion, cries alleging price gouging and slamming often follow. Where is this going? When the bridge is $20 and the red light robots have doubled, tripled or quadrupled in volume will the traffic beast be satiated or will it constantly thirst for more? Anyone that’s not a fan of being micro-managed is sure to find this trend to be insufferable.
Besides transportation taxes, many residents of the Greater New York region and the United States, already struggle with high Federal income taxes. Add in State or local income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, real estate, property, school, sales, transfer, inheritance and a variety of sin taxes and it becomes clear that government, in fact, does loom very large.
I am on a quasi-summertime break from clicking on Fox News or Tea Party agendas, thinking red or blue, liberal or conservative, midterm election or dysfunctional foreign policy. However, notwithstanding benefits afforded by E-ZPASS and a defensive driving course, simple signposts inspire simple sentiments.
I want government to be precisely big enough to deliver an array of services on par with the endless mining of my pockets. Amusement park rides on the house would be a good start.
© 2010 Christopher’s Views