Waste in Collecting Tolls

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TxDOT to motorists: Pay up even if tolls are tiny

I've heard economists say that tolls roads are a very inefficient way of collecting taxes (you have to build tollbooths and hire people to collect tolls, etc.). Gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, even sales tax are more efficient collection methods.

Some states are addressing that with “Tolltags” or other automated methods that you can sign up for. I use a “Tolltag” for airport parking at DFW, which is very efficient for me (I barely have to stop and I get invoiced/billed automatically). Most toll automation schemes I've seen, such as “Open Road” tolling in Illinois give you the automated option but still have toll booths for those of us (say, from out of state) to stop and pay our 80 cents or whatever.

In the Dallas area, though, we have a new toll road, referenced in the article above. If you don't have a Tolltag, the state takes a picture of your license plate and mails you a bill. The state saved the money of building toll booths, but wow this seems like a very inefficient system.

The state is paying 30 cents to mail out a 25 cent bill to drivers. The driver then spends 39 cents to mail a check in. I'm not sure which is more wasteful, the state “forgetting” to add the $1 processing fee or having that processing fee (or the processing itself) to begin with. Also, with the current system, Texas cannot bill or collect from out-of-state drivers.

Such waste. I'm not endorsing him for President, but do you think “lean government” proponent Tom Vilsack could do a lot to promote lean thinking, waste reduction, and just plain common sense to government around the country?

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

1 Comment
  1. Dean Bliss says

    I live in Iowa, Tom Vilsack’s home state, and he has been very supportive of Lean initiatives in state government. The efforts originated from the Iowa Business Council, which is made up of the CEO’s of the 20 largest companies in Iowa. Considerable improvements have beeen made in “paperwork” processes such as permitting, applications, and routinely scheduled work by the Lean advocates within both the business (on-loan resources) and government communities. Though the governor was not the initiator of the activity, he was certainly supportive, to the point that we are now concerned about the future of Lean at the statehouse due to the recent change in the governor’s office.

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