Sunday, May 27, 2007


The fantastic GrimReader expatiates tongue-in-cheek:
"Well, I don't like all that Trust and rebate business, so I tell my representative to regulate the hell out of those railroad guys. And I started supporting my local Wheelmen's Association. We are trying to get my representative to support public road building. In fact, this is great: let's build roads everywhere so it makes it cheap and easy to drive my new car. You have to have government build roads - a private road would have to charge fees, and everyone knows there's no way to feasibly operate a road that way!"
Actually, in the internet age its not difficult to imagine what private roads could possibly resemble. Popular websites such as and the NY Times have long offered both subscriber and ad-sponsored models to price-ration their articles. Many national broadcasters routinely offer costly bandwidth-saturating TV programs free of charge to end-users, sponsored with only regular commercial breaks.

With that model, its not far-fetched to envision the provision of private roads sponsored by roadside billboard advertisers. Private road builders would then compete to capture the eyeball and vehicle traffic and would be incentivized to be focused on providing the most satisfying experience to the commuter to ensure his repeat visit to this particular soap-freeway.

The mind boggles at what might evolve from this--
  • vehicle transponders which communicate with road identification systems to announce your presence, perhaps relate some personal preferences and vehicle info
  • "Google" roads with minimal, relevant text-only advertisements based on your prefs
  • Greasemonkey extensions which free-loading Firefox junkies would use to screen out obnoxious, "PUNCH THE MONKEY AND WIN!!!" -type advertisements by overlaying the windshield with blank spaces along the drivers line of sight
  • freeways operators offering discount coupons enticing you to choose their road over a competitors
  • express lanes exclusively offered to purchasers of advertisers products
  • advertisement rates fluctuating based on traffic volume and speed conditions
This can even be realized today with the de-socialization and genuine privatization of government roads, both toll and the nominally "free" variants, although I'm sure that most people would be horrified of the prospect of having "our" roads being "commercialized".


Eric H said...

I once had a discussion at work with a conservative. I was advocating that we deregulate utilities and privatize roads. In a single conversation, he staked out both the position that this would lead to monopoly control **and** that there would be so many utilities running lines willy-nilly that the roads would be perpetually under construction. Too little and too much competition at the same time? Hmmm, perhaps there might be a position somewhere between those two?

Tim said...

Answering "who would build roads?"

If the market for roads was deregulated, everyone and their cousin would try to build them, because they would have a monetary incentive to get people to use them.

And they would have a monetary incentive to keep them safe and well-maintained, because death/destruction would drive off customers (literally)... just like airlines have a financial incentive not to blow up their customers, whereas NASA doesn't.