Predicting the future: Tolling to start in your driveway

As Western Washington continues to get bogged down in traffic, former state transportation secretary Doug MacDonald floated the idea of tolling you as soon as you leave your driveway.

“I call it soft tolling,” MacDonald said. “It goes way beyond when people say ‘I don’t like tolls.’ What about if you were buying something that you did like, which is the chance to get to where you want to go, the expectation of reliability, and the solution to the parking issue together?”

It's just a rough concept now, but MacDonald said the technology exists to create an app that would show you the cheapest routes and times to drive and even reserve a parking spot.

"That's the sort of power of technology we have not thought about in terms of congestion," MacDonald told KIRO Radio's Dave Ross.

The idea is to force drivers to consider the value of each trip and when they take it. The toll rates would vary based on the day and time. So if you were to drive to the grocery store on a weekday during rush hour it would cost you more than on a Saturday or Sunday morning, for example.

When we floated the idea to drivers at a Queen Anne gas station, we didn't find much support.

“I can certainly understand that perspective,” Rimon Maksimos said. He commutes daily from Edmonds to Queen Anne and added, “However, I disagree with it.”

“That sucks,” Latoya Kinnibrew, who lives in Tacoma, said. “I'm a Lyft and Uber driver so I'll be spending more money than making money.”

“I have to pay for my gas, I have to pay more for my insurance, now I have to pay to drive on a street?” Joanne Drury, who lives in Queen Anne, said. “Yeah, no.”

This fall the state of Washington will begin a pilot program testing a system of charging drivers for the number of miles traveled instead of charging them a gas tax. For the pilot period, drivers will only be tracking miles and will not be paying taxes based on that mileage. The current state gas tax is 49.4 cents per gallon of gas.