The End of an Era in California

The Los Angeles times reports in a front-page story that from now on, solo motorists on selected California freeways will be able to buy their way onto the “carpool lanes” that are now restricted to cars carrying at least two people. The charge will be 25 cents to $1.40 per mile depending on traffic volume. See Dan Weikel, Tolls Will Take L.A. Freeways Into a New Era, L.A. Times, July 24, 2009, at p. A1.

We find it appropriate to note that in the bad old days, it was the condemnors’ mantra that people whose land was being taken for freeways should not receive full compensation for all their demonstrable economic losses because to do so would spell the end of civilization as we know it. The California Supreme Court went along with this nonsense and opined that to do so would bring about an “embargo” on the construction of public projects. When owners argued that if indeed there was a shortage of funds to build freeways (there wasn’t — the Division of Highways was running huge surpluses at the time) it should be made up by charging tolls —┬átheir suggestion that the beneficiaries pay for their benefits was greeted with professed horror.

But things change. Here is the proverbial Exhibit A, even if imposition of these tolls is motivated by a desire to regulate the volume of traffic rather than to provide true compensation to condemnees.