Solving State Budget Crisis with 4th Grade Math (by an adult with autism)


[WARNING This post may incite Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder over remembered experiences with mathematical word problems or school experiences the same.]

A train leave Chicago at 4:15pm, travelling 120 mph.

Another train leaves New York at 5:25pm, travelling 90 mph.

At what time will Pennsylvanian legislators resolve their political rhetoric to decidedly vote on a balanced budget, as promised?

We already have an untapped revenue stream that would certainly add immediate funds to our resource pool. Instead of cutting special needs education or laying-off social service agency workers, we can exercise better safety while building a sizable revenue like never in history.

We do this by adding a small usage fee to known, speedy racers on state turnpike roads.

It’s simple math we learned in fourth grade, folks.

The distance between Place A and Place B is 60 miles along the turnpike.

The posted speed limit within this distance is 65 mph. With some advanced mathematics, we can determine how acceleration, deceleration, weather, etc. means a typical average speed of 60 mph.

If, driving an average of 60 mph over 60 miles’ distance means we could arrive at our destination within one hour. Is everyone still with me?

Sure, I may stop and use a public washroom, or eat fast food, or take-in a local attraction. All of these variables only ADD to our overall travel time. This means that my estimated, expected one hour drive will take longer by as much as I want. There is no need to worry about these drivers. In fact, they contribute to the local economies with their patronage.

I want to address the willing speeders. I want a safer road and travel.

I want a small ‘pay-to-play’ fine immediately assessed on turnpike/state-paid toll roads. The system partially exists. When we enter the turnpike, we get a date-and-time stamped ticket. We present this ticket to the toll booth operator upon exit, and pay the cost of travel from known Point A to Point B. Alternatively, we can use an electronic debit system that assesses the toll tied to our bank.

We also know an average, safe rate of speed for that trip. Again, if I pull-off road for an overnight stay at a commercial hotel, so be it. My time spent on road is more difficult to calculate. We won’t bother about these variables, and instead focus on the known speeders.

If a driver speeds in excess of the known variables, and exits Point B a few minutes sooner than expected, we begin to see my strategy unfold. Again, if someone was expected to be driving just 5 mph (or less) faster, so be it. What if they drove the distance in HALF of the anticipated time?

We assess a fine, to be paid immediately via deductions from electronic debit systems like E-Z Pass, or ask toll booth workers to assess the penalty. For drivers who may be short on cash, we extend sympathy and an envelope in which they may place their fines within a certain time frame. Failure to pay these assessed fines could be easily bypassed, but I wish good luck to such skipping drivers the next time they exit a toll road.

Fines do not be to be large sums of money. Maybe assigning a value of a mere dollar for speeds 5-9 mph over expected arrival times will suffice. I doubt most people would notice a dollar ‘fine’ or ‘tax’ for their speedier driving. For larger speed differentials, we assess larger fines or taxes.

Pennsylvania has more paved roads within its borders than all of New York and New England combined. Surely, we have speeders who may willingly pay pocket change for the freedom to travel just a little faster than expected. We exercise the same serious tone with speeders as they who brazenly and willingly think they can justify speeding on public roads with lots and lots and lots of potholes.

How much money could this enterprise bring? This formula can be done with your own state.

Calculate mileage of toll roads. Determine distances between entry and exits. Predict various speeds, like entry acceleration or exit deceleration. Include factors like weather, if needed. Assign thresholds of speed accountability (i.e.: Is 5mph over limit too generous? Is 10mph over limit too generous?), and fees for those speed rates (i.e. Is $1 too much or too little? What dollar amount would you assess a speeder who drove 120% of the speed limit?). Direct accountability in billing or fee assessment. Build computation infrastructure to do repetitive fourth-grade math. Promote. Market. Advertise. Implement. Sit back and get paid by speedy drivers at a proportional rate to non-paid speeding tickets, but whose fees could be deducted automatically via electronic debit systems already in use. Enjoy safer, less speedy drivers on toll roads. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Of course, the cost of educating people, building collection systems, and other factors may exists that I do not yet realize. This isn’t a perfect system. However, it uses something largely in place, with a system that many of us expect already (read: You mean there ISN’T an obligatory fine waiting for me when I get clocked for speeding?). It also reduces the number of police force dedicated to solely speeding on toll roads. Police can be better utilized, since the basic math already implicates speedy drivers’ deeds.

What about speedy drivers who realize their lead foot, and just duck into the local rest stop before their exit and cheat the system? Well, we now have an individual frequenting a place of business along a toll road. What are the chances they buy something that may cost as much or more than the anticipated fine? I suspect someone will drive like lightning, hoping to stop and buy a candy bar at Zero-Hour near the exit ramp. However, if you are speeding, I doubt that you will want to ruin your great track record by making a pit stop. You drove fast for a reason, and unless you are driving without a speedometer, you also know just how much faster you are driving over the posted speed limit. You gambled, and until now, you won. You beat the system. You dodged other drivers, including police officers. You broke old land-speed records in your attempt to visit your Great Aunt. Congratulations, speedy drivers, but your time in the Victor’s Circle comes to an end.

How much money could we net as a state or nation if we- shockingly- held people accountable for breaking laws on toll roads? How many people do you think use the PA Turnpike daily? How many of them speed, do you think? Multiple this last number by as little as $1 USD and see how we can prevent political bias in promised budget reformation.

This is my second idea to end the PA budget stalemate in the same day. What have our elected officials offered today? Remember, most people will dismiss this idea just because I am an adult with autism, and therefore automatically presume I have less public value. What do you think? If you like this idea, please share it. Honestly, I don’t even care if I get credit for this work; ‘business as usual’ shouldn’t mean massive layoffs…

…while the politicians still get paid to merely debate with no real offers on the table. I’d like to ask all PA Congress to work without pay from TODAY until they pass a balanced budget; we’d have amendments flying off desks before tomorrow, I expect. Also, no congressional representative can vote for increased salaries for two years, making their lives more typical to our own, with just a modest, meh, 2% cost-of-living increase (maybe).

Maybe you dislike my revenue streams or ideas. I am okay with other opinions voiced respectfully, but I do ask for you to come up with some way(s) to make money for our Commonwealth before you throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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