Freak Brothers creator Gilbert Shelton's 1977 proposal for a "hurry tax"

When I read this as a 16-year-old I thought it was a brilliant idea. Decades later, I like it even more. (Giant size)

(Via Meine Kleine Fabrik)


  1. Only if it comes with an option to force slow starters to pull out of your way too. I’d be livid if I paid to flip a light and it turned red before I could get through, but some hypermiler creeping his way to the speed limit makes it.

    1. I misunderstood the “hurry tax.”  Most light cycles are only 30 seconds; a long one can be two minutes.  Yet some peoples’ anxiety can go through the roof if they’re forced to wait 30 whole seconds.  They’ll start blowing their horn the millisecond the light turns green – or even sooner.

      Hurry is just a state of mind.  It should be taxed.

  2. It would cost the rich a relative pittance to completely dominate this system, and the poor would be completely cut off from being able to use it. This would take what is currently egalitarian and treats everyone the same, and turn it into a first, second, and third-class transportation system.

    1.  hmm, maybe, but what about when a rich guy is in traffic with a bunch of poor drivers ahead of him?  the light would necessarily stay green until the rich guy went through, giving all the motorists in front of him/her on their street what could be called a “free ride.”  non-elite drivers might experience red lights with more-or-less the same frequency as today, with only the elites in a bidding war for right-of-way and paying all our road taxes in the process, which sounds like a win from where I’m sitting.

      I’m thinking that the part of our lizard brain that roadrages may be linked to the part that goes ape at auctions.  If so, this points to the potential to rake in more dough than gas taxes, without any legislative lag, red-tape, or hand wringing when it comes time to raise them by a fraction of a penny every decade or whatever.  The excited driver just freely forks it over like playing a slot machine.

      I mean, fundamentally, cars are cancer anyway, but it’s an interesting sort of parlor-room discussion

      1. …non-elite drivers might experience red lights with more-or-less the same frequency as today, with only the elites in a bidding war for right-of-way…

        As long as the poor drivers’ commutes take them from the gated suburb to the financial district.

      2.  “… giving all the motorists in front of him/her on their street what could be called a ‘free ride.'”

        Curse those Takers!

    2. You’d better get on the phone with your congressperson then, because “appearing in a 35-year-old underground comic strip” is basically one step away from getting signed into law

    3.  Why is that a bad thing?  Ever ride public transit? it is inherantly second class or below.  Takes three to five times times as long to get from “a’ to “b’ on average as driving does, so even the poorest driver is *waaaay* ahead of bus riders most places outside of Manhattan or the Loop to begin with.

      Imagine if your car only started once every fifteen minutes during busy times and only once every half hour in the late evening and on Sundays and occasionally did not start at the published time but you needed to stand next to it with the key in it just in case it suddenly decided to start..

  3. Yeah, because there’s no way a system where cars can emit signals to turn a signal green could be exploited…

  4. ive always thought that they should rent out the red light controllers that ambulances and fire trucks use to very rich people, and it can be soooooooo soooooo expensive that it would legitimately pay for road improvements or public school supplies or something. Imagine if it cost like $50,000 a year for some rich guy to rent one of these things and all the rich guys just had to have one for the sake of keeping up appearances

    and when you saw some rich guy using it you wouldn’t think, oh what a tool for controlling the lights, you would think oh that guys a fool and a sucker and were all benefiting from it

    1. if a rich guy does an average of 20 lights a day for a year at $50,000 thats only a little more than $7.00 per light! rich guys are going to think thats a great deal

      they are spending more than that revving extra gas through their sports cars

    2. When I worked on a liver transplant floor, a percentage of livers were dedicated for Saudi patients, who were charged a fucking fortune. It pretty much paid for everyone else’s transplants.

  5.  this idea has since been rendered irrelevant by loop sensors embedded in the road at many red lights.  If you’re the only one at the light, it can be detected and the light can be programmed to change for you.  To see them around your area, just look for the big circles/squares you see embedded in the pavement right about where the car at the front of the line at an intersection might stop.  These are the trigger points.

    1. I suspect if this became a revenue source for local governments we’d soon see a noticeable uptick in waiting time at those red lights.

    2. Too bad if you’re driving a non-ferrous car.

      For now this just means hyper-expensive carbon sports cars, but I can see a future including 500kg aluminium cheapies…

      1. If my Vespa has enough ferrous material to set one of those things off then I’d be surprised to learn that there are automobiles which don’t.

      2. They don’t require ferrous metals, just conductive. I set them off with bicycle wheels all the time. Granted, I often have to wave the wheel back and forth across the loop, but it does often trigger them.

    3.  Which only works if they’ve been programmed to pay attention to those sensors instead of just cycling through the normal pattern. I’ve been in some areas where the lights cycle no matter what the time of day or night, with side roads with little to no buildings on them, and all of them commercial so there is very little reason to be there at night time.

      1. I believe most intersections with those sensors cycle no matter what, but will change faster if a car triggers them.

  6. Right. Because what we really need in the US right now is yet another way for rich people to gain special privileges at the expense of the poor.

      1. Nope.

        Fleecing the rich would be charging them more money for the same privilege everyone else already gets.

        Letting them ignore traffic laws just because they can afford to pay to is just a “lite” version of letting a rich guy get off after killing someone.

        Sure, it happens. But that doesn’t make it right.

  7. Charlie Stross came up with an idea for a similar system for bidding on the route your bus will take in Halting State (I think, might have been Rule 34).
    And as several other people have mentioned, there’s already a system that allows emergency vehicles to change lights ahead of themselves.

  8. Needs an asterisk — * Not available in Paris. From a 2013 interview with The Comics Journal:

    TCJ: You mentioned in an email to me that French people wear too much black.

    Shelton: I know. You can’t see them at night.

    TCJ: You’ve not hit anyone, have you?

    Shelton: No. But it’s a nuisance, driving a car here. The people pay no attention to traffic lights.

  9. What a great idea!  While we are at it, let’s give the rich a method by which they can pay the grocery or the bank to cut in line ahead of us.  Ooo.  How about the emergency room?  Think how much the hospitals could profit!  Boss: Mr. Hourly, you’ve been late for work three times this week. What’s your excuse?  Mr. Hourly:  I hit every red light on the way in this morning — Again.  I’ve been getting up earlier than ever!  Boss:  Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Hourly but if you can’t rectify this situation, we’ll have to let you go.

  10. This makes several assumptions, all of which are dubious at best.

    Not to mention that the resulting traffic snarl from theoretically dozens of traffic signals going out of sync simultaneously and repeatedly would essentially paralyze everyone else on perpendicular routes.  Particularly along routes between congregation points of the rich.  

    This is an absolutely awful idea, actually.  It works with emergency vehicles because, comparatively, they are few and far between, and even then they tend to cluster together.  Where there’s a firetruck, another fire truck or an ambulance are generally close by.  The occasional disruption to traffic is easily compensated. But if one rich guy kills a light at a major intersection, he could be quickly followed by another rich guy following a similar route doing exactly the same thing.  Two or three consecutive disruptions to a light cycle will result in huge stackups on perpendicular streets and could pose quite an obstacle for actual emergency vehicles trying to navigate.  

    Awful, awful idea.

  11. Aside from the other negatives raised, I’m surprised that no one has mentioned how this affects people walking or biking (or using other non-motorized transportation). An old comic strip is fairly innocuous though I come across many a visionary/futurist that has equally fantastic ideas that ignore good chunks of reality, particularly that reality that is outside their windshield.

    What happens when a grandma is slowly crossing the street and someone feeds the traffic light switcher? Does she have to jump to the sidewalk? Will this force everyone (young and old) everywhere to have this transponder if they want a hope in being able to cross the street?

  12. I say you put this in an app on smart phones.  $1 to change the light, and designate in the terms of service that it’s only to be used by drivers, not passengers.

    Then, if they use it, charge them a huge fine for distracted driving, and don’t change the light!

    Or you could just make the app, charge them a penny to “speed up” the light.  But make it so it doesn’t actually do anything to the pace of the light (technically word it as ‘lodge an official request the light change be sped up’, so they’re technically not lying… you lodged it, they just ignore it).   I know I can’t stop myself from pressing the elevator button repeatedly despite knowing that it doesn’t actually speed it up!

Comments are closed.