Monday, 28 of July of 2014

Category » Roads

La – Robin – Hood is Out

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday he will not be sticking around for President Barack Obama’s second term, according to Roll Call.  Many of us first got to know LaHood when George Will wrote that this mediocre legislator had been transformed: “I think we can change people’s behavior.”

LaHood was talking about getting people out of their cars and onto rail transit.  However, he was not talking about people voluntarily leaving the road.  His determination was to coerce people out of their cars.  Since then he has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to wasteful projects in pursuit of the Portlandification of America.  Good riddance!


Maryland’s Transportation Plans Go Off the Tracks

The Washington Post editorializes about getting Maryland moving again.  It seems that northern Virginia has become an attractive destination for Marylanders who can no longer take the high cost of living in the high tax state.  So perhaps improving its transportation system will make things better.  This would be true if the State Assembly spent revenues on transportation projects that work, namely roads and bridges.

Instead, the Post exhorts Smart Growth Governor Martin O’Malley to “take the lead” on an initiative to increase the tax on gas an additional 15 cents per gallon, and the scheme would divert money increasingly to transit projects: “the Red Line in Baltimore” … “the Purple Line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties” … “the Corridor Cities Transitway.”  Sure, some money will also trickle down to roads and bridges.

Transportation policy in this Smart Growth State has already been heading in the wrong direction, and Gov. O’Malley’s “leadership” only makes matters worse.  The Post earlier reported on Montgomery County’s plan “to give more of the road to buses,” which simply doubles down on the earlier idea to push “car-free living.”

The reason why so many people have become anti-tax over the year is only partially explained by the high tax burden many people face.  It’s also due to the distrust with politicians on how they spend tax money.  A scheme like this only deepens that skepticism.


Challenging the Anti-Car Consensus

When Smart Growthers say “Less is More,” they are usually talking about reducing capacity on major roadways. This fad has developed it’s on catchphrases and buzzwords like Road Diets and Complete Streets. In my town of Gainesville, the political establishment has long championed the effort to reduce lanes on two major arterials cutting through the heart of downtown.

Last week, the editorial editor commented on this with the typical Either/Or Fallacy. This week, the paper published my response.


Congestion Costs in the UK

The Daily Mail reports that gridlock on Britain’s roads is costing families £500 a year in wasted time and fuel.  $800 U.S. dollars.  This represents a more comprehensive way to assessing costs than from previous studies, for it includes indirect costs from businesses passing along the costs to end-users.  From the INRIX summary: “These costs are a result of the direct impact of traffic on drivers in terms of wasted time and fuel as well as indirect costs to U.K. households resulting from businesses passing these same costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”

Sounds like the Brits need to abandon their sprawling car-centric ways and adopt Smart Growth, right?  Well, as ADC friend Phil Hayward says: “The UK under its Town and Country Planning system, after 60 years, has attained several targets that urban planning fads aim for. It has the highest urban densities of any western nations. It has the most compact urban form. It has very high petrol taxes and massive subsidies of commuter rail and subway systems.”

In other words, it exemplifies Smart Growth.  Consequently, Great Britain also has the West’s “least affordable housing, in spite of the lowest land consumption per person; the west’s greatest social exclusion, particularly from home ownership, the west’s worst traffic congestion delays, the west’s longest trip-to-work times, and the west’s worst local air pollution.”  (By contrast, the U.S. with much lower densities has the most affordable housing and much shorter trip-to-work times.


More Tolling of Roads to Meet Demand

With many states struggling in this weak economy, we’re seeing toll roads proliferate to compensate for state financing shortfalls.  My view is that tolling should be the first choice when considering ways to build new capacity.  I also think it should be considered on roadways with terrible congestion where variable tolling on select lanes can be used to improve traffic flow.  I have more difficulty with converting existing freeways into tolled roadways since motorists have already paid for them.


The Greedy Government-Surveillance Society Complex

Technology is wonderful, but in the wrong hands can lead to abuse of our citizenry.  Combine technologies potential with the thrist for more money from local governments and you’ll have a toxic mix of government watching you and fining you “for your own good.”

National Journal reports on the latest development where local governments are re-timing traffic signals to shorten the yellow light function, thus making it more likely motorists will be caught (with intersection cameras) running red lights.

“Cities and for-profit camera companies maximize revenue by setting yellow-light times that are too short,” said National Motorists Association President Gary Biller. “It is a violation of the public trust, and it jeopardizes motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian safety.”

Local government’s insatiable appetite for money (i.e., greed) is putting lives at risk.  Yellow lights serve a critical function at busy intersections, and shortening them simply to raise more revenue show a callous indifference to the safety of the community.  Sadly, I see this trend only increasing in coming years.


Good News for Mobility

“Texas opens first 85-mph highway in U.S.,” is the partial headline from Yahoo! News about the opening of a high speed toll road.  The article goes on to portray Texas State Route 130 (TX130/5&6) as a risky and dangerous venture.  “But truckers may shun it,” concludes the headline.  The reason is that “many trucking companies prevent their vehicles from going faster than 70 mph or 75 mph, he said, and fuel consumption goes up exponentially as speeds increase – potentially cutting into company profits.”

Then they don’t have to use it … or they can travel at a slower speed, say 75 mph.  The other concern comes from people who automatically associate higher speeds with loss of life.  “We all worry about safety. Such high speeds lead to worse accidents and a greater loss of life,” says Sandrea Helin of the Southwest Insurance Information Service.  Yet that is not necessarily so.  In fact, two highways in Texas have had 80 mph limits for 17 years, and it doesn’t appear that these stretches of road have had a disproportionately high rate of crashes and fatalities.

As for this new road, Texas State Route 130 is a toll road built privately.  In other words, the taxpayer bears neither the risk nor the costs of maintenance.  Those who want to use it pay for the privilege of driving on it.  That is the future we should be looking to when assessing capacity needs in our own states.


Questions No One Is Asking

What Happens When We Reach ‘Peak Car’? … asks Time.


Moments of Candor

Why Do You Hate Cyclists?  Partly because of jerks like me.


“If you go forward with this, traffic congestion will get worse and you’ll waste a lot of money.”

That is Wendell Cox’s assessment of T-SPLOST, Atlanta’s awkward acronym for a July 31 referendum for a 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects.  In the public’s eye, Atlanta rivals Los Angeles for its legendary traffic congestion, and proponents of the new tax that would raise approximately $7 billion say the projects funded would overhaul highway interchanges, fund mass transit projects, and pay for road construction and improvements across metro Atlanta over a 10 year period.

So why wouldn’t pumping all that money into metro Atlanta alleviate congestion?  Because 52 percent of the funding would go to mass transit, “leaving less than half of the money for road improvements.”  And transit’s impact on congestion is negligible.