Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What We Don't Like About Virginia Beach

The misery index for beach-goers is reaching new highs. Traffic levels through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel reached a new high on Friday, with more than 108,000 vehicles passing through tubes designed to handle about 65,000 says, the Virginian-Pilot. More people say the tunnels are the "thing they least like about Virginia Beach," says a tourism official.

If you've got an appetite for the suffering of others, go watch live feeds of tunnel traffic.

A third bridge-tunnel would cost about $4.1 billion, but Del. Leo Waldrup tells the paper that the better answer is expanding U.S. 460 to give visitors an alternative to I-64 to reach the beach. A wrinkle in the toll-funded approach: upgrading U.S. 460 Could cost about $1 billion, but tolls wouldn't raise enough because not enough people use it, says the Pilot.

4 Comments:

At 6:08 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Hampton Roads has many unique transportation challenges, one of them being the unavoidable bottlenecks created by the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the other being the seasonal nature of tourism, one of its major industries.

For nine months out of the year, traffic is bad but still tolerable. It's the three summer-vacation months that are a killer. Here's the big question: Should a metropolitan area of 1.5 million people gear build a transportation infrastructure to meet peak demand for three months of the year in support of a low-wage industry like tourism?

I have nothing against tourism. It's a fine industry. In fact, I'll be spending a week this summer in Sandbridge. But I question whether it makes sense for the citizens of Hampton Roads to tax themselves (or pay tolls) in order to support the continued growth of that industry. The citizenry would be far better off stimulating the growth of high-tech industry, like Modeling & Simulation, and investing in the educational resources for local residents to avail themselves of the opportunities created by such an industry.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Joe Freeman said...

Response to Jim:
It is indeed the "peak hour" problem writ large. It's clear enough when we see a bus or metro car running mostly empty at 10AM or 3PM -- someone's paying something for a faciltiy that isn't being used/paying its way. But no one complains about the absence of traffic on my wide, nicely paved cul-de-sac with four houses on it. We just can't extend the observation about busses to roadways, though it is precisely the same problem.

VDOT measures "demand" by putting counters on the roads. A higher count is, by definition "more demand," so the authorities conclude that they are duty-bound to try to build more. Therefore, if the count goes up in Virginia Beach because families from Michigan are seeking salt water and sunburns, then Virginia is obliged to help them realize their dreams. Period. End of discussion, though this is where the discussion should start.

Adam Smith reminded us long ago that demand is what we can and do choose to pay for. Anything else is wishing,like Smith's beggar who would like a coach-and-four -- he is in no position to effectually demand it. Is riding across a counter effective demand? Not when the road is perceived as being "free." Further, none of us can direct the funding of roadways when we pay the gas tax -- my pittance goes anonymously into a big pot from which projects are administratively allocated by the remote and puissant CTB, not by any haggling in a market.

Even worse, who is going where seems quite outside the methods they are prepared to use to make construction decisions, and other concerns (environment, etc.) are interferences. And the "local" government (a crucial player in construction decisions) is going to go for whatever is perceived as bringing in more revenues.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Joe Freeman said...

Response to Jim:
It is indeed the "peak hour" problem writ large. It's clear enough when we see a bus or metro car running mostly empty at 10AM or 3PM -- someone's paying something for a faciltiy that isn't being used/paying its way. But no one complains about the absence of traffic on my wide, nicely paved cul-de-sac with four houses on it. We just can't extend the observation about busses to roadways, though it is precisely the same problem.

VDOT measures "demand" by putting counters on the roads. A higher count is, by definition "more demand," so the authorities conclude that they are duty-bound to try to build more. Therefore, if the count goes up in Virginia Beach because families from Michigan are seeking salt water and sunburns, then Virginia is obliged to help them realize their dreams. Period. End of discussion, though this is where the discussion should start.

Adam Smith reminded us long ago that demand is what we can and do choose to pay for. Anything else is wishing,like Smith's beggar who would like a coach-and-four -- he is in no position to effectually demand it. Is riding across a counter effective demand? Not when the road is perceived as being "free." Further, none of us can direct the funding of roadways when we pay the gas tax -- my pittance goes anonymously into a big pot from which projects are administratively allocated by the remote and puissant CTB, not by any haggling in a market.

Even worse, who is going where seems quite outside the methods they are prepared to use to make construction decisions, and other concerns (environment, etc.) are interferences. And the "local" government (a crucial player in construction decisions) is going to go for whatever is perceived as bringing in more revenues.

 
At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The HRBT problem does NOT only exist in the summertime, though it is at its worst then.

Every Friday beginning at noon, year-round, one can count on a 3-5 mile backup at the tunnel to leave HR and head westward.

 

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