Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kaine's Transportation plan - 'Fluff' or the Right Stuff?

A Washington Post editorial today gives Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine a good kick for laying out a transportation plan that has "a batch of likeable ideas" but no plan for a long-term infusion of cash.

Neither Kaine or his GOP opponent Jerry Kilgore offer "any support for an increase in the most natural transportation "user fee," the gasoline tax," says the Post. "Virginia needs tens of billions of dollars for transportation over the coming decades, and the two party nominees are sidestepping the hard calls." State Sen. Russ Potts, running as an independent, is given credit for pledging to haul the General Assembly in for a special session until it produces a funding package.

The Post rightly warns that delays in funding will only mean paying more. But doesn't Kaine's linking of local land-use decisions and transportation funding at least give taxpayers some hope that the money won't be wasted? A key reason for the state's transportation budget problems is the lack of control on the sprawling development patterns that drive the demand for more money. Maybe voters have figured that out.



4 Comments:

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

You can't fix our transportation plans without more money. At the same time, it is fine to say that sprawling development costs more and has environmental consequences (compared to say, New urban Development), but those claims have yet to be proven.

 
At 6:39 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Well intuitively it is likely that a highway 10 miles long costs less to build and maintain than a 100-mile highway. But I'd like to see the proof too, as well as an exploration of the impacts on the environment and gas-tax revenues. I'd add that if there truly is no comparison data, that's an argument for doing the research - not for abandoning the approach. Because who can support the current system, with the state essentially agreeing to pay the bills that localities run up?

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Informed Patriot said...

I take issue with the Post's statement that the gas tax is "the most natural transportation 'user fee." I certainly don't think citizens in SWVA think the money they are taxed at the pumps for driving in Grundy being spent on the Springfield Interchange is a directly tied user fee. At points where the demand for transportation options exist, Virginia needs to offer another solution- real user fees, tolls.

The gas tax's buying power has and will continue to erode. As a Chesterfield resident, I have the option of taking a 'free' route to downtown Richmond or paying the Powhite toll and getting to work 10 mins faster. If I know the traffic on one is going to make it worthwhile to take the other route, I adjust accordingly. I, and thousands of others, are willing to pay to get out of traffic. But I have a choice that other parts of the state need to have. The gas tax offers no such incentive- I pay it no matter what road I take. I think the HOT lanes proposal will do a considerable service to alleviating congestion in NOVA. These options paired with smarter land use decisions are what is going to get to the heart of the congestion problem.

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

But the gas tax supports the roads, no matter what road you take. User fees in the form of tolls will be another reason to abandon places that are so crowded they need them, and encourage more sprawl. It's unlikely that we will have toll roads everywhere and the other free roads will have to be supported by the gas tax. Under that condition, NOVA would again be supporting roads elsewhere in the state while paying double for their own.

The gas tax should be thought of as a toll that applies to all roads. Since NOVA (and Tidewater) have many more drivers it is unfair to claim that SWVA would be paying for the Springfield interchange. It is more likely that drivers in NOVA are paying for roads in Grundy than vice versa, and as NOVA is increasingly maxed out on roads, that will become more tru, not less.

It might cost less to build a 10 mile highway, but if you put the same population around it as a 100 mile highway, it will be ten times as crowded, slower, and cause more pollution.

Studies already exist that show, contrary to some claims, that those in rural areas pay less for transportation than those in urban areas. (Studies from PA and Colorado.)

I'd support doing the research, but the problem is so polarized by special interests that the results will be widely ignored. The various spins tht were applied to the Urban Transportation Study were just hilarious.

I don't buy your argument that the state is agreeing to pay the bills that localities run up. First of all, the localities are us. It is our children that are clogging the schools and our children who will need homes soon. As one builder told me, "If you get your children to stop fornicating, I'll stop building houses."

In turn, the state is just a collection of localities, again, made up of ourselves. It's job, and that is why we have bicameral government, is to fairly balance the needs of the various localities.

 

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