Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Kaine Hanging Tough on Transportation Trust Fund

Addressing the Virginia Association of Counties yesterday, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tim Kaine stuck by his position that he would not raise taxes for transportation until there are mechanisms in place to halt future raids on the Transportation Trust Fund to fund other programs. In doing so, he incurred the ire of the otherwise Democratic-leaning Virginian-Pilot editorial board. Sayeth the unsigned editorial:

“I will not entertain new revenue unless the Transportation Trust Fund is locked up,” Kaine insisted. “I really, really believe [that] a fundamental question about honesty” caused the failure of a 2002 transportation referendum in Hampton Roads.

The Pilot's editorial response: "The trouble is that trust-building [by means of a constitutional amendment] takes time, and when it comes to traffic, Hampton Roads doesn’t have time to spare. Clogged highways, tunnels and bridges are threatening to overwhelm the region now."

Citing local planning studies indicating that the region needs to raise at least $275 million a year in new revenue (not including tolls) to finance critical road projects, the Pilot has consistently taken the view that the problem with the region's transportation system is simply a lack of money to finance new projects. In that regard, the Pilot reflects the consensus view of the region's political and civic leadership.

The Pilot and other Hampton Roads opinion leaders would inspire more confidence if they acknowledged that money alone won't solve the region's congested roads. Any road construction program is only a short-term palliative as long as local land use policies perpetuate the scattered, disconnected, low-density development that has prevailed in the region for so long. If the Pilot has its way, taxes will be raised, new roads will be built, traffic congestion will ease momentarily, then congestion will get worse again. And then, 10 to 15 years, the Pilot will come back arguing for more tax increases for more roads again. Not a winning formula, if you ask me.


At 8:13 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"Any road construction program is only a short-term palliative as long as local land use policies perpetuate the scattered, disconnected, low-density development that has prevailed in the region for so long."

And that is exactly the point: development that has prevailed so long. 80% of the construction we are going to have is already here. Congestion is already here. Congestion is not going away as long as the development we have is not going away.

Even if the infill and high density projects you propose succeed, and even if they don't contribute to still more local congestion, the congestion we have is not going away.

Therefore starting to solve the "problem" of scattered disconnected development is even less of a cure than throwing money at roads, and it will take longer to see this lesser cure through to its ultimate failure.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

To see the latest success in high density thinking look at yesterday's Post article about residents angered over a plan to remove a local park in favor of more townhouses.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous SDH4VBT said...

1) Kaine has not said that it has to be a constitutional amendment. Frankly, the constitutional amendments that have been proposed so far don't prohibit raids on the trust fund -- they merely require that there be a recorded vote (that's what really scares some legislators) and that any money diverted in an emergency be repaid.

One suggestion: budget langauge that says nothing in this bill may supersede the requirements in the Virginia Code that transportation money be spent as intended. It is the annual budget bill's ability to "trump" existing state that has caused this problem in the first place.

2) Hampton Roads may not be the best exmplar for the New Settlement Utopia Red Herring because of the geography. It's the bridges and tunnels and wetlands that are making its transportation challenges so expensive. The stronger argument on Hampton Roads is a relative lack of public transit alternatives, and the need to focus on mass transit as an alternative to building all the roads and all the lanes some might want. I've always been surprised by the lack of water taxis and ferries, for example, but why would those succeed when all the bridges and tunnels are toll free?

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Good point. I recently attended a meeting in Boston at an airport hotel. The water taxies were cheaper, and as fast as land based taxis, and a whole lot more scenic than a cab based vieew of the big dig.

I can't say they alleviated traffic though.

As you say, geography is often a big factor, and not one that uber-planning can do much about.

As long as we keep raiding the transportaion budget for other things, we will never have a workable transportation plan, whter you agree with its premises or not.

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Jeremy Hinton said...

"2) Hampton Roads may not be the best exmplar for the New Settlement Utopia Red Herring because of the geography.

I agree, the naval requirement for tunnels (much less the geographic requirement for bridges) make transportation in this area always an issue. And as you say, mass transit options are quite few, save for the normal metro bus lines. At this point, even the areas different light rail/mass transit initiatives dont address the main river crossings. As some who lives and works near the CSX rail corridor on the peninsula, i hope to one day see it used for mass transit. But i'm not holding my breath.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

ORP3 "A Micro-Analysis of Land Use and Travel in Five Neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area", by Ryuichi Kitamura, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, and Laura Laidet. Transportation 24(2), 1997, 125-158.

"This study examined the effects of land use and attitudinal characteristics on travel behavior for five diverse San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods.... The finding that attitudes are more strongly associated with travel than are land use characteristics suggests that land use policies promoting higher densities and mixtures may not alter travel demand materially unless residents' attitudes are also changed."

Apparently, the relationship between land use and travel demand is not so self evident when you actually try to measure it.

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seemto be falling into that old argument that building roads causes traffic, an idea that is now largely discredited by modern studues that have been able to deconfound the various factors leading to increased traffic. Among the fidings, even if new road fills up immediately, much of the traffic comes from other local roads, so the benefit of the new road is not apparent there, but is distributed across the community.

There is no evidence that increasing density will lead to less traffic, and it will certainly do nothing for our existing situation.

Many capital projects are capitalized over 15 to 20 years. What is wrong with a 15 year expansion cycle for roads, especially if they are being fully utilized?

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please remove the duplicated post above

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Anonymous, i encourage you to ID yourself for this blog. And could you also cite the 'modern studies' you mention.

Given your views, I suspect there are some owners of land-locked property who would love to sell you their acreage -- at the going rate for land that fronts on a new highway.

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

My apologies, I had a blog identification malfunction. Anonymous in this post is Ray Hyde.

I'll repeat. There is no evidence whtsoever that increasing density will lead to less traffic, and no evidence that it will help alleviate problems with traffic we already have.

Most of what we see as induced traffic is actually latent traffic or displaced traffic. Clearly there is some relationship between highways and development and between development and traffic: the problem is we don;t know what that relationship is.

We can point to roads that were built to create development and failed. We can point to roads that were built and immediately filled with traffic. If I'm going to spend money on roads, I would prefer the latter.

If a store or a concert or a movie is crowded with people we call it a success, but if a highway is crowded with people we call it a failure. What is wrong with this picture?

Jim Bacon has a point. If you look at the ITE trip generation handbook, single family homes generate neary 10 trips per day. Townhouses only generate 7.5.

But townhouses are ten to the acres and SFH are 3 to the acre. So a townhouse development generates 750 trips per acre and SFH's generate 30 per acre. Which one do you suppose causes more local congestion?

OK, then look at where they are going and how far they have to drive to get there. It is pretty clear that the SFH's ar not going to have to drive three times as far, all things considered, particularly since the area goes up like the square of the radius. (This assumes at least some level of business and residential mix: that not everbody is trying to go downtown: that our development is polycentric.)

The idea that our traffic congestion policies is caused by local land use policies that perpetuate the scattered, disconnected, low density development that has prevaled in the region so long is total and utter nonsense, as far as I can observe. This is particularly true in the light of the fact that we keep electing people to perpetuate this system precisely because we see it is to our best (short term) economic interest.

What is even worse is the idea that if we continue to develop at higher densities, our traffic problems will ultimately (In how many years?) go away based on urban infill.

I am one hundred per cent in favor of preserving rual land, and for urban infill. I think it is important to do so, but don't try to sell me a bunch of hokum high density development will solve all our problems for free as a proxy for attacking the real problem at hand (preserving rural space). In the end, whether it is infill or greenfield, the owner decides when to develop.

If we decide to raise taxes to propmote certain kinds of development or preservation, I'm OK with that. I doubt Jim Bacon will vote to raise his taxes to promote the policies he espouses.

At present, I own 170 acres adjacent to route 66 and within a mile of an on-ramp. Absent route 66 I would own 230 acres in the middle of nowhere. Despite your contention, I would prefer the latter.

My father-in-law was paid the princely sum of $200 per acre for 60 acres of right of way for route 66. If I was any place else in the state, I would be zoned light industrial instead of agricultural. I'm even willing to submit to agricultural serfdom, if I'm allowed to pursue any agricultural related activity, most of which are prohibited in my area.

Route 66 was built to promote development, and my father-in-law paid the sacrifices for that opportunity. Suddenly, that opportunity is politically unpopular, primarily as a result of new people moving to the area.

Perhaps you will understand my concern at seeing my wife's family's development rights reduced from 115 to 5 (Actually it is a lot worse than that) at the same time home prices are going through the roof because not enough lots are being made available. The political incentive to cause that reduction has come from newcomers who have bought up portions of my neighbors farms.

Those few of us who are left are being made to suffer for having preserved our land the longest.

Now, do I want 155 new neighbors? No. Do I want 5? No. do I want one, designed to complement the farm and augment farm income? Yes, but under current rules, I can't have that unless I subdivide the entire property. Only money grubbing, profit-hungry, rapacious developers are allowed to play the game, primarily as a result of rules we have in place, supposedly to protect the environment. In the meantime, I'm being taxed $3 for every $1 in services I get, because I'm "prime farmland". Apparently, that is what we call a level playing field.

When I drive onto the local on-ramp ( on the way to my relatively lof\cal job), that I would prefer to be still farming, I'm confronted with swarms of drivers coming from farther West where local officials have made land available.

My taxes support subsidising transit friendly developers who will make millions, based on a politically popular idea that hasn't a single basis in reality, as far as I can see. If I thought there was the slightest chance those taxes would induce thse farther west to act differntly, then I would support those taxes.

At the same time, I own an acre and a half inside the beltway and withing ten miles of the Monument. If Metro ever decides to put a station within walking distance of my city property, I will be the first to hurrah high density development.

I have a choice of living in town, but I don't for a reason. I suspect the massive exodus to the suburbs is for similar reasons, and I also suspect that rising gas prices will change those reasons.

I don't think I'm going to live long enough to see either my city condition or my rural condition change. In the meantime, if my neighbors want to enhance the value of their property by putting me in the business of providing scenery, then they need to figure out how to be my customers instead of my masters.

Just today, I read an article in the WSJ that talked about the bubble and demographics in condominiums. The price of condominiums recently surpassed the price os SFH's. It turns out that these dwellings are populated (largely but not entirely) by singles, unmarried couples, single parents, and divorced folks. If we have to have dysfunctional falmilies in order to have functional settlement patterns, maybe that is not a win. Maybe the main reason these dwellings generate fewer trips is because they don't have (as many) children.

Who knows?

As for induced travel, that was an idea that had great currency in the early 19990's. It was latched onto and spun out of control by those who had an interestin land conservation. Recently, it has largely been superceded by more recent studies of which a cogent sysopsis is available on the DOT website.

Some will say that DOT has a dog in the fight, but the website is reasonably evenhanded even if you take that position.

The citation listed above is one that is peripherally related. I'll look up the recent citations on induced traffic when I have the time.

As it happens I own land that fronts a highway that was built at my family's expense. I would be happy if that were not so. But given that it is so, I'm offended by efforts to prevent my taking at least some small advantage, for the purposes of retaining what is left.

At 1:09 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"DeCorla-Souza and Cohen's results show that while an corridor-wide VMT increase of between 5 and 1 1 percent occurs as a result of the new facility, there may be more significant VMT increase at the facility-level. Under an elasticity of -0.5 and high congestion, VMT increases on the facility by 40 percent and under an elasticity of - 1.0 and Assessing Induced Travel in the Washington Metropolitan Region 8 high congestion, the percent increase in VMT on the facility is 48 percent. In both cases, however, a majority of this increase is caused by travel that is diverted from arterial facilities where VMT is reduced as a result, and travel time improves for all travelers in the corridor."


I believe this is based on a MWCOG study.

The point I was making above about induced travel is that in the 80's and early 90's people looked at a new road and found that traffic increased 48% or so, as above. Later, they looked at the issue on a wider basis and found induced traffic is only 5% or so. On a regional basis it is vanishingly small. Those that propose regional management of our traffic problems should consider this carefully. They might get what they wish for.

Clearly my obervation of regional problems are tainted by my own situation. That cuts both ways. At present, I drive to Manassas Airport to work. If they ever finish construction in Gainsville, I will be able to sleep later and cause more or the same congestion but it won't affect my VMT.

Let me put it more succinctly. If Jim Bacon or anyone else wants to seriously propose that we close route 66 and give me 60 acres back, then sign me up.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's time for Virginia's leaders to dig up Horace Greeley's old saw: "Go West young man (and woman)." The only people who benefit from development are in the real estate industry. Everyone else, at least those living in urban and suburban areas, receive only higher tax bills and a deteriorating quality of life from real estate development.
Let's encourage them to go to Iowa. Governor Tom Vilsack is looking for development.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Vilsack is doing a good job of it, too. I was in Iowa recently and found that while they support their agricultural traditions, they are not blind to or prevent development opportunities.

Iowa towns exhibit the same kind of increasing radius that towns in other places exhibit, so they will have the same problems with increasing taxes and population as other places.

The population is going to increase: we cannot prevent growth absent copying china's one child law and drastically curbing immigration. Controlling growth, as practiced here, really means save open space, and beggar thy neighbor.

Iowa people must be more pragmatic than Virginians: when they see a problem they confront the issue and do what is necessary. As one example, Iowa highways have absolutely gorgeous and sparkling clean rest areas.

If what we really want is to save open space, then we can raise taxes and go buy the land, that way we will pay for what we get, and get what we pay for.

If Fauquier waqnts to reduce growth pressure then they can subsidize high density housing in Fairfax - if they can get building permits. Again, they would get what they pay for and pay for what they get.

Either way, the path forward is not free, just as fabulous rest areas are not free.

Instead, we are creating wealth and opportunity inequities by writing zoning regulations which far exceed the original intent of zoning (preventing nuisance), and through proffers, PDR's and other methods which make it appear that we are not paying the costs.

When Fauquier County approved an electric plant in the south end of the county, they exacted enormous concessions, then claimed these were a benefit the county didn't have to pay for. In fact, all that happened was the county's bill got shifted off the books onto the bills of electric customers.

We need to stop the shell games and phony ideologies that say we can get something for nothing. We need to decide what we want, set the priorities, and raise the money. If that is done in an open and fair way, people will soon decide there are some things they don't want to (or can't afford) spend the money on, and stop requiring them.

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ray Hyde makes some fundamental points. In most situations, there aren't any free lunches. However, such is not the case in Fairfax County -- at least not for developers. Their lunches are free to them, but paid for by everyone else.
Gerry Connolly, who wants to run for Tom Davis' seat in Congress, is busily assembling a huge campaign chest that is largely funded by developers and their cronies. There is certainly nothing wrong with political ambition or campaign contributions. But there is something wrong with selling out the public interest for the benefit of those who make the contributions or for those who employ our part-time county supervisors. (Mr. Connolly is employed by SAIC, a government contractor that owns land at Tysons Corner that could be rezoned and redeveloped for several billion in profits should Metrorail be extended to Tysons Corner. No conflict of interest there ruled the county's attorney just before he left for the private sector.)
Mr. Connolly and his bipartisan gang of supervisors are now poised to permit developers to "piggy-back" proffers, i.e., to permit proffers previously accepted for a previously granted increase in density for future increases in density. This is more than a free lunch; it's a free lunch and dinner combined. Chicago and New Jersey have nothing on Fairfax County in terms of rank corruption!


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