Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Show Us The Money

Steve Ginsberg of the Washington Post channels the frustration of a lot of others in an article this morning that points out how sketchy gubernatorial candidates Jerry Kilgore and Tim Kaine have been in explaining how the state's long list of transportation projects would be funded.
Says the Post:

'The lack of detail has left transportation advocates wondering what will change for commuters after the Nov. 8 election. Asked what would be different under a Kilgore administration, Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, said: "I don't know." And under Kaine? "Well," Chase said, "it's kind of the same thing."'
There isn't much new information in the story, because there isn't much new information, period. Kaine emphasizes better coordination of land-use decisions and transportation planning and warns that under his administration, the state 'wouldn't bail out localities if they allow growth in places where it's clear the road and rail systems can't handle it.' Kilgore continues to cast VDOT as the bad guy and pushes his regional funding approach.

Kilgore also thinks, the story says, that the state could raise $100 million a year by levying 'stiff fines' on aggressive drivers, habitual offenders, drunk drivers. (But those fines aren't about raising money - they're supposed to discourage the behavior, right? Eventually we'd end up giving one really bad person a $100 million speeding ticket.)


At 7:55 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Bob, Kilgore has made an interesting shift on the speeding ticket idea. Originally, the idea was to use the fine as a new revenue source. Now the Kilgore camp is making a much more interesting argument. Speeders are disproportionately likely to cause wrecks that block roads and cause nightmarish traffic jams, punishing not only the people they collide with but the hundreds or thousansd of motorists who get stuck in gridlock. The justification for punishing these offenders is to change their behavior -- to discourage the kind of reckless driving that causes the accidents. It's an interesting evolution in thinking. I think the idea has some merit.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

As for Ginsberg's column... The guy sounds like a Virginia politician. The only remedy he can conceive of is spending and building. As he says in the story:

"The main ingredient missing in the speeches, news conferences and advertisements by Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R) is how they plan to raise the billions of dollars that state studies, transportation experts and the candidates themselves say are necessary to address an ever-increasing list of transit and highway needs."

He refers implicitly to the VTrans2025 study that claims Virginia faces a $108 billion funding shortfall over the next 20 years. But he overlooks the body of the very same study, which insists that Virginia needs to embrace land use reforms and other strategies.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

The best quote from Ginsberg's column comes from Tim Kaine: We can't just tax and pave our way out of the problem."

Ginsberg regurgitates what Kaine says, but he does not comprehend. He goes on to quote "transportation experts" who insist that the answer is tax, spend and build.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Yeah, but Ginsberg's article is about funding, and it describes the $100 million as a Kilgore idea for a new source of revenue, not as a congestion-relief strategy.

Here's the sentence: 'Kilgore also said the state could raise $100 million a year by levying stiff fines on aggressive drivers, drunk drivers and habitual offenders.'

Is Kilgore describing this differently somewhere else?

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"Give one guy a $100 million ticket"

I believe Sweden levies speeding fines as a proportion of income, in order tomake sure that bad behavior is punished in a way that hurts equally.

Some tech Guru over there got a $23,000 fine for being 20 km over the limit, as AI remember. Maybe there is some kind of parallel to my idea that real estate taxes have some kind of income trigger.

Leno had it right: a maniac is a guy driving faster than you and a moron is a guy driving slower. In this case it is a matter of building faster or building slower.

Kaine's tired old recycled quote that we can't build our way out of the problem would be the best quote if he offered an alternative that we know how to achieve and can afford.

The air traffic control system is now managing congestion at terminal areas by reaching all the way back and denying take-off rights. Is demand management going to mean that you have to stay home until the congestion police say you can leave?

The only way I can see the land use strategies working is going to amount to another and far more expensive form of tax, spend, and build. If there is a lack of information somewhere, look no further than a comprehensive description, devoid of platitudes, on how this would work, when, and at what cost.

I'm perfectly willing to pick the best alternative, but that implies that you actually have one you can compare. What happens if you run the study and discover that the best land use reform is to reform more land into roads?

Even the rural conservation alliance is catching on to this as Tim Horn said in last weeks opinion secton of the Gainesville Times

"I realize that better transportation will reduce my time on the road. As an experiment over the summer, I went 50 miles east on Interstate 66 at during rush hour. My miles per gallon were 15.2 for that trip. I went 50 miles west on I-66 the same time the next day and my miles per gallon were 27.0.

With gas prices around $2.70 per gallon, the trip cost me approximately $3.60 more for the trip. The trip also took an additional 50 minutes. That is 50 minutes I was not at home with my wife and the rest of my family.

Clearly it is not a perfect comparison, but if I were to pay an additional $100 in taxes and I saved even $200 a year in fuel prices and was able to spend an additional hour at home, I would count my tax dollars wisely spent."

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

All of us who have read “Does Not Compute” by James A. Bacon know that Ginsberg's
$108 billion is based on bad assumptions. “VDOT's forecasting model is the best yet devised, but it's still grievously flawed. Virginia does not face $108 billion in unmet transportation needs over the next 20 years.”

Spending and building the wrong things in the wrong places will not solve anything.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

Aparently the analysts over at the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission didn't read Bacon's analyis, because they recently gave fairly high (if not A+) marks to the VTRANS 2025 projections and point out there are some area where the cost estimates might be (could it be true?) low.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

Steve, This is a tough crowed. Do you have a link to your JLARC comment?

“Apparently the analysts over at the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission didn't read Bacon's analyis, because they recently gave fairly high (if not A+) marks to the VTRANS 2025 projections”

The VTRANS 2025 project list matches the allocation formula. In 2002 JALARC RD 6 said that the allocation formula needed revising.

The old adage still applies “When you find that you are in a hole, stop digging.”

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Bob, Regarding the rationale behind Kilgore's heavy fines for aggressive drivers, I quote from the Kilgore campaign website:

"Traffic accidents happen, but when they are caused by aggressive drivers who habitually ignore the laws and our speed limits, these delays are even more frustrating. Those who feel our laws do not apply to them threaten our safety and are a major cause of gridlock on our highways and roads. In order to crack down on dangerous drivers and provide additional, steady funding for roads projects, as Governor, Jerry Kilgore will work to secure passage of "Abuser Fee" legislation..."

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Informed Patriot said...

I think Jim's point on Kilgore emphasizing the deterrent the Rust-Albo abuser fee bill would instill is the important aspect of that legislation. Report after report cites incidents as a major cause of congestion- getting those reckless drivers who cause the incidents off the road would do wonders to making our roads flow freer. If we could utilize the revenue generated from those who cause the clogs in the system to bolster our incident management services and other ITS functions, I think you would see major changes. While I certainly do not think this is all that needs to be done, I am glad to see Kilgore is complimenting his building proposals with some real behavior change ideas.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

The JLARC report is one of the documents available on the Senate Finance Committee site under the September 20 START meeting. I'll try to link it here

That's the summary anyway. One reason they asked JLARC to look at VTRANS was because it had recommended this kind of needs assessment back in 2002, and the guy who reported said this was pretty much what they were asking for, but he has some caveats about the methodology.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

Well, that didn't work! Go to the Senate Finance site (no www, just and the link to the START meeting is right at the top.

How the hell did we function as lobbyists/reporters/oppo researchers before the Internet?


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