Thursday, November 17, 2005

Earth to Roanoke Times: Read Your Candidate's Campaign Platform

The Roanoke Times editorial writers never cease to amaze. They endorsed Tim Kaine for governor, but on the biggest issue of 2005, transportation policy, they appear to be oblivious to his thinking. Maybe they should take the trouble of reading his transportation platform!

In today's editorial, the Times still opines on the need to increase taxes to meet a supposed $108 billion shortfall in transportation funding over the next 20 years. Rejecting the idea of funding transportation with transitory budget surpluses, the Times argues:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester, R-Northumberland, sees the need for a sustainable plan that goes beyond one-time infusions of cash. "I am really hopeful we can come to a consensus on a long-term transportation package that lasts well beyond all of our horizons," Chichester said. Virginians who don't want to watch gridlock spread should pray that Chichester's hope is well-founded.

And what about the guy the Times just endorsed for governor? It turns out that he supports the idea of applying General Fund budget surpluses to transportation projects, and he doesn't want to raise transportation taxes until they can be protected from budgetary raids for other programs. He also wants to attack underlying causes of transportation congestion by addressing the problem of development in inappopriate places, and he proposes a number of "demand management" strategies to reduce the number of cars on the road during periods of peak congestion.

I find it extaordinary that the Times pundits can pen editorial after editorial plugging for higher taxes without even acknowledging the existence of alternative congestion-mitigation strategies -- strategies enumerated by a candidate they have endorsed! It would be one thing if the Times pundits had said, "Some people say we should address land use, but we disagree for the following reasons.... " But they don't. They write as if they live in an intellectual vacuum, unaware that points of view exist. They repeat the same worn-out nostrums as the debate passes them by.

Amazing, just amazing. ISMHIW. (I shake my head in wonder.)


At 9:31 AM, Blogger Will Vehrs said...

Jim, I hate to be in the position of defending the Roanoke Times editorial board, but they probably figure that Kaine did what he needed to do to get elected, so, now that he's in, he can adopt their policies.

They beauty of it is that they won't even bother to point out the discrepancy, thereby embarassing themselves--or possibly Kaine. Nice cover.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was always interesting working at the Roanoke Times and finding that to climb up to the Editorial Ivory Tower you actually took the elevator down a floor...SDH

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The Washington Post editorial writers did the very same things: endorsed Tim Kaine (even while they continually sang the praises of "Two Percent" Potts and criticized Kaine on transportation); and then, after Kaine's election, insisted he ignore everything upon which he campaigned and just raise taxes.

And newspapers wonder why their circulation continues to fall!

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

First we have to figure out how to legislate and define a quantity as subjective as " in inappropriate places".

Then we need to understand that the externalities of such legislation are going to cost a bundle.

We need to understand that where such strategies have been adopted and subsequently measured what we find is not what we hoped.
1) Either travel distance (VMT) is not reduced, or it is reduced but the time spent in travel is not.
2) Land use strategies that do reduce travel appear to do so by increasing the cost or decreasing the convenience/utility of travel.
3) If travel times are reduced, it apparently leaves more time in the travel budget, for more travel to other locations (and business opportunities).
4) Policies that work in one area apparently have different results in other areas. This suggests that we do not have any model that can predict the results of new policies, we should not be surprised if they fail, and there may be other factors at play that far over-ride land use implications.

Even proponents of such policies admit that finding examples of failure is like shooting fish in a barrel. There is ample evidence to suggest that even if public gains are made, they come at private cost.

Alternate mitigation strategies have a place as long as we understand they can mitgate a few percent of a multibillion dollar problem.

Taken together, all of the mitigation strategies of smart growth/new urbanism/transit oriented developemnet are likely to produce only small results in terms of reducing the rate of increase in congestion and other traffic problems, and the cost in terms of economic growth will be very high.

We would be beter off to promote more environmentally and economically friendly autos, and figure out how to move them.


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