Thursday, January 12, 2006

The CTB Gets A Bad Review

The Commonwealth Transportation Board - which is supposed to see the big picture when it comes to shaping the state's transportation network - apparently isn't doing so well, says a new report by Virginia's Auditor of Public Accounts. The Virginian-Pilot describes the report's conclusions in a brief story today.
'The audit indicated that the lack of coordination among the transportation agencies is evident when comparing the board’s long-term transportation report, which was most recently called VTrans 2025 , with the six-year plans that departments use to begin their projects.
The audit said there was “a disconnect” in this process and that the individual departments didn’t do enough to “evaluate every possible alternative” before committing to expensive projects.'
The CTB's performance and how it is organized came under some scrutiny as well at the state Senate's START meetings; with this new review, some 'reform' of the CTB in the coming GA session seem a lot more likely now.

3 Comments:

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Might not part of the problem stem from the fact that the CTB is still part of the "good old boy" system and from the fact that CTB is lobbied for "pet projects" that just might enrich someone's nearby investment in land. Indeed, there have been cases where CTB members have needed to resign or, at least, remove themselves from a vote because of conflicts of interest.

Shouldn't the CTB become a quasi-judicial agency, where it makes decisions based on a written record, with clear findings of fact and conclusions of law? Shouldn't transportation planning be based on engineering and economic studies? Shouldn't we spend scarce resources on the most cost-effective solutions? Shouldn't we develop service level agreements for specific projects?

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

I can't claim much expertise on the workings of the CTB but it has seemed parochial. Over the years, whenever someone from the Fredericksburg area was named to the board the feeling here was 'great, now we can get this road built' or whatever. As if that person's job was to steer the local priorities through the selection process and deliver the goods.

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I like youe suggestions on fact based decisions, based on law, engineering and economics.

Unfortunately, the research record, and history, shows that no one really knows what the "best" answer is. We can't predict today any better than we could fifty years ago, but we do have fifty more years of experience.

My beef with this site is that many of the theories that are promoted here as fact are not, and are used as the basis for promoting policy that may not work. Even though those thories are widely repeated, there are also a number of voices in the wilderness saying "Hey, wait a minute."

It seems to me that as far as transportation is concerned the goal ought to be to enhance the combination of mobility and accessibility, not simply to reject increases in mobility.

It might be that in more compact, mixed use environments that accessibility subsumes mobility, but that might not be true, and it might not be the only truth.

As far as economics goes the goal should be to promote the best overall solution, and as part of that solution we MAY have to accept some optimum level of what some see as waste. If the cost of saving a half gallon of gas is more than the cost of the gas, what have we done? If we have a high rent, compact, walkable community where it costs $6.00 for a cup of coffee, so what?

What we are up against is an enormously complicated thing, and I don't think we are giving enough credence to the combined brainpower of thousands of people making their own economic and lifestyle decisions.

We think that with the right combination of socially approved subsidies and penalties for "bad" behavior we can transform our society, but there has been vey little research into what it would take to actually cause someone to move. I think that cost is so high that the socially acceptable subsidies required to cause it may well make our current waste on roadways and gas look cheap, but I can't prove it.

"... while people are driving more miles, said Bertini, their total daily travel time "budget" has remained constant--at about one hour--over the past 20 years, and some argue, over hundreds of years." - University of Minnesota

"the old model of the transportation and land-use connection is quite oversimplified and may even be obsolete," said Rachel Weinberger of the University of Pennsylvania.

"There is no clear connection anymore between work and a physical place for more and more people," said Harvey J. Miller, a geography professor at the University of Utah.

"...we can't build our way out of congestion, we can't 'land use' our way out of it either." - Gerrit Knaap, professor of urban studies and planning at the University of Maryland.

While higher density, mixed-used development does reduce the length of a typical trip, drivers may take shorter trips more often, so vehicle miles traveled (VMT) could rise--or fall, said Randall Crane, professor of urban planning at UCLA. Likewise, there are no definitive answers to tell us if such "smart growth" patterns would reduce commutes.

(Quotes from http://www1.umn.edu/umnnews/Feature_Stories/Accessibility_Rethinking_the_way_we_look_at_transportation.html )




We don't have any clear findings of fact.

Service level agreements seem like a good idea, but it's like the Metro West problem: what do you do if it fails?




TMT: If you think Fairfax is bad, what would you do in Chung-Ching? 33 million people and growing at 26% a year.

 

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