Thursday, January 19, 2006

Don't Look to the House for Transportation Reform

I presume that Del. Leo . Wardrup, R-Virginia, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, fancies himself a fiscal conservative. Like other members of the Republican Caucus, he doesn't want to raise taxes -- not even to fund transportation improvements. But, judging by brief remarks quoted in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, the reluctance to raise taxes does not translate into a reluctance to pump more money into a dysfunctional transportation system.

Wadrup's idea is simply to re-channel revenue streams from the General Fund to the Transportation Trust Fund. According to the article, "Wardrup would increase the amount of sales tax put toward transportation, dedicate part of the deeds and recordation tax to transportation, and dedicate all insurance license tax revenues to transportation."

(Speaker William J. Howell told the Free Lance-Star that Wardrup's funding plan was his alone, not necessarily shared by the House Republican Caucus.)

Wardrup's idea of reforming the transportation system would be to "allow the legislature, rather than the governor, to appoint some members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board; create a commission to oversee agencies with transportation authority; and let local governments award contracts for local roads."

Increase the legislature's powers of patronage over the CTB at the expense of the governor? Create another layer of bureaucracy to diffuse responsibility and decision making? Wow, that will rock the system. Folks, this is nothing more than Business As Usual dressed up to look like something different.

The article mentioned nothing about land-use reform, privatization, congestion pricing, telework, asset-management systems, bus rapid transit or the dozens of other ideas, both good and bad, that have bandied about. It's possible that Wardrup is thinking about these things, but if so, his thinking hasn't congealed into the kind of concrete proposals that reporters write about.


At 9:45 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I think we would be better off with faster, more efficient, and less contentious business as usual than we will be spending the next fifty years organizing and implementing reforms we might eventually agree on and are actually fair. If there are reforms that are cost effective, they will no doubt work their way into the system naturally. If we implement reforms based on ideology we may very well be worse off than under the present system, bad as it is.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

There is a hysterically funny commentary on transportation reform, from a downtown citizen and cyclist, at

Sample: talking about converting one-way streets to two-way and traffic calming, he says

"What people have got to realize is that downtown is dead because city leaders, for many years, worked to segregate land uses. In such a way that when people went home at night, they went home and stayed home, and none of them lived in downtown. This is history, this is the way we did things from the 1950s on. We brought this upon ourselves, our leaders and our planners did. Now they want to blame the whole mess on one tiny little thing.

Well, what they're really doing here is trying to make downtown hostile to automobiles. This is the new planning theory (believe me, I did a semester in grad school in urban planning), the idea that if you make a place auto hostile, everything will be better, overnight. Planning does not follow transportation—land use, urban development, and so on, these things do not follow the transportation. If you believe this to be true then I ask you why do you think the growth management system in this state is so adamant about making developers pay for transportation upgrades etc.

Development does not follow infrastructure; infrastructure follows development. That may not be the way we wish it was, but it’s the way things are. Changing that fact would require a sea change in development practices, and that ain’t very likely. Merely changing the infrastructure in downtown is not going to make the place more active, more like a neighborhood. "

Aah yes, reform.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

lord knows I enjoy making this point. if you believe that development does not follow infrastructure, then i refer you to any bypass highway. or the bypass highway built a generation later to bypass that one. and so on.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

But like he says, then why do we make developers pay for infrastructure? Isn't the whole reason we are now trying to link transportation to land use because we didn't provide sufficient roads up front?

But if sufficient roads are not possible, then what's the alternative? Oh, that's right. We'll put in even more expensive infrastructure like METRO, and we'll claim it pays for itself because of all the development it creates.

Then we'll make sure it creates development by preventing development anyplace else. The only way we can afford to do that is to control land we don't own, otherwise the whole idea would be more expensive than just giving away the infrastructure.

But, hey, we can't do that because it violates free market principles.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Why was that first bypass highway built? Was it the demand caused by previous development?

Why was the very first road built? It wasn't because of the auto.

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Informed Patriot said...

Maybe you need to not rely on the msm and do some digging before you pass judgement. Take a look at Wardrup's HB 667 and HB 677 for the privatization parts. Also, HB 1426 goes a long way to allowing for private concession agreements. While Ms Davis doesnt write about it, they are certainly out there and worthy of passage.


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