Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wary Reaction to the Homer Appointment

A roster of environmental and conservation groups has responded to Gov.-elect Tim Kaine's announcement that he would reappoint Pierce R. Homer as Secretary of Transportation. In a press release issued this afternoon (but not yet posted to the Web), Martha Wingfield, president of the Virginia Conservation Network declared: “Pierce Homer needs to demonstrate real reform at VDOT to deliver Kaine’s agenda of linking transportation with development decisions, providing more choices and financial accountability.”

While the Warner administration improved efficiency and financial accounting at VDOT, it didn't reform transportation planning and prioritization, stated the press release. Recent decisions by VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board have favored expensive bypass highways that create new development corridors instead of addressing existing transportation needs. The challenge for Homer is "to end the pattern of long wish-lists of unaffordable projects" that create more problems than they solve.

Pithy quotes...

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth: “The new Secretary must ... address the fact that new funding won’t make a difference to traffic congestion without changes in development patterns and transportation demand reduction strategies.”

Lisa Guthrie, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters: “Secretary Homer must give the public, not the development industry, a stronger say in project priorities."

Christopher G. Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council: “It is time to break from the old pattern of land speculation and influence that drives far too much of our transportation spending.”


At 3:15 PM, Blogger nova_middle_man said...

yeah those quotes are all code for don't build any more roads which is why we are in this crisis in the first place

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Either thast or Don't build any more homes anywhere near me.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darn if I don't feel a little better about Pierce after listening to them whine, and darn if I don't feel confirmed in my opinion that those elitist, NIMBY, utopians won't agree to any compromise unless they get everything exactly the way they want. If you don't build the roads (or develop the rail or expand the mass transit) the houses are still coming.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

The tenor of the blog would be improved by fewer anonymous postings - if you don't have or don't want a blogger ID, then at least sign it so we can follow your thread of comments.

I've got to say anonymous that you're not doing your homework if you think that Pierce's skeptics have no alternative plan. Slamming them as inflexible opponents of everything just isn't credible.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Well, let's see. We have quotes from Winmgfield, Schwartz, Guthrie, and Miller.

Maybe the tenor of the blog would be improved if it included some quotes representing another perspective. We are all too happy to beat up on the for profit media for being one-sided and shallow.

I would like very much to be able to support Schwartz and Miller: I think the goals of their organizations are worthy. However, their proposed methods are unworkable and even reprehensible, in my opinion.

Schwartz contention that new funding won't make a difference without changes in development patterns and reduction in transportation demand is without merit. At the very least, the contention that transportation demand is related to development patterns has been discounted by authoritative authors who have actual data to back them up.

Certainly, if you reduce the demand for transportation, you will have less transportation, but nowhwere does he address wht the cost of that strategy might be.

We have plenty of upcoming chances to test his ideas, lets go get the detailed data for traffic around Metro West and then do it again in five years to see if you can actually improve traffic congestion by adding 2500 new residences next to a subway station that is already overcrowded. We know the subway will only account for 20% of trips for those that choose to use it, and we don't know what that number is.

Chris Millers comment that "It is time to break from the old pattern of land speculation and influence that drives far too much of our transportation spending." ignores the plight of families that have owned and farmed land for generations, and now find that farming is no longer viable. I don't consider them speculators.

Like Arthur Arrington and others that think it is "time to put our foot down" he seems to think that we can punish people into reserving open space at private expense for the public benefit.

When PEC comes up with a plan to preserve open space by making it as profitable to the owners as the alternatives, then I'll stop thinking of PEC as wing nuts and thieves. I'll even support them.

I believe that open space is at least as valuable as development. The market shows that most of us prefer a warm bedroom to an open field. When we are willing to pay as much for open space as we are willing to pay for housing, then we will have open space.

Schwartz, Guthrie, and Miller believe they represent people who value open space. OK, lets put up a bill that says for every dollar we invest in roads, we'll invest another dollar in open space, and lets make that bill worth $4 billion a year. Then let's see how many people would support the taxes necessary to make it happen.

I submit that anonymous 6:32 is right: they would never agree to such a compromise.

If open space is going to be privately owned, then it is going to have to be profitable. That means you can't eliminate the development potential, unless you substitute it with something else. You may have to pay for maintenance of green infrastructure.

If it is going to be public open space, then we are going to need a lot of public money to go buy it, and you will still have to maintain it.

Even if you do that, we still have to find a place for another couple million people, so land speculation won't go away, it will just relocate. We will still need roads to wherever that occurs.

We need roads, we need development, and we need conservation. It is going to be enormously expensive to have all three. When we are willing to face facts and get down to work we can proceed, but instead these organizations are promoting what EMR admits is a strategic stalemate. That is hardly a way to get ahead.

If Schwartz, Miller, and Guthrie aren't willing to spend the money for their part of the pie, then I supect we will have two out of three.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

This is a point that rarely gets remembered in this debate, but I will make it again anyway. It's not about the pace of expansion/development/growth, it's about the pattern.


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