Friday, March 03, 2006

At Last, an Editorial Writer Gets It

Kudos to the anonymous editorial writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch who penned the following (the link isn't working, so I replicate the entire editorial here):

Civic Strategies, an organization that promotes public-policy solutions to vexing societal problems, asks an interesting question about Atlanta that also pertains to Virginia:

"If, as Albert Einstein said, insanity is donig the same thing over and over while expecting different results, then Atlanta qualifies as the craziest region in the country. It keeps expanding highways, convinced that this time it will somehow solve its congestion problems, only to be puzzled when traffic gets even worse. What's weird is that leaders in Atlanta know that they old ways don't work, but yet they persists. Why"

The group proffers a couple of possible explanations: Perhaps transportation officials have given up on the hope of finding anythign that works better. Or perhaps government officials and the transportation department are too beholden to highway-construction interests. Hmmmm.

Civic Strategies notees that two years ago Atlanta-area leaders formed a Quality Growth Task Force that proposed an alternative to endless road building: "Intelligently link transportation to land use." Yet the regio persists in building "more dumb highway lanes" and giving top priority to projects that purport to ease congestion.

The result: more congestion. Why? Because "more freeways ... disperse population even farther.... [The approach] actually rewards places that don't do what the Quality Growth Task Force urged, which is to plan for fewer car trips." As one transit advocate explained: "The more congested you are, the more money you will get."

Sounds a lot like Northern Virginia, doesn't it?


At 12:29 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"Perhaps transportation officials have given up on the hope of finding anything that works better. "

If so, they are correct.

Nothing has ever competed head to head with the auto and provided better service at lower cost. In particular, it is unproven that planning for fewer car trips will work. We have spent billions on new rail service, and yet auto ridership keeps going up and transit ridership down (as a %). Insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different result, but planning to provide better transportation with fewer car trips is truly insane.

Isn't it possible that the Atlanta region has more congestion because the "more dumb highway lanes" are creating more business faster than the lanes are being built?

Atlanta uses more VMT than Boston, but its VMT per square mile is only a little less and VMT per road mile are only a little more. Atlanta is less congested than Boston, but maybe over a larger areas.

But DC has far more VMT than Boston or Atlanta and both its VMT per square mile and VMT per road mile are much higher than either one. It is very difficult to compare apples to apples, and by the way, the median income in Atlanta is higher than Boston or DC and the median home price is lower. If land use is tied to transportation, then you cannot consider one without the other.

VMT isn't the issue by itself, you have to consider how well you use the VMT, and time is a big consideration in that.

We have got to stop being hung up on how bad autos are, and start fixing that problem in a way that does not eliminate all their other benefits. We should do that with an acute awarenss that whatever we do may cause more economic and social harm than it does good.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Ray Hyde: I generally agree. Just imagine what NoVA or Hampton Roads would be like if we still had horses for our main source of personal transportation! Think about the air, water and visual pollution that would be caused by a few hundred thousand horses on I-66 or the Beltway. The automobile has been and continues be a great invention.

It would be interesting and probably worth while if a fair and unbiased root cause analysis of Virginia's transportation woes could be conducted. (The problem I see with this idea is that everyone and his/her dog would try to manipulate it to prove their cause correct.) Every time I've ever been involved in such a project, I found the results to be eye-opening, but very logical. Of course, someone's ox would be gored by a fair analysis, so in a state where the CTB makes its its transportation decisions based on politics, I won't hold my breath.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Ah, yes. But think of all the hay I could sell. My farm would be profitable and open space would be secure!

And remember, our cities were even more congested when they had to rely on horses, can't blame cars and sprawl for that.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Ray Hyde: Don't count your hay profits so fast. If we were still in a horse-powered environment, the Virginia Senate would busily figuring out how to raise the hay tax and impose a new one on pastures as well! You would probably being feeling increased pressure to subdivide your farm because of the new pasture tax.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Hah. Good one.

Too bad you are probably correct, as usual.


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