Monday, March 20, 2006

Bacon's Rebellion: Bringing Digital Anarchy to a PC Near You

The March 20, 2006, edition of Bacon's Rebellion has been published. There are several columns of potential interest to followers of transportation and land us issues:

Liberate Mass Transit
As an alternative to funding mega-sized construction projects, Virginia should give entrepreneurs more freedom to devise creative shared-ridership solutions.
by James A. Bacon

Words Matter
There's no hope of making progress on Virginia's most intractable problems when our words only cloud understanding. Our goal in 2006 is to introduce a more robust Vocabulary.
by EM Risse

Unanswered Questions
GOP factions are grappling over how much more money to spend on transportation. But they're not addressing critical questions regarding spending priorities and the role of the private sector.
by Michael Thompson

Bottomless Pit
The Washington Metro is losing money and needs more than $1 billion in repairs. Why should anyone believe the Rail-to-Dulles project will perform any better?
by Philip Rodokanakis

Fix VDOT First
Tim Kaine wants to raise taxes by $600 per Virginia family to fund transportation -- even though the Virginia Department of Transportation is broken and leaderless.
by Paul C. Harris


At 5:18 AM, Blogger Larry Gross said...

Excellent articles and insights.

Not only a need for clear vocabulary definitions but a better collective understanding of the meaning of the difference between transportation and mobility.

Transportation is about modes of transport and projects associated with those modes - roads and transit being the most often discussed - and .. discussed from the point that it is presumed that they are:

1. needed and
2. will perform effectively as to their claimed purpose.

Then detractors on opposite sides will point out how they "won't".

We're primarily talking about moving PEOPLE. Moving goods and services is also involved but it is the movement of people usually in SOV - single occupancy vehicles at Peak hour that is the root cause the congestion.

Jim Bacon points out in his article "Carpool Combeback" an company called Newride
( which has a simple concept of allowing folks to sign up for an origin and a destination - much like an airline website - and then have others do the same in an effort to get a "match".

It's a great start but as pointed out, it has a couple of issues.

First is the need for a rendezvous and then obviously there is a personal safety issues that needs to be addressed as there are bad folks out there whose have a very different idea about the use of this "service".

But I'd like to point out the fundamentals with respect to carpooling.

People DO carpool. I know. I did it for 30 years in a 4-person carpool.

Also, people WILL carpool on a casual basis - Slugging is alive and kicking at some commuter lots in NoVa (not sure about Md).

Newride has clever solution but needs the rendezvous and security issues addressed.

So.. they need.. a form of ID and they need a list of rendezvous points.

Now.. to the government side of the equation.

VDOT and localities provide carpool lots.. and by doing so they automatically become "slugging" meeting points of which both VDOT and localities have no opinion and no professed role other than to stand aside - or worse - to claim that more lots cannot be built because of money issues.

So, let me provide an example of what VDOT and localities do.

Check out this sanctioned website:

ah .. yes.. cheerleading words.. and a phone number... Now THATS going to encourage folks to carpool.

Mr. Bacon's vision is practical and achievable IF those who say they are focused on transportation truly see that the issue is mobility.

Simple solutions:

Get behind Newride and it's business model.

1. - Provide a "gatekeeper" function that requires those that sign in to fully identify themselves with DMV info - both plates and license.

2. - provide a list of commuter lots along with near real-time status info and mapping software.
(at the least tell folks that they dam lots are FULL usually.

3. - Finally - treat commuter lots like you treat road capacity.

That's what they are in fact and yet how VDOT and localities go about planning them in terms of where they should be and how many and whether they are meeting the need is....


commuter lots are clearly back sheep.. NUISANCES and distraction to their "real" transportation planning efforts.

This is what I mean when I say VDOT and localities are NOT focused on MOBILITY because as Bacon points out and Newride is trying to make inroads - there IS a path but unfortunately I don't think it can be solved by a private business model because Nuride is essentially trying to do what VDOT and localities should be doing with taxpayers money to start with.

It's really ironic.

Commuter Lots are FULL - maxed in many places and VDOT calls in police to TICKET the OFFENDERS and when asked about their expansion plans - they say "no money" ..

.. right.. at the same time they are asking for BILLIONs more in transportation dollars with NO PLAN for commuter lots - or truly effective rideshare programs like the one Nuride is attempting.

The argument about land-use and transportation is not going to be solved in the near term.

In the meantime - THE issue is really moving people - MOBILITY and VDOT - as usual - is asleep at the switch.

Remember.. these are the same folks that say we need to give them BILLION more if we want to SOLVE our congestion and transporation issues.

Right.. when pigs fly.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

Phillip Rodokanakis describes the Bottomless Pit of transportation expenditures. If you count some expenses and not others, use average costs, average capacity, average use and look at select times you can prove anything.

Some cost comparisons, from the APTA Fact Book ( factbook/documents/2005factbook.pdf).

Rapid Rail Transit - 32.7 cents per passenger mile.
Commuter Rail - 33.3 cents per passenger mile
Light Rail – 55.2 cents per passenger mile
Auto (single passenger) – 58 cents per mile plus parking.
Bus – 71.7 cents

Yes, these are my select numbers. What they show is “It’s cheaper by the dozen.” When more people go the same direction it is less expensive.

The big factor that overshadows all others is the cost of parking. In areas where land is $1000 an acre parking may be include and given out free. In areas where rapid rail transit has increased demand for land and it goes at $3,000,000 an acre parking costs are significant.

Limo rides are an idea, but the $4Billion rail to Dulles will have a capacity of 50,000 passengers an hour. That’s a lot of limo rides.

One interesting idea is to examine return on investment. In a 1994 study KPMG found that from 1995-2010 $1402.2 million dollars of new state tax revenue would generated while the state would appropriate $588 million yielding a projected 19.2% return on investment.

Maybe we should stop talking past each other. I suggest that we talk about each project. Compare apples to apples. Cost limousine rides for airport riders against airport extension costs and system riders to system costs.

An honest debate will help everyone.


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