Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tim Kaine's Magic Wand

He doesn't have one of course, but he'll need one. Maybe the past few weeks he's spent touring the state on his 'town hall' meetings without talking much himself left kind of a vacuum for editorialists and assorted reporters to write a nearly endless string of transportation-is-his-top-priority stories. If he'd given us some specifics earlier to chew on (and chew up, probably) maybe he wouldn't be facing such high expectations.

The Virginian-Pilot is all over this today, with an editorial proclaiming that 'for good or ill, Tim Kaine will be Virginia's next transportation governor.' Maybe so, but he's not emperor. For good or ill, the outcome of this session should be laid in large part at the feet of Virginia's voters, who have installed a bloc of anti-tax legislators who may simply not give in this year. Give the people what they want, right?

The Pilot also has a good story by Christina Nuckols about Kaine's big-picture approach to leadership and his easygoing style. It also touches on some of Kaine's ideas, including:
'Kaine said he is committed to finding ways to coordinate land use planning with road-building.
“If absence of transportation is a sufficient reason to turn down a rezoning, then you’re going to have people around at the table trying to figure out, 'Well, OK, how do we come up with the right transportation plan?’ ... I want to put that pressure on local governments and developers as they’re thinking about rezonings.”'
But just doing rezonings isn't going to have enough impact, and frankly a lot of localities care less about the transportation impact than they do about picking up the tax revenues that a new development can bring. That's the disconnect.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Driving for Two

Here's an issue I hadn't thought of: expectant mom Candace Wilkinson of Arizona trys to dodge HOV restrictions by claiming her fetus as a passenger. The judge doesn't go for it, and fines her $360.
'This isn't the first time the same police sergeant who ticketed Wilkinson has had a case like this.
Phoenix Police Sgt. Dave Norton said, "The previous one was a whole lot less pregnant than Miss Wilkinson, and to follow her philosophy would require officers to carry guns, radios and pregnancy testers, and I don't think we want to go there."'
The next case will, no doubt, involve multiple personalities.

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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Getting Commuters out of their Cars

Fairfax County and developer Pulte Homes are working on details of a deal that would make Pulte subject to up to $500,000 in fines if it can't persuade enough people to stop using autos at its proposed MetroWest development next to the Vienna Metrorail stop, says this story in this morning's Wash Post.

MetroWest is proposed for a 56-acre parcel next to the station and would have 2,250 residential units plus retail and office space. Fairfax officials are convinced that this higher density mixed-use approach along its major transit corridors is the best way to absorb the population growth it's expecting.
/Consultants hired by the county and Pulte estimate that if a project the size of MetroWest were built far from a train station, it would generate 1,356 new car trips during the typical rush hour. Using those numbers as a starting point, Pulte must reduce residential trips by 47 percent and business trips by 25 percent by the time the mini-city is completed in 2012 or face the sanctions.'
'Pulte's proposal calls for a full-time transportation coordinator to match potential carpoolers, a store that sells Farecards and a child-care center. Pulte officials said they have not signed contracts with any retailers but hope to attract a bank, health club, coffee shop, dry cleaner, fast-food restaurant and supermarket, among others.
Pulte also envisions promotions for frequent bus and train riders, such as free food deliveries, and oil changes or car washes to entice people to carpool.'
The project is heading for a rezoning hearing February 8. Some residents have opposed the project because if its size, and say they don't oppose the mixed-use concept but that the MetroWest project is just too big.
I haven't really heard any good answers to the point Fairfax leaders make about the county's coming population growth and how the county can absorb it. By default, the only alternative would be spreading these new residents even farther out. Or maybe somebody wants to propose a carrot-and-stick approach to make employers choose locations in the outer suburbs. Fat chance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another Milestone in Telework

From the Washington Examiner:

More than 1,000 of Fairfax County's 5,000 eligible employees now work from home or from a telework center at least one day a week, according to County Board Chairman Gerald Connolly. Reaching the 1,000-employee milestone eliminates 1.8 million commuting miles annually and prevents 720,000 pounds of pollutants from entering the air.

Reports the Examiner: "Across the region, roughly 320,000 employees work from home or from telework centers at least once a week, about 13 percent of the work force, according to the most recent State of the Commute survey conducted by the Council of Governments. Hundreds of thousands more would stay home if given the option, numerous studies have concluded."

Inside Tim Kaine's Brain

Another clue on where Tim Kaine is heading with his transportation policy is his choice of executive appointments. In addition to the re-appointment of Pierce Homer to the high-profile position of Secretary of Transportation, the Gov.-elect has selected two deputy secretaries of transportation.

Ralph Davis was appointed Deputy Transportation Secretary in 2002 to develop a long-term multimodal transportation plan, according to a Northern Virginia Technology Alliance newsletter alert. He was instrumental in producing the VTRANS 2025 multi-modal study. Davis represents "continuity" with the Warner administration, or "Business As Usual," depending upon your perspective.

Perhaps a more telling barometer of Kaine's sentiments is the appointment of E. Scott Kasprowicz of Middleburg Virginia, a director of a rideshare-promoting company and member of the Piedmont Environmental Council Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

The NVTA's reaction to Kasprowicz: "Given the trust Governor-elect Kaine is prepared to place in him, one would think that Mr. Kasprowicz does not subscribe to the PEC’s transportation program and tactics. However, his views on these matters and others should be clarified as part of his confirmation process."

A friend of the Piedmont Environmental Council in the Transporation Secretariat? That would be interesting. Don't be surprised if Kasprowicz emerges as one of Kaine's more controversial appointments.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Transportation - What's It Worth To You?

With apparent agreement on both sides of the aisle that Virginia will need to spend more on transportation, the questions are how much, and where will it come from. Lt.Gov-elect Bill Bolling tells the Augusta Free Press that Virginia has the money - it just needs to set its priorities.
'"If you go back and look at the budget that the governor has before us, he's done some good things, for example, moving the insurance-premium taxes from the general fund to the transportation trust fund. That's $311 million in additional funding for transportation. I don't think that $311 million is enough. I believe that to build a transportation system for the 21st century, it's going to take more than that. But I think we can find that money without raising taxes," Bolling told the AFP.
"It's clear that we have sufficient resources to build a transportation system for the 21st century, and do it without raising taxes, if we make that our number-one priority. And anyone who thinks that we can't just has to look at this governor's budget. Because it's got in it a billion dollars in spending on new government programs," Bolling said.'
That's a good argument with some traction (even though I don't know how solid that $1 billion figure is). For one thing, as it advances it breaks the opposition into a bunch of smaller interest groups that would have to then fight for their share of the shrinking pie. Of course, will the anti-tax GOP be able to speak with one voice on what other state functions they'll cut? Doubt it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Is the Road Builders Lobby Budging?

In the transportation debate to this point, Virginia's tax-and-build lobby has blown off the need to link land use reform to any increases in transportation funding. Harumph. Just not practical. Can't address the problem quickly enough. But now comes Jeffrey C. Southard, the new chief of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.

As reported by Peter Bacque in the Sunday Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Southard ... conceded that 'land use planning and transportation planning have to go hand-in-hand.' He added, 'beyond that, we have to look at the details.'"

If the transportation construction lobby is willing to budge on this issue, opposition to Gov.-elect Kaine's land use-transportation proposals may not be as implacable as I had feared.