START committee meets Nov. 18th

The Statewide Transportation Analysis and Recommendation Task Force (START) met October 20th to discuss our transportation crisis and will meet again this Friday. The public comments from the October meeting are available here. Notice my recommendation (summarized from a long rant email I sent the committee):

No gas tax increases. No driver “abuser fees.” Tolls are okay. Use general fund surplus, and divert another 1/2 percent of the general sales and use tax for transportation.

I’d like to see another solid source of transportation funding diverted from the general fund, but I know that’s tough to do… Mostly, I think that a gas tax increase is politically unpalatable (although as a policy choice, it’s fine) and the “abuser fees” proposal is a cheap gimmick. If you look at the analysis that Albo/Rust presented, their revenue projections are asinine and one of their core assumptions is that a drastic increase in fines for traffic violations WILL NOT decrease violations (thereby decreasing potential revenue). And yet, this is one of the chief transportation policy proposals from Speaker Howell next year… A few other things: 1. I agree with Bacon and Company that we need to coordinate better between transportation and land use policies. This would require regional authorities with some actual power… 2. A limited access (at most, only one exit every 10 miles in rural areas) western bypass around DC is an attractive idea, but it would require cooperation with Maryland, and they aren’t cooperating. So it’s a non-starter. 3. Metro to Dulles is a huge waste of money that will have very little impact on traffic. It needs to go to Tysons, however. To make that work, Tysons needs to become much more pedestrian friendly…good luck with that. 4. I like tolls if we could ever trust politicians to (1) use the toll money for it’s intended purpose and (2) lift the tolls when possible. 5. You’ll notice tons of comments about “trains” or “freight” or “light rail” in the October 20th document. These ideas are of course absurd. If people only knew how expensive rail is compared to roads…extending Metro costs nearly $1 billion per station. In all honesty, I think that fixing our transportation system is a hopeless exercise…