Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Scary Truth

In his article in Bacon’s Rebellion earlier this month, Geoff Segal asks about transportation “Do We Need it All?”

A good question, and one that deserves a little more examination that the knee-jerk reactions and scary rhetoric.

Luckily, University of North Carolina-Charlotte Professor David Hartgen and the Reason Foundation aren’t so quick to buy-into the mentality that we really “need” it all, and instead have done their own research into Virginia’s transportation needs.

Some of their findings, being distributed as talking points to legislators may be shocking.

Their research shows that the cost to relieve severe congestion in Virginia is actually only about $8.5 billion over 25 years! That’s only 15% of the MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plans (read: “Wants”) that call for spending at least $57 billion.

It should be noted that right now, only TWO MPOs to have congestion relief as a stated goal in their LRTPs—Fredericksburg and Harrisonburg. While other plans might include indirect mentions to congestion relief, they do not make it a specific goal or include measurable outcomes. Sadly, the researchers found that other areas simply accept congestion as “an inevitable consequence of urban life” and go on to include strategy outlines to allow for increased congestion levels into the future.

Knowing that there is already ample money in the system to address the severe congestion, without a tax increase, it comes down to, of course, how the money is allocated. We must look at how funding should be reallocated to addressing these severe congestion problems.

What they’re really saying is that we need to be spending money the right way!

“The Virginia legislature needs to make the relief of congestion a major priority. Other regions are already beginning to make congestion relief a key priority. Atlanta has recently changed its project weighting procedure to raise the weight placed on congestion relief from 11 to 70 percent and adopted a TTI goal of 1.35 by 2030. (Currently, the Atlanta area TTI is 1.44.). Texas state and local governments have recently assessed the impact of congestion on their situation and are setting congestion reduction targets. Once congestion relief is established as planning priority, and specific measurable goals developed, then VDOT can realistically hold MPOs accountable for goal achievement.”

In the end, what Professor Hartgen and the Reason Foundation have found is that “there is ample money currently in the system to make significant inroads in the alleviation of congestion, if only goals were established to do so and money allocated to support those goals.”

Surely this news will come as quite a shock to those who are just chomping at the bit to raise our taxes yet again. But I guess, sometimes the simple truth is scary.



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