Conventional Wisdom says the Common-
shortfalls in transportation funding over the next
20 years amounting to tens of billions of dollars.
Without new sources of revenue, Virginians will
endure a dystopic future of overloaded highways,
chronic traffic congestion, lost productivity and
grueling, high-stress commutes. But, then, the
Conventional Wisdom never reckoned on Craig Franklin
or the extraordinary creativity of free markets.
CEO of Leesburg-based Trichord Incorporated, is
bringing the information technology revolution to Virginia’s
roads and highways, a realm not normally known for a
of innovation. He modestly refers to
himself as a “value added reseller” of the FAS-1
traffic sensor manufactured by another Northern
Virginia company, SmarTek Systems in Woodbridge.
FAS-1, says Franklin, provides state-of-the-art
accoustic technology to calculate the number and
speed of vehicles in multiple lanes of traffic.
powers these sensors with solar collectors and
hitches them to wireless technology to transmit real-time traffic
integration of technologies is cool. But what's
truly revolutionary is what Franklin does with the
years past, traffic data has sat in data vaults
accessible only to the Virginia Department of
Transportation. But Franklin is pumping it out to
businesses and commuters, which can use it to make
better-informed decisions on where and when to
drive. He can deliver real-time traffic data over
the Internet -- see WTOP TV's traffic
feature -- or to your cell phone. He can tell
commuters how long it will take them to drive down
Interstate 95. He can alert corporate fleet managers when
congestion is clogging up traffic along key routes.
information services are to VDOT's primitive
roadside traffic signs what Interstate highways are
to dirt roads. By putting detailed and actionable information
into the hands of thousands
of Virginia commuters before they hop into their cars and
commit themselves to particular routes at particular
times, Craig Franklin represents the vanguard of a
movement that will empower motorists and businesses
to reshape the demand for highway transportation.
Inevitably, planners will have to
re-think policies predicated on the notion that the
thirst for mobility can be addressed only
by adding more supply -- more roads, more buses,
more mass transit, all requiring billions of dollars
of more taxes.
pronunciation guide in a dictionary shows just how
difficult security is to define and maintain.
But rest assured that
Virginians are on the case.
Gets It Wrong Again
distrust government, the former governor says,
because agencies have been starved of funds -- in
other words because Virginians aren't taxed enough.
keynote speech at a recent conference on regional
issues in Hampton Roads, former Gov. Gerald L.
Baliles recently offered a remarkable
explanation for the resounding defeat of the 2002
ballot measure he supported to raise the sales tax
rate in Hampton Roads. He argued that the voters’
distrust of government contributed to their
rejection of the tax hike and that their distrust
developed because government agencies had been
“starved” of tax funds.
Baliles, who left office in 1990, is a serious man,
and he didn’t make that statement in jest. But
it’s hard not to laugh. Did he really mean that
voters didn’t trust government enough to give it
more of their tax dollars because it hadn’t
already been getting enough of their tax dollars?
opinion surveys last year clearly contradict the
former governor’s conclusion. Voters
overwhelmingly believed that elected officials could
not be trusted to do what they had promised with tax
revenues. Voters certainly weren’t distrustful of
government because it had taken too little of their
money. State spending has not declined, but actually
increased, in each of the last 10 years.
at the Edges
rural strategy helped get him elected governor, but "tax
reform" that favors rural communities may
alienate Northern Virginia.
after the 2001 election, this writer commented on
the success of Mark Warner’s rural strategy in
contributing significantly to his victory in the
gubernatorial contest. The unfocused campaign of
Warner’s opponent, Mark Earley, allowed Warner to
play the good ol’ boy in ads that featured
bluegrass music and a dressed-down Warner doing
everything to play the part except spit tobacco
juice and sip moonshine.
fall-off in rural votes for the GOP’s
gubernatorial candidate from the 1993 election to
the 2001 election was dramatic. It contributed more
than any other factor to Earley’s defeat.
was hailed as a political innovator, but the
strategy had been used by other Democrats, notably
Chuck Robb and Doug Wilder, in gubernatorial
election campaigns during the 1980s. George Allen
and Jim Gilmore reclaimed the “bubba” vote for
the GOP during the 1990s.
with a Cause
this month I went fishing. Look what the boy landed!
a true native born Southern boy, I baited the hooked
and tossed out the line into the Warner vs. Allen
2006 Senate election pond. Then, I laid back, had a
few brews, closed my eyes until a pull on the line
rocked me back.
Sure enough, I reeled in the Big One: some
real, honest-to-goodness poll numbers. Several
sources -- admittedly friends of the governor - told
me that Warner is the most popular governor in
modern Virginia history, save perhaps for the last
six months of Chuck Robb's term when the former
Senator was Governor and polled above 80 percent on
the popularity meter.
Naturally, I checked with a couple of sources
not as friendly to the governor who had seen some
other polling numbers from different parts of the
state. They hemmed and hawed but basically confirmed
it. However, they quickly spun the poll numbers as
"soft," a term used in political circles
to indicate support based on a nice-guy image, not
on the "hard" data of support for an
individual on an ideological or specific
Shape of the Future
solve many the most pressing problems of
contemporary society, citizens must abandon
fallacious beliefs that guide their everyday
actions and perpetuate dysfunctional human
is the third of three Special Reports addressing
contemporary human settlement patterns. The first
two reports discussed how settlement patterns have
become dysfunctional, causing some of the most
pressing problems our society faces today.(1)
Overpowering forces are ruining the vitality of Urbansides
and are eroding and destroying the Countryside.
Part I ("Wild
Abandonment," September 8, 2003), we
outlined the forces that are thwarting promising
components of Urbansides from evolving into
high-value, high-quality places. In Part II
Sept. 25, 2003), we illuminated the anatomy and
impact of scattering urban land uses across the
Although citizens cannot always articulate their
grievances, they identify the same problems in
opinion poll after opinion poll:
and failing transport systems;
of affordable housing;
of economic prosperity for a growing segment of
and aging infrastructure;
personal safety and community security;
costs and deteriorating quality of education,
healthcare and other public and private services;
of historic resources, erosion of the Countryside
and degradation of the environmental quality;
As documented in The
Shape of the Future,
these problems are part of the same systemic crisis.
Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Baliles makes the job of being an ex-governor look
easy. When's he's not running Hunton & Williams'
international legal practice, he's reshaping the airline
industry or transforming education in Patrick
governors just come and go.
Some stumble. Some
have impact. Some
leave legacies. Some
just leave. And
then there are the rare ones, those who stride with
such assurance, such ease and grace, that they make
all of it — the impact, the legacy, all of it —
being governor looks easier than being ex-governor.
It seems that stride, that pitch, that groove
is hard to find again, even if you had it.
L. Baliles always had it and has never lost it.
followed, really, an unremarkable route to the
of Delegates (1976-1982);
Attorney General for one term (1982-1985) and
then the Big House (1986-1990).
And then he glided onto the ice of
the world as head of the international practice
group at Hunton and Williams.
His counsel is sought by folks in high
public utterances — most recently his proposal to
downsize the House of Delegates -- still stir up the
editorial writers from one end of the state to the
other, and in this particular case, former state
Republican Party Chairman Patrick McSweeney.
(See McSweeney’s column, "Baliles
Gets it Wrong Again," October 20, 2003)
is On the Table
of Hurricane Isabel as a trial run for a possible
terrorist attack. The storm exposed significant
flaws in Virginia’s disaster-response systems.
During the recent unpleasantness created by Mother
Nature, yours trulies had the opportunity to serve
as American Red Cross volunteers. We spent the
night of the hurricane in a shelter as ARC
liaisons with the Henrico
coordinating meals, sleeping arrangements
(wrestling mats on the gym floor) and other needs.
The next day we helped conduct a preliminary
damage assessment in Hanover
our travels throughout eastern Hanover,
we saw tremendous evidence of the beneficence of
the Deity, considering the circumstances. We must
have catalogued a thousand trees that fell away
from the homes and buildings they stood next to,
and another thousand that missed by only a few
feet. Many observers of hurricanes, tornadoes and
other examples of nature's nastiness over the
years have commented on their apparent
capriciousness. Folks, it could have been worse, a
experiences also got us to wondering: Are
Virginia's disaster-response systems up to the
task of coping with a terrorist attack? After 9-11-01, anyone who doesn’t consider a terrible surprise from
the bad guys a very real possibility is out to
lunch and, hopefully, won’t bother to come back.