Here’s another example of how white liberals are hijacking the George Floyd tragedy to advance their special-interest agendas on the grounds of social justice.
At the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission meeting last night, Chair Katie Cristol observed that “Systemic racism, and the opportunity to confront it, is present in every feature of our lives, including transportation. Public transit should also be an opportunity to further racial justice in our region.”
Added Secretary-Treasurer Jeff McKay: “We need to think about transit as an equalizer, as a human service, as a connection to our economy. … A key component of that is how we think about transit and how we factor transit into literally what could be a life-changing situation for so many families in Northern Virginia.”
Here’s another way to think about mass transit: Packing people into buses and commuter rail cars is a recipe for propagating the COVID-19 virus among the minorities most likely to ride them.
Here’s another way to think about social justice: If you want minorities to have better access to job opportunities, address the “affordability and access” crisis in automobile ownership.
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
That is how Aubrey Layne, Secretary of Finance, summed up his explanation to the House Appropriations Committee of April’s 15% drop in transportation revenue
All of the major components of the transportation revenue were down in April, but the biggest danger sign was in the motor vehicle sales and use tax. That source is the largest single state source of revenue for the highway maintenance and operation fund and the second largest source for the transportation trust fund. Its revenues in April were down 41% compared to April a year ago.
Despite the sharp drop in April, the year-to-date transportation revenues are still running 5.6% higher than for the comparable period last year, and significantly higher than the 3.3% decrease that had been forecast. However, the Governor’s stay-close-to-home policy, continuation of extensive telecommuting, and social distancing will likely bring the total transportation revenue below last year’s total. Revenues should pick up after July 1, when the increase in the gas tax becomes effective, although the increase will likely be less than was forecast in the session.
Norfolk transit employee wipes down a bus.
by James A. Bacon
Another data point in the ongoing debate over cars versus mass transit…
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has asked riders to stay home and not to travel, as the agency prepared to cut service Wednesday, reports the Washington Times. Ridership has already fallen 70%.
Metro, which operates buses and commuter rail in the Washington area, will continue to provide service for essential trips. In the past trains normally ran every four minutes during rush hour and no less frequently than every 12 minutes during the day. now they will run every 15 minutes on each line from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays.
The loss of revenue will have a significant impact on Metro finances. Farebox recovery accounts to 57.5% for Metrorail and 24.3% for Metrobus. I guess it won’t be long before Metro asks for another bailout. Update: Question answered in one day. According to the Washington Post, the transit agency is asking for $50 million a month in emergency federal aid. Update: Meanwhile, according to Virginia Business, the Commonwealth Transportation Board has allocated $11 million to help struggling transit systems recover from ridership losses. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
What will this year’s General Assembly cost you in taxes? Here are at least 16 bills approved by the 2020 General Assembly that create or raise taxes on Virginians or authorize a local government to do so. No one told Virginians at the start of session that major tax increases were coming, and there is little recognition of what has now happened. It is time to tally the bill.
If anybody would or could run the fiscal projections on these 16 tax bills, they might combine into a major tax hike comparable to those in 2004 and 2013. Over several years this will cost families or businesses billions of dollars, but most will be collected by wholesalers (cigarettes and fuel) or too deeply buried on receipts to see. Assessments on business eventually get passed down to the customer: you. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The COVID-19 virus may change our lives in ways we can only begin to imagine. Believe it or not, some of them might even be positive. Consider the impact of today’s stories upon Virginia’s higher-ed and transportation systems.
A boost to distance learning. The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and James Madison University may follow the lead of Harvard and other Ivy League institutions in moving classes online.
Virginia Tech sent a letter to faculty members Monday urging them to prepare options for delivering coursework outside the classroom, reports Virginia Business. “We must accelerate planning necessary to sustain our academic mission, including the use of online platforms to deliver instruction,” said Provost Cyril Clark. “Please use this spring break when most classes are not in session to become familiar with strategies to continue teaching through disruptions and to plan for the possibility that students and faculty may not be able to meet for course sessions in person.”
“We are looking at how do we move our courses online,” said JMU spokeperson Caitlyn Read. “Our libraries and our online learning centers have ratcheted up support services for faculty who are looking … to get classes online.
Update: UVa has made the decision to move all classes online. So has Virginia Tech.
Schools out for summer. Schools out forever! OK, that quote from rocker Alice Cooper might be a slight exaggeration. But Fairfax County Public Schools, which serves 188,000 students, will close all of its nearly 200 schools for “staff development day/student holiday” next Monday, the Washington Post reports. The purpose: “to provide an opportunity for staff to prepare for the possibility of distance learning in the event of a school(s) closure.” Continue reading
By Steve Haner
Having voted to give Dominion Energy Virginia a blank check to spend billions of your money on offshore wind turbines, the Virginia House of Delegates will vote today to provide hundreds of millions more from your pockets for electric school buses.
Last week the House defeated a similar bill, twice. It received only 35 votes the first time and 44 votes the second. The response from the utility and the Senate patron was to introduce a new bill “Thursday,” after she received unanimous consent from her fellow senators. Continue reading
Yes, Virginia, our long statewide nightmare is almost over. Lawmakers in the General Assembly are scheduled to go home next week. In the meantime, life goes on, and we get news like this…
Silver Line looking tarnished. Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which extends the Washington Metro commuter rail to Washington Dulles International Airport, is already two years behind schedule. Now it could face more delays due to new problems revealed in a Metro Inspector General report. The latest review, reports the Washington Post, found recurring problems with surge arresters that protect the Metro’s electrical systems; problems with the insulated rail joints at the rail yard; and a software validation issue relating to the system that allows operators to reduce train speeds. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has been responsible for oversight of the two-phase, $5.8 billion Silver Line construction. The first phase opened in 2014.
The Blue Coats are Coming! The Blue Coats are coming! As the Democratic-controlled General Assembly puts the finishing touches on its gun control legislation, gun-rights activists in Amherst County and Nelson County are issuing calls to muster for the purpose of forming militias. In an interview with the News & Advance. Nelson County organizer Don Heres was vague about the proposed militia’s purpose. “He sees the future militia as a “resource for the county.” But “everything is all preliminary. We’re not really started yet. It’s a citizen’s group and the citizens will decide what we do, what we’re called, all those things.” Organizers in both counties are hoping for turnouts of 100 or more. The musters are not sanctioned by the county governments.
One Ring to rule them all. Shades of 1984 (or Sauron, take your pick)… The Albemarle County Police Department is partnering with Ring, the doorbell camera company, to get video from county residents deploying the surveillance cameras. The police department first started thinking about a partnership when a burglary victim brought a photo from his Ring app to police. Roughly 1,000 other departments are partnering with Ring, according to the Daily Progress. Said Police Chief Ron Lantz:“I think this is a way for us to partner with the community to help make this a safer place to live.”
Source: “2019 Corridor Performance Report for the I-66 Inside the Beltway and I-395 Corridors,” presented March 5, 2020.
by James A. Bacon
In late 2017, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) installed tolled express lanes on the congested inside-the-Beltway segment of Interstate 66. Planners hoped the tolls would discourage commuters from driving solo, and surplus toll revenues would be used to expand bus and rail alternatives. There was a frenzy of media coverage in the early days when dynamically set toll prices pushed past $47 for an inbound rush-hour commute, but the fever soon abated.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) decided to revisit the issue two years later. A new study has concluded that I-66 inside the Beltway “moved people more efficiently” in 2019 than it did in 2015 before the tolls were installed.
The total number of people traveling inbound during morning rush hour increased by 1.2% while the associated number of vehicles decreased by 2.7%, indicating a shift in the share of trips made by transit and HOV. Overall, 65% of the corridor’s morning rush-hour inbound trips were made by transit or HOV in early 2019, compared to 64% in early 2016. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
With two weeks remaining in the 2020 General Assembly session, the tendency to procrastinate (and perhaps some buyer’s remorse) has several key issues still pending. Here is an update on some previously discussed on Bacon’s Rebellion.
The moderating impact of the narrow 21-19 split in the Virginia Senate, with several of those Democrats needing to be sensitive to more rural constituencies, is on full display. The defeat of the assault weapons ban is not the only example, just the most reported example. Continue reading
Artist’s rendering of proposed Broad Street tower
by James A. Bacon
Sometimes it seems like the City of Richmond can’t do anything right. City Council just nixed a $1.5 billion redevelopment plan for the Navy Hill district in downtown. And no one can figure out where, or how, to build a new minor league baseball stadium. But the city has hit a couple of home runs. It’s preserving the James River as a magnificent park running through the center of the city. And, overcoming considerable controversy, the city managed to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along the Broad Street corridor.
Not only did Richmond find $65 million to cover the Pulse’s capital costs, it created the appropriate zoning along Broad Street to encourage the re-development of fraying urban and suburban land along the route. The fast-bus service was designed to support the kind of mid-density, mixed-use “walkable urbanism” that many Richmond residents are looking for. It took a while, but it now appears that the city’s foresight is paying off.
Minneapolis-based The Opus Group has filed for a special use permit to erect a 12-story residential tower on the corner of Broad and Lombardy streets near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. The 168-unit apartment would replace a Sunoco gas station and convenience store. The top floor would sport an outdoor terrace with commanding views, while the ground floor would provide 3,400 square feet of retail space. Continue reading
The bag tax is 5 pence in Scotland, but will be 5 pennies here in Virginia.
By Steve Haner
Politicians hate taxes that voters pay by check and love taxes that are buried deep on invoices or fully invisible. The 2020 General Assembly is raising taxes right and left (mostly left) but focused on that second method. These will be tax increases most people will never spot.
Governor Ralph Northam’s record introduced budget was based on several proposed tax increases (and of course the extra money collected by breaking his promise to continue last year’s tax reform effort). But legislators have not been shy, only sly, about building on that base with additional levies. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Egads! Vehicle collisions with deer accounted for 61,000 traffic accidents, in Virginia in the year ending June 30, 2016, according to the Virginia Transportation Research Council. The hoofed critters contributed to one in six of all accident claims. And, judging by the number of deer carcass removals, the number of accidents may be under-reported. There are more deer-related accidents than alcohol-related crashes. As a menace to Virginia motorists — roughly 10,000 injuries and 200 fatalities a year — deer are second only to distracted drivers.
I first read the astonishing deer-collision numbers in a Washington Post op-ed by Richmond journalist (and friend) Steve Nash. Nash is a careful reporter, but so amazed was I by the magnitude of the problem, I had to double-check the data. It’s accurate.
Lawmakers have tackled drunk drivers, and they’re working on distracted drivers. But I can’t think of any laws the General Assembly can enact that deer are likely to obey. There are almost as many deer living in rural Virginia (an estimated one million), and they are even less inclined than the human inhabitants of Second Amendment Sanctuary country to hew to legal diktats handed down from the legislature. Continue reading