Details on the Regional Transportation Plans

The leadership of the House of Delegates has released the details of its regional transportation-funding packages for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. You can read the press release and the fact sheets on both regions here.

I don’t have time this morning to analyze this is any details, so I will make only a couple of quick observations and then turn it over to the piranhas.

First, I have nothing good to say about the way these plans are funded. They violate the basic maxim that there needs to be a link between how much people pay in taxes/tolls/fees and how much they use the transportation capacity, and when and where they use them. Other than the abusive driver fee, any links between taxes/fees and the use of the roads is negligible.

However, there are aspects of these packages that save them from being unmitigated disasters:

Congestion tolling. The legislation allows for tolling (a) to pay for new facilities, and (b) for congestion tolling. At last, the concept of congestion tolling has entered the lexicon of our legislators and has been introduced into legislation. That’s a small breakthrough. The fact that such a tool exists, however, does not mean that it will be employed.

Performance standards. The Northern Virginia regional plan (but apparently not the Hampton Roads plan) includes this provision: “Projects undertaken by the [Northern Virginia Transportation Authority] must be contract out to private entities and meet performance measure standards. These projects will be determined by the NVTA based on even distribution between regional localities and projects that move the most people or the most commercial traffic in the most cost-effective manner.”

Wow — funding projects based on cost-effectiveness. How about that? That does represent a breakthrough. …. It also makes you wonder why the same verbiage is not included in the Hampton Roads package. Could it be that certain projects are fore-ordained not to be cost effective?

Should you be interested in what the legislation says, as opposed to what legislators say it says, go to the bills here:

House version
Senate version

Rail to Dulles. Finally, note this language tucked away in the House bill: “… no agreement or contract to transfer responsibility from an agency or institution of the Commonwealth for control, maintenance, or operation of any toll facility that was operated by such agency or institution of the Commonwealth on July 1, 2006, to any other public or private entity shall be entered into by the Commonwealth or any agency, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof without prior legislative authorization from the General Assembly.

In other words, the bill would block the transfer of authority over the Dulles Toll Road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, scuttling the Kaine administration’s plan for managing the Rail-to-Dulles heavy rail project.

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9 responses to “Details on the Regional Transportation Plans”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The $64 question is:

    Do the NoVa/HR GA reps know WHY the 2002 Referenda went down AND

    bonus question:

    Did they take pains to NOT have the poison pills that 2002 voters would not swalloe… in this plan?

    we’re about to find out if these legislators “got the message” or whether they are running scared…

  2. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    I found this buried in the legislation.

    15.2-4838.1. Special Transportation Fund for Northern Virginia established.
    15.2-4838.2. Use of certain revenues by the Authority
    E. When determining what projects to construct under this subsection, the Authority shall base its decisions on the combination that (i) equitably distributes the funds throughout the participating localities and (ii) constructs projects that move the most people or commercial traffic in the most cost-effective manner, and on such other factors as approved by the Authority.

    Because (i) and (ii) are connected by “and,” I interpret this to mean each county gets its share of the pie to distribute to move people in the most cost effective manner in that county. For example the value to Fairfax County for a trip from Van Dorn Station to the District would only be for the first mile. This legislation does little for regional congestion.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: congestion pricing, “fare” tolls, etc.

    How about this.

    Each person get’s “free” toll road use up until a certain mileage and included in that would be a certain amount of rush hour time/mileage.

    Much like a cell phone structure except the first .. say 15,000 miles is “free” and then everything over that incurs a fee – a base fee + a rush hour increment.

    This should satisfy the “I already paid” argument with the answer of “yes, and here is your share”.

    it’s an idea.. bat it around and/or bat it down.

  4. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    I like it – provided NO EXEMPTIONS.

    Not non-profits, not businesses, not local city governments, state governments, indian tribes – nothing – the same for every vehicle registered in Virignia – or not registed in VA but driven in VA – to include the military.

    I’m not sure what technology is required to track vehicles from outside the state, but I’m sure we can think of something using a GPS transponder and automated computer sensing devices to track vehicles entering and departing VA.

    Truckers – the same.

    cab drivers – the same.

    Rental car companies – the same.

    They all want to use the roads -they all pay.

    Let us not forget those taxpayer subsidized mass transit users too!.

    They would also be allowed a set number of miles to use public transit FREE – and then charged for each mile exceeding the limit. They too would be required to have a hand held GPS transponder devide to board any VA mass trnasit.

    No free rides for them either.

    Bus companies would ALSO pay! A double dip – excellent! They make their profits from clogging up the public roads – they pay too.

    School buses? The same.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Now you are starting to think creatively.

    I like it too.


    “we can think of something using a GPS transponder and automated computer sensing devices to track vehicles entering and departing VA.”

    I don’t see how Virginia can pass a law requiring out of state vehicles to acquire a transponder. Technically what you are suggesting is feasible, but in practice it is impractical, for now.

    I spend a lot of time trying to implement already existing and proven technology, and I can tell you it is always much harder than it should be.

    Just today I heard on the radio a report aobut traffic delays at the toll booths on the greenway. A few weeks ago I heard a report on a major crash at the toll gates. And it has been how many years?

    “Let us not forget those taxpayer subsidized mass transit users too!.”

    I particularly love this because it recognizes that what we are funding is a system. I still have a problem with using the argument that user pays to promote congestion tolls, and then having the money go someplace else because there is no rational way to use it in favor of those that pay.

    But, If I’m driving to work and knowing that I am racking up free chits to use the Metro (when it works for me), great. We could even make the chits transferable. I could sell them on E-bay, or something.

    The free market really is the answer.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    No GPS technology.

    Out of state vehicles would pay the TOLL. If they had EZ-pass (and more and more do) then it would automatically be deducted per usual.

    IN STATE folks would have the same option.

    Either manually pay a toll or get EZ Pass transponders.

    The gantries would pick up the transponders and computers would perform the billing – with an algorithm that allows a certain number of miles because you get charged.

    The new TOLL Roads in Austin started off for a “free” period before they went “live”.

    The point is for congestion pricing, you need tolls and what is known as open road high speed electronic tolling is where technology is right now – actually being used.

    Also being used is automatic camera capture technology. It’s being used not only for violators but to charge tolls. You get a bill in the mail and if you don’t pay it there are consequences just like any other unpaid bill.

    The technology already exists to do this. It does not require GPS.

    The basic premise that I am suggesting is that with the advent of automatic tolling – it IS possible to give everyone a “free” allocation of road use but then charge for miles than exceed the “free” allocation.

    What this would do is similiar to peak-hour congestion pricing but on a broader scale.

    One would be looking at not only how to save money at peak hour – but how to cut their miles overall – daily, weekly, yearly, etc.

    People would end up making decisions very similiar to what they do with regard to cell phones.

    You have two allocations – one for total minutes and one for peak hour.

    This is a concept – already employed in the marketplace and one that almost everyone is familiar with – especially with regard to how much one pays and how much one gets.

    JWs “fare roads” proposal – with electronic tolling – you can actuall “credit” peoples accounts in they drove outside of rush hour.

    ALL kinds of things are possible once you have the ability to charge on a per use basis.

    and one small correction. You CAN build MORE roads in the NoVa Area IF they are HOT/HOV lanes – electronic tolling but the point is that once you start congestion pricing – there is a high likelihood that more roads will not be needed anyhow.

  7. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Good ideas – creative thinking.

    Too bad that appears missing in Richmond.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    How many gantries are you talking about?

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    as many as you’d normally see on a TOLL road which is as many as you’d normally see TOLL Booths.

    The difference would be – no Toll Booths over the high-speed tolling lanes.

    Each Gantry would also have a camera that grabs the plate and driver if it senses no transponder.

    There’s a online web news site called Toll Road News… soup to peanuts in the technology and where it is used.

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