The DP Gets It, They Really Get It!

Hallelujah! The Daily Press has seen the light — at least one anonymous pundit has. States an editorial today:

One way to ease the transportation problem is to get people off the roads. Most of the conversation is about building more roads, but if there were ways to have a meaningful reduction in highway demand, maybe we could save some money and aggravation.

Exactly what I’ve been saying for years! The Daily Press’ remedy is a bit more problematic.

Toward that end, here’s a thought, tossed out to be shot down or embraced: Give people a break on their state income tax if they live close to where they work. … Why not use the tax code to reward people for not clogging the highways?

I’m not wild about using the tax code for social/economic engineering. I believe in keeping tax rates flat and low. But it would be churlish for me to dwell on points of disagreement. The Daily Press, long a supporter of the tax-spend-build transportation paradigm is thinking outside the box. Rather than dwell on the problems with the DP proposal, I welcome the writer to Life Outside the Box. You never know where your inquiries will take you. My humble suggestion: If you want to link supply, demand and financing of transportation facilities, think congestion tolls and balanced communities.

Meanwhile, there is more evidence of sound thinking in the editorial:

People are choosing to commute, and that choice is driving the transportation problem. Yes, raising the fuel tax would be a way to deal with that problem – a negative incentive, some might call it, one that might discourage commuting and also raise money to build more roads. But more roads might make commuting easier, which might encourage more people to commute or commute farther. You could have a circle in which the “solution” contributed to the problem.

Yes, yes, just follow that line of logic a little further. You can’t build your way out of congestion… We need to use the infrastructure we have more efficiently… Congestion tolls will (a) encourage people to change their behavior and (b) generate revenues for transportation improvements, be they extra lanes, synchronized stoplights or Bus Rapid Transit, that ideally are spent in the same transportation corridor where the congestion exists.

This is so exciting! A Mainstream Media editorial writer who actually has something sensible to say. Maybe there’s hope after all.

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One response to “The DP Gets It, They Really Get It!”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think we should have a system .. the premise of which is to penalize people for “bad” behavior.

    Ordinary folks .. for the most part don’t do bad behavior for no good reason. They’re usually doing something they feel is in their own best interests – even if they intellecutally understand that in doing so – it may not be in everyone’s collective best interests.

    I put highway congestion in this category.

    Hardly anyone.. if you asked them.. why they were in the middle of rush hour congestion would tell you that they are just there for the hell of it. But they also won’t tell you that there are there because they absolutely must be there.

    It’s usually along the lines of “I have no choice”.. my like works like this… and “I end up here in rush hour congestion not because I want to be here but because I end up this way.”

    So .. don’t try to penalize them… but instead alter their choices… and do it in a way that makes economic sense and let’s people still make their own decisions.

    So.. here’s a suggestion.

    Offer EVERYONE the option of getting one dollar off the price of gasoline – if they have a transponder in their car. The “credit” will automatically be computed when they fillup with their tranponder on their windshield.

    Then… put electronic tolls on the most heavily used roads.

    Many of the folks who have the transponders and the cheaper gas – will start to become more engaged in what they do and why… choices and decisions…

    the folks who don’t… are free to use any road they want including the toll roads.. but they’ll have to use the manual toll collection exits to pay.

    pretty soon.. it will be a “no-brainer”.. everyone will have a transponder and a lot of those folks will made the tradeoffs between cheaper gasoline and more money for tolls if they drive more.

    or.. pick some other approach that incorporates equivalent incentives that encourage people to take a more direct role in their choices.

    Right now.. I feel like.. we have an environment that essentially discourages personal responsibility… rather than reward it.

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