Dulles Toll Road: Tolls increase tomorrow

I couldn’t resist making another reference to the fact that the tolls are going up tomorrow by 67% to 100%, depending on where you get on or off. And not one penny of that money is going to be spent on improving the daily commute of the user’s of the toll road. Rather that money is going to be wasted on the rail to Dulles boondoggle that does nothing to alleviate traffic congestion and will do a lot to attract even more traffic on this toll road and other adjacent roads, as building densities go up.

And the wasteful spending has already begun, even before one additional penny was collected from the toll increase. As reported by channel 7 in Washington, the state is paying $480,000 for their PR blitz. Half-a-million dollars spent for TV ads advertising that the tolls are going up. Do you need a more flagrant example of waste of taxpayer dollars than this?

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  1. Why would you advertise this? So people don’t forget to bring enough quarters?

  2. By the way – anybody know any numbers for public support for the Metro? Obviously there are various questions you can ask…from specific projects to “do you support increased funding for WMATA?”.

    I’ve always thought that Metro funding was pretty popular. Not that people enjoy riding it, but that people want to support it. People generally support public transit, because of the free rider problem. They imagine all of their neighbors riding it and freeing up the roads…everyone takes that attitude.

    Think about it. What’s appealing to you about public transit? Isn’t it that it’ll help the traffic problem? Don’t you imagine all of these worker bees getting on buses and Metro? Do you ever actually imagine yourself using it? I feel like this is generally the attitude amongst people I talk to in Fairfax County. Although you have some NIMBYism mixed in there…for example, the people who opposed the expansion of the parking deck over at the Burke VRE.

  3. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Paul: You’re correct. Support for public transit is usually very high. When I managed a State Senate campaign a few years ago in a District that would be affected by the Rail to Dulles boondoggle, we naturally polled the district. The support for extending rail to Dulles was in the 90% range. Yet when you asked how many of them used Metro or planned to use it when it was completed, those answering in the affirmative support dropped to below 10%.

    So your supposition that people support public transit in the hopes that their neighbors will ride it making it easier for them to drive on less congested highways, is right on target. In Fairfax County, less than 4% of the residents use METRO, yet the subsidies we pay are huge compared to the few folks that benefit from the subway. You don’t hear too many stats on how much it costs to subsidize each rider on the METRO system. If these figures were well-known, I’m sure people would be appalled and perhaps they would rethink their blind support for mass transit.

  4. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    I’d love to see any sort of figures that anybody can provide that will permit Virginia’s roads to continue to function after 2018, the year in which the sheer square footage of roads becomes so great that 100% of our projected transportation budget is spent on maintenance (and quickly becomes insufficient).

    Without any such numbers — and nobody has been able to figure it out without raising taxes a great deal — it’s clear that we’ve got to start investing in mass transit. Even if it’s not used much in its first decade, it’ll start looking pretty good around, oh, 2019.

  5. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    Yo, Phil! What kind of transportation do you favor? You don’t seem too keen on highways or mass transit. How ’bout narrowing it down a little further.

  6. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Barnie: Where did you get that I’m not too keen on highways? I’ve stated repeatedly, that the only logical solution for the Dulles Corridor is a couple of additional HOT lanes that could be built at no cost to the taxpayer that could also be used for an inexpensive BRT system. The HOT/BRT combination could be accomplished for a fraction of the cost of heavy rail. And the HOT lanes would do a lot to relieve the congestion–unlike the heavy rail that will do nothing to relieve congestion.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    The ads are running for the obvious purpose, which is to warn the public of the change and encourage the cash customers to bring more change and reduce snarls, shouting matches and delays during the first week or so. As in all this transportation debate, it is another trade off between time and money.

  8. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anonymous: Do you really think it necessary to run ads costing $500,000 to warn the public to bring more quarters? First of all, a large portion of the users use transpondents, so they don’t need to pay the toll using cash. Then they have put signs on all the entrances warning of the toll increase, so most users are well aware of the fact that the tolls went up today.

    The reason they are running the TV ads is to nullify the public and have them believe the myth that the extra tolls are really being used for rail to Dulles that will alleviate traffic congestion. This is propaganda, plain and simple. It’s akin to being mugged, while the mugger tells you that your money is going to be used for a good cause.

  9. Waldo: It’s a good point about the maintenance budget, and that’s something I harp about constantly. But, bang for your buck, public transit is pretty worthless.

    The mixing bowl project in Springfield, for example, has cost the state around $800 million (originally projected at $250 million, but that’s another story). Anyway, it costs around $1 billion to add a single metro station. Granted, the feds share that cost a bit, but it’s still ridiculously expensive. And, once you create the metro station, you’re stuck with a money losing piece of infrastructure that gets about 2-5% of the drivers off the road. Metro’s not worth it, unless you’re extending into a dense area (even MORE expensive) or to a military base that’s adding 18k people…(Ft. Belvoir)

  10. Laszlo Avatar

    Hey, do you folks know we still have dirt roads, aka unpaved roads, in Virginia.

  11. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Laszlo: Yes, I know. I own property on Smith Mountain Lake that I can only access by driving on a dirt road. What is particularly insulting about this, is that the developer had offered to pay half the cost of paving the road, but VDOT said they were going to do it when they were good and ready. Now the developer is gone and if VDOT ever paves the road, the taxpayers will have to foot the bill in its entirety. Only in Virginia…

  12. great state Avatar
    great state

    You’d be surprised how many dirt roads there are in Loudoun County itself! And not just in the rural western part of the county.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Re: the comment about the Springfield mixing bowl.

    It’s going to cost “just” $200 million less than metro at this point.

    There was a study done showing that once the mixing bowl was completed, it would save 10 SECONDS off the morning commute.

    If Metro is so unpopular, why can’t one get a parking space at Huntington Metro?

    One of the big problems with metro in suburban areas is that you still have to drive to get there. For example, the springfield Metro is in south springfield. If you live in North Springfield, by the time you drive thru all the traffic to get to the metro, you could have been in DC already.

  14. Laszlo Avatar


    You need to contact the County Board of Supervisors, not sure what county you are in, maybe Franklin, and ask the County to include your road for improvement in their VDOT Six Year Plan. Counties are allocated funds for local road improvements each year. I’m assuming it is now a public road and not private. If it is private, you will have it like it is for along time. Counties hold public hearings every year for this purpose. Get your petition and your users together and go. The County Adminisrtator can give the details.

    This is were some of our tranportation dollars go. No tolls here. If you are on the water at Smith Mountain money should not be problem.

    Good luck.

  15. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Laszlo: I still live in Fairfax County (AKA no public expenditure is large enough for our committed socialists government bureaucrats in the greater Washington Metro area). I own property in Franklin County on Smith Mountain Lake and that’s where I learned of the road paving tale I shared above.

  16. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    The mixing bowl project in Springfield, for example, has cost the state around $800 million (originally projected at $250 million, but that’s another story). Anyway, it costs around $1 billion to add a single metro station. Granted, the feds share that cost a bit, but it’s still ridiculously expensive.

    But that’s ignoring all other costs. The comparison isn’t nearly that stark.

    The mixing bowl is for automobiles. Those require oil. Once you factor in the cost of the war in Iraq, the metro station starts to look pretty inexpensive. Then let’s include air pollution, runoff, the cost of cars to citizens (a requirement, due to a lack of mass transit and proper planning), global climate change, automobile accidents, and the automobile trade imbalance with the far east.

    Dang. That metro station looks better and better, don’t it?

    Hey, do you folks know we still have dirt roads, aka unpaved roads, in Virginia.

    I live on one.

  17. Why does the automobile trade imbalance with the far east matter? Even toyota makes most of them in the US or mexico…

    I don’t buy for a second that the war in iraq was fought for oil…

    Since additional metro stations wouldn’t alleviate any of these costs anyway, what’s the point in building one? Right now the orange line is running at capacity during rush hour. expansion won’t take any cars off the road or improve the environment.

  18. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    I don’t buy for a second that the war in iraq was fought for oil…

    We’re only interested in the Middle East because that’s what powers our nation. Otherwise, we wouldn’t give a shit — we shouldn’t — because they’d be irrelevant. We must promote stability there so long as we rely on them. There’s simply no getting around that.

    Since additional metro stations wouldn’t alleviate any of these costs anyway, what’s the point in building one?

    Why do any small thing that contributes to a large thing? It’s a part of moving to a transportation system that will ultimately save us from our looming 2019 transportation crisis, a nationwide energy crisis, and a global environmental crisis.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Interesting – the orange line is running at capacity at rush hour AND YET, metro really isn’t all that useful in getting cars off the road, and people don’t really like to use it.

    Hmmm…how to reconcile those thoughts?

    Sounds like metro IS pretty popular – why else is it at capacity? Sounds like capacity needs to be expanded.

    I always took metro at every opportunity rather than drive – unfortunately, the opportunities were limited due to placement of the metros vs. placement of my jobs. Sometimes I could hop the yellow line at Huntington – on those days when I needed to be at work by 7 am & thus had reason to be at Huntington by the time it was full at 6:30 am.

    If only there had been a metro station in the traffic-packed Tyson’s area….

  20. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anonymous: As packed as METRO is, it barely carries 4% of Fairfax County’s population. That’s hardly worth the cost. And make no mistake, METRO is EXPENSIVE!

    The cost per passenger mile is 3.2 cents for highways vs. 71.2 cents for transit. And the subsidies breakdown as follows: 0.4 cents per passanger mile for highways vs. 53.1 cents for Transit. These are 2001 figures, I’m sure transit has gotten even more expensive since these figures were compiled.

    Of course you prefered taking the subway whenever you could–someone else paid for most of the cost your ride!

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    I didn’t prefer it because somebody else paid for – you are awfully full of yourself to make such presumptions.

    I preferred it because I didn’t sit in traffic for hours on our too few roads – which nobody seems to want to pay for.

    I preferred it because I could read the newspaper or a book. While I could do these things in a van pool, I also had to leave work when everyone else did – which wasn’t an option in my job.

  22. Anonymous:

    Yes, Phil is right. It’s running at capacity AND it doesn’t get any cars off the road. Hardly anybody uses it, but it has a low capacity. Understand?

    When I say “running at capacity” I mean it can’t be expanded. All they can do is take more seats out of the cars and add space for a couple more people per car. That’s it. The orange line is cashed. Finito. Done. Full.

    And yet Arlington continues to add 10 story residential skyscrapers by the dozen. I wonder how those people will get to work? They certainly won’t fit on the Orange line…

    Metro SUCKS. For lack of a better word. Every morning I take it to work, despite the fact that I could save 15 minutes by driving (and paying for parking). I’m squished up against 10 other people clinging to a metal poll. Wonderful.

  23. I might add that it’s rather hard to read a book while your face is squished up against somebody else’s arm pit. It’s a nice thought though.

  24. Anonymous Avatar

    So where would all these people on the Orange line GO if there wasn’t an orange line?

    I don’t doubt that it’s expensive. Maybe the riders should pay more. Would there really be less riders? I doubt it since it is at its physical capacity – somebody with more money will take their place.

  25. I’m not advocating the destruction of the existing metro lines…I’m just saying that we can’t afford to build new ones into low density suburbs…

    And if we extended the orange line, I wouldn’t even be able to get onto the train in Clarendon because it would already be full..

    Raising prices might decrease usage, but we just had a fee increase. Another fee increase? The poor use the metro in DC quite a bit…do we really want to price them out of it?

  26. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    The cost per passenger mile is 3.2 cents for highways vs. 71.2 cents for transit.

    Phil, these numbers are flat-out wrong. Those highway passenger mile figures don’t include the costs of accidents, EMS, police cars, pollution, runoff (there’s a $12.5B price tag on that last one) or even the most obvious bit, cars. If we actually spent only 3.2 cents per passenger mile, our highway infrastructure would collapse within weeks.

    You’re comparing the cost of laying a strip of asphalt to the cost of operating an entire rail system. It’s silliness.

  27. I wonder how the Metro affects healthcare costs. For example: what are the long term effects of having my face pressed against somebody’s arm pit 10 times a week.

    And don’t forget “coughing guy”, who doesn’t turn his head or cover his mouth. Or “sweaty hands guy” who leaves the metal pole moist with his germs.

  28. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anonymous: Would you be willing to pay $14 every time you got on the Metro? That’s what the cost per rider was calculated at in order for the system to be self-sufficient. I somehow doubt that you would be willing to pay that much.

  29. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Waldo: How about the cost of metro accidents or when the METRO driver decided it was her quiting time and left the passengers standing in the train for hours while causing a jam for the entire system? You’ve got to compare apples to apples. You can only use the costs of construction and operating maintenance to come to a comparison that makes sense.

  30. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    One other thing. Paul alluded to the organge line running at capacity. That’s a fact, because they can only squeeze about 40 trains per hour during rush hour through the Rosslyn tunnel.

    The dirty little secret that’s not being discussed in the rail to Dulles controversy, is how are they going to get the additional trains through the tunnel, since they’re just about at capacity right now?

    Once they get their greedy hands on the money to start the contstruction to Dulles, you’ll begin hearing people talking about the need to add tunnel capacity. And then the costs for rail to Dulles are going to pale by comparison.

  31. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    It’s pretty hard to get data on transport costs that does not have somebody’s slant on the numbers (comments on this thread for example). Somewhere, I have a paper that I thought was well balanced, If I can find it I’ll post the reference. I think Walo’s numbers are just as wrong as Phil’s, but Phil’s are probably closer if the proper caveats are taken.

    This paper went through ALL the costs that the authors could muster for each mode of transport. They icluded capital costs, maintenance costs, operating costs, and external costs, such as pollution and accidents. It is pretty easy to pile on externalities that are kind of a stretch to begin with and overpriced as well.

    The results were a range of values that had considerable overlap. The most expensive rail and bus services were more expensive than the lowest auto costs estimates. Bottom line was (as I recall, I’ll check the figures and verify) that auto use worked out in a range from around $.55 per mile to $.75 per mile and transit costs, whether rail or bus worked out at something like $.40 to $.65 per mile. The figures are ten years old, I think.

    Two things were of particular interest. Auto users paid far more of their own costs as a percentage than transit users. A significant portion of the auto costs were externalities. Part of the reason for this is that autos are far more prevalent thna transit, if transit ever achieves a significant portion of travel trips, we can expect externalities for transit to go up.

    With respect to auto externalities it is apparent that the same people who cause the costs are likely to be the same ones that bear the expense, namely everyone who ever rides in an auto or lives near where they are used. If you agree with that argument, then virtually all of auto users costs are borne by the user.

    If the externalities are discounted, then auto use is by far less expensive than transit use. Maybe a third to half as much.

    I have made the point before that transit can never reduce congestion because congestion is a prerequisite for transit to work. To some extent, Metro has changed the locus of congestion more than it has reduced it, and changed the destination of auto trips rather than eliminated them.

    Of course the argument can be made, as has been done in this thread, that congestion would be worse without transit. Not so, or anyway, not so much. Congestion is fast approaching or has passed the point where people are willing to deal with it. The capacity for congestion is as maxed out as the Orange line. So where would all those extra cars go, absent Transit? They would go farther into the hinterland and new jobs would be created out there to support them. As EMR has pointed out, physically you can put only so many cars in so much space.

    The same thing is true with Metro cars. The Orange line is tapped out, and it provides an experience that is inferior to driving in every respect but one – you don’t have to operate Metro yourself. Hiring people to do that for you necessarily makes transit more expensive than auto, if you consider only capital, maintenance, and operations expense. Hiring people has staggering effects on the costs of transit peak capacity costs and this is the major problem we are trying to solve. Why choose a solution that has such obvious faults in achieving its main purpose?

    Even worse, the Orange line is tapped out in one direction and hauling mostly empty cars in the other, it is less convenient in mid day and at night when autos become more convenient, unless your evening plans include alcohol.

    As far as I can figure out, the arguments Waldo makes are incorrect, or have large, unproven premises. The best data I can find suggests that if we rely on transit to carry the passenger demand that roads do now, the total expenses would make roads look positively cheap.

    For one thing, transit is supported by auto users that hope someone else will ride. If we are all riders we will have to take up all the expense ourselves, and the true costs will become readily apparent, and the costs will be far higher than increasing the road budget beyond 2018.

    You cannot afford to build transit into low density suburbs, and it is even more expensive to build it in densely populated areas. Railroads present as great a barrier to pedestrians as highways, and they present a barrier to highways as well. Metro has not only tunnel problems it has platform problems, escalator problems, peak capacity problems, and outright congestion problems: you can’t load and unload a train before the next one arrives, fequently.

    Because of all these problems, there isn’t anyplace where transit carries more than a few per cent of demand: it has to be that way or you can’t afford transit.

    The biggest energy users we have are cities. If you believe that the end of oil will result in the end of auto use, then you had best believe it will result in the end of cities, as we know them, as well.

  32. Olivia Avatar

    I’m trying to figure out WHY Paul rides the orange line at all?

    Is it just the price of parking where you work that causes you to endure the suffering of the orange line?

    Fares could be raised to the outer burbs to help defray some of the cost of metro operation. Not that anyone really wants to pay more, but if it’s a money sucker, somebody has to pay for it, why not the riders.

    Living outside the area, I was unaware that the Dulles line was orange and that orange was full at rush hour. If that’s the case, that does seem to be a ridiculous build.

    I did recently fly in to Dulles however. Arriving at the god awful time of 5:30 on a Friday. It took 2 1/2 hours to get from Dulles to Lake Ridge.

    What is the solution to our transportation problem? More roads? We’d have to double deck them in some places (not a problem in my eyes), but I saw a lot of people making fun of Russ Potts for saying that same thing (or was it the WAY he said it and not the fact that he *said* it?)

    And who is going to pay for these roads? Everywhere I turn, nobody wants to pay for anything, but we all *want* it. For example, I saw in Bolling’s literature that he’s going to put 1 BILLION more towards roads, but not raise taxes a penny. HOW will he do that – the money fairy? (Especially since he didn’t indicate cutting *anything*).

  33. Olivia:

    It’s a good point. I didn’t mention that cost of parking in DC. I pay 80-90 a month on the Metro, but parking costs around 150 or so and when you add in gas, it’s way too expensive.

    Double decking is ugly (depresses surrounding property values), expensive, and creates traffic backups during construction that make lane widening construction look like a cakewalk.

    I always assumed that a gas tax increase is implied in Bolling’s plan, even though he denies it and has voted against it in the past. I may be wrong. The point of his plan may just be to secure donations from the construction industry and nothing else…

    So what do we do? Most people on here agree (to various extents) that altering the way we currently plan land will improve the traffic situation (or at least keep it from getting worse). Some of us are a bit more skeptical than others, however. I think you can get marginal improvements by creating balanced communities with commercial/residential mixed and within walking distance. However, the way property values are working now, these communities would be prohibitively expensive to live in (where would the service sector employees live? They’d have to drive in, I suppose). And the one variable that is too fluid to predict is “location of employment”. Someone takes a job in their nice walkable community and then gets transfered across town 2 years later. Or they take a better job 2 years later somewhere else.

    Anyway, I ramble. What do we do? 1. We can continue to expand outward and make sure we create employment on the perifery of metro areas.
    2. We can build the roads/road improvements that we need and be mindful that any road through a rural area should be limited access to limit sprawl.
    3. We should, at the very least, index the gas tax to inflation.
    4. Any new community/development should be planned in a pedestrian friendly manner so that that 10 people who decide to walk to work won’t clog the roads.
    5. We should continue to fund the current Metro infrastructure but be mindful that we’re facing a crisis in the Arlington area with thousands of new residential units being added each year within 2-3 blocks of Metro stops.
    6. We should not, by any means, expand metro beyond 1 or 2 stops further, where needed. There are legit arguments to be made (especially post-BRAC) that Metro needs to go to Ft. Belvoir. The same goes with a Metro to Tysons scenario. You already have high density and plenty of people commuting from Arlington to Tysons by car, so Metro makes sense.

    Finally, I’ll say this: One thing I really like about EMR’s work is his attack on the myth that the government can create a transportation system that allows people to live 30 miles from work and commute smoothly. We’ve been taught all of our lives that road building and traffic management is a core responsibility of the government. Well, it is…but we also have some responsibility in this equation. If we choose to live far from our place of work, then we can’t expect the government to spend billions to make our commute painless. I hope I described this correctly…EMR calls it the Private Vehicle Mobility Myth:

    “Individuals and families believe it to be their right to live wherever they can afford, and work wherever they can find a job. In addition, they believe they can seek services and recreation wherever they choose. After citizens make these choices, the Private-Vehicle Mobility Myth holds that it is possible (in fact, it is an inalienable right of those who make these decisions) to have government provide a roadway/highway/expressway system that allows them to drive a private vehicle wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go there and arrive in a safe and timely manner.”

  34. Other commonsense projects:

    Widening route 1. Add 18k jobs to that route 1 corridor and you’re talking HELL. It’s already backed up with the current situation.

    Widen the beltway with HOT lanes. It hasn’t been done for a generation.

    Add HOT lanes to the Dulles toll-way. Instead of the Metro to Dulles, expand the high speed bus service so that it behaves like a metro (a bus leaves Dulles every 1-2 minutes). You can do this for about 1/100 of the cost of expanding Metro to Dulles, according to my made up (yet surprisingly accurate) estimates.

    Van pools, van pools, van pools. Work with neighborhood associations and get more van pools started. perhaps a bit of government investment to leverage private investment in van pool companies. Let people write off van pool fares as if they were WMATA fares.

    Build a Western Bypass/north south connector. No exit points where it crosses through the rural sections of Stafford/PW/Loudoun!!! This is not a sprawl road, it’s a get around the city roads. Right now people are using route 17 for the same purpose anyway. Put a hefty toll on it! Tax those out of staters…

    In conjunction with that last idea: ram the techway potomac crossing down Maryland’s throat while they still have a Republican governor.

    There you are. if you take all of these steps and the steps in the last post, you will improve traffic marginally in some localities. And personally I think that’s all we can ask for.

  35. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Olivia: If the riders had to pay anything like what it costs, Metro would go out of business tomorrow. The only reason Metro costs are as low as they are is that thousands of Auto drivers are paying part of the cost.

    If we actually shift a large portion of the ridership to Metro, we will have to spend billions to get the capacity up and it will make roads look cheap. Government can no more afford to provide unlimited Metro peak capacity than it can unlimited highway peak capacity.

    The problem with EMR mobility myth is that people DO have the right to live and work where they want and they DO have the right to have government provide the facilities. The problem is that, then, the citizens also have the responsibility to pay for their choices.

    One way we pay for our choices is with congestion. When the cost of congestion gets too high, then some people will move closer to work, some people will move work closer to home, and some people and jobs will relocate entirely. Therefore the timely manner portion of the Myth does not hold.

    It seems to me that waht the Myth boils down to is that EMR and some others are unwilling to pay their share of the costs and so they would like to see our rights taken away: the myth is written as if they are already gone, but they are not.

    This part of the problem (arriving in a timely manner) only exists as long as we all demand timely access in places and periods of peak demand. Any place else is not a problem. Congestion area fees, tolls, higher fares, higher parking costs, and congestion are all ways that we reduce demand. However, reducing demand for access to congestied areas also reduces the desirability of those places from a business perspective – eventually the costs get so high that the added customer base isn’t worth the cost, and businesses move, which reduces the traffic demand in that area.

    Ultimately people need all the same stuff, and so they go get it somewhere else. Anyway you slice it, in the end, reducing congestion means spreading out area wise.

    You can, as EMR and others point out, walk everywhere you need to go, provided there are enough nearby opportunities to get what you need. There are two problems with this: 1) You are trading one kind of congestion for another, and the costs may not be, and probably wont be, any lower. 2)Regardless of how many opportunities are close enough to walk to, more opportunities are available if you choose to drive to them.

    Choosing the walking option always means you have fewer opportunites, or if you choose to walk far enough, they will cost you just as much in time as congestion does.

    Then of course you have to carry your stuff.

  36. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    How about the cost of metro accidents or when the METRO driver decided it was her quiting time and left the passengers standing in the train for hours while causing a jam for the entire system?

    Let’s compare the cost of auto accidents to metro accidents. We must be sure to include the cost for police, EMS, public facilities repairs, medical facilities/services, health insurance premiums, life insurance premiums, lost wages, the societal cost of lost lives, and social services for surviving families.

    I’ve got a hunch that one’s going to be more expensive than the other.

    I think Walo’s numbers are just as wrong as Phil’s, but Phil’s are probably closer if the proper caveats are taken.

    I didn’t provide any numbers.

  37. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Apologies for my mental shorthand, Waldo. I was referring to your 10:09 post about maintenance costs exceeding the budget and the (very general) prediction that metro use would start slow and start looking good in 2019.

    The case study I mentioned took into account the cost of auto accidents, emergency services etc. and auto use was still competitive. Such costs appear small for transit systems now because they move a small quantity of people relative to autos. The recent train wreck in Japan shows what can happen, and I imagine the cost of that wreck will far exceed the costs associated with an equal number of auto fatalities.

    Certainly train accidents are far less frequent than auto accidents, but the cost associated with that savings is evidenced by the huge number of inspectors, repair personnel, transit security, and other costs usually not associated with auto travel. Given that an accident occurs, the probability of a fatality and the probability of multiple fatalities is probably higher if a train is involved.

    This is a case where a complex system has lower costs of one kind at the expense of increased vigilance. The reason we can afford that increased vigilance is because the expected costs of failure are so high.

  38. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Olivia: The Orange line goes to Vienna. The new proposed line to Dulles will be named the Silver line. The Orange line currently operates at about capacity. And the bottleneck will occur in the Rosslyn tunnel, given that they are pretty much running the trains through the tunnel during rush hour at capacity. In other words, there isn’t excess capacity available to accomodate the proposed silver line for going through the tunnel.

    I believe that Sen. Bolling is talking about reprograming part of the surplus to transportation and setting up a lock box in the transportation fund so that it’s not raided like they have been doing it every year. I’m almost positive that Sen. Bolling is not talking about raising taxes or raising the gasoline tax. He’s talking about reprogramming some of the existing funding, building HOT lanes through public/private partnerships, getting more from the Federal Government (we now only getting back 90% of the federal transportation taxes collected in VA), dedicating insurance premium taxes to the transportation fund, etc. For more information on Sen. Bolling’s transportation proposals please see: http://billbolling.com/transportation.html.

  39. Anonymous Avatar

    Phil, et al:

    Metro only carries 4% of the Fairfax County population because there are not very many stations in Fairfax County. You can’t spout the 4% number and then turn around and say Metro is always full. If it’s full, then what reason could you possibly have for opposing its expansion?

    Metro has expanded parking at nearly every Metro station in Fairfax County in the last couple of years, and most of them are still at capacity. That tells me we need better access to Metro.

    And no, Metro is nowhere near its maximum capacity. Where do you guys get this stuff? It’s like you’ve never been to New York City. All you have to do is add cars and/or reduce headways between trains. Voila – more capacity. The problem is that Metro does not have enough cars to go around at this point. So the cheap option is yanking the seats.

  40. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Waldo: Your idea of comparing all these outside costs, makes little sense to me. You’ve got to compare apples to apples, and that’s only accomplished by comparing the construction and operating maintenance costs for highways vs. heavy rail.

  41. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    4% is a good number for most transit systems except NYC. In the DC area it applies to the whole system, not just Fairfax. Could be a little higher, but let’s not quibble.

    You can only add a little capacity by adding cars because platform length is limited. When the new cars arrive it will help some, but the plan is to order the new cars with fewer seats: doesn’t sound like a short term fix.

    As it stands now trains sometimes have to wait for the previous train to clear the station, partly because the cars are so jammed it takes longer than scheduled to empty/reload the cars, therefore you cannot reduce headway very much: Metro is suffering the exact same congestion problems the highways have. Peak time cars are full and the rest of the time it operates at below capacity and/or moves empty cars back for the next load. When the roads are empty, they (mostly) just sit there, but Metro has to be operated – even when it is empty.

    If Metro has to rely on parking lots, then it is not reducing auto use is it? All it has done is spread out the localized areas of congestion to the subway parking lots. If that works to eliminate congestion, then why not move the jobs to the metro stations with parking lots and eliminate the need for Metro?

    Metro is not near its maximum capacity, and neither are the roads. Metro is near its peak load capacity which is a much higher cost driver for transit than it is for roads. Roads are near or past their peak load capacity primarily where a small area is trying to absorb the load carrying capacity of a much larger area. EMR is correct on this point: physics will only allow you to do so much.

    There are, however, plenty of roads which are mostly sitting around waiting for traffic. They also have no population and no jobs associated with them.

  42. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anonymous: You can’t add more train capacity as the tracks won’t support it. As far as the Orange line is concerned, you can only get so many trains throught the Rosslyn tunnel per hour. We’re at capacity right now. This has been stated time and time again in this thread. You can’t add more capacity unless you build another tunnel. And good luck in building another tunnel–the underground construction costs for crossing the river are enormous.

  43. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Phil: some of the outside costs are nonsense and overstated, others represent real factors that should be considered. But the outside costs occur mainly to the same people that cause them – every body who relies on road transit, so you can argue to ignore those costs uniformly and focus on capital,operating and maintenance costs. With transit, some of those outside costs are partly mitigated with extraordinary human effort. To that extent it is fair to include the costs that NOT having such effort apply cause to fall on autos.

    In the end, it doesn’t make much difference: cars have it all over every other form of transit by any measure, and that is why they are the most popular mode.

  44. Phil: protecting the transportation trust fund is a laudable goal. But it’s only raided during recessions, right? I think Warner took a hundred million out in 2001…correct me if I’m wrong. That’s not a billion dollars a year. The surplus will be gone for good as soon as we enact the House GOP’s future agenda: property tax relief/merit pay/chesapeake cleanup/increasing healthcare costs. I don’t see where his money is coming from. He seems to be conjuring it out of thin air.

  45. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Paul: I agree, all I meant was that if the expectations are high the bill will be high, the problem is that the bill will be high regardless of what we do or don’t do. Cost of roads is high, cost of sprawl and BRAC is high, cost of metro is higher, cost of congestion higher still.

    If nothing else the number of posts to this thread shows where the hotspots are.

  46. I see what you’re saying.

    If the rumors are true (the media/bureaucrats/the pope) reads this blog, then hopefully somebody will learn something. Probably not from me, but from the rest of you.

  47. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Paul: There are more to Bolling’s plan than just protecting the trust fund. He’s also talking about building a lot of HOT roads through public/private partnerships. Also, getting 100% back from the Feds instead of the 90% that we currently get based on the federal taxes we pay. There may be other ideas in his plan as well, I don’t rememer off the top of my head. But that’s how he comes up with a billion.

    Frankly, even the billion dollar figure is too low. I believe that VDOT estimates our transportation needs for the next 20 years at $80 or $100 billion (I may have this wrong as I’m typing this off memory, but it’s a HUGE number nonetheless). So even if we could come up with $1 billion per year, it’s only going to be a drop in the bucket.

    That’s why we need to force people to make an economic decision every time they get in their cars or use public transit. And by subsidizing the costs of either doesn’t help in making people decide what’s best for their transportation needs purely on a dollars and cents basis–just like consumers buy any other conveniences, commodities, groceries, etc.

  48. republitarian Avatar

    just thought I’d make it an even 50

  49. Phil:

    I follow transportation issues in the senate and house (I attend hearings and do a write up on them) and I can tell you with 100% confidence that there is no way that Virginia will ever get 100% of their transportation funds back from the feds.

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