Grab Your Flintlock and Light Up the Torches, the Rebellion is Here!

The May 15, 2006, edition of Bacon’s Rebellion has been published. You can read the entire edition online here. Our columns and departments this week include:

Rail Rip-off
Extending METRO rail to Dulles Airport will enrich select landowners to the tune of billions of dollars. Why, then, are Fairfax County commuters being forced to pay so much of the project cost?
by James A. Bacon

Sense and Census
Opinions about new and different Americans are fine. Facts are better.
by Doug Koelemay

Shades of Francis Nicholson
Like the power-hungry royal governor of old, Gov. Tim Kaine seems willing to misuse the powers of his office. But his budget brinksmanship could backfire.
by Patrick McSweeney

Another Grandiose Plan
Apparently, $120 million to renovate the state Capitol complex is not enough. The state Senate wants to spend another $400 million.
by Patrick McSweeney

The Problem with “Mass” Transit
Light and heavy rail are expensive, inflexible alternatives to the automobile. It’s time to consider a 21st-century solution to mobility in New Urban Regions: Personal Rapid Transit.
by EM Risse

Learning from Pocahontas
Gov. Kaine smartly bailed out the Pocahontas Parkway project by granting a concession to a private toll-road operator. Too bad he didn’t apply the same creative thinking to the Dulles Toll Road.
by Geoffrey Segal

Republican Blues
The GOP has more than the Democrats to worry about this November. The Party is struggling from internal divisions, as seen in the convention battle in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.
by Philip Rodokanakis

Stuck on Stupid
The Senate Republicans who worked out a proposed regional transportation authority are the same geniuses who thought up the Transportation Tax Scam that voters rejected in 2002.
by James Atticus Bowden

Nice & Curious Questions
Have You Ever Seen the Rain: Droughts in Virginia
by Edwin S. Clay III and Patricia Bangs

Blogology
Ten Questions for Will Vehrs
Conaway Haskins


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Comments

4 responses to “Grab Your Flintlock and Light Up the Torches, the Rebellion is Here!”

  1. Toomanytaxes Avatar
    Toomanytaxes

    Jim:

    Extending Metrorail to Dulles under the proposed terms and conditions is even worse than you have painted. Table 6.2-2 (from page 6-25 of the final EIS submitted by the State in December 2004) shows that there is virtually no inprovement in traffic congestion despite spending billions on Metrorail. This is not something made up by opponents of Metro, but rather, it’s the best evidence that the project’s official sponsor — the Commonwealth of Virginia — can muster in favor of spending billions of taxpayer and toll road user money.

    What is so amazing is that the mainstream press is either ignorant of these projections or has chosen not to publish them. Likewise, very few elected officials in Virginia — from the Governor on down — is willing to acknowledge these projections and to address them in a fair discussion.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I am posting comments e-mailed to me by e-zine reader Bryan Drake.

    Some very interesting items in this issue.

    I read with great interest your piece on the Dulles Rail project and while I tend to agree with most of what you stated, there is a party to this that seems to be overlooked. The massive increase in property values around the stations will not just enrich the landowners. The localities that levy property taxes will also see huge increases in tax collections. It seems to me that the localities should be paying a larger share as well.

    I also take issue with your comment “Not all landowners will come out ahead under the current financing scenario. Those whose properties are located closest to METRO stations will see the greatest increase in value, while those located more than a half mile distant will see only marginal increases in value. Some landowners will get fabulously rich from METRO while others will get very little from it. Yet everyone within the tax district would pay on the same basis.” The landowners in that area will all pay on the same basis but those that get the most increase in land values will pay the most tax as their assessments will increase the most. The landowners that get the most increase in value will be paying the largest tax increases.

    I also enjoyed Doug Koelemay’s well written article on the immigration issue.

    The article by EM Risse is also thought provoking but he seems to overlook a small issue with the PRT dream. Routing packets on the internet may be a great metaphor but internet packets are created on demand and do not have to return to their point of origin for reuse. One major problem with PRT systems is that they have to be grossly over configured or they cannot accommodate the “bursty” traffic that will occur. If the PRT vehicles could just disintegrate like IP packets and be created on demand whenever needed it would be a great idea. The overhead of running empty PRT vehicles to distribute capacity is a major issue that has yet to be adequately solved. Nonetheless, we do need to keep innovating and trying.

    Of course we can always count on the shrill rantings of McSweeney to provide balance to any thoughtful articles.

    Addendum: One additional comment on the Dulles Toll Road/Rail issue. Maintaining the tolls on the Dulles Toll road to pay for the Rail line may seem like an unfair thing but it will create incentive for people to choose the rail over the road. If the rail costs money and the road becomes free we get the opposite effect. One of our problems with traffic and transportation is that people like their autonomy and so they will drive their expensive, fuel gulping, pollution generating personal vehicles even when alternatives are available. Providing cost incentives is a time proven way to encourage people to change their habits.

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Some Thoughts on Bryan Drakes PRT comments:

    The Internet metaphore is about routeing, not about what happens after the passenger gets out and is not intended to be an operating princile.

    Three notes:

    Most of the origins become destinations later in a 24 hour cycle so flow back is not a big problem.

    The flow back problem of off-line staion / PRT is minor compared with “Mass Transit” where the whole train must recycle and thus most of the METRO trains leave most of the stations most of the time essentially empty.

    The flow back problem of off-line station / PRT is very minor compared to private vehicles where the problem is called “parking.”

    More on comments in general in a seperate post

    EMR

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I agree with all of Bryan Drake’s comments except this:

    Maintaining the tolls on the Dulles Toll road to pay for the Rail line may seem like an unfair thing but it will create incentive for people to choose the rail over the road. If the rail costs money and the road becomes free we get the opposite effect.

    I have pointed out previously that a subsidy is an incentive you don’t happen to agree with. Neither the roads nor the rail should be subsidized, yet they both must be paid for. The users and surrounding land owners should pay for what they get in both instances.

    Roads are not free. In fact, despite their many external costs, road users still pay a higher percentage of their actual costs than any other mode.

    It is still not enough and road users should be charged more. But that money should be used for roads and not be siphoned off to support road’s competitors.

    If we freely elect to create and pay for a transit system to compete with road travel, that is well and good. We can incentivize people to use it by keeping the fares low and frequency high. But we need to take the costs for that incentive out of our pockets, if that is what we want.

    Taking that money out of the pockets of people who have clearly indicated that they are not interested in our scheme, and equally clearly indicated that they are willing to pay for some other mode is not an incentive: it is stealing.

    People should pay for the choices they make and not steal from those who make other choices. Neither should they be penalized at some later date, just because conditions changed, or the choice they made has since become unpopular.

    Getting back to surrounding land uses, we should apply the same standards to road as to rail. Rail gets credit for creating development, but roads get denigrated. Those fortunate enough to have a rail buried under their property are encouraged to build to the max, but the same landowner applying the same logic to a new road is despised as a rapacious speculator. The roadside landowner may get no benefit from the road, even if land for the road was taken from him.

    If we are going to compare alternatives we need to do so on a level playing field so far as possible.

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