Hampton Roads Congestion Tolls: Cheaper Than Building New Capacity

The Virginia Department of Transportation is studying the use of congestion pricing as a tool to get drivers off the road during rush hour, reports the Associated Press. The study would build upon data developed by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

The commission’s traffic engineers have found that between 3.5 million and 4 million trips are made each day by Hampton Roads drivers, with about a quarter of them during the rush hours. About 10 percent of all morning rush-hour vehicles are occupied by people on nonessential trips, such as shopping or personal errands, and that figure rises to almost 30 percent in the afternoon, according to the engineers.

Delaying drivers by as little as 15 minutes or convincing them to choose a non-interstate route could significantly lower interstate congestion levels and would be cheaper than new construction, said Dwight L. Farmer, deputy executive director of the commission.

It makes total sense. But persuading motorists that they aren’t getting ripped off is another matter entirely.

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40 responses to “Hampton Roads Congestion Tolls: Cheaper Than Building New Capacity”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Whether they are getting ripped off, depends on where the money goes, no?

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    this is very interesting.
    somewhere… someone has developed some metrics with regard to how many folks are making discretionary trips during rush hour and I would presume that such metrics are not unique (though I admit ignorance)…

    at any rate… what this means is that the toll road operators know quite a bit about their potential “customers”. 🙂

    and it may also mean… that trend data can be developed that will show when the non-discretionary traffic might grow to the point of overwhelming the existing infrastructure

    … which means.. the ability to put together a financial plan.. in advance of the construction so that funding will be available when it is needed

    .. provided as anonymous sez .. the money gets set aside like it should be.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    The question from an economic standpoint is whether their are economic losses from taking the discretionary trips off the road. Is the savings in not building new construction cheaper than the NPV of the non-trips.
    Also what is the elasticity of demand when it comes to implementing tolls. In the morning 90% of users HAVE to be somewhere (job, school, etc) so all the increases in tolls will do is increase revenue with little change in users. This will definitely upset the citizenry as they feel they are being gouged without a noticeable improvement in road conditions.
    Not saying that more free roads are the answer, but potentially damaging the economy to save money on infrastructure might not be the best idea.


  4. Groveton Avatar

    Will increasing the price of driving reduce the demand to drive? Of course it will.

    What is the price elasticity of driving? Who knows? But it’s not infinite. So, there will be some percentage reduction in driving as the cost of driving goes up.

    But – guess what? Increasing the price of gasoline will do the same thing.

    So will increasing the taxes paid to own a car.

    Where will the money go?

    It will go to subsidize absurdly low real estate tax rates in rural Virginia.

    At least it will go there until 2012 when the redistricting of Virginia required by the 2010 census takes effect.

    After that – who knows? Hopefully for transportation problems and sensible economic development programs.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think the different methods have the same effect.

    Raising gas taxes statewide will not have the same impact on rush hour discretionary trips in urban areas as tolls on specific urban roads will in my opinion.

    In fact, when you raises gas taxes statewide and then turn that money over to unelected Richmond folks who use politics in making road decisions… I would say there often can be a major disconnect between… say the 10 most needed roads in Virginia .. and the 10 most wanted roads in Virginia.

    So… was the Springfield Interchange the most “needed” or the most “wanted”?

    I would posit that the folks who want the Coalfield Expressway would have a different view than say a Fredericksburg to NoVa commuter.

    Why not let each locality decide just how important a road is to THEM?

    I see the “economic harm” thing… as a ..”put your money where your mouth is”… challenge..

    if someone wants to claim there is economic harm in worker who has to get up an hour earlier to get to work – good luck on proving that to anyone – other than that worker.


    UPS, Fed Ex, etc.. I’ll be you dollars to donuts.. they’ll gladly pay the toll… I saw no shortage of said companies on the toll roads in Illinois and Indiana…

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    This is really great stuff.

    Sure, if you are the vendor who happens to be the target of one of those “discretionary trips”, then what is the cost of tolls to you? Maybe the trip is done later when tolls are lower or absent, or maybe it just goes someplace else. Maybe someplace farther away, even.

    So, tell me again how tolls reduce demand? They reduce the temporal demand on that road, sure. But if someone needs a load of 2×4’s he will go somewhere to get them, or else have them delivered. Same demand.

    If we put tolls on ALL roads or otherwise increase the price, then maybe it reduces demand. But as ZS points out reducing that demand might not come without costs of its own. We know that VMT is pretty nearly exactly correlated with GNP.


    I think the non rush travel is in line with other data I have seen. Something like 90% of congestion occurs on 10% of roads and is caused by the 25% of periodic rush hour travel.

    We readily accept the idea that a 5% reduction in demand can reduce the queue by 50% or more, but we reject the idea that a 5% increase in capacity will have the same effect. We say that because of the induced demand theory.

    How then, will we get that 5% reduction in demand, that we think will work (assuming that the reduction doesn’t induce some other demand of its own, just as more capacity does)? Well, we’ll raise the price, thinking this saves us money on road building.

    Excuse me, we are still paying, but now we aren’t getting the road.

    Except, we built the toll road, and, we might use the tolls to build a new road, so we are going to pay for one anyway.

    Someday. After the toll road is paid for, and after the operator takes his cut.

    And when someday happens, the new road will not be built where the toll road is (probably, too expensive, no land, etc.), it will be built someplace else, for people who never contributed to its being built. Or maybe the money will go to transit, probably someplace else. Or to lower real estate taxes, someplace else.

    And that’s if the money gets set aside, as it should be.

    Those HR guys really know how to sell a bridge, don’t they?


  7. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Gee … since the PLAN being pushed by the HAPTON ROADS PARTNERSHIP and the state owned PORT AUTHORITY is to dump up to 7,000 more HUGE TRUCKS EACH DAY on the local highway system – due to the PLAN to EXPAND the port – then perhaps the congestion pricing should be aimed at all COMMERCIAL TRUCK traffic instead of slamming it to the citizens that live here?

    Ever notice that “the plan” is focused on COMMUTERS, while the other “plans” are FULL SPEED AHEAD for thousands of more TRUCKS and endless new development???

    Here is an idea – let’s get all the COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC off the highways by charging COMMERCIAL traffic a lot HIGHER tolls than the locals that live here.

    Gosh, why that would freee up a lot of capacity for the folks that pay for the highways to use.

    Further, let’s “modify behavior” related to new DEVELOPMENT – which is a HUGE factor in clogging up our available highway capacity.

    Let’s sock it to the DEVELOPERS, mortgage lenders, and real estate profiteers – let’s increase fees on their profits from new DEVELOPMENT.

    Next, let’s go after the PORT AUTHORITY to add fees to handle each container moving in and out of the port by TRUCK. That is only fair, is it not?

    Ever notice how the “plan” always seem to target citizens and in the end, does what can be done to avoid passing costs onto those business interests that profit most from over development and port expansion?

    Obviously if the congestion pricing is designed to reduce DRIVING – then it makes sense to increase costs to DEVELOPERS, BANKS, and Real Estate professionals – to change their behavior and encourage less development.

    And let us not forget another HUGE factor in clogging up our highways – TOURISTS!!

    Let’s charge TOURIST DRIVERS and HOTEL OWNERS higher taxes and fees to recover the cost needed to add capacity to our highway system.

    Let’s make it clear to TOURISTS that they need to avoid COMMUTER TIMES when the “visit” our region – or they will be soacked with a HUGE TOLL. After all, isn’t vacationing more “decretionary” than commuting back and forth to one’s job?

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    That’s a great plan, Reid.

    And it won’t cost us anything!!!!


  9. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Once again.

    I can tell you right now that congestion tolls aren’t going to do anything except get people out of here. Which might relieve congestion, but at a major cost to the regional GDP.

    The wages here are low, as you have already seen in the economics studies you have done. The jobs are strictly nine to five. That’s why the cars are stacked up in the morning and evening. Even the port doesn’t run trucks 24/7.

    No one telecommutes because the old fashioned civilian employers believe only in the power of the cube, and the Navy generally doesn’t allow outside connections.

    No one walks to work, and you can’t get there from here on the crappy bus.

    So some of those fees and taxes would have to re-allocated to public transit and other congestion reducing measures that are not covered in the current law. Which opens up the door to impose what the ‘naysayers’ have been saying all along. Regional government.

    The end result of these schemes will be more people moving out for the higher paying jobs up north. The local aggravation pay just isn’t sufficient to overcome more inconveniences to our quality of life. A rust belt city in the making.

    It bears repeating, if these tolls are implemented there will be a rush for the exits. People are not going to put up with getting gouged in their meager paycheck by endless fees and taxes, and then receiving insult to injury by paying additional outrageous tolls for the right to work in Tidewater. And all that is not counting the real estate problems and the cities lust for more money.

    As for moving traffic off the interstate to the local streets, well that’s a joke as well. The streets are worse than the nosofreeways.

    The politicians don’t seem to realize just how bad they have screwed things up. The people here in Tidewater are p*ssed more than I’ve ever seen in the past 12 years I’ve lived here.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    We know that VMT is pretty nearly exactly correlated with GNP.

    WRONG! show me the data… or admit you just threw this up in the air.

    VMT has tripled in 20 years and I don’t think GNP has…but correct me… if I’m wrong.

    ….”but we reject the idea that a 5% increase in capacity will have the same effect.”

    wrong again…

    even if this were true – and its not – you’d have to add 5% to the entire regional NETWORK or else you’d merely move traffic down the road to where no expansion was done. This is what folks are saying right now about the “wonderful” Springfield Interchange; all it does is speed you to the next bottleneck…

    would you like to give a quess at home much it would cost to ADD 5% to a regional network like the beltway at 50-100 million per mile?

    Try the 18 mile ICC – 3 billion dollars – and guess what – it WILL be a Toll Road if it ever built.

    How many more ICC’s and Springfield Interchanges, would you propose be added and how would you pay for them?

    we’re talking about managing congestion on a road network that cannot be easily expanded both from a physical and a fiscal point of view.

    Gas tax.. on who? all of Virginia to pay for HR/TW roads or NoVa roads?

    Good Luck…

    So.. how about increased gas tax on HR/TW folks.

    Okay – THAT is ALREADY in the plan and may be as high as 13 cents a gallon but that won’t even touch the cost of the tunnel infrastructure that they’re talking about.

    Show me the money!

    I agree with Reid by the way on the trucks and in most states with toll roads.. if you pay attention.. trucks DO pay higher tolls…and yes.. appropriate to “encourage” them NOT to use the roads at rush hour.

    but we’re talking about rush hour which consists mostly of folks in cars trying to get from home to work and back.. and trucks make it harder but getting rid of the trucks won’t change the other 95% of the traffic.

    The one option that seems to be most popular is to let other Virginians pay higher gas taxes so that HR/TW can build their tunnels/bridges


    say..come to think of it.. that seems to be a popular option in NoVa also


    so.. we’ll get the taxpayers in RoVa to pay for HR/TW, NoVa… and whatever other urban area that wants to get on the bandwagon.. their roads too.

    A novel concept.. you gotta admit.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Darrell is right about the job market there. The majority of workers have to work very specific hours and can’t work outside those core hours, particularly the military. The idea of just leaving earlier or later just isn’t a possibility unless workers want to show up a couple hours early for work and leave a couple hours after work hours are completed. Not a very desirable option if you are already tapped and can’t afford $10+ tolls a day.

    When they talk about congestion taxes in HR, they are specifically talking about the HRBT, downtown, midtown tunnel, and maybe 264; VMT isn’t a major problem. With the tunnels this means there are no alternatives unless one wants to drive 30+ miles out of their way. There are no rail lines, BRT, or HOV through the tunnels to shift SOV to. If only 10% of trips in the morning rush hour are discretionary how are you going to move the other 90% to their required destination. Either you get them to the job centers or the economy collapses. People there already factor in the time loss to get to work there, increasing those costs (time and money) on marginal workers (marginal cost > marginal benefit) in the name of congestion relief will increase unemployment and migration from HR.

    HR just has too many constraints that NOVA doesn’t have to immediately put in congestion fees. You also can’t just tell people to move closer to their jobs since the shipyards (NN, Portsmouth) are on different sides of the water from Little Creek and NOB.

    I don’t know if they can implement HOT/HOV lanes in the tunnels without jamming the highways worse than they are. It would require commuter slots, slug lines, consistent bus service, etc. I saw the light rail line they are putting in Norfolk, but that does nothing to help the worst bottlenecks in the tunnels. The 3rd crossing or putting a rail line across the water are extremely expensive and may not have an ROI to justify their high costs.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “you’d merely move traffic down the road to where no expansion was done.”

    Tell me how HOT lanes are any different. All I’m asking for is a consistent argument.

    I think Darrell is right, and I;ve said so before. Hot lanes are going to be the biggest sprawl enabler ever invented, and rightly so. People will be headed for the exits, unless their employers pick up the tolls. Probably some will and some won’t. They will be headed for the exits.


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “Gas tax.. on who? all of Virginia to pay for HR/TW roads or NoVa roads?

    Good Luck… “

    And where exactly will the toll money be spent? It will be spent on new roads someplace else, and that is where people will exit to.

    Or they will try to, until they run into the “you are not allowed here” laws.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    In the period 1960 to 1996 the U.S. economy, measured by gross domestic product (in 1996 constant dollars), grew by an average 3.4 percent per year. In that same period, the nation’s primary energy use grew 2.1 percent annually. In effect, the nation’s energy intensity — in other words, the amount of energy needed to support the nation’s economic activity — declined by an average rate of 1.3 percent per year. In the period 1996 to 1999, however, the nation’s energy intensity declined at a rate of 3.4 percent annually. In absolute terms this is significantly greater than the 2.7 percent rate of decline that occurred in the “oil crisis” years of 1973 to 1986 (Energy Information Administration, 1999a and 1999b).


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    In 2000, highway capital expenditures were 2.35 cents per vehicle mile of travel (VMT) as compared to 1.04 cents per VMT in 1970 — and 126 % increase. After accounting for inflation, 2000 capital expenditures were only 0.56 cents per VMT, a 46% decrease from 1970’s capital expenditures.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Vehicle-Miles of Travel (VMT)

    There is a strong relationship between the Nation’s economy and travel on the Nation’s highway system. Since the 1930’s, growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and vehicle-miles of travel (VMT) reflect strikingly similar patterns, including the period of energy disruptions during the 1970’s.


    Strong is putting it politely. The relationship is damn near exact. See the graph.


  17. Anonymous Avatar

    As the evidence mounts that HOVla nes will not produce expected reductions m
    congestion and emission, alternatives are being sought High occupancy toll (HOT) lanes
    and truck only lanes are attractive alternatives…”


    Excuse me?

    If HOV lanes didn’t work what makes us think that charging for HOV lanes will work?

    “The scenarios are
    evaluated against travel, emissions, total economic benefit, and equity criteria With
    respect to travel and emissions, the results did not vary much a mongst scenarios but the
    economic benefit results did have more significant variation”

    Well, DUH.

    Johnston and Ceerla (1996) also find that new HOV lanes may increase vehicle miles
    traveled (VMT) and thus emissions compared to a no-build scenario.

    DUH again.

    Then the article goes on to examine the economic effects predicted by dicrete model choices. The problem being that users have many other choices, than the discrete ones being studied.

    “SACMET cannot capture the effect of changes in the transportation system (i e, travel
    time and cost) on the location of activities. Such effects would likely be significant for
    large regional transportation projects or policy changes, like the ones examined in this

    Clifornia and the FEDS paid a bunch of PhD’s to come up with this, and Darrrel did in his head in two seconds.


  18. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Well here is another kink in the system. There are several thousand military retirees living and working here. Most signed up for the military’s health plan, Tricare. Like me, I have been on the system since I retired in 1994. The idea was that even if I lost a job, I would still keep my medical. Well the problem is that the military wants retirees off the system and into civilian plans. They have been trying to increase the premiums by nearly 200 percent. When that got shot down, they attacked from a different direction.

    Many employers offer Tricare supplement plans in addition to standard health plans. I signed up for it several years ago to lower my outlays for the frequent doctor visits and medications that my family takes. Most of these meds aren’t carried by the military plan and must be bought outside the system. Tricare doesn’t pay squat, but the supplement does. Last year, unknown to most of us, Congress passed a law forbidding such supplements. The down side is because most of us are older, it costs a greater amount to switch to a civilian plan if we can even get one. But if we don’t, when the supplement dies in Jan. our other employer paid plans for things like vision care is also dropped.

    So by keeping us from getting reimbursed for a lousy 12 dollar co-pay, the military plan will actually have more problems because we will visit the military hospitals more often, and will start using the military version of vision care. It will also mean fewer retirees will stick around here supporting the military for pay that is less than what an E-5 makes these days.

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I stand corrected on the relationship of VMT and GNP…

    apologies to RH…

    on HOT lanes –

    the ones built and operated to date – do affect congestion and the premise is that not everyone really needs to be on the road during rush hour.

    Just about every place that HOT lanes have been implemented there have been folks who said they would never work.. but they have – and, in fact, in the NoVa area HOV is pretty successful with SLUGs.

    It might turn out that some regions like TW/HR do have some unique characteristics that may result in less effective outcome but what really strikes me is the idea that HR/TW “cannot help itself” and therefore the rest of the state “must” help the region with their transportation issues.

    this is the same viewpoint of some folks in other urban areas – including NoVa..

    and folks.. I don’t buy it. It’s a cop-out…

    We have folks in Fredericksburg who make the same argument.

    and does anyone seriously think that Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Lynchburg are going to stand by and watch their taxes diverted to other urban areas?

    give me a break.

    so you don’t like tolls.. okay.. find something you do like.. and get on with finding your way to something that does work..for your region.

    congestion pricing/HOT lanes is worth trying.. as a pilot.. if it turns out to fail.. you have not lost anything.. you’re just back to square one.

    however, the option of “we can’t help ourselves and we don’t want to work together as a region and therefore we must be bailed out by RoVa…. ehhh.. I don’t think it’s bird is gonna fly… unless you load that duck in a skeet gun and shoot it.

    don’t like what is on the table??

    we hear that loud and clear. Now put your plan on the table.

  20. Congestion pricing in an area with multiple bottlenecks and poor transit alternatives? Maybe this will be an opportunity to see how private entrepreneurship can step in where government subsidized transit is unavailable. I would be curious to see the numbers of private transit options already in the region.


  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here is my main complaint.

    Why should ANY region/locality in Virginia EXPECT .. MORE road funding that the folks who live in their region/locality have actually paid in gasoline taxes?

    Where (who) would they think that money come from? The standard answer is the “State” – like it is a money fountain….

    Folks – the “State” is taxpayers across Virginia including those who live outside of the urban areas and who also pay fuel taxes and who also have transportation needs.

    An article in RTD this morning – indicated that Richmond might want to also have a Transportation Authority – and if they did that – that, then 60% of Virginia’s population would be contained in those three areas.

    Add in Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Roanoke, etc and chances are that 80% of Virginia will be included.

    So.. all of these urban areas are wanting more money back from the State that they contribute via their gas taxes…

    These folks….

    1. – are totally off the planet in terms of being realistic – politically … AND fiscally.

    there simply is not enough money in RoVa to fund the urban areas and it boggles my mind that they’re sticking with this concept.

    2. – probably got into that mindset when VDOT had “paper” plans for projects for each region that far, far exceeded any hope of funding. Those projects NEVER were more than numbers on a piece of paper and the people that believed them were/are king of the turnip truck riders…

    3. – stuck in the mindset that somehow.. those phantom paper projects are “owed” to them by VDOT and RoVA because they got written down on a piece of paper.

    4. – refuse to take financial responsibility for at least the part of their region’s transportation infrastructure that primarily serves their commuting residents.

    5. – don’t want to work together as a region – either.. even though they’re designated as an MSA AND the Feds have mandated a regional MPO to coordinate ALL transportation in the region.

    6. – diss the GA proposal granting their region – the ability to utilize comprehensive options (including, but not restricted to HOV and congestion pricing and transit) to determine their own respective destinies letting them decide what balance of taxes and transportation projects are appropriate for their region.

    Finally.. if folks think VDOT is keeping more of the fuel tax money than they should for the maintenance of the roads – there is the option.. that Henrico and other counties HAVE exercised.

    They take over their own road maintenance and get the money directly that their folks paid in gasoline taxes to do that.

    In my mind – the absolute biggest problem that we have in Virginia with Settlement Patterns – is having local folks make land-use decisions without regard to the traffic consequences ..

    they liked it much better when they could blame VDOT.. for shortcomings.

    Only when localities and Regions – OWN .. BOTH the land-use decisions AND the transportation consequences will Virginia start to see more rational planning.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    “the ones built and operated to date – do affect congestion and the premise is that not everyone really needs to be on the road during rush hour.”

    I don’t doubt this. but I have also seen photogrpahs of the HOT lanes in action: they look a lot like HOV lanes. A few cars in one moving along OK and four lanes of traffic sitting.

    Altough it does not appear that way, and most people don’t beleive it, HOV lanes (and presumably HOT lanes) move more people faster than the other two or three congested lanes combined.

    To that extent you are correct.

    But, we have world class congestion here, and those other lanes will still be the same. (It is still that old induced or latent demand problem.)

    So, you have a few people who can solve their congeston problem, if they are willing to pay or carpool. And this whole thing gurantees a return to the operators, which is underwritten and bonded by everyone else, along with the cost of all the interchanges, which were never included in the deal. Everyone else gets near nothing out of it, I think. I could be wrong.

    And we have no idea where the states portion of the money will go.

    So, if you have a capacity problem and you reduce the demand through pricing, congestion, or shifts in time, well, the road might flow a little better, but you have not solved the problem: you still have demand you can’t meet, or that you pushed eslewhere, probably suboptimally.

    I don’t see that as success. It is a tiny little baby step that might do some good, but it isn’t the answer to congestion, pollution and waste, most of which will still occcur (on those other lanes).

    As long as you have those problems, you still have a problem and you need another and much better solution.

    If we think that VMT and GNP are closely tied, then we have to at least consider that directly attacking VMT is going to affect GNP, and therefore state revenues. In fact, it might even be that the cheapest, best and most enduring way to increase stet revenues is to improve transportation, even if the revenue doesn’t come out of fuel taxes.

    Or we can give up our jobs, homes, and tourism, and we won’t have any congestion. Maybe we just pay people to stay home.

    I don’t know the answer. I do know that I almost never get in one of my vehicles unless it is to buy, sell, or make something, somewhere.

    As long as we have congestion that causes excess pollution (over and above the necessary and unavoidable pollution that comes from moving things around) and other waste, we have a problem that we need to find an answer to.

    If the answer costs more than the pollution, then the answer probably pollutes more than the pollution, strangely enough.

    So we need answers that not only work, but are cost effective. Usually that means you don’t get a total answer: you have to settle for a partial solution. In that regard HOT lanes may be a partial solution.

    Given that we are going to have them (HOT Lanes), we need to figure out what to do next, because we are still going to have a big issue with waste, congestion, and pollution.



  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “Why should ANY region/locality in Virginia EXPECT .. MORE road funding that the folks who live in their region/locality have actually paid in gasoline taxes?”

    Why should anybody on Metro expect more funding than they have paid in fares?

    Is it a black box, or is it user pays? I think it is user pays within reason, but at some point it is just too complicated and you have to resort to splitting the check. Splitting the check implies that everyone will at least get something to eat.

    Virginia’s interest is in keeping its citizens safe and wealthy, so that they can pay taxes. Too much tax and the state kills the golden goose. Too little tax and they can’t do enough to promote their citizens welfare.

    Now, the state has a choice of where to invest their money where it will provide the most return, to the state and its people. If I was living in a location where I thought I could reasonably show that the state’s investment in my area would provide the highest return, then I would absolutely expect that the state would make that investment over and above some other investment that was worse, regardless of where the money comes from.

    On that basis, it might be hard to rationalize investing in NOVA or HR. The investments there are expensive, the returns are lower, and the citizens are already well off.

    It is time for the state to create a new NOVA someplace else, where the investmensts cost less and do more good for the citizens.


  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    You mean the answer to NoVa and other Virginia regions in NOT being able to cope with their own planning or lack of…

    is for the state to create new ones?

    HA HA HA HA HA and …. HA

    like the state could do this to start with..,but even if they could.. what would be different that such an area would end up the same way.

    THIS .. is a practical suggestion?

    right… let’s put a thumb tack in Farmville and proclaim it New RoVa and divert state taxes away from NoVa and HR/TW to New RoVa.

    I’m on the floor now… laughing uncontrollably

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    Be that as it may, the state has their money to spend, and they should spend it where it does the most good and the least harm. That might be NOVA or Farmville or not. I don’t know where or what the best expenditure is, but I suspect it is not NOVA.

    You would like to invest in the next Microsoft, not the last one. I don’t think investing more money in Fairfax buys the state as much return as sinking it elewhere, but that’s just my opinion.

    Whether that place turns into a mess later, is a different problem.

    Meanwhile, Fairfax has the same problem at their level. Fairfax has to spend their money the best they can.

    So, where is a region that has a budget, income stream, and money to spend? Maybe you have regional authorities, but they are constrained to spend money only on certain things, so their impact is limited to their specific interest, roads, watershed, etc.

    As you point out, we can spend the money any ay we want, based on majoritarian rule. But then don’t bother to complain about efficiency, or ROI, or fairness.

    I think Front-Winchester has the most going for it tight now. Laugh all you want, but think Brasilia.


  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Totally agree with Ray on this

    The fact is the ROI of putting in extra lanes or transit in NoVA (and propably HR/TW)makes absolutelty no sense from an economic standpoint

    The solution to all of this IMHO is education. A valid concern is that there is a shortage of qualified workers in the rest of Virginia

    Otherwise we can keep spending and make I-95 12 lanes and open up the bronze and gold lines all for the small price of 100 Billion dollars

    Remember Rail to Dulless 5.5 Billion and up

    ICC in Maryland 3.5 Billion and up

    Additionally, more and more people that live in NoVa and HR/TW don’t want anything anymore. We don’t want more residents we don’t want more jobs. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE move away.

    Of course some would call this NIMBYism and they would be correct but its a fact. Existing residents don’t want any more people period.

    Interesting article about how Montgomery County is grappling with this issue. Average median price of a house just crossed 1 million.

    Interesting article that pulls this all together



  27. Groveton Avatar

    Larry writes ….

    “Why should ANY region/locality in Virginia EXPECT .. MORE road funding that the folks who live in their region/locality have actually paid in gasoline taxes?”.

    I respond ….

    “Why should ANY region locality in Virginia EXPECT .. MORE school funding that (sic) the folks in their region/locality have actually paid in real estate and sales taxes?”.

    Oh wait – I forgot – regional wealth transfers are OK for everything except transportation.

    And NMM –

    I just don’t buy the “spend more on education” and RoVA will be saved argument. Well educated people move into attractive job markets every day. RoVA could have the best schools on the planet and the smart kids who graduate from those schools would move elsewhere to pursue economic opportunity.

    Talent follows money.

    Attract the jobs (i.e. money) and the talent will follow.

    Improve the education and the graduates will still leave to follow the money.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    looks like a circular logic problem (i.e. I see where you are coming from)

    Many businesses avoid RoVA because there aren’t workers that fit the skill sets

    Its true that money is a good attractive force for recent graduates. I’ll use myself as an example.

    At some point however there will be enough people with families who refuse to put up with hour plus commutes each way and demand to work at a place that has less of a transportation/housing supply problem. True for me again. I don’t know if I would want to raise a family in NoVa because of the transporation/housing affordability issue. The schools are indeed excellent though, hence why I am arguing for better schools.


  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    yup.. I knew we’d be working our way back to the education funding issue.

    I don’t have a problem with the concept itself and I do distinguish between the concept and the implementation.

    I think every child is entitled to a legitimate opportunity to escape his/her poor circumstances via a gold ring on the education merry-go-round.

    I don’t think children should be penalized because of where they live or even who they live with.

    I cannot equate that to road funding which is.. in concept… bizarre, irrational and just plain dysfunctional BECAUSE it is NOT tied to land-use decisions AND people refuse the recognize that even if you took every penny of gas tax dollars from RoVa AND the education money and gave it to NoVa and HR/TW .. that .. that money would not make a dent in the problem.. because the problem is making land-use decisions without regard to the traffic consequences that are inevitable.

    This is not rocket science either.

    Some localities.. in Va and in other states HAVE bitten the bullet and have assume a more responsible approach to … developing communities that are better balanced with regard to development and mobility,

    In Virginia..if we do something wrong and stupid.. then we have way too many people who think..that we need to do even more of the same…

    the idea of “creating” another NoVa so we can “start over” does not even offer a hint of a promise of doing things _better_ or even different…. only that NoVa is so screwed up… that we should abandon it.. and.. start over…

    sorry guys… you don’t get that as an option… you can’t burn down your house and leave because you don’t like the way it turned out.

    and besides.. why would we start a new place.. when we don’t have a clue much less agreement about how that settlement pattern.. SHOULD BE?

    Oh… read WaPo today talking about Montgomery County MD and their “problems” with land-use, development and infrastructure…

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    Education isn’t tied to land use either, but those kids have to live and work somewhere…..

    I never said abandon NOVA. All I’m claiming is that there are multiple best choices where density and land use and transportation networks work reasonably well. NOVA is outside that box, probably.

    We have a better chance of creating something that does work building from scratch, and it is probably cheaper, with a better ROI, to boot.

    As you point out, we could still do it wrong again.


  31. Groveton Avatar

    I’ll buy the education argument when the deficit localities have the same real estate tax rate as Fairfax County – $.89 per $100 of fairly assessed value. Until then, the people in the low tax rate counties who claim they can’t afford to educate their own children are just stealing from their own kids. Disgusting, disgraceful behavior. And don’t tell me how poor everybody is. The assessed values of real estate equalize the total dollars of tax. My house would cost a lot less and would greatly reduce my tax bill if it were in Martinsville rather than Fairfax County – even at $.89 per $100.

    Please read the following white paper before typing any more lectures on education and fairness:


    Here is a key paragraph:

    “The localities listed in the table at the end of this report reduced their per-pupil funding following the tax increase of 2004. These ranged from the City of Martinsville, which reduced its local support for education by fully $1,016 per pupil while seeing increased state aid of $409 per pupil, to the City of Radford, which reduced its local contribution by $19 per pupil while enjoying state aid increases of $514 per pupil.”.

    This has little to do with people who can’t afford to educate their children and a lot to do with people who choose not to pay for their childrens’ education.

    If people choose lower tax rates over funding their childrens’ education – they (and they alone) should live with that choice.

    And the contention that, “…even if you took every penny of gas tax dollars from RoVa AND the education money and gave it to NoVa and HR/TW .. that .. that money would not make a dent in the problem”.

    I’d like to see that argument made in numbers rather than words. I’ll be the first to admit that the facts and figures seem very unclear – so please correct any errors in logic or assumptions:

    1. Fairfax County spends about $2B per year on schools.

    2. I have seen estimates that Fairfax County keeps only 41% of the taxes charged its citizens for education.

    3. That means that $2B/.41 = $4.8B in total taxes for education are raised in Fairfax County.

    4. So, if Fairfax kept all that money for itself, it could spend $2B on education and another $2.8B per year on transportation.

    Wouldn’t an additional $3B or so per year in Fairfax County alone make “a dent” in the transportation problem?

    I honestly hope I am going astray in my thinking because that $2.8B number just infruriates me. It infuriates me almost as much as the jokers who lower their own tax rates while asking the state for more transferred money to educate their children.

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    remember I did say concept vs implementation.

    I agree about the uneven playing field and further some of the state aid should be tied to local funding.. match funding…

    I don’t know the answer to a locality that won’t invest in the education it’s kids…

    re: “..
    I have seen estimates that Fairfax County keeps only 41% of the taxes charged its citizens for education.”

    doesn’t Fairfax collect propery taxes and then allocates a portion (a majority) of that for education?

    where exactly is the money that you are referring to?

    I don’t think the state takes away a localities property tax money – right?

    so.. where exactly is the state taking money?

  33. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: 2.88 billion… if true.. yes.

    this is a mind boggling number for someone who lives in a county whose school budget is in the low 3 digit millions…

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    to try and close it out

    Fairfax made and continues to pursue a course of action to spend more money on schools

    A nice side effect is that property values increase because people are attracted to the area. An interesting metric would be to trace education spending vs property values. Is this part of the reason why Prince William property values are lagging behind Loudoun and Fairfax?

    The homeowner in RoVa might have a lower property tax rate but when they go to sell their house they won’t see as much of a ROI.

    A bad side effect is that people are attracted to the area adding service demands and stress on the transportation network.

    The main issue is What percentage of education and transportation funding should come from the state vs the localities.

    The real people NoVa should be mad at are the legislators that continue to vote for more state funding without fixing the allocation formulas

    The whole concept of transportation authorities was based on trying to go around the funding allocations. Instead of sending more money to Richmond the plan was to keep it in the region where it was raised.


  35. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the paper provided by Groveton is an eye-opener.

    In a word – the allocation formula is wrong!

    What I cannot understand is why the NoVa GA reps stood by and allowed this to happen.

    The problem here is that if this continues and is not reformed then it will result in more and more people opposed to the concept itself behind the allocations.

    In other words – if the implementation of the concept is abusive and you cannot get reform – then kill the whole thing…

    and I would relunctantly agree… kill it and start over…if reform is not in the cards.

    re: …”
    The main issue is What percentage of education and transportation funding should come from the state vs the localities.”

    yes.. in many communities, so much property tax & sale tax money is devoted to education that there is precious little left for other important things – like road infrastructure.

    This is going to change – as VDOT turns over more and more of the local roads to localities who will then have to confront the issue.

    In the past, localities just stood by waiting for VDOT to fulfill it’s often empty promises…

    re: …”The real people NoVa should be mad at are the legislators that continue to vote for more state funding without fixing the allocation formulas”

    this is the part that is unfathonable… why in the world would NoVa elected representatives past and present allow .. essentially the financial rape of their constituents…

    this is .. an outrage.. I agree.

    and so I offer an apology for the tenor of some of my “lectures”..


  36. Groveton Avatar

    Larry –

    I guess the NoVA GA reps feel that they need the support of the state-wide parties more than they need to be honest with their constituents. I have e-mails the link to the white paper to both of the candidates running for delegate in my district. Neither replied although Ms. Vanderhye posted some reference to NoVA, Richmond and Tidewater having all the money in Virginia (at least that what I got as the gist).

    Of course, the voters and taxpayers in NoVA are first in line for blame on this. I really believe that the state legislature operates in an intentionally dishonest and deceptive manner with regard to finances. However, the voter – taxpayers in Northern Virginia have educations sufficient to see through this subtrefuge.

    Every once in a while a NoVA GA rep is cornered by this question. It happened a few years ago to Del. Callahan. He made some elliptical comment about NoVA not having the votes to do anything about it and quickly changed the subject.

    As for my comment about “lectures” – sorry. Your points are always reasonable. My reaction was more to the overall “location-based costs” fairness argument than to any individual. I am all for fair treatment for all of Virginia’s residents. I know that means some will pay more and receive less while others will pay less and receive more. I would just like to see the facts laid out in an organized and accurate manner so we all can decide how much more and how much less.

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    “I know that means some will pay more and receive less while others will pay less and receive more. I would just like to see the facts laid out in an organized and accurate manner so we all can decide how much more and how much less.”

    Me too.


  38. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Me three!

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    naw.. I’m guilty of “lecture mode” at times.. a character flaw for sure…

    but I am.. . incensed … now that I’ve finally got your point…

    Somewhere, someone also posted something where the state had a process for determining a locality’s ability to pay and I’m wondering if those numbers has something to do with the allocation process..

    It doesn’t matter… the state screws up.

    Just this year.. my county found out that some businesses sales tax was being credited to the adjacent locality because of a misunderstanding in postal addresses…

    but the chart you supplied strips away any pretense of a misunderstanding.

    Very clearly, localities are receiving subsidies – paid for by NoVa (and possibly other urban jursidictions) when they do not deserve them…

    It boggles my mind that a place like Charlottesville… receives education subsidies…

    In my mind.. the infrastructure shortfall in NoVA .. AND.. to a certain extent.. the affordable housing issues in NoVa are.. affected by this out-transfer of money…

    and that.. in turn.. affects .. people commuting from NoVa jobs to outer jurisdictions…

    In other words.. there is a real cost in terms of settlement pattern dysfunctionality… as a direct result of this wrongheaded allocation scheme…

    .. which is exactly what you and some others have been saying.. for quite a while..

    the only way to fix this.. would be for the state to keep up-to-date info… and the allocation formula updated every year… and to do so.. in a completely open and transparent process.

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    Nonessential has a broader definition than what has been mentioned here. Maybe some nonessential work could be reduced to ease the congestion. Too many work aholics need to cut back and free up some space and slow down those over zealous speeders trying to kill each other going down the road.

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