If Christmas Shopping Is Easier This Year, Thank VDOT

The Virginia Department of Transportation has adjusted the timing of 170 traffic signals around 12 major shopping areas in Northern Virginia to handle the surge in Christmas shopping, reports Examiner.com. VDOT also has installed eight closed-circuit cameras around Tysons Corner so staff can monitor traffic patterns and adjust signals as needed.

Comment: Hooray for VDOT. It’s way out in front of the politicians and the public. Improving the operational efficiency of Virginia’s existing transportation assets makes a lot more sense in many cases than new road and rail projects.

Questions: What is the Return on Investment for traffic light synchronization projects compared to the ROI on the road and mass-transit projects scheduled for funding by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority? Has the NVTA given serious consideration to additional investments in dynamic traffic lights? Or do we have to await the emergence of a “Big Traffic Light” lobby to counteract the influence of the “Big Construction” lobby before we start considering transportation-improvement projects according to rational criteria?


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31 responses to “If Christmas Shopping Is Easier This Year, Thank VDOT”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m trying to stifle a “bah humbug” moment here.

    On one hand, it’s always good for folks who try hard to do their job better to get well-deserved Kudos…

    On the other hand, I have to question why limited resources have to be re-allocated for holidays.

    Why not work to have a system that dynamically adapts.. as the default condition still allowing for on-site attention when needed.

    By the way… for the folks who think HB3202 was/is bad/illegal/wrong/stupid/etc… you oughta go to VDOTs website and key in HB 3202 in the search engine and be prepared to plow throw major, major changes in the way that VDOT will do business in the near future.

    For instance ANY development that will generate 5000 trips per day, pretty much has to be run by VDOT.

    The land-use decision still lies with the locality – BUT the information about the impacts will come from VDOT rather than the developer’s paid consultant.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry –

    Not necessarily.

    If you look here: http://www.virginiadot.org/business/rfp-shortlist.asp#traffic

    you will note that VDOT hired a consultant to do both the 527 work AND the NOVA traffic light synchronization.

  3. E M Risse Avatar

    The larger question is:

    Is it a “good thing” to increase the ease of Mass OverConsumption?

    EMR

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR:

    Why do you assume that just because I go shopping, it is an idication of mass overconsumption?

    Who made you the guru of necessary?

    JB:

    Traffic light timing can relieve about 5% of our congestion problems, holiday timing or no.

    80% of congestion occurs on 10% of our roadways, during 15% of the available time. A 5% reduction in travel results in a 20% reduction in congestion. Likwise, a 5% increase in capacity for those most congested roadways would result in a 20% decrease in congestion.

    At least temporarily.

    Larry:

    “Why not work to have a system that dynamically adapts.. as the default condition still allowing for on-site attention when needed.”

    A system that dynamically adapts is enormously complicated. We do not have anywhwere near enough knowledge to design such a system.

    Consider: ever time you change the timing on a light, you would have to consider the changes that causes on the next three closest lights. Every time you save someone 20 seconds, you could be causing 20 other people to wait 10 seconds.

    It is a basic sytems analysis ROI problem, but it needs enoromous computational power to solve: if you have the data.

    RH

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    When the big traffic light lobby can promise as much as the big construction lobby, maybe the legislators will listen.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I make a habit of doing my Xmas shopping at local buisnesses. Away from the malls an outlets.

    I shop places like New Market, Maryland; Occoquan; Middleburg; Aldie; “Little Vietnam” in Arlington; The Plains; Warrrenton; and other places th specialize in local products.

    I don’t always succeed. There is an awful lot of “local product” that actually comes from China, et. al.

    My own holiday products are marked, “Grown, harvested, milled, and crafted at Ashby Glen Farm”, just in case anybody is interested.

    RH

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ..”A system that dynamically adapts is enormously complicated. We do not have anywhwere near enough knowledge to design such a system.

    Consider: ever time you change the timing on a light, you would have to consider …

    geeze RH.. I thought you did software. I did software for 34 years and 30 years ago we designed computers to loft 24 missile with 8 rvs each into the atmosphere within a few minutes… from any point a to any point b on earth….

    that was 30 years ago… back when computers were exotic critters.

    When you buy a razor at WalMart, within 20 minutes, a computer a 1000 miles away is compiling the next replenish load for a tractor trailer that will show up the next day.

    When you are on a cell phone… it seamlessly transfers you physically from one tower to the next tower (most of the time) and you never know that your call has physically changed towers.

    and for that matter, have you ever wondered how when you’re in your car – and you get a call… how they know which which cell tower to go to – to “find” you? (hint – computer network).

    high speed tolling… thousands of cars per hour traveling 65mph underneath sensors on a gantry… updating in real time such that the next time you can get internet access, you can see the charges you incurred an hour previously.

    we have an air traffic control system – why not a road traffic control system?

    If Walmart and Sprint, EZPass and the FAA can use networked computers to do faster, cheaper, better, then yes.. it’s time for VDOT to join the 21st century – even if they have to contract it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

    even if it means .. HORRORS… they may not have to build as many roads as they’d like to….

    you say it would be expensive…

    yess…. think about this… if I told you I could do a system for the DC area for ..say 2 BILLION dollars.. you may say ..that’s an outrageous waste of money but then I’d come back and remind you that, that, is, in fact, the going price for a mere 18 miles of new road.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    “I thought you did software. I did software for 34 years and 30 years ago we designed computers to loft 24 missile with 8 rvs each into the atmosphere within a few minutes… from any point a to any point b on earth….

    that was 30 years ago… back when computers were exotic critters.”

    I have done software not for anywhere near 34 years, and I learned a lot from it. The most successful and profitable software was for a DotCom start up (which is still inbusiness). It involved no government money, and a lot of promises,in terms of stock options.

    I have never, ever, seen so many smart kids working so hard.

    I have also had a few experiences doing software for government, under contract. They were uniformly disasters.

    In one case, I was hired, through a contractor, to establish an integrateted management system or schedule, for a major government software development.

    They expected first product within a month. It took me two weeks to determine that what they wanted would take at least 6 months, if they would let me set the strategy, and that was not going to happen.

    They had already been working on this project for two years, and they could not yet agree on what the names of the tasks were.

    The entire project was organized by department, rather than by what it would take to get the work done.

    Between the departments, there was zero recognition that there might be inter-relationships as to what would be required to reach the end state.

    It was a perfect example of what EMR describes as winner take all, and as far as reaching the end goal, it was a disaster.

    Here is how bad it was. When I took over the schedule, there were more than 200 tasks which wer scheduled to have been finished in thepast. No one was able to tell me which ones were actually finished. When I attempted to set meetings to find out, I was “overstepping my bounds”.

    But, regardless of whether tasks schedled in the past were finished or not, the future schedule was politically “fixed”. The prospective schedule had been “briefed”, regardless of whether it was real.

    My job boiled down to “here is the calendar, make the schedule work.

    Suffice it to say, that project is still floundering along, billions over budget, without my help.
    ——————————–

    Now I set the price on software and hardware systems. And that is a whole different thing.

    If the goal is to prevent the annihilaton of the U.S. then the price is one thing. But if the goal is to get the most people to the place that makews them the most money, at the lowest cost, that is an entirely diffent thing.

    In the first case, the value is the US GDP times a hundred or so, per year. It is a pretty easy calculation. Without the U.S. the world woud stll get along.

    The rules, and the individual gross product would be a lot different.

    The second calculation is a LOT HARDER, because it is so easy too spend so much on the wrong things and get no real ROI in return.

    —————————-

    “we designed computers to loft 24 missile with 8 rvs each into the atmosphere within a few minutes… from any point a to any point b on earth….”

    That is actually a pretty easy project: you get to choose where to loft the missile form and wher to send them to.

    Congestion amelioration is a LOT harder.

    If they ever get the air traffic conrol algorithm figured out, it will be the sngle largest peice of code ever written.

    And that assumes coooperative aircrft.

    Now consider the problem of Ballistic Missile Defense, where the targets are not cooperative. It is many orders of manitude more complicated than the air traffic control problem.

    Now consider the ground taffic problem, where the vehicles are not only non-cooperative, we don’t even have good knowledgeas to their location, intent, duration, or value.

    You are dreaming. If ithought for second that $2 billion would do it, I’d be on your side. You dan’t have a clue as to how complicated this is.

    RH

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s put this in perspective.

    When I wa sworking for the DotCom, the task list was around three thousand items.

    We were burning cash against against a “speculative” cash flow with a known dead end: we either succededed or failed.

    There were three hundred people responsible for the tasks. It was all I could do to keep up with what had happened, let alone what whas scheduled.

    In my last government job, there were three thousand task items on the schedule (for three years), the calendar was fixed in stone, and there were five people “managing” the schedule.

    My position was that they needed thitry people, and the schdule was actually between five and ten years. That was politically unacceptable. “It would kill the program.” was the word from several levels up.

    It deserved to be killed.

    When the chiefs of staff got involved, there were major problems, concernignthe quesition of whther the higher ups were using the integrated management system as a “real” planning and management tool.

    I was in that meeting, an d it was a mjor embararassment (to the higher ups) specifically because they had ignored the suggestions I had made.

    It would not have made much difference, because, even if they had adopted my suggetions, there was not time to implemet them. I needed another six months, minimum.

    ———————————-

    My present occupation is a commercial buisiness, with some government contracts.

    One, of several projects, has 6000 line items and 18,000 interdependenciies. By itself, it is roughly equivalent in complexity to my former goverment assignment. It has 300 people tracking and managing the tasks, and it is on schedule, but behind budget.

    Part of the reason it is behind budget is because of additional requirements, which have yet to be negotiated.

    To be fair, the government project also had new requirements. So did the DotCom project.

    The difference is in how they were recognized, and funded.

    All I can tell you is that, in the end, the costs are what they are. If you want to believe youcan get something for nothing, knock yourself out.

    RH

  10. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    RH, that’s one reason I hate MOTS/GOTS. A contractor spends tons of tax money trying to meet an agency’s specifications, maybe even coming close. Then the agency develops software mods to make the overpriced software meet a new requirement. Then they call a tech to fix it, because the original contract no longer exists and no one really knows how the thing works. That’s why there are so many service companies in NoVa. In most cases, Gump’s box isn’t full of chocolates.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    We went through the -“you can’t change the requirements after we create the software” agony…also..over and over

    .. and my thinking is that anyone who think you can create software that cannot change – is dreaming…

    .. it’s not “evil” nor “stupid” to want to meet … changing requirements…

    when you create software that is not easy to change – you create software the becomes expensive to change .. and becomes unreliable with change.

    the way to do “software” is to start out from the get-go writing it – EXPECTING it to change.

    Instead of hard-coding a numeric – you make it a variable.. etc, etc.

    True.. some things just are not easy to set up for change .. but other things can be… and that’s the goal.. make the things that can change – changeable… and reduce the numbers of things that cannot change easily…

    This is why I say… don’t go and “tune” the traffic signals with a special contract.. on a .. periodic basis – go design the basic elements of a system that can adapt as much as possible… recognizing that there are parts that may have to remain manual… but work the issue towards .. nimble adaptability.

    Harder to do? You Bet.

    Reason for not doing it? the most common one I’d hear from programmers was not that it could not be done but that it was “harder to do”.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    This is the problem with government and tenured jobs.. verses free market entities that MUST adapt or lose out to their competitors who WILL adapt.

    VDOT has no competitors. If they think something is “too hard” or not as interesting as building new roads instead.. there is no one looking over their shoulder waiting to take their job.

    Good competitive companies are nimble and adaptable and their operations and their computer stuff are all predicated on that idea.

    It’s a good ethic for government and VDOT also.

  12. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Actually if main intersections were made into roundabouts (tying in a previous topic), dynamic software wouldn’t be much different than packet routing in computers. You communicate between adjacent roundabouts through sensors to detect traffic volume out each exit (ports), and use intermediate stop lights (switches) along each route to regulate flow into a given roundabout. A token passing arrangement could ensure each light stopped cross traffic only for the minimum time necessary to ensure even flow through the router, er.. roundabout.

    Case solved. Next! ;0

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    As I’ve argued in the past, I cannot imagine Verizon or Comcast building costly network additions if a less expensive solution were available. They would first try better network management before they would spend capital dollars on additional facilities.

    Why are roads different? While I have concerns about roundabouts, Darrell’s points are well taken. Transportation is about networks, just as telecom is.

    The next Governor needs to appoint a Secretary of Transportation who sees his/her main function as operating and not building a transportation network.

    But that step would make state transportation policy about moving people and goods efficiently, rather than about land development.

    TMT

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well.. looks like Maryland – got the word:

    “Dave Buck, a spokesman for Maryland’s State Highway Administration, said traffic signals near malls are already programmed to handle throngs of shopper-filled vehicles. The signals also adapt to changes in heavy traffic patterns. Motion detectors positioned on top of the signals send traffic data to the computers making decisions such as how long a left-turn arrow will stay green.”

    http://www.examiner.com/a-1064073~High_tech_to_aid_malls__traffic_crunch.html

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “it’s not “evil” nor “stupid” to want to meet … changing requirements..”

    Agreed.

    But, I’ve been through this too many times. The customer WILL NOT, stop to take the time to think through the problem. This is what we want, this is how much money we’ve got. You go fix the problem, or we will find someone else.

    Maybe someone who has no interest in how the customer spends its money.

    Then we wonder why we have avaricious contractors. It is the only way to play the game, according to how the rules are written.

    ———————————-

    NEVER hard code a numeric.

    ———————————-

    Don’t even hard code the algorithms, if you can help it.

    ———————————

    Let’s not et too crazy comparing the traffic network to the information network.

    In the information network you can split information ito packets, send it by different routes, and reassemble it at the other end.

    Try that with a car pool.

    In the information network, we allow a number of “collisions” and if that happens we just re-send the packet.

    That is not acceptable in the physical world.

    Yes. There are a lot of mathematical situations that are similar, but the boundary conditions are quite different.

    I don’t think that communicating between adjacent intersections or roundabouts is enough. I suggest you need to “flow back” the information in terms of several intersctions or multiple miles.

    What is the point, for example, of having cars traveling at 80+ miles an hour west of Manassas or South of Fredericksburg, only to creep and crawl the rest of the way to their destination?

    Set the speed limit at 45, and enforce it, and see what happens.

    Int he electronic world, if you are faced with that problem, you can send electrons to Australia if need be, but in the real world, it isn’t so easy, or cheap.

    RH

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    moving people and goods efficiently IS about land development. Land development is NOT necessarily bad. Unbalanced land development, the kind that makes thousands travel long distances to cram their way into overcrowded and underserved business areas, is bad development.

    Using a little more land to prevent that problem in NOT bad development.

    Let’s try to grow up, just a little bit, and understand that profits are not bad, necessarily; development is not bad, necessarily; conservation is not good, necessarily, and happiness is at least as important as efficiency.

    RH

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “moving people and goods efficiently IS about land development.”

    moving people and goods – COST EFFECTIVELY will never be accomplished by subsidies.

    Only when the actual costs are borne by the folks who want to move goods and people.. will they themselves decide how to not spend more money on it than necessary.

    If someone wants to live 100 miles from where they work or Fed Ex wants their distribution center 100 miles from the neighborhoods that they deliver in – then fine and dandy – but let’s not have others paying taxes for them to do that.

    Let them make the decision and let them deal with the fiscal and congestion consequences of their decisions.

    When we decide that something is not only a public good but deserving of taxing everyone to pay for it.. we go .. bad wrong…

    I am perfectly okay with some guy who wants a 3000 sq ft house 75 miles from where he works – and where he could only afford a 1000 sq ft house…

    just don’t make me pay for the roads that he needs to get that 3000sq ft house.

    If he, on the other hand, is perfectly willing to either put up with the congestion or pay a HOT Lane toll for that pleasure – then I am perfectly fine with that even if it violates all the precepts of inefficient settlement patterning.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    “If someone wants to live 100 miles from where they work or Fed Ex wants their distribution center 100 miles from the neighborhoods that they deliver in – then fine and dandy – but let’s not have others paying taxes for them to do that.

    Let them make the decision and let them deal with the fiscal and congestion consequences of their decisions.”

    You are making the unproven, and probably wrong, assumption that the examples you show are costing MORE than the $1089 per year we are each paying for congestion.

    You are making the assumption that the only costs passed along are in the form of taxes.

    You assume that the benefits accrue ONLY to the guy that builds a 3000 sq ft house.

    None of those assumptions are proven, and there is a good deal of evidence to suggest such ideas are not only wrong, but selfish and actually working against the idea of the generalized public good. That is going to affect your taxes, eventually.

    The idea that YOU are paying for HIS roads any more than HE is paying for yours is twisted and short sighted.

    In fact, IF, I say IF, we could prove that building a FEDEX distribution point 100 miles from nowhere would save us all money then we OUGHT to be willing to raise taxes enough to help subsidize the move.

    It’s just a question of the best ROI.

    RH

  19. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    “In the information network you can split information into packets, send it by different routes, and reassemble it at the other end.”

    Ah but see, you are looking at the problem from an addressing point of view. I’m looking at it as a function of bandwidth.

    A computer router looks at packet addresses and sends them down a port. The router has to be smart because packets are dumb. They don’t know or care how they get to a destination.

    In the case of traffic, the exact opposite occurs. The packets already know which port they will take. The roundabout merely provides regulated access to avoid collisions. They do this by talking with adjacent roundabouts to determine inbound volume, and controlling the inflow with intermediary stoplights along the routes leading into the roundabout. Their view is therefore limited to that small universe. What’s happening at the other end of town isn’t their concern.

    Under such an arrangement, an east/west intersection could display a red light for eastbound traffic while at the same time giving a green light to westbound, based upon traffic conditions at each end’s roundabout.

    This is a different approach from typical designs that place stop lights right at the entrance of a circle. The design goal shouldn’t be stopping traffic, but maintaining maximum throughput during peak hours.

    http://www.ctre.iastate.edu/pubs/midcon2005/StevensRoundabouts.pdf

    http://www.teachamerica.com/roundabouts/RA054A_ppr_Akcelik.pdf

    A token would be cycled around the circuit to allow left turn traffic to cross intersections as needed, or force them to use a roundabout as many countries do.

    Smiling yet?

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “You are making the unproven, and probably wrong, assumption that the examples you show are costing MORE than the $1089 per year we are each paying for congestion.”

    No… what I’m saying is that you nor I make any assumptions nor any decisions about taxes but step back and let each business and each person make their own decisions based on their own costs.

    Any existing subsidies are counterproductive to that process and proposed new subsidies are furthering a fundamentally wrong approach.

    Your logic .. applied to other commodities like electricity or water/sewer would have everyone pay a set amount no matter how much they used and if we did that approach, our electricity, water and sewer would “work” exactly like our roads do – congested and unreliable especially at rush hour.

    We need to move AWAY from models based on the logic of “we all pay so we all use”.

    Each person should pay for what they use and each person can decide how much they want to use.

    Then the basic market will work.

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “This is a different approach from typical designs that place stop lights right at the entrance of a circle. The design goal shouldn’t be stopping traffic, but maintaining maximum throughput during peak hours.”

    EXACTLY!

    Most DOTs, including VDOT don’t PRIORITIZE … OPERATING a roadway for optimal throughput.

    They put up traffic signals to deal with traffic that would cause gridlock… often.. and we’ve all see this … without regard to what that light does to upstream and downstream traffic.

    A 5 second delay on a main light, a side light and/or a left turn light can cause and does havoc on a heavily loaded road.

    And VDOT’s approach until recently has been to essentially shrug their shoulders and say “you need more roads”.

    And finally… think about what the goals of businesses are on major roads… big hint – their priority is not about optimal throughput…. those guys actually want the traffic slowed down and allowed to move at will into and out of the traffic stream into their businesses – and in many cases, VDOT has been more than happy to accommodate them (in concert with the local pro-growth factions).

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    “They do this by talking with adjacent roundabouts to determine inbound volume, and controlling the inflow with intermediary stoplights along the routes leading into the roundabout. Their view is therefore limited to that small universe. What’s happening at the other end of town isn’t their concern.”

    Darryl:

    I think you are correct, and this DOES make sense to me. By including the two or three “next nearest neighbors” I think you can make some impact. I don’t think you can have the same impact by simply having sensors on each light that control that light.

    But now look at ti at the next larger scale. You describe a system where a rotary controls its input by also controlling severa adjacent lights. You now have major controller (the rotary) and minor controllers (it’s subsidiary lights).

    Wouldn’t you need to do the same thing at the next higher level? You would have supermajor controllers at the real bottlenecks, and they would controll the next nearest Major controllers(the rotaries), even if they are some distance away.

    When we routinely see traffic backups of tens of miles (40 miles last Tues and Wed, heading tosads F’burg), we will need more than local control to get the best throughput. Am I wrong?

    In any case, an actual plan to increase throughput is largely at odds to most of the planning I see going on: traffic calming, increased parking restrictions, more money for transit, etc. which are all designed to REDUCE auto traffic. It’s as if by mostly confining cars to their driveway we can eliminate congestion. In fact, such a plan merely moves the congestion closer to home.

    RH

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “Each person should pay for what they use and each person can decide how much they want to use.”

    I don’t have any problem with that, unless it is close coupled with your previous assumption that you are somehow paying for someone else’s activities.

    I also believe that this idea needs to include the costs associated with preventing someone else’s activities.

    If each person is willing to pay for what they use and each person can decide how much they want to use, then we should be prepared to allow them to do that. If we are Not willing to do that, then what is happening is that we have decided to “use” property that we are not paying for. If we set the price so high that the property cannot be used, then we have simply close coupled the free market idea, with our own ideas and assumptions of what we think the costs are.

    That kind of thinking is a sham of the free market and is merely a bad attempt at slamming the door behind us. I have no problem with slamming the door behind us, but it needs to be done fairly, and that is NOT the case at present.

    RH

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the price is set by determining what the cost of the infrastructure is – for those that are wanting that infrastructure.

    If you want to live 50 miles away and get to work in one hour – there is a cost – to provide that level of service.

    If you want to live 50 miles away and don’t mind taking two hours to get to work – then that cost will be quite cheaper.

    If you want to live 50 miles away and get to work in 20 minutes – that options is also on the table.

    We don’t set the price to discourage people – no more than the price of gasoline or electricity is set to “discourage” people.

    The price is .. what it costs to provide that level of service.

    and you.. as a consumer get to choose whether you want an econobox or a hummer .. as well as whether you want a high-speed lane or a regular lane.

    What “used to be” is no more relevant than complaining that gasoline “used to be”… .35 cents a gallon and then… claiming that the price today.. is really set to discourage people.

    this is really simple.

    if someone wants “more” – they ought to be willing to pay more.

    If someone wants “more” but they don’t want to pay more and would prefer that others pay more.. then we’re no longer talking about user pays but instead .. subsidies .. based on .. convoluted logic involving “what used to be” or “what ought to be” – and not simple supply and demand.

    get the irrelevant ruminations about why something needs to be subsidized.

    cut the cord. face the music and pay your own way and we’ll all be better off because of it – and especially including those who pay.

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    “what the cost of the infrastructure is – for those that are wanting that infrastructure”

    You act as if not everyone uses or benefits from the infrastructure once it is built. The issue is what it costs to provide that level of service – to everyone, not just those you choose to bill.

    And, that service needs to include the services that are externalized costs associated with the prevention of the development of such services. . You seem keen on billing for everyone else’s externalized costs, except your own.

    RH

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”not everyone uses or benefits from the infrastructure once it is built.”

    not at all.

    it’s a simple concept.

    if you use the infrastructure then you should pay for it – in the proportion that you use it.

    I’m in favor of getting rid of the externalized costs.

    If I get a package – I want to pay the actual/real shipping costs – not have someone pay them.

    so you don’t want everyone subsidizing the shipping costs.

    the theory espoused here is that since everyone buys food, has packages shipped, etc.. that “obviously” we should all pay – … the same thing…

    which has absolutely nothing to do with paying for the proportion that you use.

    That’s how folks that advocate this – fall into this trap of advocating that everyone should pay because everyone uses.

    On that theory.. we’d all pay one price for electricity – because we all pay and we all use…

    It’s inherently a socialist concept.

    You want everyone to pay the same.. no matter how much or how little they use the service or you switch tracks and claim that you can’t have equitable reform because then all those folks in the past who benefited would have gotten more than their share.

    So basically, you’re advocating that those who can figure out how to get more… in the past – are now the reason why .. we can’t reform.

    Using your logic.. it is totally wrong to have HOT lanes – because we didn’t have them from the very beginning….

    that’s why I say.. you basically advocate the status quo. You treat the status-quo as inviolate bundles of “sticks” that can never ever change because to do so would deprive new folks from subsidies that the folks who came before them – enjoyed.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    “if you use the infrastructure then you should pay for it – in the proportion that you use it.”

    My point exactly. Which is one reason that I say that if you are going to create more green infrastructure by limiting building rights for others, then you should expect topay for that green infrastructure.

    “which has absolutely nothing to do with paying for the proportion that you use.”

    Here is where we depart. My point is (echoed by Deena and others) that frequently we have no idea what the proportion used is. Even worse, whe have created deliberate inter regional transfers to obscure the facts.

    If we knew the facts, I would agree with you 100%, but we don’t. Furthermore, it probably is going to cost MORE to a) find out the facts, and b) manage all the transaction costs. Therefore a good second best in many cases is simply to let everyone pay something. I submit that the payments should be related to cash flow, because the more cashflow an entitiy has, the more likely it is to use a lot of resources.

    I don’t see that such a system is either necessarily or inherently a lot more unfair that a user pays system. It is probably a lot cheaper, except in cases of severe abuse.

    Unless and until we have a sysmmetric system of user pays, simply using the black box method pro bably results in less externalized costs to others, than an assymetric and cynical “user pays” philosophy.

    RH

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “you are going to create more green infrastructure by limiting building rights for others, then you should expect topay for that green infrastructure.”

    that’s not my idea – but it’s the reality of the politics.

    If you want to change it – you have to be willing to do more than – complain.

    I don’t think restricting building rights has anything to do with so-called ‘green’ infrastructure but I’ll admit others do.

    How do you plan and provide infrastructure if you don’t know what size will be required?

    Do you build a 3 inch pipe or a 133 inch pipe?

    designating land-use and density is an attempt to provide the answer to the question above.

    If governments did not do this – AND it was completely the land-owners cost to pay for whatever infrastructure upgrades would be required to serve him – then you’d have development like we see in 3rd world countries with running water not safe to drink, open sewers, power lines strung across buildings etc .., because those places build as they grow rather than plan.

  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “If we knew the facts, I would agree with you 100%, but we don’t. Furthermore, it probably is going to cost MORE to a) find out the facts, and b) manage all the transaction costs.”

    this is the same old, same old – status quo argument.

    “Because we don’t know and it would be ungodly expensive to sort out the existing subsidies – we cannot change.”

    Change IS going to happen – the status quo is going to change.

    you don’t get to say – “we cannot change because we don’t know all the variables”.

    that train is coming down the track.

    You can stand there looking at it waving your hands for it to stop and yelling “wait, we have to study this”.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “Because we don’t know and it would be ungodly expensive to sort out the existing subsidies – we cannot change.”

    Change IS going to happen – the status quo is going to change.”

    For once, we agree, even if it is aresult of a typo.

    Change IS going to happen. In restrospect, we will be able to sort out some of what worked and what did not.

    That is the most expensive kind of experiment, and the most expensive kind of data collection.

    It is a lot more cost effective, to collect the data up front, and analyse it dispassionately, than it is to base our decisions on homilies and metaphors.

    RH

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “you don’t get to say – “we cannot change because we don’t know all the variables”

    You are correct. It was a typo.

    But if we don’t even attempt to find the variables, and verify them, we are likely to change wrongly.

    RH

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