Beyond “Just Say No to Taxes”

I’m not sure what the provenance of this document is, but it has replicated in cyberspace as an e-mail from Del. Philip A. Hamilton, R-Newport News, to Tom Holden, a writer with the Virginian-Pilot. I re-publish it here because it is the best outline I’ve yet seen of why Republican legislators oppose Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s proposed tax plan and what alternatives they propose to put in its place.

Transportation Concessions
Déjà vu all over again

“If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten,” Delegate Phillip Hamilton (R-Newport News) said in reacting to Governor Kaine’s recent transportation proposal. According to Hamilton, the proposal is another attempt to address transportation needs with an out-dated strategy – increased taxation without any significant congestion relief – that has been rejected in the recent past.

In addition to the lack of new ideas and innovation in the plan, “There is nothing to suggest a significant reduction in congestion that is choking Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads,” Hamilton said. “While mass transit should be included in any transportation plan, there is nothing to link the grantors tax being imposed in Buchanan County and bus purchases in the urban crescent. There also is no evidence that more government-subsidized mass transit will reduce the existing congestion problems in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.”

From Hamilton’s perspective, one of the glaring omissions in Governor Kaine’s transportation plan was absence of any reference to transportation concessions and private sector involvement in financing possible congestion relief projects. Yesterday, Hamilton and other state legislators met with U.S.Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and other federal highway transportation officials in Washington, DC to discuss the possibilities for transportation concessions as a major strategy in addressing numerous congestion relief projects in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. “It was my perspective that the federal government is ready, willing and able to work with Virginia to advance significant congestion relief projects in the Commonwealth,” Hamilton said.

During the meeting, Hamilton learned that Virginia was one of only fourteen states that enjoyed a preferred status from the federal government for such projects. He also learned that private investors had nearly $400 billion available worldwide for such transportation infrastructure projects.

While Hamilton was pleased that the Governor’s plan abolished the HRTA and included the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel in the list of project priorities for the Hampton Roads region, he does not believe the plan will ever provide the needed level of funding for the projects to ever be completed with the traditional funding streams.

For Hamilton, the focus of the Governor’s plan was the maintenance of existing highways, bridges and tunnels. Acknowledging that maintenance funding is important, the plan’s maintenance funding projections seems to be based on no improvement in the Virginia economy over the next six years. As a result, the plan seems to ignore statewide funding increases and policies for maintenance that were implemented last year.

After his Washington meeting yesterday, Hamilton is more convinced than ever that private-sector financing through long-term transportation concessions for the tolling revenue is the best strategy to address the congestion issues facing the Commonwealth today. “Virginians want congestion to be addressed and they believe the users of the roads should bear the burden for their construction and maintenance. Virginia should be more aggressive in seeking these public-private partnerships that build on our existing transportation facility assets to reduce congestion through new or improved highways, bridges, and tunnels.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. Just say yes to a less efficient and more intrusive form taxation under a different label!

    Delegate Hamilton got off on such a good star before falling for the snake oil. It’s worth noting that Delegate Hamilton has taken no money from firms with a financial interest in tolling.

    The same can’t be said for the people with whom he met.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Before we head down the public/private partnership road, I would like to know what others feel is an acceptable amount of profit for the private corporations involved in the partnership.

    Every day we hear on the news about excessive profits by the oil companies…..what’s to say that in twenty or thirty years the same thing won’t be said about the companies that own our roads? How much is too much, how do we justify it and should there be a cap on how much can be made?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Shocking. A cap on profits? How un-American.

    Perhaps it should be like the utility companies, forced to justify their costs and returns to the State Corporation Commission, which has the power to decide what is a fair profit. No, wait a minute, the 2007 General Assembly gave the electric companies a statutory guaranteed rate of return and stripped the SCC’s independent authority….

    The state has been pretty darn aggressive in seeking these kinds of deals. I don’t think anything in state law prohibits the construction of private tolled facilities. If it is not happening now on its own, it may be because the economics won’t work.

    Hamilton may want to take all the existing bridges and tunnels and sell them off, a la Indiana. Short term gain, then long term pain as the tolls continue for decades and decades and grow and grow. (But the politicians who set it all up are retired by then.)

    Tolls need to be part of the mix. But the idea is not sufficient to excuse doing absolutely nothing on the revenue side.

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Look forward to seeing which elements in Phil’s email will show up in the GOP answer to Gov Kaine.

    I wonder when we will see the GOP response.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Well.. that’s different from what some of the Western Va pols are saying:

    “It’s basically, ‘there he goes again,’ ” said Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, recalling that Kaine campaigned “as a Democrat who did not want to raise taxes.”

    Newman said he’s ready to offer a no-new-tax solution, which most lawmakers have not yet backed.
    …[verbatim excerpts]

    Newman said he had a different idea, one that requires government to live within its existing revenues.

    “I understand that we need to have additional funding for transportation,” Newman said. “However, I think that funding for transportation should be a budget priority for the legislature and not just another opportunity to raise taxes.”

    Newman said the legislature should dedicate a half-cent of the existing sales tax to transportation in each year that doesn’t have a funding shortfall — a condition that is projected to occur in the coming year.

    That tactic would take money from other state programs that Newman didn’t specify, but he said the state can afford it.

    “If we were to put in $100 million a year for transportation it would never be removed, and then we will have budgeted for transportation,” said Newman, who is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

    “We need to have discipline in budgeting, and that includes transportation,” he said.”

    Fair enough but the problem I have with this is why did he wait until NOW to say this? Why not get this on the table AT THE TIME the budget is being debated?

    so.. see-no-evil type effort in the middle of the budget fray and then AFTER it is over and a separate session for Transportation.. we say “we shoulda does something during the budget process”.

    gee. this sounds so….so.. much like a politician oozing on an inch-thick layer of oil….

    Give Hamilton credit for being honest and straight-forward and willing to put something on the table…

    If Virginia can set up a toll authority like the CBBT, tell me again why we can’t trust them to do it again?

    Here’s an idea.. how about letting the CBBT guys take on some new toll projects in HR/TW?

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Just say yes to a less efficient and more intrusive form taxation under a different label!”

    Bob – here’s intrusive: “we are raising your taxes and we’ll let you know how we spend your money”

    here’s tolls: “the price is x.xx, if you don’t like the price you don’t have to play”.

    tell me again which of the two is MORE intrusive?

    Maybe we don’t agree on the meaning.

    Me? When I get a letter in the mail that says you owe us everything you owed last year plus more – pay up or you’ll seriously regret it”.

    THAT’s what I call “intrusive”.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    “here’s tolls: “the price is x.xx, if you don’t like the price you don’t have to play”.”

    Which is more intrusive?

    Tolls are more more intrusive.

    It is more intrusive because it is new, while we already have taxes.

    Tolls are more intrusive because they make us support another taxation bureaucracy.

    It is more intrusive because it is rude. “Take it or leave it.”

    It is more intrusive because it is targeted against the very road users who need help the most.

    It is more intrusive because it increases congestion and pollution which pretty much intrudes on everyone, drivers or not.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    “pay up or you’ll seriously regret it”.

    You are going to get that part of the message anyway, so it is only the “plus more” part that’s an issue.

    Sort of like the message when you roll up tot he toll booth:

    “pay up or you’ll seriously regret it”.


  9. Groveton Avatar

    Interesting comment from Del. Hamilton. Especially the pithy, “If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten…”

    Here’s Del. Hamilton’s professional resume:

    Teacher, Newport News Public Schools, 1975 – 1984
    Assistant Principal, Newport News Public Schools, 1984 – 1994
    Coordinator, Professional Development, NN Public Schools, 1994 – Present
    Legislative: Member, House of Delegates, December 1, 1988 – Present

    I wonder if Del. Hamilton feels the same way about doing the same things over and over again with regard to the public school system. I wonder what he thinks of privatizing the public school system.

    Are the Newport News Public Schools generally considered a success?

    Maybe Del. Hamilton shoukld follow up his meeting with federal officials regarding selling off public roads to Transurban with a meeting with the Catholic Church about selling off public schools to the church.

    OK – So I am pushing the point here. However, Del. Hamilton’s logic needs work. For example:

    1. “While mass transit should be included in any transportation plan, there is nothing to link the grantors tax being imposed in Buchanan County and bus purchases in the urban crescent.”.

    True but irrelevant. Why does he think think things should be linked within regions? Are all costs linked to the taxes raised in each county / region? Of course not. If he really thinks things should be linked within regions he should support an amendment to the Virginia Constitution repudiating Dillon’s Rule and tell each region to raise sufficient taxes to pay for their own costs. Also, I give up, what is the “urban cresent”? He is comparing a county to a concept.

    2. “There also is no evidence that more government-subsidized mass transit will reduce the existing congestion problems in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads”. Didn’t he just say that mass transit should be included in any transportation plan? Now he says there is no evidence that mass transit will help congestion. I give up – which side of his face is he talking from with this comment?

    3. During the meeting, Hamilton learned that Virginia was one of only fourteen states that enjoyed a preferred status from the federal government for such projects. Outstanding! He has been a delagate since 1988 and he just learning about the relationship between the federal government and the state? Yikes!

    4. He also learned that private investors had nearly $400 billion available worldwide for such transportation infrastructure projects. That’s a very interesting statement. Private investors don’t work like government agencies. They don’t set aside fixed amounts of money to be “avilable” for certain investments and then make sure that the money is spent that way.

    This guy seems very confused.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    An important reason for implementing tolls is that they would help depress demand for new real estate development in the “driven to” market. Having lived in Fairfax County for 20+ years, I’m all for that.


  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    You know TMT – that situation you describe.. sounds REALLY INTRUSIVE!


    and tolls just might be the perfect antidote…

    tolls = more places – right?

    Pave the Piedmont (with more toll roads).

    DANG! Here we have just exactly what Ray has been yammering about as a solution… looking him in the eyeballs and he’s clueless…

  12. Groveton Avatar

    TMT is right. Tolls are a form of taxation / social engineering. There is little difference between the inevitable outcome of high government sanctioned tolls and a plan whereby government would simply forbid development beyond a certain distance from a city center. However, the Republicans masquerade tolls are some sort of public/private partnership. Presumably, this plays well to their economically illiterate base. In fact, tolls are the same as taxes when the toll is applied to a critical product or service without effective competition. If the government sold the water system to a private concern who imposed a high “toll” on those who buy water – it would be no different than the government instituting a tax on water. People might use less water but the “toll” would still be a tax.

    I used to be a Republican. Forr many years I never cast a vote for a Democrat candidate. However, in state politics, I am now an avowed Democrat. The Republicans positions and platforms are sleazy underhanded lies. Tim Kaine says he will raise taxes. That is the truth. The Republicans counter with a set of taxes masquerading as tolls. They intend to sell the public roads and spend the proceeds in the near term. They are disreputable and cannot be trusted.

    In the end, I am not sure whether the Democrats or Republicans have a better plan. However, the Democrars are up front about their plans so they have (by and large) earned my vote in state politics.

    National politics is a bit of a different matter in my mind…

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: tolls/taxes

    just curious.. do you consider Dominion and your cable company to be “taxing” you for a service you cannot avoid using?

    You pay Dominion for a product and you get that product. You can decide how MUCH you want to use – MORE than the minimum amount you need.

    Ditto with Cable. You are not forced to pay for the highest level of service.

    For FULL competition for electricity or cable – what would you have to do?

    Wouldn’t you have to allow any/all providers to string their own lines and/or provide taxpayer-support common infrastructure to allow true competition?

    Isn’t this the problem that you allude to as a restriction of a critical product or service?

    What would happen if the Government decided to get in the business of providing electricity or cable as a remedy to these essential monopolies?

    That’s the problem that we have with roads.

    With electricity, you’d have bureaucrats making critical decisions about infrastructure planning and provisioning without regard to costs. they simply would use up what they had and go back to the GA for a tax increase.

    More important – there would be no connection between service and payment so service would be not uniform, unreliable and subject to outages every time peak demand occurs.

    Tell me that’s not the ways that roads operate right now.

    Make your choice.

    Do you want electricity and cable to be operated by the government so as to remedy the “monopolistic” business model?

  14. Groveton Avatar

    Electricity is a critical service effectively monopolized by a single company. De-regulation has been deemed a failure and taxpayers are guaranteeing ROI minimums to shareholders. The General Assembly is declaring particular types of generating plants to be “in the public interest” (as long as they burn Virginia coal) and the SCC is rejecting the applications of similar plants just over the border in West Virginia (while claiming a lack of jurisdiction over the Virginia plant due to the GA’s actions). Meanwhile, there are few to no effective alternate energy programs in place. Everybody is in charge and nobody is in charge. At this point in time, I think we’d be better off finishing the job and having the government run the electricity business in Virginia.

    Cable TV is neither a critical service nor a monopoly. Satellite entertainment is widely available and telco-based video (like Verizon’s FIOS) is being deployed. Voice service is available from the local telephone company and the cable company (as well as a number of cellular companies). Internet connectivity varies by region but is limited (where it is limited) more by population density than by government enforced regulation, rights of way or eminent domain law. I see no reason to bring cable TV (or the telephone companies) back into government’s sphere.

    I hope this answers your question.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “Pave the Piedmont (with more toll roads).

    DANG! Here we have just exactly what Ray has been yammering about as a solution… looking him in the eyeballs and he’s clueless…”

    Nope. We are going to put toll roads where they raise the most revenue. The studies have already predicted this will lead to more traffic, more congestion, and some jobs relocating.

    I’ve said all along that tolls roads WILL BE the engine of sprawl. If we are lucky, we will design the new sprawl better and more compactly than the old sprawl, but I’m not very hopeful. It is one reason I don’t understand why anyone who claims to be an environmentalist would be in favor of tolls over gas taxes. Tolls are going to undo much of what environmentalists have been fighting for.

    As for paving the Piedmont, there are still places with plenty of unused pavement. But, as soon as you start clustering stuff, you are going to start concentrating energy, and you need a more robust structure to support it.

    You can see it happening in Warrenton, Winchester, and Front Royal now. In Manassas they had a long term plan to industrialize Wellington Road and along the 234 bypass out to the airport.

    In Warrenton, the plan was to avoid growth. If the plan fails, they will pay dearly.

    I don’t think “More Places” is the only answer, but I just don;t see it seriously considered by any major planning agency, even in part.

    At one time WCOG ran simulations comapering a plan for edense metrop station development to a plan to disperse jobs. They concluded that the metro plan worked better.

    They totally ignored the fact that BOTH PLANS WORKED. So, instead of adopting a plan with the best features of each, they adopted a plan that is totally unrealistic as to how many of the new residents you can get to live in apartments over a metro station.



  16. Anonymous Avatar

    “This guy seems very confused.”

    Groveton: almost exactly my thoughts. I couldn’t figure out what the guy was trying to say. i guess I’m glad he’s not teaching anymore; I’d hate for his logic to become contagious.


  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “they would help depress demand for new real estate development “

    That’s my thinking, too.

    Toll promoters seem to think that residents will move in, to avoid the tolls, and that may happen, somewhat. But I think it is just as likely that businesses will move out, so that they and their employees can avoid the cost.

    This is ALREADY happening, but tolls can only speed up the process and increase the economic energy gradient.


  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let’s try this.

    How about we call road tolls – road pricing?

    .. a system where there are transactional charges for defined services

    .. as opposed to taxing system where a ‘metered’ charge is levied but then you have access to all services at any desired consumption level – as long as you continue to feed the “meter”.

    It would be like a sign that says Parking $5 All Day and you drive in a stretch limo and expect pay your $5.

    If VDOT ran that lot – they’d just go back to the GA and say that they needed to double the size of the parking lot because they were getting a “LOT” of new business.

    that’s how we do tax&spend road building IMHO.

    we really don’t charge what it costs for the kind of use so no matter how intensive the use -the price is the same – you pay your $5 bucks and you get as may spots as you need for your size car.

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: environmentalism and HOT lanes

    strange RH.. probably the preeminent and most respect Environmental organization in the country has exactly the opposite to say that you do:

    Congestion Pricing

    A smart solution for reducing traffic in urban centers and busy corridors

    now how can that be?

    oh I know.. ED is not really an environmental organization either..just another front for the enviro-whackos…

    only a TRUE environmentalist would refuse to join ANY environmental group because they are ALL whackos.


  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”…it is just as likely that businesses will move out”

    yes.. to where? someplace else

    isn’t this the More Places argument that you claim should be done?

    which is it?

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: forcing people to live dense

    hmmm.. all those folks living in Arlington were FORCED to move there against their will…..


    what do they do.. hide the storm troopers during the day and roust out folks in suburbia in the dead of night to re-locate them?

    Had I known that every place folks live near transit.. that they were actually forced to move there.. I would have never been in favor of transit…

    some of us are just plain clueless about the truth of some of these things.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    “Presumably, this plays well to their economically illiterate base. “

    I love it. That’s really funny.


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “For FULL competition for electricity …”

    Supposedly, that was part of the deregualtion deal. You can buy electricity from whoever you want, and the carriers are just the delivery service.

    I believe it is possible now, if you wish, to order only wind power, or only solar.

    Obviously, we have a way to go.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    How about we call road tolls – road pricing?

    How about if we call a duck a canard?

    I’d like to be able to charge what it costs for my hay, but I have a little problem called competition.
    No matter what my hay costs me, no matter waht taxes I have to pay on the land I grow it on, no matter what my fuel costs are, I can only sell the hay for market price, plus or minus whatever locational advantage I have.

    If my competition gets greedy and charges too high a transactional cost, then it opens a window of opportunity for their customers to choose me instead, and it opens an opportunity for me to expand my business.

    Of course, what usually happens is that there is a peak season: everyone wants hay in October, and again in March or April, if they run out. If I can meet those peak needs, I have an advantage.

    If I thought the road operators weere going to have any competiton, or if I thought there would be more supply brought on line whne needed, then i would have less of a problem with tolls.

    I’d still think they are environmentally stupid.


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    “Congestion Pricing

    A smart solution for reducing traffic in urban centers and busy corridors.”

    I don’t disagree with that. I just think the thought is incomplete. if you reduce the traffic in busy cneters, where did it go? How do ou reduce traffic without also reducing commerce?

    You can make some reduction in traffic and still keep most of the business – for a while.

    How about if you had congestion pricing on alternate weeks? Do that for a while and then go talk to the commercial establishments and see what they think.

    If business goes UP on congestion free days, I’ll conced your point, but I don’t see it as much of a risk.


  26. Anonymous Avatar

    “yes.. to where? someplace else

    isn’t this the More Places argument that you claim should be done?”

    Which is it? It’s exactly the same argument. I claim that tolls will (help) result in More Places (if we are smart and lucky, otherwise it’s just more sprawl).

    But, if the reason tolls work is just because they move people someplace else, then maybe there is a cheaper way to get the same result. (Except for all the money yu siphon off for transit.)


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Who said anything about forcing people to live dense?

    But, now that you brought it up, what do you call it if you don’t force them to do something, but you don’t offer any competing options, either?

    Oh, that’s right. you give them free choice provided they pay their “full locational costs”. Which is a way of redefining competing options so that they are no longer competitive.



  28. All toll road supporters share at least one thing in common: a complete disregard for economic analysis. This makes sense. Honest supporters are motivated by ideology (“I don’t hate cars” but “the goal is to get people out of their cars”). So as a system to punish drivers for using cars, it inarguably succeeds; no further analysis is needed.

    But if the goal is mobility, economic growth or ‘save the planet’ one can use objective standards to measure effectiveness. We don’t need to guess what would happen in the toll road utopia, because the tollers’ heaven-upon-earth is already here: London. Mr Gross’ favorite people at the US DOT love to cite London as the example of saving the environment and eliminating congestion through road pricing. We almost implemented the same system in NYC, and now Chicago is thinking about taking the federal toll bribe money.

    Let’s look at London’s numbers from this puff piece written by one of Red Ken’s stooges. PDF here. Turn to the charts on page 48.

    Total congestion charge payment: £115m
    Administrative & Operational costs: £110m

    Yes, that’s right. The “user fee” generates just £5 million pounds of profit after taxing motorists £110 million. Who benefits from this setup? Well, IBM does. They have the current contract to operate this monstrosity. Until the public got fed up and ousted him, Red Ken had his own new army of administrative bureaucrats to add to his empire.

    But then we get to the dirty little secret of tolling. The profit is not in the charge itself, it’s in the tickets. You’ll see that the program generated £50m in “Penalty charge payments.” The system is specifically designed to ensure as many people as possible are nailed as ‘cheaters’ because they just forgot to pay. So in economic terms, it’s sold as “user pays” but it’s really just another means for the state to issue traffic tickets for revenue. I.e., it’s a lie.

    Now, these are the early numbers from when the charge was at its introductory level. The charge was quickly hiked and expanded, despite promises that this would not happen. The expense/revenue ratio isn’t quite as absurd now, but I wanted to use the early numbers because these were the figures used to plan the charge itself.

    So how’s that environment doing in London? Here’s the latest 2008 data:

    “Analysis suggested that the implementation of the [Congestion Charging Scheme] did not lead to a change in roadside measurements of oxides of nitrogen (NOx, NO and NO2) during the hours of operation of the CCS.” — University of London researchers PDF abstract. Turn to page 32. The results are pretty clear.

    So the promise of a ‘user fee’ is a lie and the promise of better air quality is a lie. And if you want, I’ll pull up the TfL’s own charts to show the traffic congestion levels are right back where they started. But none of these things were really the goal. The charge suits an ideology and generates mountains of cash for companies which are very effective at redistributing to their political allies.

    The same thing is happening here.

  29. Anonymous Avatar


    You forgot to mention how congestion reduction is measured. Promoters claim a 33% reduction in congestion.

    Here is how its done. Take given trip or set of trips around the city in the dead of night. That sets the uncongested trip time.

    Then you make the same trips at rush hour. the difference in time is the cost of congestion.

    Say the collection of trips a 2:30 AM take an average of 30 minutes, and at rucsh hour they take an average of 39 minutes. that means the rush hour delay is almost 25% or nine minutes.

    Now you introduce congestion charging and you reduce congestion by 33% – From nime minutes to six.

    The total trip time drops from 39 minutes to 36 minutes, and all it costs you is * Britsh pounds, per day.

    THAT is what they call a 33% reduction in congestion.

    Such a deal.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “So as a system to punish drivers for using cars, it inarguably succeeds; no further analysis is needed.”

    Exactly what I told Larry. If he just came out and said it was punishment for drivers, I’d stop arguing, because he’d have an an honest argument I could respect.

    But, when we get into the business of dirty little secrets, creative accounting, Assymetric “analysis”, and redefining the world to fit (Why do we park on driveways, and drive on parkways?), THEN I have a problem.


  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think the purpose of tolls is to punish drivers but a more fair and egalitarian way to allocate costs for different levels of usage

    … instead of charging everybody the same price no matter how intense the usage and

    I don’t even see this in terms of fairness

    When you pay a toll to cross the CBBT – you are not being “punished” but you ARE paying your fair share.

    and if you need to drive across that bridge twice as much as someone else -you owe twice as much.

    we have a mindset that “its not my fault” so “I am being punished”.

    the current process for meeting the demand for more road capacity is to raise taxes on everyone and then to pick winners and losers as to who gets the improvements and who does not – even though everyone is paying.

    This is how VDOT does it and Bob and others have seriously questions about the effectiveness of this kind of a process.

    My view is that more money won’t make this process better.

    It will only refill the slush fund to continue more of the same – wrong process.

    so instead of me wanting to punish drivers, I’m interested is less abuse of taxpayers…

    and instead of collecting more and more taxes to serve the desires of those who want to drive SOLO at rush hour every day – we let people decide for themselves if they need to do that by charging folks for their incremental use on a per transaction trip basis rather than coming back every year and making everyone pay more taxes.

    I believe that is infinitively less egalitarian than letting each decide how much toll (tax) that they themselves want/need at any point in time.

    Some days, they may want to drive solo in the general purpose lanes. Other days they may want to slug. And some days, they might need to be somewhere at a particular time, that will actually cost them money if they are not on time…..

    I see this is the opposite of punishing people and instead a more fair system that let’s people decide what things are important to them – every trip.

    They have much more control of their lives and their commute.

  32. Groveton Avatar

    “When you pay a toll to cross the CBBT – you are not being “punished” but you ARE paying your fair share.”.

    And when you don’t pay a toll to drive down Rt 3 in Fredricksburg – you are not being “rewarded” but you ARE NOT paying your fair share.

    Larry – if tolls ensure that people are paying their fair share then they should be implemented everywhere because everybody should be paying their fair share. But you don’t want that (as far as I understand your argument). You only want tolls in congested areas and on commuter oriented roads. This has always been the transparent and fatal flaw in your “fairness” argument.

    Congested roads are congested by lots of taxpayers using those roads (by definition). Neither you nor Jim Bacon have ever quantitatively demonstrated that the sum total of transit-related taxes paid by the users of congested roads is insufficient to expand those roads. You have never demonstrated that the users of congested roads are being subsidized by those who do not drive on those roads (or the mythical non-driving taxpayer). Yet you perist in promulgating a “fairness” argument that relies on the unproven belief that the sum total of people driving on congested roads are not “paying their share”.

  33. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: when I drive down Route 3, I’m paying about a penny a mile which is actually twice as much as someone getting 30 mpg and driving on I-95 at rush hour.

    My premise is based on this logic.

    congested road are expensive to build and maintain. For instance, you cannot repair/upgrade a congested road unless you shut the road down and/or do it at night at overtime rates.

    Thinks like snowplowing.. adding salt, etc.. all require more intensive maintenance.

    There are not enough snow plows to plow all roads at once.. so commuter roads are prioritized while rural roads wait.

    When there is an accident or incident on a commuter road, it is hugely expensive taking scads of manpower whereas an accident on a regular artery is usually handled with far fewer personnel.

    Commuter roads require thicker asphalt.. wider shoulders, barriers along the ditches, long accel/deccel lanes.. interchanges for grade-separate interchanges…

    and yet the guy that drives a mile on that kind of road pays no more in gas tax than a guy that drives along a curvy rural road without shoulders and without barriers and when an accident happens.. they wait until the deputy and ambulance shows up and they usually get transported by a vehicle and not a helicopter..

    but yes.. I have no data to back up the assertion.

    It’s one of those “data” things..

    Bob did a simple division of the total maintenance cost for the state into the total number of miles of road in the state and got something like 12K per lane mile.

    Do you think that ..that cost is the same no matter where that lane mile is?

    Why.. if all things are equal it costs more to build a lane on an interstate than it does on a rural road – not counting the r/w costs?

    commuter roads have got to be “beefier”.

    areawide tolls on major roads, I would support and I would also support a rebate of those tolls for the first 15K of driving.

    I’ll admit that the likelihood of that happening is as problematic or worse than say a 50 cent or 1 dollar increase in the gas tax.

    Unless someone can show that tolls like those on the CBBT are wrong, I think it is a good example of folks paying for what they use and a major plus is that we are not paying increased taxes to VDOT to maintain that structure.

    and if we did.. I’m quite sure it would not be operated in as cost-effective a manner…

    I do have significant concerns about tolling.. and potential abuses but at this point I deem those more easily challenged by citizens than trying to change the way that VDOT does business.

    The part I like about toll roads that I don’t like about VDOT is that toll roads have to go through a fiscal justification to prove that there is demand for the road whereas VDOT merely uses a variety of non-standard non-uniform methods – specific to each road to justify it.. and so they end up with a list of “needed” roads that can never be built… and the process for ranking these projects is inherently political not fiscal.

    and that in turn, creates winners and losers in terms of what taxpayers get road improvements and who doesn’t.

    all of this .. from a reality point of view does not matter because we know right now that no matter what emerges from the GA – that it’s not going to be sufficient to build all the projects that are on VDOT’s list or for that matter all the projects that are on NoVa or HR/TW’s list.

    so how are those projects going to get built?

    I see one path only and that is the CBBT path.

    now watch the GA prove me wrong..


  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let’s do a calculation.

    let’s say that adding new capacity to I-95 – will cost a billion dollars for one new lane.

    and let’s say 200,000 cars a day use that road.

    so you do a simple division to come up with each person’s share of that expansion.


    now… let’s assume each one of those folks drives.. 25K a year in a car than gets 25mpg.

    that’s a thousand gallons of gas with about 35 cents a gallon gas tax.

    that’s about 500 dollars.

    so it would take 10 years of dedicating their entire gas tax to that one new lane just to pay for it.

    no money for maintenance of the other lanes or building or maintenance of other roads either.

    just that one new lane.

    is it reasonable to conclude that the 200,000 folks that use I-95 are paying the total costs of adding a new lane to the road?

    I don’t think the numbers “work”.

    so if they don’t.. where does the other money come from?

    Now let’s look at the gas tax – statewide.

    a one cent increase in the gas tax will bring in 50-70 million dollars.

    only enough to add.. less than 1/10 of a the full length lane on I-95
    and this money is from all taxpayers.

    In order to build a billion dollars worth of new lanes on I-95 – and have the state pay for it -you’d have to raise the gas tax about 10 cents statewide.. every taxpayer across Virginia to pay for that lane.

    if you wanted to have the 200,000 folks who use the new lane pay for it – how high would you have to raise THEIR gas taxes?

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry’s argument is assymetric because he ony considers costs and use. He doesn’t consider service level or total usage.

    Besides that, his argument is flawed. “I’m paying …twice as much as someone getting 30 mpg and driving on I-95 at rush hour.”

    30 mpg is what you get driving in unrestricted traffic. That guy driving in congested traffic on I-95 at rush hour may be getting only a third of that mileage, so he is paying three times as much, per mile. And since the use density is a hundred times as much the state is collecting 300 times as much as they are collecting from Rte 3.

    You see it as a more fair and egalitarian way to allocate costs for different levels of usage, without considering different levels of service.

    As for costs, it costs me more to grow hay than it does some other people. Afarmer who has flat, unimpeded fields can work faster and make more hay in an hour, and he may be located where taxes are lower. But, I don’t get to charge my customers more, just because it costs me more. It isn’t their fault that it costs me more. I can only charge waht the competition will allow.

    I-95 doesn’t have any competition. The guy on route 3 doesn’t hve any competition either. There is no excess demand (read insufficient capacity) so why should he pay more? “You only want tolls in congested areas and on commuter oriented roads. This has always been the transparent and fatal flaw in your “fairness” argument.”

    “Do you think that ..that cost is the same no matter where that lane mile is?” No. Do you think the payments are the same, no matter where the lane mile is?

    Groveton is right. “You have never demonstrated that the users of congested roads are being subsidized by those who do not drive on those roads (or the mythical non-driving taxpayer).”

    Your argument is one-sided, based on faulty statistics where they exist, logically flawed, wrong, and and it promotes prejudice against certain clases of users: it is a social anathema, and an environmental disaster.

    How I really feel is much stronger than that, but I’m trying to be polite.

    “you’d have to raise the gas tax about 10 cents statewide.. every taxpayer across Virginia to pay for that lane.”

    Too bad. how do you suppose they got THEIR lanes paid for? The same way.

    If a ten cent gas tax isn’t enough to make up for thirty years of neglect, then make it 50 cents, and call it debt payment instead of road taxes, if it makes you feel better.

    If fifty cents isn’t enough, make it a dollar. maybe some of those people around Farmville that drive 60 miles to work will feel some of the pain. Maybe they will move closer to where they work. Maybe that will be someplace where the traffic is congested, and then they will feel differently.

    “areawide tolls on major roads, I would support ….” How about if we toll all roads, and use a gas tax to do it? And we rebate the first 15K?

    You do realize, that using your own argument, the guy driving 15K on an expensive road would be getting a more valuable rebate?

    “how high would you have to raise THEIR gas taxes?” There you go again, making this a regional issue as if THEIR taxes should be different. The real question is how do you raise THEIR taxes so that they pay for THEIR lanes (and continue to pay for ours).

    “so it would take 10 years of dedicating their entire gas tax to that one new lane just to pay for it.” What’s the problem? that lane will be there for tens of decades: by your argment it will pay for itsself many times over, ;eaving plenty for maintenance.

    And that’s if you totally ignore all the additional taxes raised by the development that road produces, and the commerce it carries.

    The CBBT is a special case, entirely different from I-95. But, if you want to make the case that it is NOT different, then you would have to make the case about every road, and argue for uniform tolling everywhere.

    Which, even if you had it would still be environmentally inferior and prone to far more inequities. My truck wighs close to six tons going down the road loaded, but it is only two axles. I’d pay the same toll as my wife following me in the Prius!

    “I don’t think the numbers “work”.

    so if they don’t.. where does the other money come from?”

    Well, they don’t work for Rte 3, either, thanks to 30 years of refusing to raise the gas tax. Where does THAT money come from?

    “commuter roads have got to be “beefier”.” So do coal hauling roads. Where does THAT money come from? For that matter, where does the money for the coal come from? You think it might be power hungry northern virginia?

    You keep harping on a one cent increase. How about a one cent increase evey year for thirty years, calcuated to a net present value today, after inflation and adding in allthe ineterest we didn’t earn because we “saved” money that didn’t really pay us anything?

    A fifty cent increase would be cheap. And now you can’t even say that people wouldn’t pay it, because they are already paying that increase, and more.

    And if it does reduce gas use, the GOOD. it will reduce road use, and THAT will reduce congestion, without the need for a new lane. AND it will keep the money out of the pockets of terrorists, if you believe George Bush.

    You say the VDOT system is broken because it is political, but you think outrageous proffers are OK, because they are political.

    Really, Larry, this argument is so weak, so wrong, and so pathetic, that you really need to give it up. You are just repeating the same old stuff as if saying it often enough will make it believable.

    Unfortunately, this has actually happened. If you want to see the result of smart growth dogma being repeated until it is believed, then just go to Upperville and see the results of “traffic calming” in action in the real world. Talk to the local residents about it.

    The axle-breaking, tire destroying, noisy, crosswalks installed there are a far cry from the pleasant-looking and equally effective brick crosswalks in Arlington.


  36. (Updated with new info). Even the attempt at math was a bit off. $1 billion for one lane? Well, for that amount you could build the extension from Washington, DC to Richmond. That would be a major capital improvement — why wouldn’t you want to pay it off not over ten years, but over thirty? Its usable lifespan is going to be closer to a hundred than to ten.

    Second, we’ve already shown that drivers in Fairfax County (see below) pay $200m more in car tax per year than is spent on maintenance — you’ve once again slipped into “gas tax only” mode. I wish that were all I paid. So just Fairfax residents could pay off such a project all on their own in 5 years. Your fairness argument wears a little thin when drivers already pay more than their fair share.

    You questioned earlier the accuracy of my predicted construction costs from Florida DOT numbers — here’s an example from Virginia. Two extra lanes on I-95 in Fairfax? The original cost a few years ago was $65 million for 6.3 miles ($10m/mile), now it’s $123 million ($10m/lane-mile). FDOT’s numbers are right in the ballpark.

    We can spend $5 billion on a train not for 212,000 people a day, but for 2,000.

  37. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the stark reality is that we’re not going to get more major infrastructure by believing we can get it from increasing the gas tax.

    That’s not conjecture.. that’s everyone from the Gov to the VDOT folks and most of the GA and to believe that somehow there is a conspiracy to not properly expend existing funds… is, in my mind, just as outlandish as thinking that we are going to put a 50 cent or one dollar tax on gasoline.

    My support of tolls is threefold:

    1. – they ARE a way to get more infrastructure NOW and not ten or 20 years fro now.

    2. – they are more acceptable to the public than raising the gas tax by 50 cents or a dollar.

    3. – people …like the folks that pay to use the CBBT – see a reasonable pay-for-service nexus which if far better than the tax nexus.

    You can disagree but can you disagree and still be in favor of real solutions?

    I’d support area-wide tolls on major roads and I’d also support rebating the gas tax for the toll miles (which would be minuscule) but I’d also support rebating the first 15K worth of tolls.

    That way – no one pays any more if their usage is average or better.

    toll roads have been around a long time and they do work.

    and I don’t hear anybody saying that the tolls on the CBBT are unfair… wrong… ill-advised… and we know this – the CBBT would not be there if not for tolls.

    There is nothing unique about the CBBT with respect to other needed infrastructure in Va.

    We have a choice – keep a list that we’ll never build

    or.. find out which ones are viable as toll roads and build them now.

    this position is a realistic one and I challenge Ray (or Bob or anyone else) to come up with a competitive plan that has a realistic chance of being implemented.

    but paaaalllleeese let’s stop saying that a 50 cent or $1 increase is “realistic”.
    80% of the public is opposed to even a nickel increase and most polls show that people favor tolls by a 2-1 margin.

    to me – that is a reasonable path.

  38. Mr. Gross,

    Your position that tolls are the only politically viable way to lay some concrete has merit. E.g., in California the toll companies’ multimillion dollar political donation warchest is being used to bulldoze right over the ecomaniacs trying to block a toll road (241) between Orange County and San Diego through some empty shrubbery. Aside from the safety and big brother problems, there is an argument to be made in favor of allowing motorists to pay a few billion in payola to a bunch of Australian Enron-style crooks to do the wet work.

    But deals with the devil are bargains you’re never going to win. Buy into the lies (e.g., gas tax revenue is going down) and the next step is tolls on existing free roads with no expansion. That’s what we’re getting on I-95/395. Macquarie Bank’s ponzi scheme requires continual acquisition of new toll roads. And these roads all come with non-compete agreements that generate congestion on competing routes (that’s the “sell your soul” price for their hit job on the environmentalists). The net result will be more congestion, one way or the other. It’s not worth it.

    You are saying that the only political options are: Status Quo, or Status Quo plus taxes in the form of tolls.

    Baloney. The third option is change. Drivers have no idea how much they’re getting shafted — and they aren’t just the biggest voting bloc, they are the voters. Shine a little light on what’s going on and a true leader can sell a reform plan.

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: billion dollar lanes and 30 year pay backs

    I would use VDOT estimate for a new lane but I would agree to a different number from a credible source.

    but until then.. use VDOT numbers.

    when you add a lane to I-95, the cost includes reconfiguring the overpasses and interchanges. Quoting what it costs for one mile of rural road is not credible.

    thirty year payback… and within that 30 years more infrastructure is needed? Higher taxes?

    re: third-option

    put the 3rd option on the table.

    articulate the path that a “true” leader could sell to the public.

    here’s what we know won’t work.

    using VDOT’s current method of ranking and prioritizing 100 billion dollars of backlogs.

    Show me the top 20 most urgent projects. Total up the costs.

    and show me a plan to fund them.

    If you cannot do that and your only solution is to raise taxes as high as you can get away with politically..and then to use the same bogus process for picking the projects to fund (and in doing that, which projects to delay for decades) -what have we accomplished?

    We desperately need a strong nexus for user pays and from my own perspective I don’t see that happing with the current VDOT process and I do see it happening with tolls.

    but I’m open to other plans.. but they do have to be articulated…

  40. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: deals with the devil

    I don’t consider the CBBT as a deal with the devil.

    If we can build an operate the CBBT without the abuses you fear then why can we not repeat that CBBT experience?

    What I like about toll roads is that they tend to be much more transparent in their finances and the public can clearly see if funds are being diverted – like with the Dulles Toll Road and this will bring pressure from the public.

    whereas the public has virtually no clue on how money is allocated with the current VDOT process – as you have pointed out.

    Which I find a bit on the paradoxical side – because you indict the VDOT process but then you pick it over tolls….

    you appear to think.. it will be easier to reform the VDOT process than to trust tolls…

    am I correct?

  41. “Quoting what it costs for one mile of rural road is not credible.”

    Look, if you’re going to attack what I say, that’s great. I want to learn where my arguments fail. But I’ve explained three times already that the Florida DOT figures (as if that’s not a credible source?) were for urban roads. Would you mind reading what I actually write before shooting off a response? The VDOT figures for I-95 bolster FDOT’s urban figures. The rural example I gave a while back was used solely to show FDOT’s rural numbers were accurate. FDOT has estimates for every type of road available: urban and rural. It’s really not that complicated. So we can put to rest the silly notion that all roads must cost $200 million per mile like Maryland’s ICC toll road fiasco.

    VDOT is definitely broken. The reason is not a lack of transportation money. The problem is incorrect priorities. The proof? Dulles rail. Take the money we’re wasting on the nobodies who use transit and you’ve got $500 million to play with. That’s a good start.

    Priorities are set by the governor and to a lesser extent by the assembly. We get a new governor pretty frequently. I say it’s easier to find one good man than it is to fight the free market — the market incentive for a toll road is to create, not solve, congestion.

  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: cost estimates

    use the VDOT numbers if they satisfy but keep in mind as I said previously that one mile of urban interstate is not the cost of say 10 miles of a new lane on an existing urban interstate.

    You need to use the numbers that VDOT gives for adding the HOT lanes and then used the VDOT AADT daily traffic numbers and then do the division and then that will give you the cost per driver – then tell me how you would fund.. a financial plan.

    I get .. numbers roughly along the lines of a 882 million for the HOT lanes + the overpass mods and that AADT for that section of road at peak hour is around 220,000 cars per hour.

    re: Dulles

    Bob .. to my understanding VDOT has absolutely nothing to do with the Dulles Rail issue…they have no skin in that game..

    there is no “diversion” of money from VDOT’s budget.

    correct me if I’m wrong…

    re: priorities

    sorry to disillusion you but the priorities are not set by the Gov.

    I don’t disagree that a gov with leadership is more likely to make progress but you’re going to find also that a many governors support toll roads especially the ones that have seen the financial numbers they are dealing with for roads.

    it’s not about “fighting” the free market.. IMHO… it’s about applying free market principles to road usage.

    Mary Peter, the US DOT (and ex DOT for Arizona) says that the current process for allocation gas tax money is broken and she has advocated abolishing the gas tax and going to a public-private toll system.

    The Reason Foundation says the same thing.

    The Environmental Defense – the polar opposite of Reason on many issues – AGREEs with them.

    The Govs of California, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Florida all support tolling.

    Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Wisconsin and Oregon are also actively considering toll roads.

    Can all of these folks be THAT wrong?

    I think there can be a legitimate disagreement on the comparative egalitarian merits of tolling vs taxes but contemporary fiscal and political realities pretty much show that the gas tax is not going to be a sustainable solution.

    Jim Bacon has advocated a per mile tax – which I find acceptable if the technological and logistical issues can be solved.

    I’m open to other ideas that are feasible…

    .. and I’ll admit.. something MIGHT turn the public and the politics of the gas tax around but take a look at the GA and convince me that they are going to do anything more than a 5 cent increase which is 1/10 of what would be needed to build JUST the infrastructure that NoVa and HRTW say they need.

  43. “use the VDOT numbers if they satisfy but keep in mind as I said previously that one mile of urban interstate is not the cost of say 10 miles of a new lane on an existing urban interstate.”

    Huh? I’m using a 6.5 mile extension of I-95 to extrapolate out the cost of a 90 mile extension of I-95. If anything, economies of scale would make such a project even cheaper. Using the cost of HOT lanes is exactly the wrong thing to do because it costs a lot more to build a toll road. That’s one of the laundry list of problems with tolling.

    “Mary Peter, the US DOT (and ex DOT for Arizona)”

    Also ex-HDR, a tolling firm.

    “The Reason Foundation says the same thing.”

    Which I’m sure has nothing to do with their being founded by a toll road firm, Koch Industries. Or the cash they get from certain oil companies with a very legitimate interest in ensuring gas prices don’t go up via a tax that they pay.

    “Environmental Defense – the polar opposite of Reason on many issues – AGREEs with them.”

    Yes, when Reason abandons libertarian principles, it finds itself in full agreement with the car-hating left-wing socialists. You can add Hu Jintao, Hugo Chavez and Red Ken Livingstone to your list.

    “The Govs of California, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Colorado [et cetera] all support tolling.”

    Of course they do! Let’s take Indiana as an example. Mitch Daniels sells the Indiana Toll Road to Cintra-Macquarie for $3.8 billion. Mitch Daniels can take that money and build lots of cool things for the people of Indiana. And guess what? In the year 2105, the people of Indiana will still be paying for Mr Daniels’ spending spree (and I’m not even exaggerating!)

    “to my understanding VDOT has absolutely nothing to do with the Dulles Rail issue”

    Yup. That’s why I keep talking about motorist funding of transportation. The Virginia Transportation Commission distributes money taken from motorists — especially from tolls, in this case — to the transit boondoggles. Money taken for motorists should go to roads, not buses and trains.

    “sorry to disillusion you but the priorities are not set by the Gov.”

    Doesn’t the governor appoint the VDOT director and put cronies on the various transportation boards? If not the gov (with the assembly) then who among elected officials?

    “but take a look at the GA and convince me that they are going to do anything more than a 5 cent increase”

    Did you think the assembly was going to give rebates for already-paid abuser fees? Those weasels have no principles and can be bullied into doing the right thing.

    You’re really going about things backward by assuming defeat from the outset. The first step is to identify the problem. Second, you find the best possible solution. Third, you find a means of accomplishing step two.

  44. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I would like to inject another line of thought into the discussion of congestion tolls. Talking about what’s “fair” will inevitably result in us chasing our own tails. I’m more interested in what’s economically efficient.

    Here’s the economist’s argument for congestion tolls. You have finite transportation capacity. There are two ways to ration that capacity. One is to let everyone compete for space, and let everyone get stuck together. People who have time to burn are stuck with people who are in a panic to get to the day care before it closes. It’s very egalitarian — and very inefficient.

    Congestion tolls allow those who either (a) have money to burn, or (b) place a very high value on their time because they’re in a big hurry, now have options. Additionally, regulating the numbers of people entering the congestion toll lane *increases* the capacity of the lane. In cases where money is tight and the resources don’t exist to add more capacity, congestion tolls increase the economic and operational efficiency of the existing infrastructure. There are no losers, only winners.

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: costs of new lanes.

    you cannot “just” ADD lanes to I-95 using the median unless you reconfigure many if not most of the overpasses… that adds a LOT to the cost.

    Each one of those overpasses will add millions to the costs.

    The cost quoted to you is ONLY the road/overpass infrastructure.

    The toll infrastructure is their cost of doing business.

    Did I hear the cost you came up with and how it would be funded?

    Tolls, Bob.. ARE a libertarian principle.. have you heard?

    Many of the original roads in this country were privately operated toll roads – roads that the state did not take by imminent domain, destroy the private owners business, and usually did not pay fair market value.

    That’s not a libertarian principle.

    “Money taken for motorists should go to roads, not buses and trains.”

    then you’re gonna really HATE the Hot lanes… they’re doing this in spades and I probably agree with you more than I disagree on this issue.

    and this proves my point… The folks in NoVa have a much better chance of affecting the HOT lane policies than they do VDOT Richmond policies – not the least of which is sending NoVa money to Richmond to never see it again.

    There is a pending lawsuit on the Dulles Toll Road issue and if the court ventures into the same territory that they did with the ability of transportation authorities to levy taxes – we may end up with more like a CBBT governance model.

    I still can’t get over how you still essentially defend/support the VDOT way of doing better than tolls.

    No Governor is the last two decades has sought to fundamentally alter the patronage framework that Virginia and VDOT does business despite an excellent list of recommendations that JLARC has provided.

    Right now.. if you were going to raise the gas tax – VDOT would be required to generate a sheet detailing how much each county would get for each penny of tax increase and for every county that got shortchanged.. that would be another “no” vote.

    this is no way to reform this part of the system. It’s based on pure politics and, in fact, it’s the politics that has made VDOT what it is.

    as far as lumping all the Govs and Mitch Daniels with the likes of Chavez and company.. you are assuming that those Govs are not looking out for the interests of citizens and taxpayers- all of them – and that’s starting to move back into grand conspiracy-land in my view.

    There are a LOT of public officials included elected that believe that tolls are a valid way to do roads.

    You may not agree with them but to impune their motives is a bit of a stretch.. They genuinely believe that tolls are valid as does the Reason folks, ED as well as the elected officials in other countries.

  46. Groveton Avatar

    “There are no losers, only winners.”.

    Great news!

    Well run companies normally run a trial of great ideas before rolling them out to the entire company. Just in the remote chance that ideas which only have winners don’t quite turn out as expected. So, Larry and Jim, I assume you’d support a trial of congestion tolling in Fredricksburg and Henrico County. And please don’t say there isn’t congestion there too. This is the chance of liftime for those areas – they get to start being winners before the rest of us schmucks. I’ll draft a letter to the local governments of Fredricksburg and Henrico if Larry and Jim will promise to sign the letter. The letter will demand that Fredricksburg and Henrico immediately institute congestion tolling since there are only winners and no losers.

    “Here’s the economist’s argument for congestion tolls. You have finite transportation capacity. There are two ways to ration that capacity. One is to let everyone compete for space, and let everyone get stuck together. People who have time to burn are stuck with people who are in a panic to get to the day care before it closes. It’s very egalitarian — and very inefficient.”.

    Same argument applies to schools. But you’ve made a value judgement that education is a societal imperative while transportation is not. Your values – apply them in your region, not mine.

    “…well as the elected officials in other countries.”.

    True. I’ve been in cars in a number of places where tolling has been instituted. London and Singapore stand out. Singapore did it right – the tolls are everywhere, not just in certain areas defined to be “congested”. You drive you pay. Sound good to me. Which brings me back to my original point ….

    Let’s pilot this winning idea in Henrico and Fredricksburg. Here are the basics:

    1. Fairness menas nothing. If you are already overpaying for your roads – too bad.

    2. We sell your busiest roads to private companies and give those companies the right to charge you tolls (within some contractual guidelines, although no contract ever lasts as long as the lease on these roads).

    3. You continue to pay all the taxes you already pay whether or not you are already paying and regardless of whether you are paying a lot in tolls as well.

    4. The government will spend the money it gets from selling your roads and charging you tolls on whatever it wants. Given the urbanization of Virginia you should expect that the money will be spent in accordance with priorities set in the urban areas as they become the majority in the state – sooner rather than later. It’s a Dillon Rule state so don’t hold your breath waiting for your local politicans to get control of the money. Most likely the money will be used to build mass transit in NoVA and Tidewater. If you don’t like that, go suck eggs.

    So, Larry and Jim, how do I get that letter into you hands so you can each sign it and we’ll get it published and sent to your political representatives?

    Remember, there are only winners – no losers.

  47. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Not sure where you got the “only winners”.. If I said that, I disown it….

    I actually support wider tolls on most interstates and most primary roads. I’d use license plate recognition technology for the folks that did not have transponders.

    I’d give a discount to folks with transponders.

    Congestion tolling on top of $4 gas may well spell the doom of Fredericksburg to NoVa SOLO rush hour commuting.

    People will still commute but in multi-passenger vehicles – which, if you think about it IS the avowed goal of congestion tolls.

    so yes.. I’d sign such a letter in a heart beat.

    The arrangement with private companies could be no worse than Dominion and perhaps even better if we use a CBBT-like model.

    The HOT lanes are planned to come down as far South as Spotsylvania anyhow…

    I stick will pick tolls over higher taxes given to VDOT Richmond and Groveton – do you support higher taxes to go to VDOT Richmond?

    If you do not..then what do you support?

    be clear. how much more money do you want to give to VDOT to continue the current process?

  48. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: area-wide tolling

    think about this.

    right now.. I pay about a penny a mile at about 38 cents a gallon taxes.

    some say the shortfall is 50 cents, so tolling would add another 2 cents a mile – right?

    so for a mere 3 cents a mile, we generate another billion dollars a year in funding…

    that sounds a lot less painful than 50 cents a gallon…

    AND we capture a ton of money from out of state and out of jurisdiction drivers.

    NoVa would make out like a bandit if it got tolls for all those folks who drive from Fredericksburg to NoVa jobs.

    Groveton.. what are you thinking?

    you need to sign this letter also!!


  49. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob – to this list of organizations that support tolls and congestion pricing – add the Heritage Foundation:

    “The Heritage Foundation is committed to building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.”

    “Among the most damaging federal requirements are the limits on the extent to which states can charge tolls and work in partnership with private-sector investors.”

    “For example, the major surface transportation issue in communities throughout the country is congestion, generally associated with commuting and rush hour travel. With existing highways offered to consumers (drivers) as a “free good,” or at least as a pre-paid service, drivers have no financial incentive to alter their schedules or their mode of transportation so they might use this valuable asset more efficiently to minimize congestion. To induce drivers to alter their travel plans to diminish congestion during peak travel periods associated either with holidays or workday rush hours, tolls could be levied (or increased where they already exist) on specific bridges or highways, as appropriate. This would encourage some individuals to defer travel, to utilize an alternative mode of transportation such as public transit or car pools, or take a different route.”

    so now.. we have the Heritage Foundation, the Reason Foundation, the EDF and the CATO Institute
    (Committed to Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace)

    ALL support Congestion Pricing and tolls…

    Can all of these disparate groups that rarely agree as a group on anything but do agree on this issue be wrong?

    Groveton.. how can you be opposed to Free Markets and Individual Liberty? sheeesh…

  50. Let’s see. CATO was founded by… David H. Koch. Mr. Koch, a billionaire, is a trustee for the Reason Foundation. Guess who also gives loads of cash to Heritage?

    You see, when you’re worth $17 billion — earned from a company heavily involved in tolling and oil — you can afford to write a lot of big checks. He’s tied with his brother for #37 on the Forbes wealthiest list.

    All three groups also get the same level of support from the big name oil companies. These companies have as a top priority ensuring that demand for gasoline does not go down as a result of an increased fuel excise tax, or preferably its complete elimination.

    In the perfect world of Koch Industries and big oil, tolls would replace the gas tax. Hey, that’s what the think tanks they fund say. Imagine that.

  51. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob – how about these polls of ordinary citizens that show support for tolls:

    “Finally, voters support tolls, either generally or only on new highways and bridges, buy a similar small margin. “We can see clear avenues of general agreement amongst voters here,”

    and here’s one from AAA:

    …”..When respondents were asked to choose from a number of funding
    options, the public did not favor using general purpose revenues. In
    fact, the most frequent choice – 52% – was some form of toll option to help raise money to fund our transportation system.”

    so.. many of the think tanks, the EDF, many of the nations governors and other elected officials AND now,,,, the citizens in these polls are all like Chavez…

    tsk tsk

  52. Hillary has polls that shows she’ll be the nominee. So does B. Hussein — so are all polls correct? The one poll that can’t be faked is the voting booth.

    Voters tossed out the GOP House in Indiana over Mitch Daniels selling the roads to Macquarie (and daylight saving time). London voters tossed out Red Ken over the congestion tax.

    I can’t think of a referendum that ever said “Give us tolls!” but I can show referenda where tolls were rejected.

  53. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: referenda that reject tolls

    I’d like to see a referenda that said that in order to fund a list of projects – x dollars was needed and then to give 4 choices:

    1. – gas tax – and show the increase needed

    2. – tolls and show the toll costs

    3. – sales tax and show the increase

    4. -none of the above – don’t build the projects.

    I’d agree about the polls if that was but one data point, but when you combine the polls, with the think tanks, with the Govs, with many Environmental groups and with many transportation officials…. at the least you have to admit this is not the opinion of a small group .

    there is a substantial wider view that tolls are valid and and can provide benefits that gas tax funding does not.

    “A recent national road pricing study in the United Kingdom produced a stunning conclusion — using road pricing to achieve just a four percent reduction in traffic reduces congestion by 50 percent.”

  54. “when you combine the polls, with the think tanks… and with many transportation officials”

    All of which are bought and paid for. Which makes it the opinion of a very small group: HDR, Koch and Exxon. For them, it’s just business.

    The UK poll reminded me to mention — for a second time, maybe it’ll sink in if I mention it more — 1.8 million signed a petition on the Prime Minister’s website saying we do not want electronic road pricing. In percentage terms, that’s more than signed the abuser fees petition. Would you believe someone who went around saying abuser fees was a popular idea in VA?

    1,811,424 agreed to the following statement — not 400 people carefully selected by a professional pollster paid to get results:

    “The idea of tracking every vehicle at all times is sinister and wrong. Road pricing is already here with the high level of taxation on fuel. The more you travel – the more tax you pay. It will be an unfair tax on those who live apart from families and poorer people who will not be able to afford the high monthly costs. Please Mr Blair – forget about road pricing and concentrate on improving our roads to reduce congestion.”

  55. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob – do you consider online polls, you know the ones that anyone can sign.. multiple times more reliable that structured polls?

    Is this like those polls that say that the evil oil companies are the cause of high gasoline prices?

    re: sinister government tracking.

    You need to catch up to some basic realities Bob.

    Automatic License Plate Recognition is a mature technology currently in use not only in police cars but in roadside “scanners”.

    Again.. you’re mixing the issues – the police CAN already track you much easier via other means than toll transponders.

    Bob – you refuse to advocate solutions.

    You’re apparently opposed to the government building roads from taxes and you’re opposed to the government or private investors building toll roads.

    I’m not sure what you are actually in favor of at this point.

    Do you support Gov Kaine’s Plan?

    If not what would you change?

  56. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton (4:07 p.m.), Here in the Richmond region we have a system of toll roads — the Powhite Parkway and Downtown Expressway — that interconnect Henrico, Chesterfield and the City of Richmond. I’m not sure they’re quite ready for congestion tolling yet — there may not be sufficient congestion to warrant a change in policy.

    As currently structured, the tolls are being used to pay off the debt used to construct the parkways *and* pay for needed improvements.

    However, the system is not quite as efficient as it could be. There is excess congestion during brief rush-hour periods, particularly at the tolls booths themselves. The rest of the time, the roads flow smoothly. I would urge the Richmond Metropolitan Authority to study implementing congestion tolls to maximize traffic flow during periods of peak traffic and reduce rates when the demand is lower. I think it would be a great idea!

    If congestion reaches a severe pain and frustration threshhold at other locations — Interstate 64 West is a prime candidate — I would fully support the concept of congestion tolls.

    While I would endorse the use of congestion tolls, I would never endorse a system such as you describe (which bears no resemblance to anything I have written, for sure, and not much resemblance that anything Larry has written, for that matter).

  57. “Bob – do you consider online polls, you know the ones that anyone can sign.. multiple times more reliable that structured polls?”

    The UK thing wasn’t a poll, it was a government-sanctioned petition requiring both a valid email and a valid street address. It’s no less spoof-able than a paper petition to recall a city council member or state legislator — which just about every state but Virginia recognizes. Brian Moran sent a letter to everyone in Alexandria and Tom Davis’ district who signed the online abuser fee petition; I got one of them. Why don’t you ask Delegate Moran if he thinks it was faked?

    Pollsters achieve the results that they are paid to achieve. It’s naive to think any less. The proof is when you can compare polls to election results: tolls may win polls, but they lose at the ballot box.

    There is no lack of plan on my part, but there is a lack of reading on the part of others. I’ve stated and restated on several occasions: stop wasting money on boondoggles (Dulles rail, traffic calming, transit, etc), spend that money ($500m/yr plus $5b in capital) on expanding existing roads/repair, if more money is needed to achieve specific goals raise the gas tax.

  58. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob –

    Do you want VDOT to build tax-funded roads?

    How much more money do you think is needed?

    What are the projects that should be built?

    Your “plan” seems to be

    1. – don’t waste money
    2. – add more money if needed

    I asked if you agreed or disagreed with Kaine’s plan…

    Is his plan an appropriate plan for Virginia?

    If you don’t like his plan, what would you propose instead?

    His plan raises a billion new dollars without raising the gas tax.

    to raise a billion dollars with the gas tax -you’d need to propose an increase of fifteen cents.


    1. – do you agree that we need a billion dollars more

    2. – we raise it with a statewide gas tax increase?

    3. – We devote all of the money to Maintenance, NoVa and HR/TW

    agree or disagree or perhaps offer your specifics…

  59. “As currently structured, the tolls are being used to pay off the debt used to construct the parkways *and* pay for needed improvements.”

    Not really. I’ve only driven a few times on the Richmond toll roads, but what I remember most is stopping at a toll booth to pay 25c. Looks like that’s the rate. Since it costs around 22c to collect that 25c, all you’re really doing is keeping a make-work project going. Government loves make work.

    So while those toll booths create backups and major traffic hazards, the state converts huge amounts of money taken from drivers into a tiny bit of improvement.


  60. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: .. tolls and anything Larry has written

    I’ve pretty consistently supported the idea of tolling I-95 from Fredericksburg north – which would affect all Fredericksburg to NoVa and Wash Metro Area commuters.

    I would not toll other roads in the Fredericksburg Area unless NoVa agreed to also toll it’s area roads.

    And in case anyone wonders – the Fredericksburg Area MPO would like to get the same tax arrangement that is being offered to NoVa for it’s roads.

    but if a decision was made to consider “metered” miles and choices included Jim’s GPS tracker methodology and area-wide tolls on primary roads (not secondary/rural), then I think that should also be considered because it would be easier to implement and virtually everyone uses primary roads at some point.

    Further – I think this.

    Offer voters a choice of raising taxes and sending it to Richmond to be allocated via the current process or area-wide tolling with strict assurance than every penny would remain local – by law.

    They could choose that way to use that money per local priorities or they could choose to let VDOT Richmond decide their priorities.

    Give the statewide gas tax to VDOT for statewide maintenance and to build roads of statewide significance and index it for inflation and let each locality decide how they want to tax themselves for local/regional roads.

    My position is virtually the same as what JLARC recommends except for the taxing/tolls local funding aspect.

  61. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Bob, Take a closer look at the operating expenses of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority here:

    Fiscal 2007 operating revenues for the Expressway: $25.7 million. Of that, $2.2 million was for toll tag processing. Employee compensation was $5.2 million, of which some percentage can be assigned to toll road collectors. Let’s say half, for purposes of argument. That would mean that at most 25 percent of the cost of Expressway revenues went to collecting the tolls. That number will go lower as a higher percentage of the population adopts EZ tags.

  62. Groveton Avatar

    I have no problems with tolls per se. Where I start getting frustrated is when people from regions that have no intention of increasing the number or costs of their toll roads start saying that others should implement tolls. I begin to see it as just another scheme to milk NoVA and Tidewater.

    Broad based tolling for important roads throughout Virginia would be OK with me. But that would include the entirety of roads like RT 81. And Rt 3. And 295 and 64 in Richmond. And the Captial Beltway and I95. But that’s not what is suggested by the congestion tolling advocates. It’s always just NoVA and Tidewater, Tidewater and NoVA. My suggestion is to pilot congestion tolling in Richmond and Fredricksburg. The process is simple. We’ll take the busiest roads in those two locales and offer a 75 year lease on those roads to the highest bidder. We can even do it over the internet. The winning bidders will get to charge tolls on those streets. The tolls will have to be somewhat controlled by the contract between the state and the private companies buying / leasing the road. This is “user pays”, this is allocating a limited economic resource to those willing to pay for it. Why not pilot the program in two important areas which are not the largest areas? That just makes good sense. If the congestion tolling works in Richmond and Fredricksburg we’ll fan out all over the state with tolls on Rt 29 in Charlottesville, NoVA, Tidewater, Rt 81, etc.

    So, two years of public / private partnerships in Richmond and Fredricksburg including brad usage based tolls. Then, a one year review. Then, broad, statewide deployment if the Richmond / fredricksburg trial has gone well.

    I’ll sign a letter endorsing that plan. However, I doubt that many from Richmond or Fredrisksburg will sign that letter. You see, the people who are adamant about usage tolls are also adamant about something else – that these usage tolls be expanded elsewhere – not in their areas. And that says more about their true motivations than every blog post ever written.

  63. More numbers are always good. Here’s what I see: 47% of the transactions were E-Z Pass. That’s why the system is profitable. I seriously doubt half of the employee budget can be attributed to maintenance. Don’t they use criminals for that in Richmond? Five cents an hour, no benefits. It’s a great deal.

    The net numbers tell the story. Out of $25.7m in revenue, $3.3m is spent on maintenance (a useful number). The remaining $9.7m in expenses represents between 30 and 40 percent in overhead, depending on whether you think the number of employees devoted to maintenance is 0 or 50 percent.

    That outcome (a) fits with earlier overhead estimates, and (b) is madness when there’s an alternative that has overhead of next to nothing.

    I wonder if toll supporters have ever said, “It’s worth it if it saves just one life!” Well, not only would save lives to dump tolling on just one Richmond expressway, it would mean $9-10 million a year in savings for Richmond motorists.

  64. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    as a several-year holder/user of an EZ-Pass transponder, I fundamentally believe in that method because most places that charge tolls have a reasonable level of service (if they don’t I try other alternatives) AND paying tolls by merely driving under a gantry and opposed to going through a toll booth makes it very convenient.

    There has actually been discussion in the Fredericksburg Area of building new roads as toll roads – though I admit little consideration of tolling existing roads which the public is not going to accept anytime soon.. I would agree.

    My attitude about NoVa is not that NoVa should have tolls and no place else but rather the long-distance commuters that use and clog NoVa roads from outer jurisdictions should pay their fare share for the roads they use in NoVa and right now they do not because most buy their gasoline where they live and the taxes go to where they live not to improve NoVa roads.

    Is this CLEAR – Groveton?

    That’s why I advocate NoVa residents receive a toll rebate for the first 15K miles…from their respective jurisdictions and if that is not legal – then reduce property taxes by that amount.

    For the Fredericksburg Area, in fact, HOT lane tolling will become a reality in the next few years so folks from the Fredericksburg Area WILL be paying tolls just like NoVa will.

    and I’d just point out again – the local jurisdictions in NoVa can explicitly give toll rebates sufficient to zero-sum local commuting and as to ensure that the bulk of tolls are gathered from out-of-state and out-of-jurisdiction drivers.

    The point is that even though folks will get a rebate – they’ll still pay attention to unnecessary driving because they’ll have to pay for it up front before they get their annual rebate.

    and I’d actually support this approach for all congestion tolls.

    you get the first 15K free. Then it is up to you to decide how to stay within that 15K or not… or in between.. whatever choices you wish to make… just like you would with cell phone minutes…

    We could even sell ‘unlimited’ transponder use… for those that didn’t want to bothered with “minutes” or “miles”

    I think this is much, much more transparent that the gas tax you now pay.

    toll charges could easily be sent on a daily or weekly basis to your email or cell phone text….

  65. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob – here is the Gov’s plan:

    I was surprised…

    it’s got the 3rd crossing in it as well as making US 460 an interstate.
    which I find.. not believable since over the next 6 years the taxes only generate around 1.2 Billion…

    So – here’s a big problem with the Gov’s plan. He does not estimate the cost of the projects he lists much less in inflated dollars nor the year of completion.

    If he had shown the total costs of the projects he listed and the anticipated year of completion – people would have realized that a billion dollars is not near enough money.

    and look at the NoVa money – probably around 2 billion over 6 years with 40% (1 BILLION) dedicated to local projects, 50 million dedicated to Metro and 25 million for VRE.

    but again.. we don’t have a list of projects nor the price tag.

    so…. a challenge to the Republicans – WHERE is YOUR alternative plan?

    I’d like to see on paper – what the Republicans support…

    and Bob -you can play also..

  66. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    There is a widespread perception that Richmond is relatively congestion free because its senior elected officials (as in Sen. Willey) were so adept at bringing home the pork to build local roads. I won’t deny that there may have been some truth to that — I don’t know the history well enough to say one way or the other.

    But there’s another factor that people totally fail to recognize: the extent to which Richmonders have been willing to tolerate tolls. We tolled I-95 for decades in three different locations. That pulled in a lot of loose change for road construction. We’ve got tolls on the Pocahontas Freeway, and we’ve got tolls on the Powhite Parkway and Downtown Expressway. (We *should* have tolls on Rt. 288 — but that’s another story.)

    So, when I, as a Richmonder, advocate tolls for other regions, I think I’m following my own advice. I see that the system here works pretty darn well. That’s why I advocate it for others. (And that’s why I have fought against the diversion of Dulles Toll Road toll revenues for other purposes.) I think I’ve been pretty darn consistent in this regard.

    Groveton, the main consistency that I see tying your comments together is the fervid belief that NoVa is getting screwed fiscally by RoVa and that RoVa should be made to share in NoVa’s pain. You blame most of the region’s problems on the incompetence of the General Assembly, or the incompetence of VDOT, or the Dillon Rule — anything but the incompetence of the local government practitioners who have made a hash of land use and blocked planned road projects back when they would have been affordable, anything but the unwillingness of NoVa residents (many of whom have lived there such a short time they have zero institutional memory of how things got to be the way they are) to pay to fix their own problems.

    Yes, NoVa is paying way more than it gets into state coffers for education. There *is* an inter-regional transfer of wealth from NoVa to RoVa (mostly rural RoVa). You have a legitimate beef there, and I’ll support you in efforts to reform educational funding formulas. But screwing up transportation funding formulas to make up for the inequities of the educational funding formulas makes no sense at all.

  67. Groveton Avatar

    “My attitude about NoVa is not that NoVa should have tolls and no place else but rather the long-distance commuters that use and clog NoVa roads from outer jurisdictions should pay their fare share for the roads they use in NoVa and right now they do not because most buy their gasoline where they live and the taxes go to where they live not to improve NoVa roads.

    Is this CLEAR – Groveton?”.

    What makes you think that the monies collected in one region are spent in that region? Larry, that’s just not true. If the state wants to use gas taxes collected in Place 1 to build roads in Place 2 nothing stops them.

    “Groveton, the main consistency that I see tying your comments together is the fervid belief that NoVa is getting screwed fiscally by RoVa and that RoVa should be made to share in NoVa’s pain.”.

    True but not the main point. The main point is that it costs money for anybody to drive any vehicle on any road. Tolls in America seem to be applied to a very, very small percentage of the roads and a small percentage of the drivers. Even in Richmond, which has had tolls for years, the tolls are only applied to a very few places. Why? Did it not cost money to build I295 and 64? Is the maintenance on those roads free? Will 64 never need to be expanded? It is a congested mess every time I have ever driven on it. What about Rt 29 in and around Charlottesville? Another congested mess. In my opinion, the tolls on I95 were an attempt to tax those driving through Richmond not an attempt to economically allocate a scare resource being used primarily by Richmonders.

    “…anything but the unwillingness of NoVa residents (many of whom have lived there such a short time they have zero institutional memory of how things got to be the way they are) to pay to fix their own problems.”.

    As Ronald Reagan would say, “there you go again”. I am perfetly happy for all money raised in NoVA to stay in NoVA and for NoVA to be responsible for paying all of NoVA’s costs. If you put that proposition on a referendum in NoVA it would pass with at least 80% of the vote. Would you be willing to sign a letter to the state legislature supporting that? Probably not, huh? Because you know that NoVA is paying far, far more in taxes than it is receiving in state spending. In fact, Bob has done a pretty good job of demonstrating that NoVA may not even be getting back all the transportation-related taxes it pays. And, as Bob has repeatedly tried to explain, it is not just the gas tax. There is a gas tax surcharge, 1/2% of sales tax, personal property tax, variosu vehicle registration fees. The simple and truthful fact is that you have never even come close to proving that NoVA is failing to pay for its transportation related costs with transportation related taxes.

  68. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “What makes you think that the monies collected in one region are spent in that region?”

    I think this is an excellent question and it really is one of my reasons for supporting tolls over taxes.

    here we are … not able to really prove whether NoVa is a net donor or recipient with the current Richmond-based allocation process.

    I dare say that virtually none of the public knows and perhaps only a handful of the elected.

    Tolls roads have plenty of room for abuse also but I think there is a better opportunity to know when toll road revenues are leaving the region.

    It’s one thing for such funds to be used for other transportation in the NoVa region – it would be a riotous scandal if the money was to be delivered to RoVa jurisdictions.

    Tolls give NoVa the opportunity to have more control over their funding and decisions about how to spend it.

    I’ll admit.. if the public in NoVa is not vigilant the same outcome could result over the longer term.

  69. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”Bob has done a pretty good job of demonstrating that NoVA may not even be getting back all the transportation-related taxes it pays. And, as Bob has repeatedly tried to explain, it is not just the gas tax. There is a gas tax surcharge, 1/2% of sales tax, personal property tax, variosu vehicle registration fees.”

    True! but this is not Richmond – this is your own localities that are doing this to you.

    When you pay your auto property tax and local car fees – that money is not put in a transportation lock-box.

    and it’s ironic.. because what does your locality do?

    Well they stand up and talk about how Richmond is not doing their duty to help the localities with transportation…

    so.. when you indict Richmond, the GA and Dillon… include your own local practices.

    I actually heard a BOS fella respond to a colleagues suggestion that auto fees go ONLY for transportation that they could not do that because it would “short” the school system…

    so .. let’s be fair.. while you wring your hands about what taxes don’t come back to you from Richmond.. your own locality is playing the same game…

  70. “Richmond is relatively congestion free because its senior elected officials… were so adept at bringing home the pork to build local roads. So, when I, as a Richmonder, advocate tolls for other regions…. I see that the system here works pretty darn well.”

    As a NOVA transplant with no institutional memory, I’m free to think in terms of the way things should be rather than the way they’ve always been. So what about your toll roads “works pretty darn well”?

    – Ever considered the accident rate near the toll booths and compared it with the accident rate beyond the toll booth?

    – Ever consider how stupid it is to waste time and create idle pollution just to hand a quarter to a union thug in an air-conditioned box?

    – Ever consider that for every third dollar taken from Richmonders on your “darn good” toll roads, one full dollar bill is being burned before your eyes? (and it’s dangerously close to every other dollar…)

    I don’t know what political power is keeping Richmond tolls cheap. Because as stupid as it is to drop 25c to drive on what should be a freeway, it’s downright infuriating to pull out $5.85 (and growing) to ride on the Dulles Toll Road. It’s even worse when you’re on the road early in the morning and there are no union thugs — so you need to go to the single file line for the one automated booth that takes credit cards. And wait. Hope you don’t get rear-ended.

    I also recognize that NOVA is self-screwing. The socialists in charge here are hell bent on ensuring that the least amount of money possible is spent on roads, and the greatest amount on bicycles and Metro. That’s because the political power base in NOVA is the limousine liberal who always thinks the other guy should be able to ride the bus. Of course these types never ride the bus themselves. These hypocrites will adore the Lexus Lane concept. Let them eat non-genetically engineered cake.

    Is the happiness with tolls in Richmond more rooted in the ability to take the porked-out local roads to avoid them? Because up here, there are no alternatives. Every road is jammed.

  71. Groveton Avatar

    Larry –

    I see no guarantee that toll revenues will be applied to regional priorities, kept in region or even used for transportation. Jim Bacon has has suggested a change to the Virginia Constitution to guarantee that toll money raised from congested roads is used in congestion corridors. This would help but would not entirely solve the problem. I’d worry that the state would follow the constitution and send toll revenues back to the regions. But they’d divert even more of the gas tax that the people in the congestion corridors would still be paying.

    Are the local politicians playing games with local transportation related taxes? Oh heck yes! They say they have to divert these funds to education because we keep too little of the money intended for education, they blame VDOT (except in Arlington), etc. etc. That’s the problem with these various “funds” in Virginia. The locality gets robbed from the “educational fund” so they divert transportation money to the educational costs saying they just don’t keep anough money for education and that’s job #1. Meanwhile, most NoVA jurisdictions have very good public schools so the electorate goes along – at least something is working.

    But, Larry, that’s the problem. There is split accountability. Fairfax County budgets are transparent enough to see the diversion. State of Virginia records are so opaque that nobody really knows. In management, when split accountability / authority isn’t working there is a simple answer – eliminate one of the poles of accountability / authority. Transportation is far more a local problem then a state-wide problem. So, I propose virtually eliminating the state from these decisions. However, this opens up a slippery slope. If the state can steal enough non-transportation taxes from certain localities then those localities will have to divert the only funds they really control (i.e. transportation) to other areas – like, potentially, education. So, my ultimate proposal is that all local funds be controlled locally. There can be transfers back to the state for redistribution to other localities but these transfers would be capped at a certain percentage of total tax receipts or a calculated amount based on the per capita incomes and taxes paid in various localities.

    Will the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors need to be reformed? Definitely. Spotsylvania’s local government probably needs reformation as well. But there is some chance that local politicians will meet local priorities. There is no chance that state-wide politicians will meet local priorities.

    I’d dispute Bob on one topic. Bob thinks the power base in NoVA is the limousine liberal. I think the power base is the development community. However, no matter how you slice it, the power base is not the rank and file voter / taxpayer. And that’s bad. So, why does this happen? There are several theories:

    1. Transient citizens. The people who live in NoVA are often newly arrived. In addition, they expect to move on to somewhere else sooner rather than later. I doubt this is the real issue. New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta – lots of cities have transient populations.

    2. Hopeless media coverage. This is true but inexplicable. Fairfax County alone has more people with more disposable income than the city of Washington, DC. NoVA overall has vastly more people and vastly more money than Washinghton, DC. So, why is the media fixated on the city of Washington, DC with scant coverage of Northern Virginia? First, they are legally very separate entities. Second, Washington, DC is a long term center of power while NoVA is a realtive newcomer to economic and political significance. I believe the hidebound traditional media is still stuck in the old days of the Washingtom metropolitian area revolving around the city of DC. No effective new media outlet has sprung up to support the 1+M people in Fairfax County and the rest of Northern Virginia. Why? I guess that media is kind of sluggish. Maybe that’s why so many traditional media companies are going bankrupt.

    3. Local politicians owe their allegiance to the Republican Party of Virginia or the Democratic Party of Virginia – not to their constituents.

    4. The opaque chaos of public information – particularly at the state level – provides cover for the local politicians (see 3.) to be able to avoid constitutent complaints / getting voted out of office.

    So, there are some serious problems at both the local and state level. However, I believe that the local politicians have a much greater chance of meeting the citizens’ needs than the state politicians have.

  72. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think you’ve done a good job articulating the issues and I don’t find much to disagree with.

    The State will always need some level of funding for things only the state can do… standards, uniformity in things critical to health and welfare – and simple things like DMV, DEQ, DGIF offices and the such.

    You cite the development community and I agree. For years and years, the development community in tandem with their like-thinking elected friends have told citizens that transportation was a state responsibility while one development after another was built without regard to the impacts on transportation and the only accountability was VDOT’s version of an IOU – the 6yr plan that funds 10% of needs – due to development.

    (I’m not opposed to development. I AM opposed to development without the necessary infrastructure to support it. There is no free lunch.)

    It was a convenient ruse that worked and still works because to this day – there are folks who think the “State” funding of transportation does not come out of their own pockets.

    They advocate much higher gas taxes and then scream bloody murder when it shows up on the pump. You said split accountability. I say split personality.

    BOS perpetuate this myth claiming their hands are tied because the state has “abdicated” their responsibility of funding roads.

    What exactly would that “responsibility” be? to raise taxes on citizens?

    That’s what the BOS is saying to Virginia. “Tax MY citizens and then give me the money so we can build the roads should have been built when development was approved”

    But the state, as you pointed out, is not above helping itself to those monies either.

    It’s the perfect setup for unaccountability.

    The BOS and the State point fingers at each other …in mock theater for the citizens benefit.

    my essential view of tolls is this.

    Given the politics and fiscal impossibilities of selling the public on a sufficiently high enough increase in the gas tax to generate the kind of money needed

    …expecting anything more than a nickel coming out of Richmond would require a rather close affiliation with a lit pipe of some “really good stuff” IMHO.

    So.. what will happen is this proposition:

    “do you want to wait 10 or 20 years for a gas-tax funded road or do you want to actually get a road in 5 years?”

    There’ll be lots of griping as there is in this blog but inertia on raising the gas tax is just not there and in the end – (I think) people will take the toll roads.

  73. Anonymous Avatar

    “so for a mere 3 cents a mile, we generate another billion dollars a year in funding… “

    Such a deal.. At 25 mpg that works out to $0.75 per gallon. If you have a hybrid it’s $1.50 a gallon!

    And you think a 50 cent gas tax is out of reach?

    Wouldn’t you rather have a tax that encourages conservation rather than the othe way around?

    Why risk my neck in a dinky hybrid when I can drive a tank for the same cost per mile?


  74. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    you confuse the cost of using roads with environmental issues.

    in terms of road usage and the cost to provide and maintain capacity – it really does not matter whether you drive a tank or a hybrid.

    “Conservation” IS encouraged when you get charged by the mile.

    The higher price of gasoline will also result in conservation as folks go to more fuel efficient (less polluting) vehicles but in the process of buying less gas – the transportation funds will be made even more scarce.

    The gas tax was never designed to work for high fuel prices and fuel efficient cars.

    but the high cost of fuel – will encourage conservation.

  75. Anonymous Avatar

    “People will still commute but in multi-passenger vehicles – which, if you think about it IS the avowed goal of congestion tolls.”

    In other words, if it succeeds, it fails, because thene there won’t be any mony from the “free” HOV vehicles.

    Except, long befor that happens, they will toll the HOV vehicles.

    Now that’s a good way toe encourage multipassenger vehicles.


  76. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, you ignored the fact that 3 cents a mile is equal to 75 cents tax, per gallon.

    If you drive a hgh MPG car the tax is even higher, on a per gallon basis.

    It is a crazy idea, as Bob said, it is madness.


  77. “The gas tax was never designed to work for high fuel prices and fuel efficient cars.”

    Do you have evidence for this random assumption? Because the gas tax is working just fine with gas at record highs and one-million Toyota Prius sold. (Hint: Prius is a fraud. You can get better mileage from a VW Jetta TDI or BMW 520d.)

    “Bob thinks the power base in NoVA is the limousine liberal. I think the power base is the development community.”

    Have the limo liberals ever been in dispute with the development community? Which one won?

    I can see how particular developers would profit from tolls and Dulles rail (i.e. Tysons), but I don’t see how in the big picture that developers profit from congestion. The current philosophy at VDOT and the Governor’s mansion is “no new roads,” and that’s a recipe for congestion. Population growing 7x faster than the road network.

    What I see is that NOVA is becoming a miserable place to live — endlessly increasing taxes on real estate and cars with no sign of any road relief on the horizon. Seems to me that just reduces demand by encouraging people to move out. Is the developer idea that you make things so miserable that you force people to move in close where houses are most expensive, driving up the price further? Otherwise, I’m missing it. The same developers can create more projects in the outer suburbs where there is still space. Their value would seem to go down as the commute into DC grows less viable.

  78. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: 3 cents a mile

    it was a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation.

    It’s the concept that demonstrates that you could meter by miles and generate substantial money at the same time.

    If you don’t like 3 cents,try 2.

    re: “”The gas tax was never designed to work for high fuel prices and fuel efficient cars.”

    Do you have evidence for this random assumption?”

    it’s not a random assumption but instead an observation.

    If we had indexed fuel to the inflation levels of infrastructure, we would have already reached $5 a gallon gas by now.

    It is my assertion that there is a point that is reached on the cost of gasoline where people will take actions to compensate for the increased cost to attempt to reduce their costs by more fuel efficient cars, less driving, stacking errands/trips, etc.

    and this is what folks in Europe have already done in response to $5+ gasoline…

    their per capita miles is somewhere about 1/2 go 2/3 of ours.

    if you drive less miles or get a car that is more efficient or both, you’ll buy less gas.

    you buy less gas, you pay less gas tax.

    Government could better compensate by charging a percentage of total sale tax (automatic indexing) but even then people would buy less gas – the more expensive it gets.

    This is not my view by the way. It is the view of many economists and many State DOTs who have run projections of higher fuel costs and what it does to gas tax receipts.

  79. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “”The gas tax was never designed to work for high fuel prices and fuel efficient cars.”

    Do you have evidence for this random assumption?”

    is it a random assumption to believe that there a correlation between higher gasoline prices and less gasoline use?

    “The price elasticities for fuel consumption are higher than the elasticities for
    vehicle-km, i.e. when fuel price rises, people reduce their fuel consumption more
    than their mileage.

    The methods available to do so are
    (1) change driving styles
    (less heavy acceleration and breaking, more fuel economical speeds;
    (2) a shift in
    the pattern of journeys such that more of them are in fuel-efficient contexts (e.g.
    light traffic at moderate speeds as compared with very low or very high speeds);
    (3) changing to more fuel-efficient vehicles, e.g. newer, better maintained, smaller
    or more technically advanced.”

    there are numerous studies on elasticity but the fact that most economists and State DOTs believe them – is NOT (notice the word NOT) an indication of a grand conspiracy but rather .. rational thinking IMHO.. though you are also entitled to one also.

  80. “This is not my view by the way. It is the view of many economists and many State DOTs who have run projections of higher fuel costs and what it does to gas tax receipts.”

    Agreed. And this is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the road pricing debate. It’s filled with plausible assumptions that are never tested against reality. This assumption, like so many proffered here, is demonstrably not true. So then the argument shifts to “but in the future the sky might fall!”

    Bureaucrats love to repeat canards like this because if they repeat it enough people will begin to believe it.

    Here’s a fun example of Tony Blair fumbling to explain how great road pricing is and being foiled by some pretty common sense argument — at least that’s my assessment. Available with intelligent-sounding British accents: MP3 audio or as a boring transcript.

  81. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”demonstrably not true. So then the argument shifts to “but in the future the sky might fall!”

    not quite

    the CURRENT funding situation is said to be dire – a 100 billion dollars worth of backlogged projects and not enough funding right now to keep the backlog from growing and then on top of that, the distinct possibility that the price of fuel could at some point within decade result in shortfalls.

    In terms of the lead time for new roads – a decade is now… in terms of planning..

    Your attitude seems to be that more money is not needed – that we already have enough but it’s not being spent properly.

    On that point -we fully agree.

    Do you agree with Mary Peters – that the Fed Gas tax should be repealed and let the states deal with their own transportation issue and how to fund?

    Do we further agree that localities misuse taxes derived from cars for purposes other than transportation?

    Do we further agree that Richmond VDOT is not spending money effectively?

    If you do – then do you see a familiar pattern when it comes to government, taxes and spending priorities?

    Now … you say “reform” and “sky is falling”

    and I say – “reform” is far less likely that the gas tax shriveling up.

    you say – raise the gas tax and give it to the same folks who are screwing up right now…

    how do you square that?

    I say – go for something different than one we have now – the same thing that Mary Peters supports.

    What was your answer to Mary Peters suggestion that the current Fed gas tax in the hands of goverment at all levels is a festering cesspool and that turning over transportation to businesses who must have real live business plans and make a profit while keeping their customers happy is a better path?

    So.. Bob – what is your pick

    1. – continue the current system
    2. – public/private tolling
    3. – your alternative

    p.s. I don’t get the deep thrills you seem to enjoy from listening to stuttering pols…and salacious grand conspiracies…

    please pick one of the 3 above..

    if you do.. I will be …errr thrilled….

  82. Anonymous Avatar

    “If you don’t like 3 cents,try 2.”

    You are not getting it, Larry.

    2 cents a mile toll is equal to 50 cents a gallon gas tax, which you say is not doable.


  83. Anonymous Avatar

    (Hint: Prius is a fraud. You can get better mileage from a VW Jetta TDI or BMW 520d.)

    Actually, no. I owned a VW diesel, and it got 50 MPG, but it was nothing like the car the Prius is, overall.

    And miles per gallon isn’t everything. Diesel contains more energy per gallon than gasoline, and right now it costs more per gallon as well.

    When you compare the overall vehicle, including costs, comfort, and performance the Prius is far from a fraud. There are other choices yuou could make, but they all come with other trade-offs.

    Overall, my experience is that the Prius is the best car I ever owned, bar none.


  84. “2 cents a mile toll is equal to 50 cents a gallon gas tax”

    Except to keep the existing level of services, the 2c per-mile toll would actually need to be 2.8c, which would be 70 cents a gallon. The tollers conveniently neglect the 40% extra cost involved in administering a tolling system.

  85. Anonymous Avatar

    Bob is correct. Collecting the tolls is a lot more expensive.

    My only point is that X money is X money, no matter where it comes from. In this case Larry has shown that his porposed toll scheem is just as expensive as the 50 cent gas tax he rejects.

    X money is still X money.

    Larry concedes that NOVA and HR are economic engines that fuel the state. Therefore, the state has SOME level of interest in supporting NOA and HR.

    All we have to agree on now, is how much interest, in cash.

    AFter that, we can argue about how to get it, cheaply and fairly.


  86. “X money is still X money.”

    You mean: X money is (X * 1.40) money

    — not disagreeing with RH, just trying to overemphasize a different point conveniently forgotten by those looking at tolls with the rose shades instead of green eyeshades. You need to assume that drivers who won’t pay $1 in gas tax are too stupid to notice they’re paying $1.40 in tolls.

    Transurban’s bond rating is BBB+. Virginia’s is AAA. So aside from administrative overhead, you pay more right off the top just to have the Aussies doing the borrowing for you.

  87. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    right… let’s see.. what is the cost of doing license plates .. or property taxes on cars… ?

    and if tolls are so costly to collect what is not the sales tax in the same boat.

    what a load guys.

    pure unadulterated .. anti-toll manure…

    if you want to talk about the costs associated with collecting taxes, why don’t you rank tolls with other forms?

    People pay with gasoline with credit cards – how come you guys don’t count all those whirling computers and the 2% handling charge and all that money going from millions of credit card accounts to the gas retailer who in turn has to do more whirling computers who in turn has to send it to the state who then has to crank it through it’s whirling computers.. before it get to VDOT where more whirling computers decide if NoVa gets a nickel or a dime…

    manure fellas. pure manure.

    you guys make the environmentalists look downright ugly compared with their tactics.

    sniff …ugh

  88. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry is partially right. But, they have to process the sales anyway, so processing the sales tax is a modest marginal expense.

    Processing a toll means duplicating all of that expense from scratch, just to collect the toll, with no other transactions going along for the ride.

    Not to mention putting up the gantries, maintaining them, etc.

    You still haven’t conceded that a 2 cents per mile toll is exactly equal to a 50 cent per gallon tax. And more if you calculate the toll overhead.


  89. Anonymous Avatar

    Property taxes on cars is a dumb idea that should be stopped. Don’t tax capital. Sales tax on the car, OK, not property tax.

    License plates should be a user fee which recovers the cost of issuing plates. That should NOT be a revenue stream.


  90. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    where is the proof that tolls cost more to process than credit card transaction for gasoline?

    is toll processing twice as expensive?

    1/2 as expensive?

    what are the comparisons?

    why do ya’ll presume something first and then second ..not back it up…???

    manure… not even high quality manure… just plain old manure..

    using ya’lls logic.. Walmart needs to revert to a cash only system because all those whirling computers and scanners just has to be more expensive.

    I’m glad you guys are not in charge of determining what is efficient – you’d be real screw-ups….

    gawd-o-mighty the Ray-Bob system of tax collection would be like a DMV wait line on steroids…

  91. “and if tolls are so costly to collect what is not the sales tax in the same boat…. why do ya’ll presume something first and then second ..not back it up…???”

    Just about every other post I’ve made documents the cost of toll collection. E.g., the Richmond toll road budget shows an overhead of 30-40 percent, depending on your assumption of how many employees are dedicated to maintenance. This is simple math and is the end of story. The overhead cannot be less than 30%.

    The state and federal gas tax is collected from a handful of regional distributors. There is no overhead. The NOVA 2% gas tax is collected like the general sales tax. Neiter has anything to do with credit card fees — the merchant eats those in NOVA; the statewide tax is imposed nowhere near the retail level.

    There’s no point in responding further because I’d just be rehashing what I’ve already posted and obviously wasn’t read.

  92. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob -I feel you made multiple mistakes

    1. – you judge ETC as if it was using toll booths…

    2. – you do not show that ETC is less efficient than the current gas tax method.

    3. – you assume that any “overhead” indicates waste

    4. – if you looked at Walmarts use of scanners and electronic transactions the same way you look at ETC.. you would arrive at the same conclusion… that because it “costs” to do the scanning that it “proves” that it is ineffective.

    that makes your analysis flawed and biased…

    you’re basically arguing that you can look at any process and by showing the overhead costs – prove that those costs prove that it is not efficient and that analysis is wrong from the get go…

    show me a cost COMPARISON between all the ways that car tax money is collected and RANK them… according to cost per transaction or other metrics that are relevant.

    I’ve read what you posted – and it’s wrong.. and the “rehashing” is your insistence that your way of ‘proving’ it is right.. when it is not.

    Do an honest calculation and then we’ll talk.

  93. 1. I judge toll roads as they are currently used in Virginia. Even fully electronic toll roads (there are only two or three) like 407ETR have massive overhead. See #4.

    2. Unless you can come up with a plausible explanation of how having 30 companies file monthly gas tax payments via EFT could possibly cost $180,000,000 — that’s 20% overhead — I think it’s beyond obvious which method is more efficient.

    3. Overhead is only waste when you compare it to a more efficient alternative. See #2.

    4. I compare the cost of running a toll road to the cost of raising money through the gas tax. Walmart scanners have nothing to do with this. The excessive cost of tolls has to do with profit margins, the difference between gov’t & private borrowing, right-of-way requirements, enforcement, customer service, etc. It’s much more than just the cost of RFID itself.

    “show me a cost COMPARISON between all the ways that car tax money is collected and RANK them…”

    This is an impossible request. I can prove it for the gas tax, but considering there is no published number for even the total amount collected by the personal property tax, there’s no way to measure its efficiency other than to assume it’s comparable to, e.g. how much the cable company spends processing payments from thousands of customers. It’s not going to be 30-40%. The personal property tax should be $0 anyway.

  94. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob – world class BS – and you know it.

    what garbage!

    it’s a continuation of the “all government and private enterprise” is conspiratorial and corrupt and not to be trusted” brand of ‘rush-limbaugh’ style “analysis”.

    You show non-electronic toll roads costs of ONE toll-road and claim that this “proves” that ALL ETC tolling is wasteful and that private tolling is both wasteful and evil because profit is involved.

    dishonest .. cherry picking.. propaganda.. that does NOT seek to deal with the merits….

    Your logic would seem to indicate that we should not contract out construction of roads because the same evil businesses charge more than the state could do it…

    but claim the state is incompetent and wasteful and can’t be trusted either..

    except of course when they are collecting the gas tax in which you “conclusively” prove that the way that the same government you call corrupt and incompetent has apparently stumbled on the most optimal way of collecting taxes for roads.

    what garbage!

    “I can prove it for the gas tax, but considering there is no published number for even the total amount collected by the personal property tax, there’s no way to measure its efficiency other than to assume it’s comparable”

    In my view, you have not proved SQUAT other than you’re good at
    throwing a bunch of stuff on the wall and pumping a few dozen paint-ball sound bites for effect.

    You’ve never responded as to why the CBBT is the same or different as other “wasteful”, “inefficient”, “screw-the-drivers” toll roads.

    What about the “overhead” and “waste” on the CBBT?

    Are there no examples of efficiently run toll roads – public or private in the world?

    Bob – you’re standing in it up to your eyeballs.. we don’t need boots.. we need waders… on stilts…

  95. People get emotional when they are engaged in discussions to massage their own ego, not when they’re trying to discover the truth. It’s obvious no further intellectual discussion can follow an emotional outburst.

    So I’ll say no more than this. Mr Bacon posted about the Richmond toll road and I responded with an analysis of the numbers. That’s random selection, not cherry picking. I looked for, but couldn’t find, CBBT financial statements. They might be lumped in with the CTB budget, making a real analysis impossible. From what I can tell, the per-mile toll at $12 is high enough that the overhead in percentage terms will be lower. The construction cost was $19m/mile (not lane-mile) — and that’s for a tunnel. Beyond that, I know nothing about CBBT. As I’ve said, I’ve never driven on it.

  96. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    talk about the search for truth…

    you’ve never driven on the CBBT nor apparently interested enough in the actual operation of it or other toll roads to … at the very least .. validate that your extrapolated and lame “analysis” to claim that it is representative of all toll roads.

    you cite really stupid stuff like a conversation with Tony Blair as “proof” that the government is corruptly scheming to screw over drivers with tolls..

    what a load…

    then have the nerve to call it seeking the “truth”..

    try this:

    do a fair comparison with real data from a number of toll roads ..

    show those numbers. show what a good number is and show how the others compare…

    then.. BEFORE you assert that the gas tax approach is more efficient, at least try to admit that you really don’t know and that you are just assuming it in the absence of data to actually demonstrate it.

    let’s recap:

    you consider government corrupt and inept but then you also say private and public toll roads are a nefarious scheme to defraud the public – not one or two but ALL of them – EVERYWHERE.

    then what exactly are your recommendations for meeting transportation needs?

    on one hand, you say that we don’t need more money because all government everywhere is wasting it and then you turn right around and say that the same corrupt and inept government is marvelously efficient at collecting the gas tax despite being so inept and corrupt at other tasks..

    Random selection is not the issue.

    It’s your use of one example that you claim to have “analyzed” to then extrapolate that as “proof” that all toll roads are bad – except of course the ones you “don’t know about” – which has nothing to do with the truth of what you speaking of either…

    All Governors who support toll roads are corrupt …

    All private toll roads are ripping off the public

    .. and.. oh yes.. it’s “emotional” to call pre-ordained cherry-picking “rush limbaugh type “analysis” pure BS.

    guilty as charged, and proud of it.

  97. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Larry, Take a deep breath and calm down. You know better. Bob can be frustrating, but he backs up his arguments with facts and logic. (The logic may be faulty, and the facts may be cherry-picked, but you need to focus on the flaws in his presentation without getting carried away.)

    When a post reaches nearly 100 comments, as this one has, the odds are that you and Bob will just have to agree to disagree. If you’ve done a better job of laying out your case, most readers will agree with you.

  98. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Jim –

    Here’s is the kind of data that is NOT part of the discussion:

    Table 1: Revenues and Costs of Large Toll Road Systems
    page 6

    the data is “out there” but instead, he takes one toll road.. does his own lame back-of-the-envelope analysis on it and then claims that it proves that all toll roads operate similarly.

    One can disagree for instance, with the toll policy of the last 3 Govs of Maryland but to imply that all are corrupt and dishonest because they support the concept of toll roads is not logical and it’s not an honest way to debate on the merits – IMHO.

    I do apologize for offending you and anyone else and I’ll try to do better.

Leave a Reply