Let’s Not Forget Tysons Roads

Among the more persuasive objections I’ve heard to the Rail-to-Dulles project has come from our blogger friend Too Many Taxes. He has argued that the looping of the heavy rail line through Tysons Corner would be accompanied by such a large increase in development density around the rail stations that, notwithstanding the additional transportation capacity created by the rail line, more commuters would drive into the congested business district than do now, making traffic gridlock even more unbearable.

In support of this proposition, TMT has passed along a document that updates construction cost numbers for road and interchange improvements contemplated in the 1994 Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner. Anticipating a density increase around three (now four) Metro stops in Tysons, the plan calculated the road/interchange improvements that would be needed to accommodate the increased density, and without which the rail plan would be counterproductive.

Needless to say, the cost estimates of those improvements are worthless today. Accordingly, explains TMT, at the request of Del. Margaret Vanderhye, D-Fairfax, Virginia Department of Transportation engineers prepared a detailed accounting (click here for details). Some of the projects have been completed, and have been marked as such. Estimates for others — including virtually all of the interchange projects — are impossible to make, due to uncertainties regarding specifics of the project.

Of those projects for which VDOT can make cost estimates, the total cost approaches $580 million. States TMT: “It’s believed the most of this sum is not yet funded, but that could be wrong.”

Where will that money come from? Tax Increment Financing? Impact fees? Higher regional taxes? How much, TMT asks, will come out of the Fairfax County general fund, how much of that would be borrowed, and what would the impact be on the county’s AAA bond rating? These are all valid questions. While a VDOT Land Use Task Force is looking into the TIF option, according to TMT, no one has answers yet for the other questions.

Bacon’s spin: Spending an estimated $5 billion cost of extending Metro rail to Dulles and increasing density around the Tysons Metro stops without providing for anticipated increases in traffic would seem to be an act of monumental stupidity. But finding $1 billion or so for road improvements (depending upon how big those “uncertainties” are) does not strike me as an insurmountable task — as long as the financing mechanism is based on the logic of user-pays. I would wager that the sum could be raised easily through a congestion toll in the Tysons area.

Whatever the ultimate source of financing, we can count on one thing: It will take years to develop a political consensus and gain all necessary approvals. What if the train literally and figuratively leaves the station before these matters are settled?

As long as the Kaine administration is determined to push Rail-to-Dulles forward, it should be fast-laning the road improvements as well. Otherwise, heavy rail could wind up making Tysons even more dysfunctional than it is now.

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  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    A recent WaPo article:

    Plan to Remake Tysons Corner Envisions Dense Urban Center


    ….”The results could determine the future not only of Virginia’s mightiest jobs hub, but also what happens across the country. Urban-renewal leaders are looking to Tysons as a model.”

    … but the basic concern of folks like TMT is not that different in substance than folks in the Fredericksburg Area contemplatively assessing a New Urbanism mixed-use concept – albeit on a much smaller scale but the same concern…

    where will the infrastructure come from. who will pay for it. and will it be in place at the time the development is occupied.

    and the answers provided are basically non-responsive and evasive.

    They’ll tell you that because the development is dense and mixed than it will result in less traffic – in theory.

    but there is no concrete infrastructure plan – even for the “reduced” traffic concept…

    Planners in Tyson – could propose/agree to a cordon toll – one that is adjustable to regulate and deliver the reduced traffic that is claimed.

    Without this – or something equivalent to it.. why should anyone who lives where TMT does believe that Tysons will turn out to be any different that a worse version of what it is now?

    No one can claim that our traditional cities have – as the direct consequence of being a “dense” area – solved the automobile congestion issue…

    .. not when Loudoun and Stockholm and New York City all are continuing to struggle with auto-centric impacts even though these places are quite dense and, in theory, quite walkable and transit-rich.

    but I think it interesting that a similar project proposed virtually anywhere else would probably draw the same kinds of opposition.

    so.. it’s not unique to Tysons..


  2. Groveton Avatar

    1. Good for Del. Vanderhye for trying to get to the bottom of this.

    2. This is yet another reminder of why strict adherence to Dillon’s Rule does not work. Tyson’s Corner is a local problem that needs to be solved locally. Maybe Clay Athey will contribute some additional pithy comments on this topic from the urban stronghold of Front Royal. Then, Del. Vanderhye can share her wisdom on farming from the rural stronghold of McLean.

    3. Virginia lacks a plan for sustained economic development. The “political class” just doesn’t like the idea of an urban population. They hallucinate about “yeoman farmers”. Coal and agriculture, agriculture and coal. Every competent enterprise understands that growth requires investment. Only blithering idiots take money from high growth areas to fund low growth areas. That is a formula for running out of money – which is exactly where Virginia is headed. If you want to “milk” NoVA – what are you investing in? Tidewater? They are being “milked” too. Let’s face it – Virginia’s plan is to “milk” urban areas to fund agriculture and coal. And that has absolutely, positively no chance of working. The only thing that will accomplish is to deaden the growth in the urban areas which will leave no place to “milk”.

    4. Other states have successfully urbanized. Virginia is far from the first. So, how did they do it? They devolved power from the state to the local governments for local decisions. Personal wealth in the urban areas increased. Then, the urban wealthy paid more in taxes to be redistributed to those who are less wealthy. Sorry guys but that’s the formula. Having small town lawyers and farmers pontificate about urban design is an excercise in pointlessness. Having people like me lecture farmers on crops would be an excercise in starvation. Why is this so hard to understand?

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t disagree with some of Groveton’s observations but the question does need to be asked.

    Is Home Rule DC-adjacent Maryland substantially different in the issues and resolutions of land development, planning, density, et all.

    Are they not dealing with a similar issue with the proposed Metro Purple Line?

    and if Virginia is so Dillon-rule dysfunctional, then why this:

    “The results could determine the future not only of Virginia’s mightiest jobs hub, but also what happens across the country. Urban-renewal leaders are looking to Tysons as a model.”


  4. Groveton Avatar

    “No one can claim that our traditional cities have – as the direct consequence of being a “dense” area – solved the automobile congestion issue…”.

    Yes, cities don’t work. This stupid world-wide experiment in urbanization needs to end. We should depopulate the cities and have everybody go back to the countryside where they can be “re-educated”. If society needs manufactured goods they can be made on a micro scale. For example, every 12th yeoman farm will include a steel works for the production of necessary products.

    I used to think that these misguided thoughts were an ill-considered attempt to extrapolate the ideas of Thomas Jefferson beyond the point of reason (and beyond the point he would have ever extrapoltaed those ideas). However, I now see a better corollary for these anti-urban philosophies: Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …no no no…

    using the concept of dense urban development as a rationale for designing new urban centers that will not be auto-centric…

    … is trying to sell the dense-urban settlement pattern on false pretences in the eyes of those who are being told that places like a more dense Tysons will be a benefit to the people who currently live there…

    … and that’s what the upheaval is all about…

    … Would it be better to say this:

    “A denser Tysons Corner will be like most other dense cities in the world with all the pluses and minuses that such dense patterns are characterized by”

    I’ve made this point before.. that a denser Tysons …_could_ be a somewhat natural evolution that many existing cities themselves actually went through on their way from suburbs to city…

    I’m not arguing the merits of it.

    Obviously cities do flourish – despite all their problems.. around the world…

    what I’m pointing out that ‘selling’ the concept on the premise that it will result in less auto-centric effects.. is a long way from a proven concept and that folks like TMT are justified in their skepticism

    A denser Tyson’s Corner is more than likely going to be like most other cities…

    unless they make a cordon toll part of the proposal..

    and the idea here is that existing cities are themselves looking into cordon tolls to reduce the auto-centric impacts…

    so I made the statement as a suggestion on how to perhaps do a better job of delivering the Tysons that is promised ..


  6. Groveton Avatar

    What is the difference between the Virginia General Assembly and Jesus?

    Even Jesus was willing to share power:

    “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but render unto God what is God’s”.

  7. Groveton Avatar


    Relax. I am never really mad. I just think people should analyze things as systems rather than isolated components.

    Q: If the policies of the General Assembly choke off growth in urban areas, where will future economic growth be generated?

    A: There will be no future growth.

    Q: If there is no future economic growth, what will happen to the quality of life for the average Virginian?

    A: It will decline.

    Q: What governmental entity is in the best position to represent local citizens in local decisions?

    A: The local government.

    Q: What factors make the present boundaries of the state of Virginia a logical entity for the governance of Virginia’s inhabitants?

    A: There are none. It is not a logical grouping for governance purposes.

    Q: What happens when people without expertise or experience in a particular area try to make important decisions in that area?

    A: Nothing good.

    Q: What percenatge of the “members” of the Virginia General Assembly have the expertise or experience to make good decisions regarding urban planning?

    A: 25% on a good day.

    The governance process in Virginia is broken. Until it is fixed we should all expect poor outcomes.

    DC home rule is a poor example. DC is a small entirely urban area. The issues with DC are between the city and federal government.

    MD home rule is a better example. I think Maryland is on a better trajectory than Virginia. Baltimore seems like a more successful city than Richmond (Example: fewer families live below the poverty line in Baltimore), Montgomery County is better run than Fairfax County, Annapolis reminds me of Charlottesville but with more realized potential. I believe that Somerset County is the poorest county in Maryland with a median household income of $29,903I believe Wise County is the poorest county in Virginia with a median household income of $26,149.

    Larry – I would avoid the habit of declaring every other state inferior to Virginia. These comparisons are never as clear as the “descendants of Pocohontas” would have you believe.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    “We’ll have to occupy the landscape differently, in traditional town, villages, and small cities. Our giant metroplexes are not going to make it, and the successful places will be ones that encourage local farming.”

    James Kunstler

    It does not have to be a choice between Rosslyn and a corn field somewhere.

    But I do beleive that when an agglomeration needs billions in infrastructure just to transport itiself, then it is on the backside of the efficiency curve.

    But, as larry notes, cities do thrive. All that means is that it is possible to thrive and still operate less than optimally. Like birds that swim or walk, and fish that crawl.

    But I’m not sure how you have a “natural evolution” that means you have to spend billions just to put in the skeleton.

    “are themselves looking into cordon tolls to reduce the auto-centric impacts”

    But isn’t this another case of false pretenses? They are looking more for the revenue than the mitigation. In London they claim to have reduced congestion by 30%, which sounds like 30% less cars. But what it really is is thity peercent less congestion delay.

    So, if a trip takes ten minutes in off hours and takes 16 minutes during congested hours, then after the eight pound toll was established the trip took only 14 minutes.

    This is, in fact a reduction of 30%, but it’s a trick worthy pf PT Barnum, too. Who would have signed up for a $10 toll that would save them two minutes?

    It’s not about reducing auto centricity, it’s about the money. Same as the traffic light story from Steubenville. As such, it is false pretenses.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “I just think people should analyze things as systems rather than isolated components.”


    Deming said that when things fail, it is seldom the things, but the SYSTEM that fails. Wehn that DC 10 crashed outside Chicago the investigation found 23 differnt things that failed, in order for that crash to happen. They ALL had to fail because had any one of them not happened, it would have broken the chain of events.

    You have to look at all the parts and all the connections between the parts.

    And you have to stay ahead of it, or the sytem will fall apart spontaneously due to natural entropy.

    Sort of like our highway system.


  10. charlie Avatar

    congestion tolling in Tysons is pretty stupid. Cameras? Toll barriers? Armed Guards checking your internal movement passes?

    An easier way would be to tax parking spaces.

    The real issue is if you wasted $5 billion building a metro-to-dulles, where are the additional Metro commuters going to come from: Reston and Arlington.

    Government workers might be willing to commute and hour and a half on metro from Maryland, but there aren’t many Government office in Tysons.

    I’ve been looking at the Virginia Purple line, and it is so much a better than the Metro-To-Dulles — and the cost is somewhere around 1.5 billion instead.

  11. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    When we saw the article yesterday (“Plan to Remake Tysons Corner Envisions Dense Urban Center”) we were tempted to do a post.

    Jim Bacons perspective and Groveton’s defense of urban agglomerations (do not forget Pol Pot) promptS a brief note:

    TMTs frequent and heartfelt condemnation of restructuring Tysons, the problems Jim Bacon has with these cost-of-roads-to-support figures and with the cost of Rail to Dulles as well as charlies observations all spring from the same misunderstanding:

    All these perspectives and every plan for a New Tysons that we have seen, including the one in the WaPo story, assume that the restructuring will be a total failure and that almost the same percentage of workers will live in west no-where and drive SOVs (and SUVs) as they do now.

    If that is the case, do not bother to do anything.

    That may be the best option given what the US of A is doing about energy conservation.

    If one intelligently designed a “New Tysons” then the human settlement pattern would approach Balance at each of the station-areas and then:

    There would be no need for most of roadways to serve Autonomobiles

    The Rail to Dulles stations would pay for themselves

    And there would be no commuters

    (No one will be able to afford or pay for the gas to operate Autonomobiles anyway.)

    Good Morning!!

    Wake up!!

    This is the 21st Centruy.

    Only Ad agencies are making money from the Mobility and Access options of the 20th centruy.


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: cordon tolls, purpose and effect

    I think if you do cordon tolls like congestion tolls – you can pretty much limit traffic to whatever price “works”.

    whether that price-point makes money or not is a separate issue but you could take all of that money and use it to rebate property taxes or spend it on whatever …even frivalous purposes but I can guarantee you that there IS a price at which it WILL discourage traffic – IF that is your intended purpose to start with.

    I also don’t disagree with the idea of dealing with parking as another path.

    Fairfax could restrict parking to Fairfax-only operated lots that they ..again charge sufficient fees to restrict traffic to certain levels.

    Again, it boils down to what your actual intent is.

    But the larger – system perspective – that I espouse is that …

    IF the idea of a denser Tysons is to – in fact, have a less auto-centric place, then why not put in place…whether it be cordon tolls, or parking or any number of other methods – explicit strategies to insure the promised performance?

    To NOT put in place, specific strategies while, at the same time, promising that such density.. WILL, in fact, result in less auto traffic – will result in opposition from those who, rightly so, expect something more than smoke & mirrors…

    If Tysons IS … THAT.. important opportunity to do New Urbanism – “right” – then provide to citizens the “goods” to back up the claims

    or otherwise.. expect opposition…

    it really does little good to have citizen task forces if in the end – the citizens concerns (as opposed to the business surrogates that often make up such task forces) are not only not delt with but actually confirm their worst fears….

    I don’t know about Tysons but some of the “alleged” citizen vision events that I’ve been to are carefully orchestrated events to achieve the ‘look’ of citizen involvement ..without all the messy details..

  13. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    “I’ve been looking at the Virginia Purple line, and it is so much a better than the Metro-To-Dulles — and the cost is somewhere around 1.5 billion instead.”

    “charlie” I think you were reading about the Maryland Purple line, not Virginia.

    The utility of any shared-vehicle system can be measured by the number of potential vehicle trips that the station-area settlement pattern converts into non-vehicle trips.

    Given the current Agency perspective on Mobilty and Access the only reason that the Maryland Purple line costs less is that it costs less. It does not mean it does more or does anything more efficiently.


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR – There will be no intelligent settlement plan developed for Tysons Corner. If I understand your reasoning, most people who work at Tysons would live at Tysons and most people who live at Tysons would work at Tysons.

    Ain’t gonna happen. First, the landowners have discovered that they cannot afford to build much affordable or workforce housing at Tysons. One proposal would be to “ghettoize” this housing in one, less desirable section of Tysons. As the rap song goes, “We can go to da slums, where killers get hung.” Now that’s progressive thinking.

    The other proposal would be to reduce the affordable/workforce housing burden to a dollar figure and then buy land outside Tysons Corner for the lower-income housing ghetto. So much for a walkable community.

    Moreover, a Fairfax County employee indicated that only 10% of the 20% of the housing would be affordable (such that someone earning $60K could afford the payments or the rent). There would be some additional workforce housing, but certainly not enough for the retail employees and service employees who work at Tysons.

    Gerry Connolly would tell you that the new $5 billion Silver Line will capture around 20% of all trips to and from Tysons Corner. That means around 80% of the trips will be by motor vehicle. 80% times a bigger Tysons equals mega-gridlock.

    Tysons Corner is not about urbanization. Rather, it’s about manipulating the process so that the BoS can grant FARs as high as 10.0, such that some landowners can flip their properties for more than they could with FARs of 3.0.

    Meanwhile, where to we get the $580 million necessary just to accommodate part of the 1994 plan for Tysons Corner?

    Real estate development under these conditions is not balanced. Heck, it’s the moral equivalent of an Al Qaeda attack.


  15. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    In the 20th Century you are right and the land owners in Tysons are working with 20th Centruy rules.

    When the banks take over the land and want to get it off their books they will look to do all the things that you, rightly, say the current land owners do not want to do because they think (thought) they could make more money playing the old century game.

    Keep up the good work, throw sand in the gears and sugar in the gas tank.

    When we start over the land owners will be smarter…

    OOPs there may not be the resources left to start over…

    That is what we said in the 80s and we are sticking to it.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Charlie’s right about the purple line: it’s a better deal and far more useful in the long run.

    Rail to Dulles is a better deal, if it bypases Tysons. Let them build their own spur and pay the price of transfers, instead of having evey Dulles passenger endure three uneeded Tysons stops.

    But, Tysons won’t work without lots of auto traffic, so taxing parking space or other ‘demand reductions’ are counter productive. If you are an owner at Tysons, it is suicidal.


    The utility of any shared-vehicle system can be measured by the number of potential vehicle trips that the station-area settlement pattern converts into non-vehicle trips.

    EMR is right.

    Based on that measurement the utility of Metro is a little under one third. Since its efficiency is also about one third then the true value is about 11% of the potential indicated by the number of seats moved.


    “The Rail to Dulles stations would pay for themselves”

    Depends on what you mean by pay for themselves. Whatever system you use, should be the same one apllied to alternate technologies, like automobiles.

    If you choose to credit metro stations with tax increases from surrounding development, you would have to do the same for other roadways.


    “There would be no need for most of roadways to serve Autonomobiles

    And there would be no commuters”

    And you can live in Disney’s Fantasyland with Chris Miller.

    We walked for millions of years, then we had beasts of burden, then we learned to ride, then we built wheels and rode, then we added enegines.

    We aren’t going to uninvent the auto, and we aren’t going back. We need to plan for some kind of individual vehicle, however it is powered.


  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”..so taxing parking space or other ‘demand reductions’ are counter productive. If you are an owner at Tysons, it is suicidal.”

    so then..you make demand reduction part of the zoning rules and be done with it… and then see what kinds of businesses would locate there…

    and no.. it won’t be none.. there will be some that will be fine with their employees arriving on commuter buses or Metro….

    take the auto-centric incentives away and see what survives…

    Plenty of existing businesses in existing cities do not have auto-commuting employees…

    why not design a place to work that way rather than retrofit it?

  18. “Tysons won’t work without lots of auto traffic, so taxing parking space or other ‘demand reductions’ are counter productive.”

    YES. What happens when you have to pay to enter or park in Tysons? People go to the Springfield Mall or Pentagon City instead of the Tysons mall. Instead of going to the expense account steakhouses in Tysons, they’ll go to the ones in DC.

    These TAXES don’t reduce congestion, they just shuffle it around. And congestion tolling is not even good at raising money because of the inefficiency involved.

    But why bother looking at the numbers from London (which are even worse than RH points out — congestion has returned to pre-charge levels). It’s not about reality, it’s about ideology.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Ensure WHAT promised performance?

    Free traffic Flow?
    ROI to investors and owners?
    Liviability and affordability?
    Clean air?
    Decent schools?
    A drycleaner or maid that speaks English?

    We can’t agree on what the measure of success for this test is.

    We can’t even agree on how to go about setting the ground rules by which we could come to such an agreement – for how to measure the test.

    And then, if we knew what we were trying to achieve and agreed on that, we still wouldn’t agree on HOW to achieve it.

    We know less about how to do this than we knew about preventing infection or the origin of species in 1300.

    There are no shortage of people who will tell you they know what’s best or what needs to be done, but they aren’t the ones who will be around to see the results of the test.

    Let THEM post a bond on performance.

    PT Barnum is alive and well folks, and so are all the suckers.


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    you make demand reduction part of the zoning rules and then you don’t need the density.

    Go build in some new place.


  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “go someplace else”

    not with that density…

    the choice for Tysons is to be like the places around it like it is now or to be more dense than them…

    if you make it more dense, then why would some choose it over the other places that are less dense?

    and actually we can agree.

    NOT zoning it more dense …IS an option…

    where does it say that Tysons must be zoned more dense or it loses business to other places just like it?

  22. Some more data upon which to chew. Even with high density and a decent public transit system, the car is still king:

    Transportation Facts for Washington, DC
    – District population under age 16: 108,758 (19% of total population) Source: Census 2000
    – District workers* (over 16) who do not own a motor vehicle: 68,121 (25% of all workers)
    – 42% of District workers commute by motor vehicle
    – 39% of District workers commute by public transportation
    – 11.8% of District workers walk
    – 2.0% of District workers bike to work
    – 72% of District residents work in the District
    Source: 2006 American Community Survey
    *Employed District residents working inside and outside the District boundary

    As seen here. Not to mention a good chunk of DC workers live in MD/VA.

  23. Anonymous Avatar


    First you say the taxes will drive people someplace else, then you say congestion in London returned to pretax levels.

    Which is it?

    Circular arguments make me dizzy. But the point here is that we wouldn’t know success if it hit us in the face, we have no agreed standard.


    If the congestion levels return after the taxes are installed then you are paying for NOTHING.

    Even an environmental whacko can see that this is a WASTE of resources that could be better used for some other environmental project that actually works.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    not with that density…

    Circular argument.

    We just agreed you can’t make that density work.

    The choice for Tysons is wide open. It is not ONLY more density, and we decided that can’t work already. If that’s the only choice then the only choice is failure. It would be better to do nothing.

    Maybe condemn it under eminent domain and put up a Park is the best option for Fairfax taxpayers and residents. It might be cheaper to buy Iraq than go win the war.

    If you don’t like what the owners are doing with the place, then you need to buy it to get a voice. But, we don;t have to give them a Metro set to play with either.


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    where does it say that Tysons must be zoned more dense or it loses business to other places just like it?

    It may not LOSE business but NEW business will go someplace else. taht’s wahy Starbuck opens a new store right across the street from the old.


  26. “First you say the taxes will drive people someplace else, then you say congestion in London returned to pretax levels. Which is it?”

    Good point. There’s a difference between shoppers and workers.

    The discretionary shopping trips upon which much of the Tysons economy depends would certainly be redirected. In London, commerce went down when the congestion charge was instituted — not sure the latest figures on that, but they definitely went down initially.

    There was little or no change in the number of people who come & go from work, so the 9am and 5pm traffic remained essentially unchanged. That’s the heart of congestion.

    I don’t think 9am Monday trips to the mall are much of a congestion concern. I don’t even think Tysons Mall is open that early.

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Even with high density and a decent public transit system, the car is still king.

    We are thinking too small. Way too small. The public transit system need to be more than decent: it needs to be spectacular.

    Seats for everyone, two minute lead times, 24 hour service, 95% coverage, comfortable seats for everyone, good security, plentiful parking, etc. etc

    And cheap cheap cheap.

    Then you will still need room for cars, just not as much.


  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “….The cordon toll in London has been successful in reducing congestion in central London, and consequently, revenues have fallen short of initial projections. By the end of 2005, average delay reductions within the cordon zone were estimated at 26 percent compared to pre-charge levels10. Car traffic into the cordon zone has dropped”


    do you have different data?

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “By the end of 2005, average delay reductions within the cordon zone were estimated at 26 percent compared to pre-charge levels10”

    Yeah, the old number was 30%.

    As I explained, this is a sleazy advertising gimmick. it is spin. It is deceptive.

    Take a trip that takes ten minutes off peak. It takes 16 minutes during rush hour. After the toll is in place it takes 14 minutes during rush hour. They call that a one third reduction in delay. Is it really worth a $10 toll to save two minutes?

    They could just as easy say they reduced an averae 16 minute trip to fourteen. people could understand that and it agrees with their experience.

    But if you tell them their delay is reduced by one third, they don’t actually see it that way on the street, and they think you are a liar.

    This is a lousy and stupid way for the government to do business.

    It is like EMR saying high prices prove this is what people want. it clashes with most people’s expectation (I want low prices), so they dismiss the rest of his argument as equally stupid.

    It is bad salesmanship.


  30. AFAIK, this is the latest official London data. Please note that it comes from TfL data and is total spin. Conservative did a counterspin piece, but I can’t find it. Note that the passage below comes with a dozen caveats that I omit for brevity. Read page 47 and check out the chart on page 48.

    “However, from the early post-charging measurements in 2003 to the early part of 2006, the data suggests there was an ‘average’ increase in congestion of up to 0.1 minutes per kilometre. In the later half of 2006 however, the increase was a further 0.5 minutes per kilometre – a ‘step change’ in observed congestion levels.”
    Source PDF

    Essentially, various “traffic calming” measures combined with more bendy buses and roadworks conspired to bring 2006 back to pre-charge levels, or near enough as makes no difference. Now that Boris has replaced Red Ken, expect TfL reports to present the other side of the story with less pro-tax spin.

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    A suburban Tysons fails if automobile traffic is prohibited, either directly or indirectly, since most people will continue to drive.

    An urban Tysons fails if automobile traffic is not radically reduced.

    What will Tysons really be — suburban, urban or just an ugly combination of both?

    Someday a grand jury will investigate Tysons Corner and its conspirators!


    PS EMR – We’re still playing under 20th Century rules. Unless and until they are changed, the players must continue to replicate 20th Century behavior.

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    from your source PDF (which is an official government report and better than what I had referenced):

    …”after three years of operation of the scheme, increasingly
    reflected incremental changes such as the increase in the daily charge to £8, and were

    • The main indicators of traffic volumes were comparable to those previously observed in 2003 and 2004, with evidence of modest overall reductions in traffic
    coinciding with the increase to the charge in July 2005.

    • Counts of traffic entering the central London zone gave an average ‘annualised’
    reduction for 2005 of 3 percent against 2004, notionally representing the impact
    of the charge increase to £8, which represented an overall reduction of 21 percent
    compared to pre-charging levels in 2002.”


    21 percent does not sound like the tolls had no effect…

    so.. what is your point?

    If your point is that cordon tolls won’t reduce traffic.. the report indicates that not only does it work but they are going to expand it to other parts of London.

    why would they do that if it was deemed a failure?

    and no.., no conspiracy theories paleeese…

    just extract the parts that convinced you that the tolls are not working… there are a lot of pages here and I might have not seen the parts that you saw …

  33. Groveton Avatar

    Tysons Corner is so unique. There is nowhere else like it. The problems are unique. No lessons can be learned from elsewhere.

    Oh …. wait a minute …

    That’s not true at all, now is it?

    Tysons Corned is an “edge city” like many, many more around the US and around the world.

    Here is a list of edge cities from Wikipedia:


    Let’s start with a simple question / vote:

    Which of these edge cities is the best and could serve as a model for places like Tysons Corner?

    Since most of you guys don’t seem to “get out much” maybe we should restrict the voting to edge cities in the United States. I’ve been to 50 – 60% of the places on the list (meaning I’ve spent at least one night in that area). Here are my favorites (all quantitative):

    1. Reston, VA – You guys can moan all you want but it’s a great area with a decent town center and well conceived road access. It’s getting nothing but better over time.

    2. Scottsdale, AZ – Well organized, decent road access, best restaurants of all the edge cities (in my opinion).

    3. Palo Alto, CA – Excellent organization around Stanford University. Very walkable downtown. Good mix of business and residential.

    4. Berkeley, CA – Don’t moan unless you’ve actually been there. Another edge city with a univerity at its heart (hint, hint Virginia). Good quality of life.

    5. Lake Forest, IL – Beautiful place – lots of trees. Plus, I felt that I had to find a place “up north” or be fairly accused of ignoring half the country.

    6. Ontario, CA – This place reminds me of Charlottesville – endless potential. And a wealth of scenic beauty. Diverse and fun.

    7. Cherry Creek, CO – Maybe too small to compare but it’s a very pretty place with a great atmosphere.

    Note: I would have included Buckhead, GA on the list but I see it as more of an area within Atlanta.

    Other votes?

  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ve been to about half but not overnight in all.. but my observation is for the one’s I’ve been in is that parts of them are done well and parts are living hell… which.. might describe the different elephant parts and pieces of NoVa and Wash Metro.

    I’d be hard pressed to name THE one that best represented a citywide “good” pattern but I can name some places that do that are not on this list.

    Fredericton, NB, Canada, Halifax, NS and Vancouver, BC, Flagstaff, Ariz, Salida, Co, Quebec City but I don’t think any of these are “edge” cities…either..

    “Edge city is an American term for a relatively new concentration of business, shopping, and entertainment outside a traditional urban area in what had recently been a residential suburb or semi-rural community.”

    Edge cities are definitely different critters than the cities I named above…

    It’s almost as if – they don’t stand on their own – that there is an embedded relationship with whatever it is that they are an ‘edge’ of…

    Question: Are there any “edge” cities that are not embedded in a beltway or adjacent to a major highway spur?

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton — None of them fit. Tysons is hemmed in by the Beltway and the DTR. It has poor road access. I cannot think of another area that is similar. Even the Denver Tech Center has much better road access.

    Return question: Do you think that spending the $580 M plus identified by VDOT would give Tysons good road access similiar to some of the sites you mention? If not, what does that say about Tysons?


  36. Groveton Avatar


    Oh pleaaaaase…

    You arguments remind me of all the Richmond kids at UVA who kept saying how very, very unique “The University” is. I liked going to UVA but it’s just a good state university – like many others. I imagine there are students in Ann Arbor saying how unique “Big Blue” is too.

    As for “hemmed in” – don’t buy it. Presumably, Chicago is “hemmed in” by Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Boston is “hemmed in” by the Back Bay. Manhattan is an island “hemmed in” by rivers. How many people move into and out of Manhattan every day? We’re talking about roads here. There are places where major buildings are built over major roads and the roads just go through the building like a tunnel. You can go under, over and around roads.

    I think Tysons needs to be reconsidered in a more fundamental way than just roads. I think the plan to encircle the area with high rise, mixed density development has merit. You drive to the edge and park. Then you walk or take shuttle buses. Rt 7 would have to be diverted and not remain a through route.

    This can be done.

    18,000 people live in Tysons Corner and 70,000 work there. So, we have to move 50,000 people in and out today and maybe 100,000 people in and out in the future.

    Tysons has something like 27 million square feet of office space. What’s that worth (and worth to Virginia)? $20 per sq ft per year? That’s $540M in office rental per year – today? And there are 20,000 people with a per capita income of around $50,000 per year? That’s $1B in taxable salaries? At 5% or so to the state? $50M per year? And the residential real estate? remember, absolutely no housing is affordable so it must be expensive. And 1% or so goes to Fairfax County every year. Maybe 7,000 residences worth $500,000 each on average? That seems pretty unaffordable. That’s $3.5B in real estate. 1% of that equals another $35M per year.

    I think Virginia ought to sell the rights to tax Tysons Corner for the next 75 years to the highest bidder – you know, just like the “descendants of Pocohontas” like to do with NoVA roads. How much do you think would be bid?

  37. charlie Avatar

    RE: Parking killing retail

    Yes, maybe for Tysons I and II. The rest of the retail is pretty crap anyway — that is where the redevelopment is scheduled to happen. I don’t think a typical charge is going to kill mall traffic (i.e. many many malls charge for parking). It won’t kill the restaurant trade either.

    My point about parking is that it accomplishes the same thing as congestion pricing — without all the many gizmos that don’t work. However, I’m not sure what price point is really going to force change. DC after all, has expensive parking, $80 million a year in parking fines, and people still park there.

    And yes, London works. But I can’t wait for people shooting down on 7 try to enter the SMS credit card codes to enable them to drive into Tysons. You are just asking for fender benders. Conjestion parking might be good when you are trying to remove 90% of vehicles to get ped traffic. Ain’t going to happen in Tysons.

  38. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I suspect I have been in more of the “Edge Cities” than almost anyone but Joel — and assisted Joel in writing the book that named them.

    You have been in some more recently than I but it was my job to know and understand “Edge Cities” when our clients were trying to learn form them.

    That said, none that you name are in the same class as Tysons Corner. There are some that are in the Atlanta and Dallas NURs and elsewhere but those in the same class are still not “the same.”

    What are the same are the organic components of the same scale that were created at about the same time as TC.

    When you consider the components, you can make a number of useful compaisons.


    RE 20th Century rules: It is 2008 and this is not just the seventh recession since World War II.

    Look at the gas pump,

    Look at the riots in EU over fuel cost,

    Look at the value of the Euro,

    Look at the balance of trade,

    Look at how many US of A troops are in harms way,

    Try to find Osama,

    Look at the foreclosures, not just the current level of the a drop in price,

    Look at the mess the federal administaration has made of countless issues but most importantly the reputation and credibility of US of A

    We could not rally support to go after the pirates in Somalia,

    (Yes, Groveton, look at how many stupid things the
    VA legislature has done.)

    Just hang on TMT, the new rules are one the way.

    But will we have the resources to implement a new order after it bottoms out?


  39. Anonymous Avatar

    DC after all, has expensive parking, $80 million a year in parking fines, and people still park there.

    Well, do parking restrictions work, or not?

    Do cordon tolls work, or not?

    If not, what are we paying all that money for?

    If they do work eventually, then we need to be ready for the change. London spent a lot of money getting transit ready, and they had a good system to begin with.


    Larry still doesn’t understand or doesn’t wish to, what’s going on. The 21 % reduction is a reduction in congestion delay, and it is correct as far as it goes.

    But it is advertised and touted as a 21% reduction in congestion, which most people understand as something different entirely. Most people think it means 21% less traffic, or 21% less travel time, which it isn’t.

    Not making the difference clear is false advertising. The real issue is whether the toll paid is worth the time saved. If a ten dollar toll saves you 2 minutes it isn’t worth it, if if saves you thirty, then maybe it is.


    We’ve had recessions before.
    People are still pumping gas.
    People are still trading.
    People are still buying homes.
    Some of them are getting a good deal on foreclosures.
    I dunno what troops have to do with Tyson’s.
    Osama is the one hiding, not us.
    EMR hopes new rules are on the way.
    I hope less rules are on the way.

    If we run out of resources, we won’t have to worry about fixing Tysons.

    If we run out of gas, electricity, broccoli and coffee, which edge city will we head off to? The one with the most high rises?


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    “This can be done.

    18,000 people live in Tysons Corner and 70,000 work there. So, we have to move 50,000 people in and out today and maybe 100,000 people in and out in the future.”

    EMR thinks it Can’t Be Done. We have to all live there or face the apocolypse. I don’t see any point in putting more people there than what can be sustained.

    I think it can be done, but it is freaking crazy. Why put 100K jobs where 20K people live? If you want people to live there, then make it a lot cheaper and a lot more attractive. Don’t make life miserable difficult expensive and aggravating.

    Otherwise, put in a lot of really good transit, and figure out how you are going to make that cheap and attractive.


  41. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton – According to VDOT and Fairfax County data, 37% of today’s Route 7 traffic is through and Route 123’s through traffic percentage is slightly higher. How do you handle that traffic with a bigger locate Route 7’s replacement? What would the right-of-way costs be alone? If some of the projects on the VDOT cost summary total $580 million, what would the construction costs for building a Route 7 bypass be? We cannot afford this type of construction.

    Also, business and job growth are not focused on Tysons any more. Tysons is losing more businesses than it is gaining. Job growth is heading west — Reston, Herndon, Dulles & Ashburn. With BRAC, more jobs will be coming to South County. Dollars spent in Tysons cannot be spent elsewhere. Why should we waste scarce tax dollars on a flawed plan?

    Tysons Corner redevelopment is being done on the backs of everyone else. They could have taken the 94 Plan and made changes and improvements to it that would have marginally improved Tysons. But that would not result in FARs as high as 8-10, so it had no value to the speculators. There are a few people at Tysons who would like to see things improve, but too many who are looking for a windfall.

    Someday, a grand jury will investigate Tysons Corner.


  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: the goals (purposes) of cordon tolling

    I would posit NOT to offer one a good value for the toll but instead to convince those making discretionary trips that the cost if higher than the value to them.

    The “right” cost is not necessary the one originally chosen.

    As London is finding out – the cost of the toll – necessary to achieve the desired results may be more than originally estimated.

    That does not mean that Cordon Tolls do not work.

    I can guarantee you that there IS a number at which it WILL have an effect.

    So the issue is not whether such tolls will work or not but rather if they do work – do they result in only getting rid of truly discretionary trips or does it cut into the economic muscle.

    I realize, of course, that some folks will say that any reduction in trips will do that but I also suspect that those that are trying to reduce the traffic would like to see some proof.. or at least get an idea of how much toll causes how much bleeding.

    The folks who oppose such tolls, I would posit don’t really care what the number is.. for that feel than it is an unwarranted restriction on free travel…to being with so no number how small or no effect, no matter how benign – will satisfy them because it is the principle of the toll that they are opposed to in any way, shape or form.


  43. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: ..”Why put 100K jobs where 20K people live?”

    because that’s how it happens..

    I’m sure if you visit places like Singapore, or Hong Kong or any of dozens of world metropolises that the sheer chaos might lead one to conclude that none of it makes good economic sense…

    The thing I find quite amazing is that in many of these other countries – dense, affordable housing is not chronically unsafe.

    People around the world can and do live in dense proximity without the problems that we seem to have and fear in this country.

    In Tysons, we call dense affordable housing – ghettos. In Europe and Japan, we call them homes.

    I find it hard to believe that if safe affordable place to live exist in the rest of the world – that we cannot clone it over here.

    now as soon as these words leave my mouth – I stand ready to be corrected.. so go for it…

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    “So the issue is not whether such tolls will work or not but rather if they do work – do they result in only getting rid of truly discretionary trips or does it cut into the economic muscle.”

    I think the problem people see with Tysons is there is a substitute good available. It is not central London, it is not Manhattan, and it is not downtown DC. You DON’T need to be Tysons. You can go move your business (and workers) somewhere else.

    70K people work at Tysons. 20K live there, assume 50K regular commuters. At a $10 per parking spot tax, that is $500,000 a day — or about 125 million a year. That is enough money to lay down some serious light rail up and down 7 and 123.

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    where do the 50 thousand come from?

    do they come from 7 and 123?

    Bethesda, Fredericksburg, LaPlata?

    another thing that does not add up – why is it beneficial to build more expensive higher density in Tysons if there are cheaper, most-cost effective alternatives with or without parking or cordon tolls?

    I get the impression that Tysons is considered a lucrative opportunity for developers – more lucrative than surround opportunities …


    Tysons is not London – true – but Fairfax can do what London is doing – expanding the cordon boundaries to include adjacent areas.

    Cordon tolling was not feasible until the advent of license plate recognition because a lot of not-daily travelers would not likely have transponders.

    another benefit of license plate recognition is origin-destination studies that could develop some good commuting pattern data that would help Fairfax decide where to put a cordon boundary but beyond that the whole concept of a denser Tysons could be “instrumented” to develop actual performance data.

    Once the HOT lanes go “live”, there will already be a pseudo “cordon” toll for Tysons in that the farther away someone lives from a Tysons job – the more it will cost them to get to that job unless they carpool or ride transit/buses/etc.

    Living far away from a Tysons job could become a very expensive solo driving endeavor for all locations in and around Tysons and especially so if one gets financially locked into a home.

    If you live far away and you can’t sell your house and even if you could, it would cost you more to move closer….. and the costs of commuting go up from higher gasoline prices and tolls.. eventually one of the options that get much more serious consideration is to do something different than drive solo every day.

    My attitude (not proven) is that some of the traffic around Tysons is local but some of it is from longer-distance commuters.

    If longer-distance commuters change their driving habits – even just a few but enough to affect peak-hr congestion – what happens?

    HOT Lane tolls might just cut “enough” of the volume to dramatically reduce congestion in places like Tyson.

    then again.. if the beltway gets HOT lanes.. the folks coming from the west and already paying Greenway and/or Dulles TR tolls may try to get off at Tysons – which could be a separate and independent disaster from rezoning Tysons itself as high Density.

    Isn’t the influence of the Greenway and DTR already part of the Tysons traffic effect?

  46. Anonymous Avatar

    A discretionary trip to the traveler might not be to the merchant, but pretty soon the merchant’s employee’s trip will be discretionary.

    As London is finding out, to achieve the desired results may be more than originally estimated. that means the results are no longer quite so desireable.

    There IS a number at which it WILL have an effect, the question is whther the cost is worth it.

    It is not that it is an unwarranted restriction on free travel, it is that it is a restriction that doesn’t actually pay, after all the other costs are considered.

    Think of what is happening in London. What has happened there is that the government has decided to take 8 pounds a day from most people and give most of it to the compny that runs the cameras, rather than let them decide what to do with their money. It is a subsidy for the camera company.

    For everyone who doesn’t pay the toll, the government lets them pay (part of) the fare for the transit company. Government now has effictive patronage for all the transit employees.

    The (rest of) the fare is paid for by the auto drivers, so it is a true users fee.

    So, after the dust has settled, maybe the whole system is better off, and maybe it isn’t. If the whole system is better off, then there should be enough money somewhere TO PAY BACK THE TOLLS.

    If there isn’t, then it is a tax increase.

    I don’t know if there is enough new money to pay back the tolls or not, but it doesn’t appear so. If there was, politicians would be making a lot of hay.

    As Groveton points out, we can have a system like that, but it probably won’t include any Republicans. If we want the kind of system where one group pays subsidies to the government’s favorite camear operator, and subsidies to all the transit riders, the the Republicans can go back and re-write their dogma from square one.

    Why put 100K jobs where 20K people live?” Because that’s how we let it happen. In Japan, it is said they have packers, to squeeze more people on the subway cars.

    In Hong Kong pretty near everyone lived in the city, because outside was a different country.

    If we can control where people build residences without regard to the finances of property owners, then we can control where businesses build, without regard to their finances. While we are at it, we can contrl free travel. Like EMR says, the rules are changing.

    One of them is going to say, no more Republicans. The Democrats won’t have to worry, because they will have long since become socialists.


  47. Anonymous Avatar

    another thing that does not add up – why is it beneficial to build more expensive higher density in Tysons if there are cheaper, most-cost effective alternatives with or without parking or cordon tolls?

    You think it might be because the No-growthers have effectively turned off the alternatives? Big developers LOVE environmentalists, because they play right into their hands.

    Living far away from a Tysons job could become a very expensive solo driving endeavor if we erect enough artificial barriers and use them for subsidies to others.

    Eventually one of the options that get much more serious consideration is to do something different than drive solo every day, and onther option is to take a lower paid teaching job or something, closer to home. The locals who can’t afford to live there now will LOVE that option.

    HOT Lane tolls might just cut “enough” of the volume to dramatically reduce congestion in places like Tyson. You mean like maybe half?

    “Isn’t the influence of the Greenway and DTR already part of the Tysons traffic effect?”

    By that you mean tolls don’t work?

    There is no doubt that at a $10 per parking spot tax there is enough money to lay down some serious light rail up and down 7 and 123. Let’s just not ever say that cars don’t pay their way, ever again. And all that light ral is going to enrich some developers, so let’s get that off the table too. Then, you ight find out that light rail is just like the HOV lanes: it’s a nice amenity for a few, bot overall the price (in speed and inconvenience and comfort) is too high, and it is underused.

    Then you should be prepared to take money from the car drivers and use it to PAY people to ride the light rail. Maybe they can use it to pay their increased housing costs.


  48. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Why are cordon tolls any different than strictly enforced time-limited parking or photo red-light cameras in terms of “value” for the driver or for that matter “profit” for whoever is administering the equipment – as long as it accomplishes the intent of the policy behind the equipment?

    Why does London have to have an interest in “profit” or for that matter, even cost-effectiveness if their goal is to do what it takes to reduce traffic volume and congestion?

    I’m not necessarily advocating this – only pointing out that there is a difference between the two ideas and that if the intent of a traffic reduction policy is met – and it does not cost the city any more money .. why would they want to do something different?

    What would motivate them to do something different?

  49. Anonymous Avatar

    “as long as it accomplishes the intent of the policy behind the equipment?

    if their goal is to do what it takes to reduce traffic volume and congestion?”

    If you only care about one thing, to the excusion of everything else, if you are willing to pay an infinite price, and you believe the ends justifies the means, knock yourelf out.

    Just don’t expect to get my vote.

    See the story on Steubenville, posted below.


  50. Anonymous Avatar

    “…if the intent of a traffic reduction policy is met – and it does not cost the city any more money …”

    By not cost the city any mnore, do you mean the city coffers or the sum of the coffers of city residents, including the city coffers?

  51. Anonymous Avatar

    “I find it hard to believe that if safe affordable place to live exist in the rest of the world – that we cannot clone it over here.”

    Go google “high rise slums” then come back.


  52. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If the policy costs the city in other ways then it will alter the policy..

    but cordon tolls are really an old idea – commuter taxes…

    the people who live INSIDE of the cordon and who pay taxes won’t be affected nearly as much as the folks who commute to town every day.


    The city.. in fact.. if they wanted could use those tolls to lower property taxes..

    that would be an even more EVIL idea wouldn’t it?

    Imagine, Tysons.. charges commuters to improve the local roads and lower the property taxes of residents.

    now that idea ought to make you really thrilled .. I bet…


  53. Anonymous Avatar

    but Fairfax can do what London is doing – expanding the cordon boundaries to include adjacent areas.

    Yeah, and you don’t have to pay the toll if you live inside the cordon. Let’s expand it all the way to Wise County.


  54. Anonymous Avatar

    tolls are really an old idea – commuter taxes…

    I thought tolls weren’t taxes.

    My father was involved in a lawsuit concerning commuter taxes, and he was ordered out of the city at gunpoint, in his own office. Our house took several slugs.

    We moved out of the state that weekend. He never voted Republican again.

    They are an old idea, and still a bad one. Taxation without representation. I thinks someone fought a war about that once.

    Oh that’s right, it was my father.


  55. Anonymous Avatar

    If the policy costs the city in other ways then it will alter the policy..

    If somebody adds up the costs, they can afford a lawyer, and the government doesn’t pull a gun on your family.

    See the story on Steubenville, below.


  56. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ahhh.. what a straight man you are tonight…

    Nope. You expand the boundary to the balanced community – edge.

    everyone inside who lives and works locally gets a gold star and a kiss on the cheek and everyone who lives far away and commutes gets a swift kick.

    See.. then you get Fredericksburg to do the same thing.. and everyone who does not live and work locally pays a toll that goes into an affordable housing fund for those that live and work locally.

    So the NoVa commuters get clipped twice.. once when they leave Fredericksbur, get nailed with the HOT lane tolls and again when they hit the Tysons cordon.

    and to think you were skeptical about how effective this would be..


    EMR will be thrilled.

    We have found the way to evolve existing settlement patterns to balanced communities.

    Better living through cordon tolls.

    they could post that sign right at every road that enters the cordon.

    hmmm.. sound like I’m getting a little carried away here…

  57. Anonymous Avatar

    HOT Lane tolls might just cut “enough” of the volume to dramatically reduce congestion in places like Tyson.

    The problem is to balance through put vs revenue. And you have to include the revenue generated for the merchants and other businesses, less their costs.

    If the policy costs the city money in other ways, it will be altered, just as it was in Stuebenville.


  58. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, slow down. I’m on dial up outside the clear and balanced edge.

    to the balanced community – edge.

    Back to square one. Where is the porcedure whereby we can agee as to what is balanced?

    I’ll bet yu the amount of cordon tolls I pay th t if we can agree on that, Tysons won’t need more density.

  59. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: balanced

    you’ll have to get EMR to weigh in on that…

    I’ve always been a little fuzzy on the sizing of “balanced communities” especially when they don’t allow Walmarts and Costcos inside the clear edge.

    but wherever EMR says they should be – just slap a cordon toll right there where “x” marks the spot and watch the bucks roll in..

    Ray just doesn’t understand.. the city can make more money off of selling cordon tolls that merchants can make selling lattes.

    If the merchants get upset..you just share some of the cordon tolls with them..

    or heck.. better still.. give those folks who pay cordon tolls – coupons for “free” mini-lattes and when they go to redeem them.. move them up to the large size.


    All of this will work – not with transponders but advanced GPS devices which will give you the coupon code and then direct you straight to the latte shop.

    Everybody wins.. as Ray says …everybody pays and everybody gets…

  60. “Once the HOT lanes go ‘live’, there will already be a pseudo ‘cordon’ toll for Tysons in that the farther away someone lives from a Tysons job – the more it will cost them to get to that job unless they carpool”

    Wrong. Don’t forget that the HOT lane contract kills any increase in the level of carpooling. For those who live outside the beltway because they can’t afford to live inside it, there would be no alternative but to sit in the congestion enforced and created by contract. This is why tolling has nothing to do with congestion reduction — anyone who says otherwise has no understanding of the contract terms or their effect on the transportation network as a whole. The Australians get to make big money while American journalists, politicians and bloggers get a pet project they can use to enjoy manipulating the lives of others.

    “Why are cordon tolls any different than strictly enforced time-limited parking or photo red-light cameras in terms of ‘value’ for the driver”

    In fact, tolls are the same as cameras and parking tickets. Red light cameras increased injury accidents in Virginia by 18%, according to VDOT’s own study. They’re utterly an ineffective social engineering scam. Just like tolls. Yet the general assembly re-authorized them and they’ll be back next year: proof the assembly is filled with utterly incompetent fools.

    “The folks who oppose such tolls, I would posit don’t really care what the number is.. for that feel than it is an unwarranted restriction on free travel…to being with so no number how small or no effect, no matter how benign – will satisfy them because it is the principle of the toll that they are opposed to in any way, shape or form.”

    Well said. This is not the only reason to oppose such tolls (they’re still inefficient and ineffective, just like red light cameras). Another way to reduce congestion in Tysons is to have the government close down Tysons Mall. You could close down some of the larger businesses that bring in those evil out-of-towners. Maybe ban people of a certain ethnicity from entering during certain times. All of these “solutions” would work — but you’re going to point out the negative side effects of each idea. But when it comes to tolls, for some reason a certain element of the crowd here refuses to acknowledge the very real negative side effects. These “solutions” of course, are also antithetical to a free society, just like having electronic spy gadgets mounted on every car would be. Just like allowing license plate scanners and cameras to be mounted on every street corner would be.

  61. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    question – did the study that said carpools would decrease … also say commuter buses and rail and Metro would also decrease?

    can you re-post the link to that study?


    re: license plate scanners

    been there – done that – already in use by Police and others…

    that cow got out of the barn when they told you to put plates on your car. It took technology 50 years to make use of it.

    the only way to stop it is to get rid of license plates .. good luck.

    re: red light accidents – really?

    over and above the severity of t-bone accidents from red-light runners?

    are you not saying in essence that we now have more rear-end bumper thumpers AND … LESS T-bone accidents?

    please provide an ACCURATE answer not a cherry-picking misrepresentation.

    re: “This is why tolling has nothing to do with congestion reduction — anyone who says otherwise has no understanding of the contract terms or their effect on the transportation network as a whole.”

    then that would make you right and virtually everybody connected with transportation in an official capacity – included your elected representatives – wrong.

    You must be pretty good to know more than all of those folks…

    I don’t guess that you might allow that you have a difference of opinion that is more opinion than incontrovertible proof that all these thousands of other officials and elected are just plain too stubborn and bone-headed to admit?

    or is it possible that it just might be the other way around?

    no.. it can’t be because you see there is a mother-of-all-conspiracies that NOW includes journalists and even bloggers… gawdomighty – no one knows the real dept of evil in this country… gawdsaveus

    at least we AGREE that Cordon Tolls are the same as other demand management measures…

    Of course one way to really prove your parking theories would be to offer free parking anywhere and everywhere for as long as one wished to park…in every major city that now severely restricts parking….

    again.. the only explanation to every city having such restrictive parking policies MUST be another gigantic conspiracy. How else can one explain that virtually ALL major cities have “mysteriously” agree to all have parking restrictions.

    Help. Where is Rush when we need him?

    Come come Rush has not exposed this demented scheme?

    oh that’s right..he’s got much bigger fish to fry these days…

  62. Red light camera reports

    This includes a set of links to studies that weren’t funded by entities that profit from cameras. The full text is there with all the summaries and excerpts you could desire. I’ll point out the Washington Post showed accidents doubled in D.C. The VDOT study does have lots of weasel words in its preface to explain away the results. I only care about what’s in the data tables: +29% accidents overall, +18% injuries. What you call “cherry picking” is ignoring the spin, especially the “estimated crash costs” which are nothing more than ridiculous, wild guesses — not actual examination of crash data. Compare that to the linked audit from Winnipeg that uses real insurance claims information, not wild guesses. Actual crash cost payments went way up at camera intersections (+113% for the worst damage category).

    The camera issue is exactly analogous to what’s happening with tolling: a failed social engineering experiment that’s perpetuated by fools and profiteers.

    “did the study that said carpools would decrease … also say commuter buses and rail and Metro would also decrease?”

    Not the study. The contract. The contract says there can be no improvement that reduces congestion (i.e. toll revenue) without the taxpayers sending a check to the Australians. That is why HOT lanes are not a solution, regardless of what the “experts” on the tolling payroll (i.e. Reason Foundation) say. I don’t care what politicians say, because I can read what they have agreed to do.

    Right now, 100% of the flow in the HOV lanes is carpool — HOT lanes will not allow more than 24% without triggering a “compensation event.”

    This appears to mean that if the toll is $10 and the traffic is 3200 vehicles/hour and all of them carpools, the state would pay Transurban $17,024 for every hour this condition persists. Over a year, if it happens one hour each work day day, that’s $4 million. Double the number of carpoolers and you double the payment. Etc. Those numbers assume I’m reading the complex provision correctly — I welcome adjustments.

    Whatever the figure, it puts the state in the position of choosing to pay the Australians millions to subsidize carpoolers, or raise the barrier to entry to HOV-4. Hmm, which do you think the state will choose? The same type of “compensation event” restrictions apply to improvements on I-66 and other nearby roads.

    Pg. 93 Excess HOV lane usage

    “The Department agrees to pay the Concessionaire, subject to Section 20.18, amounts equal to 70% of the Average Toll applicable to vehicles paying tolls for the number of High Occupancy Vehicles exceeding a threshold of 24% of the total flow of all Permitted Vehicles that are then using such Toll Section going in the same direction for the first 30 consecutive minutes during any day, and any additional 15 consecutive minute periods in such day, during which average traffic for a Toll Section going in the same direction exceeds a rate of 3,200 vehicles per hour based on two lanes.”

    Now, 495 will get some congestion relief in the first few years from the added lanes. This is NOT the case with 95/395 where there is no real added capacity (one lane in one direction — pathetic). The recipe for disaster is right there for all to see.

    “at least we AGREE that Cordon Tolls are the same as other demand management measures…”

    Absolutely. If your idea is to stifle development and economic progress it will probably have some success. It’s especially attractive for those who want to make life miserable for poor people and keep them out of their gated community.

  63. Groveton Avatar

    then that would make you right and virtually everybody connected with transportation in an official capacity – included your elected representatives – wrong.

    You must be pretty good to know more than all of those folks…

    I believe that the pay for a delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates is $17,000 per year. Meanwhile, it can take hundreds of thousands to mount campaigns. These people are:

    1) So rich they don’t care
    2) Altruists
    3) On the take
    4) Stupid

    There are probably a few altruists.

  64. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: red light cameras

    let them roll.on and hit the scofflaws harder and harder.

    we have to many smart-asses running red lights these days.. the same one’s who are running into the backs of people who stop at the lights.

    After these folks get a few more tickets, a few more points, a few more suspended licenses and a few more losing their insurance for being at fault in rear end collisions – the numbers will drop.

    re: the ‘contract”

    I asked for the link showing the data that you claimed “proved” that there would be less carpools, buses, etc..

    and what you provided was some more cherry-picking, biased “interpretation” of a contract that as far as I know you lack the skill and experience to really be someone to render an opinion.

    MWCOG DID do a study on it by the way.

    Unless you are a lawyer – experienced in toll road contracts, your opinion isn’t worth warm spit with all due respect.

    Otherwise, provide analysis from someone who KNOWs such contracts and let them show how this one is truly awful as compared to others or let them show how such contracts, in general are a bad deal.

    some organizations like Reason have actually done such analysis and I have previously provided links to those studies.

    your habit of summarily dismissing what you don’t agree with as “spin” and then providing the ones you do agree with – but even then only the specific passages that you say “proves” your point – undercuts your entire line of reasoning in my view…

    For instance, you believe before you ever know -that the contract with Transurban is something that the State gave away.. on purpose against the public interest.

    In other words, we’re back to the dark conspiracy approach to trying to understand what we don’t know.

    Just suspect the worst.. publically condemn those who pursue things you disagree with and question their integrity and judgment in negotiating on behalf of the State.

    With that view – how do you trust ANY Government official to do ANYTHING on the publics behalf?

    or is it only those officials that pursue policies you don’t agree with that are conspiratorial crooks?

    This is Rush Limbaugh territory.

    basically impune the character of those you don’t agree with and if it’s government or institutional or academic folks – all the better.

    so.. toll roads, red light cameras, transit, and a host of other things opposed – are all supposedly promoted by those with poor character and morals and done in such a way as to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.

    and the more folks who support those things – just proves how big dark conspiracies can get…

    Don’t get me wrong – this is more than enough questionable practices done by government and industry..

    but it’s a step too far for me to accept that thousands and thousands of people of good character and morals and good judgment are engaging in a mass conspiracy to shove toll roads down folks throats…

    Like the Red Light issue.

    I happen to agree with stronger enforcement of scofflaws and I also happen to believe that the accidents are caused by some of the same folks who are on their accelerators all the time even at red lights.

    I routinely get cut off by smart ass idiots and so I have no sympathy for them when they do get nailed.

    My opinion about this does NOT indicate that I am part of a conspiracy to sneak red lights down people’s throats.

    It is, in fact, a matter of integrity to deal with scofflaws IMHO and if a number of people get together to agree on this on my side.. it does not mean that we are of poor character wishing to conspire to sneak red light cameras unto the unsuspecting.

    No.. we’ll say it straight up.

    Go after the scofflaws..and don’t wait time doing it…

    That.. dear Bob is an HONEST difference of opinion – not a nefarious conspiracy.

    re: Groveton’s “these people” and 17K a year delegates..

    not sure your point.. but folks who make 200K a year in the US DOT also support road pricing…

    people who work in the private sector – for an ostensibly more “honest” (than sucking on the govt) living.. support tolling…

    you’re gonna be hard pressed to build a case against tolling based on bad character and morals or other failings..

    face it – there are folks of good character, high morals, scrupulous integrity that.. oh-my-gawd – do support road pricing.

    At some point- we get off the character assassination and onto the – merits… hopefully

  65. “that as far as I know you lack the skill and experience to really be someone to render an opinion.”

    There’s little reason to respond to anyone who would write a sentence like that. So I won’t.

  66. Anonymous Avatar

    Tysons Corner’s urbanization is a charade. If there are no severe restrictions on automobile traffic, a transportation disaster becomes worse. Think of the photos of traffic jams on the narrow muddy roads of France during the Meuse Argonne Campaign during WWI and multiply them by 1000. http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/bigshow.htm

    If, on the other hand, there are severe restrictions on automobile traffic and practical limits on the number of passengers who can be handled by the Silver Line, businesses leave Tysons for better, more automobile accessable locations in Metro D.C.

    I attended a Tysons Corner planning meeting last winter. A man who works for a commercial real estate company managing a building in Tysons told our smaller breakout group that imposition of urban traffic restrictions (high parking taxes or fees, cordon tolls, etc.) would likely ruin his business.

    And for this, we are spending billions in tax and DTR user dollars. Someday, a federal grand jury will investigate Tysons Corner.


  67. Groveton Avatar

    “This is Rush Limbaugh territory.”.

    Bob (and others)have convincingly demonstrated that NoVA is already paying more in transportation tax than receiving in transportation spending. The long running BIG LIE of “We’all ain’t goin’ to pay for you all’s roads” is pretty much defunct. The gas tax (or, more correctly, the gas tax freeze)is a subsidy. It is a subsidy for those driving outside of NoVA paid by those driving inside NoVA.

    A year ago your arguments centered on fairness – why should people in RoVA pay for things needed in NoVA. You claimed it just wasn’t fair.

    Then it was conclusively shown that people in NoVA pay a fortune for education in RoVA.

    You modified your “fairness doctrine” by saying that subsidies for edcuation are acceptable while subsidies for roads are not.

    Now, it has been demonstrated that NoVA is paying transportation subsidies as well as education subsidies.

    And you argument is … government officials know best, we should trust them.

    So, now your arguments are reduced to “trust the General Assembly” and their tool VDOT. What do we know of Virginia’s political class? Let’s take a brief tour down memory lane and remember some of the decisions made by these people of good character, high morals and scrupulous integrity (and this is just a sample, there is much more):

    1. Replanting tobacco on the same ground until the tobacco ruined the lands’ ability to grow anything. Then, clear more land and do it again. The good character of the “descendants of Pocohontas” required gold in their pockets not land that could be used by newer arrivals.

    2. Bacon’s Rebellion. Virginia’s political class, having ruined large tracts of land and having failed to understand that Virginia had no monopoly on tobacco, were in a foul mood in 1675. Tensions with the Native Americans were running high and the Doeg tribe attacked the settlers in the Northern Neck. Never too worried about facts, figures or consequences Virginia’s ruling class did what it does best – attacked the innocents. They raided the Susquehannocks who had nothing to do with the Doegs or the Doegs’ raid. England’s Governor of the day (Berkeley) tried to avoid an escalation and called for a meeting of the beligerants. The men of scrupulous integrity who comprised the Virginia “political class of the day” killed the Indian envoys and touched off a bitter and widepread war. Having done “so much good” for Virginia, Bacon then turned his rebels on fighting the Governor. In one memorable battle, Bacon kidnapped the wives of his opponents and used them as “human shields” to prevent harm to himself and his men. Of course, modern “descendants of Pocohontas” consider this genocidal maniac a poetic figure and his rebellion a harbinger of good things to come.

    3. Slavery – Slavery was pretty widespread in the American Colonies so it’s hard to say that Virginia was the cause of that abomination. However, as would happen over and over, Virginia’s “ruling class” proved that it just could not show any moral or political leadership. In the decades preceeding the Civil War (and, yes, it was the Civil War and it was over slavery) many Americans had finally come to see slavery as the despicable institution that it was. In fact, a large number of Virginians saw it that way. As the debates over slavery intensified, the people of what is now West Virginia left Virginia to form their own free state. Needless to say, the “descendants of Pocohontas” were front and center in defense of slavery and watched as West Virginia left.

    4. Capital of the Confereracy – Having made the immoral decision to join the Confederacy in a war it could not win, Virginia now “doubled down” on stupidity. Establishing Richmond as the capiatl of the Confereracy the political class of that day all but guaranteed the utter destruction of the Commonwealth.

    5. Massive Resistance – the descendants of Pocohantas claim many poisonous branches on their family tree. Yet few have exhibited more venom for Virginia’s future than the Byrds. And Harry F. Byrd Sr was the slippery-est snake of them all. Having made the wrong decision on the slavery question and having become the centerpiece for destruction fighting a war that could not be won, Virginia was far from finished with its “stupid pet tricks”. The United States was (at long last and far too late) beginning to implement the changes that right-minded people had fought and died for in the Union forces during the Civil War. One step forward was the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education de-segrating public schools. But the descendants of Pocohontas had no interest in seeing their little Buffies and Tylers going to school with dark skinned Virginians. The fact that Pocohontas was a dark skinned, non caucasian never seems to occur to these dim bulbs. So, the Byrd Organization agitated for maintaining segregated schools or closing the schools down altogether. For example, Prince Edward County (in Virginia) closed its schools from 1958 – 1964 rather than comply with the law. Of course, Boss Hogg was alive and well in RoVA so the Prince Edward Academy was opened for white kids who could pay to attend school during this period. As always, the “folks of good character, high morals, scrupulous integrity” had no intention of seeing THEIR kids miss school. This was a class war declared by the descendants of Pocohontas but fought (as always) by the poor whites and blacks of the state. Today in Prince Edward County almost 19% of the population live below the poverty line.

    6. Richmond and segregation – “The Richmond City Public Schools had attempted various schemes to avoid integration such as dual attendance zones and the “Freedom of Choice” Plan, but in 1970, District Court Judge Robert Merhige, Jr., ordered a desegregation busing scheme established to integrate the city schools. During the years immediately preceding, after an unsuccessful annexation suit against Henrico County to the north, the city successfully annexed 23 square miles of neighboring Chesterfield County to its south on January 1, 1970 in what was later determined in federal courts to be an attempt to stem the white flight that was occurring, as well as dilute black political strength. However, beginning the following school year, thousands of white students did not go to the city’s schools, instead attending existing and newly formed private schools and/or moving outside the city limits.

    In the federal courts, a forced consolidation of the Richmond City, Chesterfield County and Henrico County public school districts was proposed and approved by Judge Merhige in 1971, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision, barring most busing schemes that made students cross county/city boundaries. (Note: Since 1871, Virginia has had independent cities which are not politically located within counties, although some are completely surrounded geographically by a single county. This distinctive and unusual arrangement was pivotal in the Court of Appeals decision). Richmond City Schools then went through a series of attendance plans and magnet school programs. By 1986, Judge Merhige approved a system of essentially neighborhood schools, ending Virginia’s legal struggles with segregation.”

    Source: Wikipedia, Massive Resistance

    1986 Larry. 1986. That’s the year that the descendants of Pocahontas finally lost their battle for segregation.

    7. Arthur Ashe statue. 1986, did I say 1986? I am sorry – I should have said 1996.

    “The decision to place the statue of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue was controversial.[8] Detractors pointed to a lack of correlation between the Richmond native tennis star and Confederate leaders. The monument became a focal point of racial tensions in the city around the times of its commission and its unveiling. Many of the city’s majority African American residents cited Ashe’s distinguished place in the modern history of the city as a reason for inclusion, while some residents and other parties rejected it as inappropriate for Monument Avenue, which until 1996 only contained statues of men with a relationship to the Confederate States of America.

    The controversy over the statue may have been also been driven by design and placement choices. The statue depicts Arthur Ashe holding a book and a tennis racket, with children below him reaching up to him. Some detractors of the monument say that from a distance it appears that he is striking the children with the racket. Ashe’s statue is much smaller than those of most of the Confederate leaders, and is the furthest away from downtown Richmond, situated just outside of the city’s Fan district. It is also the only monument which faces away from the center of Richmond.”

    During his battle with AIDS, one of his fans asked, “Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?” Ashe replied, “The world over — 50,000,000 children start playing tennis, 5,000,000 learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semifinals, 2 to the finals. When I was holding a cup, I never asked God ‘Why me?’ And today in pain I should not be asking God, ‘Why me?’”

    Larry – None is so blind as he who will not see. These are not good people, they do not make good decisions … they never have, they are not and they never will.

  68. Anonymous Avatar

    “Whatever the figure, it puts the state in the position of choosing to pay the Australians millions to subsidize carpoolers, or raise the barrier to entry to HOV-4.”

    I predicted this would be the case without ever having seen the contract. Kudos to Bob for putting forth the effort.

    Larry has insisted that a primary problem we face is long distance drivers driving SOLO in huge SUV’s.

    This is a hell of a way to encourage car pools.

    BTW the few people I know who drive long distances, drive economical, el cheapo junkmobiles. Or else they have a company car.


  69. Anonymous Avatar

    “Ray just doesn’t understand.. the city can make more money off of selling cordon tolls that merchants can make selling lattes.”

    Larry just doesn’t understand. The city consists of more than the city coffers. Savings consists of more than reducing taxes.

    The way you decide if the city is better off is add up everything earned and retained (after taxes and debt service) by all the city residents, employers, and employees. You include the citty coffoers and city debt, but that is only part of the picture. You also include all the commonly held property such as environmental quality (or lack theros), safey, school quality, and public transportation.

    Public transportation includes roads, until we sell them to the Australians.


    “You must be pretty good….” blahblahblah.

    There are a lot of people behind this whose jobs depend on being a team player, or who have some other political interest.

    Bob and I are not part of any organization, as far as I know, and we can afford to say that the Emperor has no clothes.

    It matters not the least how many smart or dumb people are in favor of a thing, particularly if they are waht Rush calls ditto heads.

    AFT published a study of a bunch of cost of community services studies. The study said that all the studies came up with the same answer, so they must be right.

    Not surprisingly, all of the studies were conducted by AFT or using AFT methods.

    No matter how many times you drop a feather and a ball, you cannot conclude (correctly) that heavier objects fall faster.

    It only takes one correct observation to disprove the many false ones.


  70. Anonymous Avatar

    “Although idling vehicles are a considerablesource of pollution, there is a common misconception that congested (and therefore slower moving) traffic pollutes the air more than unimpeded traffic moving at higher speeds. A Mobile Emissions Analysis by COG shows that at vehicle speeds below 10mph and above 50mph, NOx emissions rise dramatically. NOx emissions at 57mph are 37% greater than at 30mph.Therefore, increasing highway speeds does not alleviate pollution (“Mobile Emissions Analysis 1999 Vehicle Registration Data,” MWAQC/COG, February 9, 2001).”

    Here is an example of the kind of things smart people associated with transporetation issues say.

    This statement is flat out wrong, and must be deliberately intended to be misleading.

    How long does it take you to figure out what is wrong?

    This was published in Intersect, the newsletter for the WASHINGTON REGIONAL NETWORK FOR LIVABLE COMMUNITIES, although it was taken from someplace else.


  71. Anonymous Avatar

    “The TPB’s Commuter Connections program isgetting ready to launch a mass marketingcampaign designed to cut solo driving and reduceemissions.“Our goal is to convert 8,500 SOV [single-occupant vehicle] commuters to an alternativemode each year over four years,” said NickRamfos of the COG/TPB staff.The program is classified as a TransportationEmissions Reduction Measure (TERM). The TPBadopts a number of TERMs every year to help theregion reach emission reduction goals that are laidout in the region’s air quality improvement plan.By 2005, the program is aiming to reduce dailyvehicle miles of travel (VMT) across the region by250,650 miles. By 2007, daily VMT will be cut by501,300 miles. “

    This was published in June, 2003.

    Well, now we know how well that worked.


  72. RH, great find of the MWCOG trying to peddle congestion as a solution to pollution. It does seem to be their strategy.

    Let’s take an average rush hour commute on the 95 and Beltway HOT lanes — $10 for ten miles. (That’s exactly what the 91 Express Lanes in California cost). That’s $20 per day or $400 per month. That’s a car payment.

    For those not living month-to-month on their paycheck, the choice is between spending that money on a newer, safer, less polluting (lower NOx) car — boosting car tax and sales tax revenues — or idling in congestion because as soon as the HOT lanes are activated, 66/95/395/495 general purpose lanes can never be improved without paying ransom to the Aussies. NOVA’s lobbyist, lawyer and limo liberal classes will love HOT because they won’t miss $5,000 a year.

    But with gas prices up, how many people can take the equivalent of a $6,000 pay cut (factoring in taxes)? The need to get to work every morning doesn’t disappear.

    One of the obvious points the urban utopians never seem to notice is that housing near the Metro carries a sizable premium. This is precisely what poor people can’t afford. These are the people who are forced by housing prices to commute to DC from outside the Beltway. So guess who loses out? Poor kids who will be without one or both parents for another hour each day.

    It’s ironic that bleeding heart lefties have bought into this scam. But we know why MWCOG loves it — they’ll all get their own free EZ-Passes NY story.

  73. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Wonderful all day canoe-birding survey break from BR… 35 species of birds, one thoroughly worn out Lab from swimming miles of river…and the smugness of knowing that you exercised enough to pay for drinking that after-trip caloried libation.

    re: confusion between government/mankind sloth incompetence dumb logic and government conspiracies.

    Can VDOT screw up? you bet.

    Can the Gov screw up? easily

    Can MWCOG screw up? without question

    Can FHWA screw up? repeatedly

    Can NoVa elected screw up? often..

    Can all of them “working” together to EFFECTIVELY perpetuate a massive conspiracy on NoVa?

    That’s Bob’s basic Schtick.

    Of course, if that same group works in the same way to raise gas taxes instead of pursuing tolls – they are just fine.

    Do you guys ever get together at an annual event to have contests to see which of your flying pigs is better?

    Is it called – the “Flying Pig Circus to benefit the “Let’s stop all Govt Conspiracies” movement?

    Groveton: virtually every state in the Union – with or without slavery or Dillon Rule or tobacco or DOT guys in slick suits has an ethic of taxing everyone to help those who cannot help themselves starting with kids in need of education.

    Comparing an innocent 5 year old in need of an education with a 31year old idiot who likes to run red lights while they commute solo every day at rush hour hour ..whining about his “need” for more “free” roads might be fine in your mental approach to life..but not mine.

    I do differentiate.

    We help PEOPLE who cannot fend for themselves. We do NOT help people who want to consume more and more resources than they want to pay for and would like to tax others to help pay for.

    You got YOUR education in all likelihood because this country decided to provide a public education to ALL kids and you happened just to be in the right place at the right time – unlike millions of other kids.

    Otherwise, unless you were lucky enough to have been born into nobility, you likely would have been a slave or indentured servant because no matter how smart or innovative you might have been – without an education – you’d be too ignorant to even know not to drink from the same water where you and your fellow urchins also used to relieve yourselves in.

    and if you were not so fortunate as to have been born in this country instead of Myanma would you have been anything more than some poor smuck squatting on a dirt road waiting for a handout – regardless of your IQ?

    You got to where you are because your mind was “fueled” with an education.

    You did not deserve this because you were – you – did you?

    Bottom Line:

    We educate kids. If you find that concept repugnant – perhaps you’d be happier in a place where they don’t “subsidize” kids.

    Even Myanmar has schools though.. you’re gonna have to aim even lower than that.

    If you don’t like toll roads – then you need to “blame” the 80% of your fellow solo-drivers that won’t pay higher gas taxes.

    do I equate the “needs” of those who want others to pay for their solo commuting infrastructure with a 5 year old in Wise County?

    Do you?

    do you think that there is a massive conspiracy to take money from NoVa to spend on education for that kid in Wise?

    Do you think the EPA is colluding with the FHA who, in turn, is colluding with MWCOG and VDOT and Kaine to “force” NoVa to build HOT lanes?

    Listen to what Bob is saying.

    The same folks he accuses of a massive conspiracy.. or too incompetent to enter into a HOT lane toll contract, he is fine if they engage in a similar conspiracy to force a gas tax increase on the 80% who oppose it and then take that money to use it to build non-HOT lanes.

    So – VDOT/MWCOG/EPA are incompetent conspiratorial screw-ups ..UNLESS they’re building more free lanes from a gas tax forced on the 80% who won’t pay it.

    How can Bob or you or others be fine with the same folks in charge of a gas-tax financed approach to road funding but opposed if the same people take a toll-road approach?

    so… if they take an approach you don’t agree with.. there are equal dollops of conspiracies and incompetence ..but if those same folks would just “force” 80% of people to pay a tax they oppose – you’re fine with it.

    So.. what I’m hearing is that you are fine with incompetent conspiratorial government – as long as they operate like a dictatorship…and do the things that you want…

    tsk tsk….

    I think that about sums up the “merits” of the discussion from my view.

  74. Anonymous Avatar

    “Do you think the EPA is colluding with the FHA who, in turn, is colluding with MWCOG and VDOT and Kaine to “force” NoVa to build HOT lanes?”

    Actually, yes I do, although colluding might be too strong a word. Mutually infectious group- think stupidity reinforced by peer pressure and withholding of funds would be more like it.


  75. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Do you think if you were right .. folks like Bush, Warner, Webb, Kaine etc would shut down the EPA?

    Don’t you think that Congress would gut the EPA and defund FHWA and FTA if a majority of people felt like you do?

    Is the only way that you can explain the fact that they are not defunded or shut down …is ..conspiracy theories?

    So the EPA “gets away” with designating non-attainment no-more highway zones because Bush and Warner and WEbb and the Supreme Court are all in cahoots to keep EPA doing this?

    And even if the EPA went away – where would you get the money?

    Oh.. you’d get Bush, Warner, Webb, Kaine etc.. to raise taxes on the 80% who are opposed?

    you guys kill me…

    If this same exact group of corrupt/incompetent [sic] agencies came out in favor of higher taxes and no tolls roads – you guy would be singing their praises.

    Your positions have nothing at all to do with the merits..

    If ya’ll REALLY were opposed to tolls on the merits – you’d be opposed to EVERY toll road on the same principle.

    But think ya’ll think the CBBT is apparently “ok” .. and instead not the result of incompetent government.

    so ..which is it?

  76. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t have a problem with designating no more highway zones on a ccount of “non-attainment”.

    Do it and get it over with. move the jobs someplace else.

    I have a problem with doing that, and then saying (wink, wink) you can add more lanes and more cars and more pollution as long as you do it with HOT lanes and send half the money overseas, and leave the non-attainment region as bad off as before.

    You ever read one of these nesletters like the network for livable communities? It is a bunch of mutal back-patting, with every group saying, see Smart Growth agrees with us that …” and “every right thinking public officials believes that…” where … is virtually indentical groupspeak, down to the indivisual phrases as if it was all choreagraphed by some secret pablum phrase generator buried in the bowels of Sierra Club.

    There is a mind-numbing lack of critical thinking? Do you suppose there is anyone at EPA who seriously considers the official agenda? If there was, how long would he last in that environment?

    No conspiracy is required. All that is necessary is for good people to do nothing.


  77. RH: “No conspiracy is required. All that is necessary is for good people to do nothing.”

    Yup. It’s not like the government officials are doing any critical thinking or collaborating. The businesses that stand to make billions prepackage the toll road concept as a ready-to-go solution. Just sign on the dotted line.

    At the federal level, all of the key decisions are made by former (or future) toll road company employees. Not a hard sell. At the local level, decisions are made by people who will never themselves pay the toll — they’ll enjoy the free lifetime EZ-Pass. Not a hard sell.

    Local politicians get to “do something” to “solve the congestion problem” without actually having to lift a finger. In fact, they can even pretend that even though the public will pay hundreds of millions more as a result of their myopic vision, they didn’t “raise taxes.”

    And Mr Gross,
    I would appreciate if you didn’t create strawmen to mischaracterize my arguments — e.g., that I’m some champion of raising taxes. It’s petty and juvenile.

    If you want to talk ideas, talk ideas. Otherwise, leave me out of it.

  78. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bob -you can call me Larry or Gross but not Mr. I’ll even answer to “hey you” or “bub”..

    I keep asking you how to reconcile the fact that 80% are opposed to increasing the gas tax – because it’s that dynamic that drives the government to look into toll roads.

    Not a conspiracy and not incompetence but simply trying to find another path that the public will accept.

    When I ask what your plan B is you don’t respond with “ideas” but instead drop off into the Rush Limbaugh world of explaining how government works.

    That’s not ideas.

    and I AM asking you to talk ideas instead of blathering on about public officials sneaking around to build toll roads and red light cameras.

    I don’t absolve ANY of these guys as being anything other than following the most politically expedient paths – but that is what politicians do .. especially when 80% of the public is shouting “3rd rail” at you.

    “ideas” are what to do if increased taxes are not considered much of a solution.

    You say you are not an advocate of higher taxes..

    If you think that -truly then do 2 things:

    1. – answer the question about Kaine’s proposed transportation budget…

    i.e. do you agree or not agree with what his budget funds?

    2. if you don’t agree with Kaine’s proposed sources of revenue – then put your own “ideas” of where the revenue should come from – on the table…

    … without slipping back into the Rush Limbaugh style of inditing Kaine/VDOT/and anyone else you can tar are … too stupid/incompetent/corrupt/nefarious to come up with a plan.

    where is YOUR “idea” for Virginia’s transportation budget – instead of increased taxes or tolls?

    I don’t think it is petty nor juvenile to ask you your “ideas” taxes or tolls or another path that most of us have not considered.

    Have at it.

  79. Anonymous Avatar

    Did anyone ever think that it may not be possible to do anything that would “fix” the transportation problem? Perhaps, we are about as big as we can get and not collapse.

    New York, Boston, Chicago all installed much of their infrastructure years ago. NoVA doesn’t have infrastructure sufficient to support a major urban area. Neither does D.C. for that matter. The costs for replicating urban infrastructure is probably unaffordable. Yet, those real estate, construction and related industries want the average citizen to pay and pay and pay some more without tangible evidence that the goal can be achieved.

    Shouldn’t we have a plan that demonstrates success before we pay more?

    Ray continues be right when he argues that Virginia needs more places.


  80. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “There is a mind-numbing lack of critical thinking? Do you suppose there is anyone at EPA who seriously considers the official agenda? If there was, how long would he last in that environment?

    No conspiracy is required. All that is necessary is for good people to do nothing.”

    Actually you’re wrong. First you consistently confuse the EPA and FHWA with the Sierra Clubl and then you say .. in essence.. that thousands of people in the EPA, FHWA, the Congress, The Administration and the courts lack “critical thinking”.

    Did it ever occur to you that that is one hellva lot of people who are apparently dumber than you?

    or that… the EPA is a Sierra-Club dictator out of the control of Congress or the President or the Supreme Court.

    If this is not conspiracy theory what is?

    Non-attainment Ray is the law of the land. Supported by Congress, the Courts and the President.

    You just don’t agree with it.

    It’s impressive though that the entire government is unable to think critically.. when it comes to non-attainment…

    sounds like Rush….

  81. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Ray continues be right when he argues that Virginia needs more places.”

    Don’t we get more places – naturally?

    I don’t object to the more places idea – as a concept.. but is it an idea that is truly viable?

    Are you not advocating an even more Dillion Rule type command & control approach to Growth and Development .. because Fairfax by itself nor are most other localities going to pass a law that says “no more businesses – go find another “place” “.

    and Ray.. he’s the guy who is opposed to the Government telling him what he can do or not do with land.. and he ..is advocating – a “more places” approach by Govt?

    All I ask.. is for someone to explain this would work…without a heavy government rule….

  82. Anonymous Avatar


    All I do is throw something out there and you guys react like I had thrown boiling chips in my corn still.

    Hey, I agree with non-attainment. they are sensibly saying that when something is full, it should be shut down, except for valid trade offs. The sign says Capacity, 250 persons. It doesn’t say “but we’ll allow 300 persons as long as you all promise me that you are on a diet, and you make a daily payment to the building inspector.”

    I don’t agree with having non attainment except for when we choose to ignore it, or pretend we have a trade off.

    But that is just one little prop for this house of cards. Tolling is going to do NONE of the things claimed for it, except make certain areas more expensive than others.


    Larry seems to be saying that everyone has agreed to this without any prior knowledge, politics, consent, involvement, agreements, contracts, collusion or consiracy.

    Pretty good trick if you can pull it off.

    I just think that when I hear the same code phrases strung together the same way from different organizations, then things sound fishy to me. Repetition isn’t truth, and everything isn’t the same. It rings my BS alarm, especially when those organizations later merge.

    They are entitled to their opinion, and they can lobby like anyone else. They can also have THEIR motives impugned, just as they do to others.

    I don’t think it’s a good tactic, or necessary. All you gotta do is sit back and watch them all poop in each others washbasin, waiting for a rising tide to float all their boats.

    It’s not like we never had any laws that turned out to be really bad ideas. Or laws that were redirected to other uses. Or policy that was sold for profit.


    Take another example. We have airport congestion (at least until recently) the obvious answer and probably the only one that will work is more airports and more runways. Privately, people at FAA and the consultants who work for them and industry will acknowledge that.

    But the official line is that we can solve this problem with new technology in no time, and it has the name nextGen. This will rework the entire airspace system, allow planes to fly closer and choose tier own direct routes, and allow flights with robotic unmanned aircraft.

    The last time there was a significant change involving new technology, hardware, and software it took 13 years and millions of dollars. That was for one little collision avoidance system.

    Now we are going to redo the whole system and fly with a lot less pilots and cotrollers, and do it in a fraction of the time and a quarter of the cost.

    Well, hey, thats the official line. The people who have the money love NextGen, and so do I.


  83. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ah…an opportunity to bring this back to ” Let’s Not Forget Tysons Roads”

    Non-attainment, “more places”,

    Fairfax … REQUIRES meeting reduced auto targets as an explicit condition of approval of higher density.

    Enforced by Cordon tolls and/or Managed Parking or other measures that don’t just claim reduced traffic but actually result in reduced traffic.

    Then if that is not acceptable to business – they’ll go off and find “more places”.

    We’ll call this the Fairfax county Non-attainment Rule and we won’t allow a Sierra Cluber or a Smart Growther within 50 yards of it.

    Fair enough?

    If enough Fairfax county citizens supported this – you might actually get an elected BOS to implement it.

  84. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: how to get more money for roads and at the same time keep them away from Foreign ownership and have complete control over how the tolls work.

    You take the same Virginia Pension Funds that already are invested in Foreigh TOLL road companies…

    and you let them finance and operated Virginia Toll Roads.

    We get the money to build more roads. We do not have to worry about legalistic concessions because we own both the toll road and the pensions.

    In good times and bad – a fair rate of return is assured for the State’s Pension Funds and a fair deal for those that pay tolls.

    and as I pointed out – it is highly likely that the Va Pension Funds are already invested in companies that own and operate toll roads.

    and here’s a major “benefit”

    The entire State – from one end to the other – would be “invested” in roads.

    If TW/HR or RoVa wanted a new road – you’ve got instant financing.. without having to worry about going through a long big and review process.

    I’m quite serious.

    I’d have the same currently in charge of Va Pension Funds being just as careful and conservative as they are now with any other investment that they deem safe.

    We could even have the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts overseeing the process.

    (unless of course you guys think that agency is also corrupt and incompetent).

    At the least – the R’s in Virginia could sponsor legislation to have JLARC to a study about the concept and report back.

    That would buy the R’s another one or two years before they’d actually have to come up with another idea…

  85. Anonymous Avatar

    “Fairfax … REQUIRES meeting reduced auto targets as an explicit condition of approval of higher density.”

    That’s rich.

    And after they do’t meet the goals they tear down the density, right.


    It’s a $50,000 fine.

    Chump change, I think it is called.


  86. Groveton Avatar


    I was once among the poor kids of Virginia. You know, the boys and girls you claim to defend. I did not need people like you defending me then and I’d guess that today’s poor kids do not need you now.

    I was among the white trash so often featured on Jerry Springer. So often disparaged by the liberals. You know, the “trailer trash” that can be insulted with impunity because we were outside of any protected class. Our one blessing was to be ignored by people like you. People who talk about helping poor kids while really doing no more than preserving their subsidized way of life. People who think the governement should help people as long as the government doesn’t take any money from them for that help. People with endless schemes for taxing others and even more endless schemes for avoiding taxes on themselves.

    I waited tables and mowed lawns, I moved furniture and pumped gas, I wiped the water off cars after they went through a car wash. I did the things that people say Americans just won’t do. One day my high school conducted a poll to see if the kids were working while attending school. I was working over 40 hours a week while going to high school. My Dad and I bounced from one dingy Rt 1 apartment to another.

    Please don’t lecture me on the plight of poor kids in Virginia.

    No – it was not education that made the difference. It was not the Nanny State (paid for by everybody except Larry Gross). It was economic opportunity. The ability to drive to a job where I could make enough (minimum wage) money to pay for gas and save for school. I was accepted at 4 colleges – 1 in Virginia and 3 out of state. Between savings, working in college and loans I could afford all but one of the colleges.

    If anybody gave me an education it was the restaurants, moving companies, car washes and gas stations of Northern Virginia. The lawn service in Charlottesville. The people who provided low end employment and minimum wages. The very busi9neses you hope to destroy with your ridiculous “tax the suburbs to death” philosophy.

    You want to meet the real enemy of poor kids and poor people in Virginia – look in the mirror. Your idiotic regressive tax (misnamed a congestion toll) will hurt the poor a lot more than anybody else. Of course, it won’t hurt people like you because you have no intention of implementing thise inane ideas in your region.

  87. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ah, Groveton, that was a very moving post. I feel I understand you a lot better now. Peoples’ “social location,” as the leftists remind us, say a lot about them. I’ve thought of you mainly as a successful IT executive. Now the picture is more nuanced. I have a much better idea of where you’re coming from.

  88. Anonymous Avatar

    I guess even I was lucker than Groveton, at least at the start.

    When I was in high school I had a close friend whose father died. His older brother was away in the service, and so he and I and his sister ran the family printing business, while we were still in high school.

    That meant that when I went to college, I had already a trade, and I could make decent money instead of minimum wage.

    Working full time in high school and college, with a scholarship for two years and employer paid tuition after that, I actually graduated debt free with cash in my pocket.

    Otherwise, the story is the same. I saw efficient family owned businesses and big inefficient ones, wasting a dollar to save a dime. I made things, built things, manufactured things, and repaired things. I learned how things work and how people work.

    Mostly I learned you don’t get something for nothing, every design has a trade, and some trades aren’t worth the cost. One way or another you trade weight, power and comfort for speed and size. You trade complexity for ability and cost. If you find a simple solution, it is either brilliant or wrong.

    Larry and some others seem to think that we can incentivise people into acting the way we want by making it too expensive to do anything else.

    I think we don’t know what we want, it is going to cost more than we think, and in the end, getting others to do anything politically is like herding cats.

    My experience is that if you want somebody to do something, you pay them. Larry seems to think that’s crazy.

    I admit my plan has a problem, if you plan on getting something for nothing.


  89. Groveton Avatar

    My comments were a bit over the top. I know that Larry means well. But that’s part of the problem. Increasing taxes, tarriffs and tolls retard economic growth. And when economic growth slows it’s ALWAYS the poor who get hurt the worst. Always.

  90. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    no comments over the top.. I hit you pretty hard and you hit back but it was not personal.

    Groveton – I grew up similarly … odd jobs, newspaper routes, swept out warehouses, learned how hard ceramic tiling is, etc…and did not attain college until after 15 years with the government and 4 years of going to school at night they agree to pay for one full year.

    Was I subsidized? Yes – taxpayers sent me to school.

    But my early education was disjointed. Marine Corp brat in early life – and remember – back then – schools did not teach standardized curricula so I have some miserable gaps in simple stuff like grammar and punctuation.. as I’m sure has been noticed.

    they wouldn’t even let me in college until I took remedial courses…

    But, Groveton, someone taught you to read and write and that’s where I come from here.

    What would have happened to you if you did not learn to read and write and who was responsible for making sure that you DID learn?

    I have a wife who teaches elementary and we talk often and frequently about SOLs , NCLB and the very difficult job that teachers have now days.

    More than 1/2 of her kids are on subsidized lunches and do not have that ‘parental support’ that is often referred to as necessary for a child to succeed.

    We just simply do not agree.. that kids with normal IQs but poor parental support should be essentially abandoned… not when we know that with the proper teaching techniques – they will learn.. read & write.. and actually graduate with the ability to read and write and go on to succeed.

    We also know what happens to kids who do not get the proper teaching intervention in grades 1 through 3 (at risk) and if you are a “at risk” kid AND your school system lacks the resources to deal with you -you are in trouble.

    I’m a “user pays” guy across the board. I have absolutely no sympathy for folks who have a good education and think that others “owe” them better roads or commutes or anything else.

    the only folks in my world who get a free ride are kids – especially those who are in not good circumstances absolutely through no fault of their own and the elderly and handicapped.

    this is one reason why I am so reactive to the idea of giving vouchers without requiring the institution to be certified and accredited with the SOLs and NCLB.

    We pay taxes – 70% in Virginia for education. I cannot justify it unless it goes for moral and fiscal good purposes.

    no “do-gooder” here…

    Everyone else earns their keep and subsidies are fiscal cockroaches which are worse than bad habits if they end up convincing more and more people that they are chumps if they don’t go after their “share”.

    I can further flesh out my philosophy on “free roads” if desired but the long and short of it is no one is entitled to a free road.. it’s “user pays”.

  91. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If some of ya’ll were holding your breath..you can breathe now.


  92. Anonymous Avatar

    “no one is entitled to a free road.. it’s “user pays”.”

    It’s not free in any case, and the user already pays.

    What you object to is how the money is collected. (Not all directly attributable to miles driven and cost of road driven on.)

    If this ever tuern out to be strictly “user pays” then by definition the user can ONLY pay for his direct costs. There can be NO MONEY diverted to other causes or other locations.

    Otherwise what you have is one of those fiscal cockroaches called subsidy to whoever is a recipient of what the user paid for somone else’s use.

    And if no one is entitled to a free road, these rules must apply everywhere.

    These new tolls are new taxes, in any sense of the word, and they should replace and be reduced by the other amounts currently paid and used by the transportation system. It should be revenue neutral.

    Except that, now you have a transparent accounting system (we know what every road costs and how much it takes in) we can now have funds to upgrade and fix each road individually. There will be no need of saying there isn’t enough money to fix the roads, or that the road users are not paying their own way.

    (Talking HOT lanes and Cordon Taxes here)

    For the life of me, I can’t see how you make an internally consistent philosophy out of this. (“User pays – for somebody else, but no subsidies.”)

    This is going to wind up providing incentives for opposite of what we say we want.

    It will be a regressive tax system, costing those who can afford it least the most.

    It will be a tax on freedom, not a tax on income or cash flow,which is all that makes any sense.

    It will be a tax on some and not others in similar circumstances. (Isn’t there something in the state cosntitution about that?)

    It is a horribly expensive way to collect money.

    It will not provide even one of the promised benefits, exept to a few Lexus drivers.

    All the way around, this is a terrible idea. It has no redeeming benefits that I can see. We will grow to see this as a huge mistake eventually.

    Groveton’s history of this discussion seems accurate too. Larry et al have fought a delaying battle with variable and mostly wrong strategic arguments. By any rational sense they should have conceded and sued for terms because their position is untenable.

    Except for one thing. We are going to get the tolls.

    Larry and company will win the war anyway, having lost every logical battle. So, this is going to be like Metro West: we will build it and then assess the results. if we don’t like the results – too bad, you are stuck. it is going to be Upperville’s traffic calming fiasco times Avogadro’s number.

    The only thing we can hope for is that someone will keep good before and after data to resolve this issue once and for all. Others can learn from our mistakes.

    TMT is right: suburban spaces fail if you reduce auto use, and urban spaces fail if you don’t. The auto or something like it is not going away, so we need to start from scratch and redesign a new kind of space that capitalizes on the strngths of autos and minimizes their weaknesses, capitalizes on transits strengths and minimizes its weakneses.

    We should forget about hating autos and drivers figure out how to use them wisely.

    That new kind of space needs to have a considerable amount of green, so it cannot have a high average density, though it may have dense pockets.

    Dwelling space OUGHT to be dirt cheap. The technology is mature, and once built it lasts a very long time. We should be able to amortize the costs to next to nothing.

    Why is it so dear? We have artificially jacked up the prices through evey concievable means. As far as I can see much of the reason for this is either jealosy or self protection.

    I don’t know what the answer is for good urban spaces but I do know that claiming their high prices proves their desirability is a joke worthy of Hee Haw.

    But EMR is half right on this. The way you reduce the price of things is build more of them. He thinks we should build more dwelling spaces and jam them into smaller acreage.

    I think that where we live is more than that: so what we need is more places rather than just more flats.

    We need more than building more dwellings and more businesses in such a way that they become a giant oscillating mass of tansportation nuisance.

    I don’t believe we get there by taxing everything we think we don’t want people to do, and then trying to call that a user fee. It is a self defeating idea. “We are going to make a lot of money by charging (some of)you a bundle for stuff we want you to stop.” otherwise known as “We’ll get what we really want and we won’t have to pay for it: We’ll just make all kind of demonized bad actors pay. Everybody but the master race that never pollutes.”

    I don’t see this ending well. We need the freedom to travel and freedom to build. We can raise the money we need fairly without creating a monster to do it.

    Lets get on with it.

  93. Anonymous Avatar

    It is believed that the Task Force would like to propose that Tysons Corner be built to as much as 180 million square feet including “bonuses.” To put that into perspective, an article from Jones Lang LaSalle, writing about the Manhattan real estate markets after 9/11, indicated that such market, which reflected the loss of commercial space due to the terrorist attack, was 328 million square feet. Thus, the Task Force is suggesting that Tysons Corner be built to approximately 54% of the size of the commercial real estate market (post 9/11).

    Today Tysons is built to around 46 million square feet. And it certainly doesn’t work traffic wise. So multiply today by almost 4 times the traffic and subtract 20% of that amount for the train. Tell me how that level of development serves the public interest.

    Someday a federal grand jury will investigate both Dulles Rail and the Tysons Corner Task Force.


  94. “It will be a regressive tax system, costing those who can afford it least the most… It is a horribly expensive way to collect money.”

    Except that the newest fad is to offer ‘rebates’ to the poor. This was part of Bloomberg’s congestion tax scam. So we’ll pay a company to collect money from the poor, then we’ll pay a company to take the money collected from the poor and hand it back to the poor — minus the company’s cut of course. Brilliant!

    Then in Britain, the plan for tolling the island through road pricing is to vary the per-mile charge based on “carbon output.” So gas guzzlers pay 50p per mile and the drivers of the Toyota Pius pay 20p (or whatever).

    In other words, we get a fantastically complex and inefficient system that will come with an IRS-size rulebook to accomplish exactly what’s already accomplished with perfection and elegant simplicity by the gas tax. Drive a little, you pay a little. Drive a guzzler, you pay more.

    According to the Washington state’s data report that “Gross” put up a week ago, the most efficient toll road on the planet:

    E-470 in Denver (all electronic, not like VA toll roads)
    Revenue: $84,499,000
    Toll collection cost: $11,589,800
    Tolling system maintenance cost: $1,575,400
    Source: WSDOT pdf p. 5

    That’s a 16% cut of revenue. It is a perfect figure because WSDOT asked all of the right questions to separate out the true cost of tolling from maintenance costs any road must pay. The only thing WSDOT left out is the extra cost of financing and building. E-470 still required more right-of-way, networked electronic equipment running the length of the road, etc. and this cost can be expressed on an annualized basis. Next, there is the cost of building a road with a BBB+ rating instead of the state’s AAA. It’s the difference between paying 1.98% and 2.50% interest over the life of the project. Think half-a-percent means a lot on your home mortgage? Multiply that by billions worth of infrastructure and you’ll start to get the picture. I’ll work on calculating real figures for the financing cost.

    So what happens when we “replace” $4 billion in yearly driving taxes with 16% inefficiency? (really much more when you include financing) It turns into a system where the public pays $4.6 billion.

    In other words, is a $600+ million yearly tax increase. But it’s even more than that because (a) we all know the other taxes will never be replaced, and (b) private financing costs are not yet included.

    The trick of this scam is to make things so convoluted and complicated that people think they have a chance at paying less when they really don’t. It’s marketing 101.

    My question for Mr Bacon: Is throwing away $600 million a year the only or best way of achieving the urban utopia you seek?

  95. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “It’s not free in any case, and the user already pays.”

    how can you say that when you advocate higher taxes because there is not enough money to pay for what people need?

    the correct phrase is that the user does not pay enough for what he gets or wants… AND instead of raising the price on the user to balance that equation.. you advocate raising taxes on everyone.

    why not let each user decide how much they want to pay for what they want rather than forcing everyone to pay more no matter what?

  96. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Except that the newest fad is to offer ‘rebates’ to the poor.”

    the plain reality is that virtually any commodity that rises in price will be “regressive” to the poor and the current approach is to establish a threshold of “poorness” beyond which, one is provided vouchers.. for food.. shelter.. and mobility.

    Is the angst here with respect to the basic idea of the “regressiveness” of taxes and, really, commodities like gasoline or is the angst only with respect to the specific things that you disagree with?

    In other words, are your principles with respect to regressive policies consistent across the board or are you only concerned about tolls?

  97. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “accomplish exactly what’s already accomplished with perfection and elegant simplicity by the gas tax. Drive a little, you pay a little. Drive a guzzler, you pay more.”

    except for one little problem.

    and that is that the gas tax as currently charged does not pay for what is said to be needed.

    I have asked and will ask again.

    Take a look at Gov Kaine’s budget and tell me if you agree or disagree with:

    1. – what he specifies as “needs”

    2. – his recommended way of getting the funds for those needs.

    Kaine specifically chose to NOT ask for gas tax increases for the Billion dollars of projects.

    He chose, for instance, to propose a 1% increase for Hampton Roads/Tidewater for the projects they say they need.

    so.. do you agree that they need to build their projects and do you further agree that the way to do it is with a 1% sales tax that generates about 168 million dollars a year.

    OR..do you think..like some folks down that way think.. that even a 1% sales tax won’t touch the money needed for the tunnels and bridges they have listed as needs?

    The folks down that way don’t see a whole lot of other options including raising the gas tax as a way to generate the funds that will be needed..so they are strongly considering tolls and concessions.

    You say that such an approach is a scam and harms the poor and is grossly inefficient as reasons why it is unacceptable.

    What would be your plan to fund a new tunnel/tube/bridge that would cost 2 billion dollars in the Hampton Roads area?

    By the way.. a gas tax for the Hampton Roads area to generate about 150 million a year would be around 15 cents…

  98. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s one way to deal with the Tysons Proposal.

    You set up a transportation district, a CDA or a TIF and the taxes are directly tied to traffic generation.

    The best/lowest tax rates are achieved with the best traffic reduction performance.

    So you tax the properties at a rate sufficient to pay for the transportation facilities that will be needed if it generates a conventional amount of traffic and you give rebates for better performance.


    You design transportation facilities for the increased density as if it will generate conventional traffic.

    You total up the costs and those costs are converted into a capital facilities plan and a tax rate for the CDA/TIF district based on it.

    The businesses and County can then work collaboratively to develop transportation demand strategies that they think will work and if they do – there are tangible financial rewards to those businesses.

    But if they don’t the taxes for the infrastructure will be collected and the infrastructure built.

    The problem with Tysons is the same old same old in that developers make “promises” with absolutely no intention of fulfilling them… unless forced to.

    Fairfax does have the ability to not put performance requirements in the ooncession or the have the ability to require them….

  99. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: users already pay

    Here is an excerpt from a report on the finances of the CBBT:

    “While the toll structure is more
    than adequate for the current and future cost of operations, maintenance, and debt service, it may be inadequate to fund future capital improvements.”

    page 8

    Here’s the point I am making.

    On a toll road, the analysis has indicated that not enough toll is being collected to pay for operations .. AND longer term improvements.

    so, here you have an example of a facility that IS paid for by a “user pays” paradigm but it also clearly demonstrates that just because something is “user pays” does not mean that users are actually paying ENOUGH for the actual costs.

    And the interesting thing – is that this problem is directly related to toll discounts that the CBBT put into effect when they last raised the toll prices and there was concern about daily users of the facility.

    and then this recommendation from JLARC:

    “Pending completion of the capital plan, it is recommended that the commission delay further consideration of toll discounts.”
    page 10

    The point I am making is that Ray claims that we already have “user pays” with the gas tax but if we truly had an ADEQUATE user pays system..then why is there advocacy for higher gas taxes?

    Obviously – the gas tax does not generate enough “user pays”.

    Back to the CBBT .. what will happen if the CBBT does not raise it’s tolls?

    or.. should the CBBT go to a non-toll operation and forget about all that costly toll-collecting infrastructure as Bob claims?

    Why should the CBBT be tolled in the first place?

    Why not have it operate like every other road in Virginia ?

    If tolls are so regressive and inefficient then how can Virginia justify collecting tolls on the CBBT?

  100. It is per se impossible to solve a financial difficulty by shifting from a system that costs $1 per unit of road to maintain to a system that costs no less than $1.16 per unit of road to maintain.

    If any element of that sentence is incorrect, please explain.

  101. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If any element of the sentence had any connection without anything beyond blather.. for blather sake..please explain.

    Your “costs” Bob, are YOUR costs… what do they have to do with anything beyond your own views?

    If you say that one way costs more than another.. does that make it so?

    how about. this:

    “is it impossible to solve a financial difficulty by shifting from a system that costs $1 per unit of education to one that costs $1.16 per unit of education”?

    explain that.. please…

  102. $1.16 per unit of road is the cost of toll collection on E-470 in Denver, according to the Washington State DOT (i.e., 16% overhead, not counting financing and construction overhead).

    This is fact, not opinion. The cite and derivation from that road’s financial statement appears above. And E-470 is run more efficiently than Virginia’s toll roads. It is the all-electronic best case scenario.

  103. Anonymous Avatar

    Bob – I think that you are missing the economic impact of tolls on overall market behavior.

    If a toll is put on a road, drivers make a choice — pay the higher cost, take another route or don’t go. Several years ago, a new toll road was opened in Virginia Beach on the route to the North Carolina beaches. I’ve generally found it to be a faster route on a long drive. I’ve paid the toll on a number of occasions.

    On the other hand, the Dulles Greenway has a relatively high toll. Quite often, when I’m going from Fairfax County to Loudoun County on the DTR, I get off at Route 28 and drive other roads because the $3 or more toll on the Greenway just isn’t worth it. It might take me a bit longer to get to my destination, but I make a choice.

    Longer term, the imposition of tolls can discourage building within the “tolled areas.” Rather than locate my company’s office where my employees must pay a toll, I might put my office somewhere else. Similarly, if I’m a developer, I might decide to build outside the tolled area because I think my building might be more desirable elsewhere.

    Fairfax County is overwhelmed by development. The bigger we get, the more people argue we need to pay higher taxes so that we can grow more. Because of the lack of infrastructure and the current tax structure, the average resident of Fairfax County loses with more growth. If toll roads into Fairfax County can slow development, it is a godsend.


  104. TMT — I’m trying to separate the arguments out from the mist of obfuscation. Yes, tolls can be an anti-development tool.

    The first question is, is it the best tool for that purpose? The second question, is anti-development a proper goal?

    Whatever your opinion on the second question, you cannot answer the first without knowing the costs and side-effects of tolling.

  105. Groveton Avatar

    “I can further flesh out my philosophy on “free roads” if desired but the long and short of it is no one is entitled to a free road.. it’s “user pays”.”.

    So, you support the implementation of variable cost tolls on Rt 3 and elsewhere in the Fredricksburg, VA? And you also support the implementation of variable cost tolls on Rt 64 in Ricgmond and elsewhere in Richmond. And you are shocked by the reversal on putting tolls on Rt 81? And you think Rt 29 in Charlottesville should be tolled as well?

    These are pretty simple questions.

  106. Groveton Avatar


    “If toll roads into Fairfax County can slow development, it is a godsend.”.

    Slowed development = slowed economic opportunity. And slowing economic opportunity hurts poor people more than anybody else. When poor kids can’t earn enough money to get through school it won’t matter how good the possible education is because they won’t be able to afford it. And that’s the point Larry just can’t seem to understand.

  107. Anonymous Avatar

    ” It is a horribly expensive way to collect money.”

    Except that the newest fad is to offer ‘rebates’ to the poor.”

    OK, so let’s fix it by making it even more complex.

    We will charge by the mile, and somehow compensate for weight dfferences, and we’ll ignore ny benefits we might get from a gas tax by encouraginc conservation. In fact, we’ll claim that is a negative feature that will reduce revenue. But we won’t charge for Car pools unless we have too many, and we will give discounts to poor people, government employyes and free passes to bigwigs.

    Sure, that works for me.

    How stupid does this have to get before someon gets it?


  108. Anonymous Avatar

    “how can you say that when you advocate higher taxes because there is not enough money to pay for what people need?”


    This is straw man Larry at his finest.

    The whole purpose of the tolls is to raise more money. We all agree taht more money is needed, and it is going to come from us, one way or another.

    The only argument here is which is more fair, and more efficient.


  109. Anonymous Avatar

    Toll roads will slow development n the areas where they exist. It is probably the only “benefit” they will deliver on.

    But, as Groveton points out, that could be a mixed blessing.

    But we already have zoning and land use laws, why burden ourselves with another tax bureacracy (tolls) to do what we already have the tools (but not the will) to do?

    Is it OK to burden the average joe but not the fat cats?

    Why would we put in toll cordons to limit trafffic in a place where we plan to build a lot of stuff specifically to attract traffic?

    It is stark raving mad, I tell you.


  110. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Why would we put in toll cordons to limit trafffic in a place where we plan to build a lot of stuff specifically to attract traffic?”

    If the folks who support a denser Tyson’s would put it in these terms – “stuff to attract more traffic”…

    how far do you think they’d get with the public concerned about more traffic?

    are you advocating ..essentially lying to the citizens in Tysons about the traffic?

    What would the advocates claim that there IS a way to build more dense and have less traffic?

    Is that a lie also?

  111. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: user pays tolls on Rout3


    I’ve said this before.

    When each person has to directly pay for each trip it will have an effect on demand.

    As TMT has pointed out.. and unlike Ray and Bob and Groveton…tolls do not generate a always on or always off response.

    A Cordon Toll would not more shut down Tysons that the DTR has shut down traffic around it but the tolls do makes folks well aware that there is a direct cost for each trip.

    Some have claimed that electronic tolls are “hidden” from people.

    I think the opposite is true especially compared to the gas tax.

    Everytime you get on a toll road you get a notification that it is going to cost you…

    but the average person.. including most in this blog could not begin to recognize how much the gas tax costs on a per mile or per trip basis.

    If they did.. they’d realize just how ridiculously low it is.. which, in turn, completely explains why we have Mr. Kaine advocating for a billion dollars in new taxes and folks like Bob pretending that the need for new taxes is not an issue…

    so I ask everyone again.. and I’ll keep asking..

    Kane wants a billion dollars in higher taxes… to pay for specific things he says is needed.

    No waffling guys…

    do we need the things that Kaine says we need?

    yes or no…. no more weazeling …

    and then .. if you say yes.. do we pay for it the way that Kaine says or some other way?

    do we need a tax increase for more transportation in Virginia?

    and ya’ll already know my answer – tolls…no more taxes..just tolls.
    (except for highway maintenance).

    now.. don’t ya’ll stumble all over each others tongues trying to get your response in first…

  112. Groveton Avatar

    Yes – we need the things Kaine says we need.

    Yes – taxes will have to be raised.

    No – limited tolls on a very small percentage of drivers in not a good idea. Tolls everywhere would be fine but that’s not the plan.

    Raise the gas tax.

    Publish the statistics regarding transportation taxes and spending.

    Put a two year moratorium on the sale of public roads to private enterprise (just like they’ve done in Texas).

    Ring Tysons with high rise mixed use buildings and then enact a cordon toll within Tysons.

    Build Rail to Dulles (above ground) with money collected from special tax districts for property which will increase in value when the metro is open.

  113. Anonymous Avatar

    How much campaign money has Tim Kaine accepted from the real estate/road builder crowd? Could any of those contributions/relationships influence what projects would be funded? How sure is anyone that projects funded with new tax dollars would improve the safe movement of people and goods? Think $5 billion for Dulles Rail.

    If we do raise taxes, why not put a tax on government contracts? This is why so many of us are here. The federal trough. So let’s tax what is inelastic. Let’s find a way for Uncle Sam and his contractors to pay for the roads NoVA needs. If not, why not?

    It is plain silly to assume that the Tysons landowners will pay the entire state/local share of building Dulles Rail. They could have done this from day one. The goal is to reap the benefits while dumping the costs on everyone else.


  114. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Give Groveton a cigar. At least he did answer.

    My understanding is that HR/TW needs between 3 and 5 billion dollars worth of new tunnels and bridges and the 1% regional tax will bring in about 170 million annually.

    Obviously there is going to be a rather large gap that will remain even after Kaine’s new money.

    I’m not in favor of tolling all roads or for that matter any road unless it’s clearly identified as such and there are alternatives.

    but for infrastructure of the scope and scale of TW/HR – just like with the CBBT – there does not appear to be a fiscal solution without tolls.

    Little known apparently is that 3202 granted both NoVa and HR/TW the right to negotiate toll concessions.

    Nothing I have heard to date indicates that Kaine is a crooked politician so I’m not sure I’m buying it…I’d have to see something more ….

    I’m actually shocked though that Groveton supports a cordon toll.

    is there “movement” in the Groveton toll philosophy?

  115. Anonymous Avatar

    “If the folks who support a denser Tyson’s would put it in these terms – “stuff to attract more traffic”…

    how far do you think they’d get with the public concerned about more traffic?”

    Well, if you can’t get what you want by telling the truth, just redefine it, give it a newspeak name, and call it what it isn’t. like a monopoly toll road is a free market.

    Or, you could just lie. At least that would be more honest.


  116. Anonymous Avatar

    “If they did.. they’d realize just how ridiculously low it is.. “


    The gas tax is so ridiculously low that we can’t possible sell an increase politically.

    So instead, we will create a huge new tax bureacracy to collect tolls that are equivalent to a gas tox of $2.50 a gallon.

    And we ae going to sell this by explaing to the merchants how much it will reduce demand.

    Is this a great country , or what?

    Somebody, please, sell me a bridge.


  117. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well you said it…

    you said …errr… that it was more HONEST to tell a bald faced lie up front than to try to fool people with a bunch of weasel words…



    so you’re agreeing with TMT.. that the Tysons thing is all about money and greed and that if they actually were interested in managing traffic they could..but they don’t want to …


  118. Anonymous Avatar

    The Tysons Corner – Dulles Rail fiasco became even more interesting and complicated today, as the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated much of lawsuit challenging Governor Kaines’ transfer of the DTR to MWAA. The lower court had ruled Virginia was immune to a lawsuit. Not so in all instances, ruled the court.


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