Still No Transportation Appointments

The highlight of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s most recent round of board appointments was the reappointment of former Bacon’s Rebellion columnist/blogger Barnie Day to the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. A worthy selection.

But still no word on critical transportation appointments expected to be announced after Labor Day….

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13 responses to “Still No Transportation Appointments”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Maybe they are his bargaining chips in the upcoming transportation session.

  2. Ooh, Aah. Nasty. I like it.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    CTB appointments, in the past, seemed to be to me local “plums” and judging by the ones I was familiar with, most were “connected” and usually pro-growth, pro-VDOT and unfortunately believed everything VDOT told them and little of what JLARC told them.

    Kaine SEEMS to believe that beyond more money, more VDOT reform is needed AND that by not paying attention to the connection between land-use and transportation is part and parcel of some of the issues….but it could also be that if they are comptemplating fundamental reform (like adopting some of JLARCs recommendations), VDOT could become more of a contract monitor of road maintenance contractors with less and less direct involvement of roads other than those of state-wide significance.

    So perhaps..a change in the “role” of the CTB members might be comptemplated…. or not… whatever.. 🙂

  4. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Larry, your comments caused me to ask the question: Just what does Governor Kaine believe about transportation? His comments, including his campaign rhertoic, and actions seem scattered, moving in multiple directions.

    First, he promised a constitutional lock-box for the Transportation Trust Fund. No new transportation taxes until Virginians could be assured that the revenues could only be spent on transportation projects. Apparently after realizing that his promise would take at least as long as his term in office, he waffled and has offered a scrambled-egg approach (sorry, it’s breakfast time).

    Kaine wins office mainly for his very sensible position: local governments should be able to reject new development when the roads are inadequate. He quickly clarified that he plan addressed only rezoning requests. As the GA opens, Kaine obtains bipartisan support for his plan, but also faces strong, but foreseeable, opposition, again from members of both parties. His bill takes some lumps, and the Governor immediately abandons his position and begins a quest to raise taxes and pave our way out of the mess — just the opposite of his campaign. Did the big builder/developer contributions to Kaine’s swearing-in festivities have an impact? It’s fairly common knowledge that his growth limits ideas came from his running mate, Leslie Byrne. Was Kaine just using her idea to win office, but without a commitment to it?

    In the face of a united GOP in the House and polls indicating no support for higher taxes, Kaine seems to be looking again at development limits and for common ground with the House. Will he work with the GOP, whose ideas are much closer to Kaine’s campaign than the Senate’s? Or will we see some other flip-flop by the Governor?

    Kaine does receive GA support for his VDOT traffic study bill, which passes. He instructs VDOT to do a traffic study for new development in Loudoun County, which is controlled by the GOP. Coincidence or just a good target for a first run at the statute?(Incidentally, the WaPo reports that VDOT forgot to include the new home construction in the study and must rework the study. Still cannot walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.)

    At the very same time, Kaine is pushing the $4 B plus extension of Metrorail that would benefit major campaign contributors, but not reduce traffic congestion. There has been some talk to the effect that VDOT should also perform a traffic study for Tysons Corner. There are quite a few facts that suggest the added traffic from Tysons, even including Metrorail, would be much worse than what would occur in Loudoun County. Yet, Tysons Corner’s urbanization is strongly supported by Gerry Connolly and the rest of the Democrat-operated Fairfax County Board, as well as Kaine’s big contributors. Will Kaine be consistent and direct VDOT to study Tysons? Or are traffic concerns caused by Democratic elected officials not to be placed into the public view? (I’ve heard a rumor that a number of organizations and individuals in Fairfax County will be sending a letter to the Governor making such a study request. If so, will he ignore the letter? Will the press cover this issue?)

    Bottom line, I’m not sure where our Governor is on transportation and related land use issues. Perhaps, his strategy is brillantly complex. Or, just maybe, Kaine is stumbling and flopping from side to side with no real plan beyond playing politics and rewarding his contributors. I just wish that he’d get back to his campaign themes.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “brillantly complex. Or, just maybe, Kaine is stumbling and flopping”

    The truth is probably somewhere is the middle.


    1. – transportation and land use issues are very complex

    2. – there are a lot of players involved

    3. – there are a lot of interests that could be affected by decisions

    4. – no state in the Union has demonstrated sustainable solutions with regard to land-use/transportation to date

    5. – Kaine is a politician and probably practices the politics of what is possible which is the try to lead where people are inclined to go .. rather than cut across the grain in such as way that no one will even listen to him much less pursue his agenda.

    You make the statement that Metro will not reduce congestion. I’d ask – do we know that more roads reduce congestion?

    I don’t know the answer but I suspect in both cases – the argument might be that metro/roads (choose your poison) will help keep it from getting worse… ha ha ha

    Of course.. we have no objective way to determine such claims.. much less compare.. say a billion dollars worth of transit improvements vs a billion dollars worth of road improvements in terms of which might be better at reducing congestion.

    Wouldn’t it be nifty if we did?



    This paper presents a methodology to measure transit effectiveness. It considers street density, job density, transit frequency, etc.

    What it does is take into account the location of every vehicle throughout the day and it determines where you would have to be in order to catch that vehicle with no more than a ten minute walk and a five minute wait. These are the zones of availability.

    Then the zones of availibility are compared to the job density and residential density for that census area. If the census area represents 1000 residents and 200 jobs, and if the zone of availbility is 1% of the census area, then that zone of avilibility could work for 10 residents and two jobs.

    This is done for every stop throughout the day, and a similar analysis is conducted at the end of the trip. (There is no point in getting on the bus if it won’t get you where you want to go, when you need to be there.)

    All of this is summed over the day and balanced against the known travel usage/demand to come up with a transit efficiency index.

    The system has been used in Tallahassee. We don’t very much about transit demand and efficiency, but at least this is an attempt to find out what could actually work on the ground versus what the ideology says should work.

    According to the author, most models are aggregate in nature and do not properly take into account the complex travel decisions made by individuals. This study performed regressions an many variables, job density, homes with no cars, income, racial and ethnic mixes, and many others.

    Some variables were shown to have a strong influence in some areas and a weak influence in others. In this study, the factors are geographically weighted so that factors nearby a location have more importance than those that are farther away. There are lots of interests affected by decisions.

    The bad news is that the model is not spatially transferable: what works in one place must be entirely recalibrated in order to work in another. It can be used to fine tune routes and stops for example, but it cannot predict the result of gross land use changes or entire new services.

    Therefore we cannot yet do as Larry suggests, make an objective comparison of the result of a billion dollars of one vs the other.

    We do not know that more roads reduce congestion. What we do know is that less business reduces congestion, and what we do know is that those cities that spent the most on new roadways have the slowest rate of increase in congestion. It may be that roadways increase the level of business activity, and therefore building roads is a self defeating activity if reducing congestion is the only measure.

    The whole point of cities is to increase traffic (and business activity), after all. So what we need to measure is the relative level of business activity and congestion. Too much transit investment and you cannot generate the business benefits to justify the expense. Too little and business will have over invested relative the the amount of traffic that can be provided.

    What’s worse is that you must provide an optimum mix of roads and transit in order to have the est overall system, and that mix will change spatially over time, whereas your previous investments likely will not, or only slowly.

    In other words, you will always be behind the power curve, and the question is how far behind. That is why no state has demonstrated a sustainable link between land use and transportation: it can’t be done.

    Finally, two of the best predictors of transit use was poverty rate and percentage of homes with no cars. So, if you want to increase transit use and reduce traffic congestion at once, just make people poor.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “cities that spent the most on new roadways have the slowest rate of increase in congestion”

    true? if so.. we have the answer. I have to say.. I’ve not seen such a study.

    re: “Therefore we cannot yet do as Larry suggests, make an objective comparison of the result of a billion dollars of one vs the other.”

    okay… if you cannot.. then how can it be determined whether transit is a better answer that new/wider roads?

    FYI – Headline: Norfolk light rail gets federal clearance

    NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk has cleared six years of financial and technical reviews concerning the city’s proposed light-rail line.

    The Federal Transit Administration on Friday said it’s convinced that the proposed 7.4-mile route is viable and should be built.

    “If a project makes it through this rigorous FTA evaluation process, you know you’ve got a winner.”

    The article implies that there IS a standard process for evaluation that actually is used to rank and prioritize competing proposals…. and if fact, it can be found at:

    In my view – this is what is needed – evaluation criteria that are standardized and based on objective performance factors that not only can be used on any project but, in fact, can be used to compare and rank projects.

  8. It’s right there in the Texas transporation studies and has been for years. It is kind of not highlighted and stated in a way that is not obvious, but it is definitely there.

    But the naysayers look at the same data and say, see no matter how much you spend traffic congestion still grows.

    You at least can’t make the comparisons with the model in the study I presented, and I’m not sure you can do it with any model, including whatever the FTA uses. And the standards are low: You may not have a winner, but you might be reasonably sure you don’t have a total dog.

    After all, here we are thirty years into Metro, and it still has not met its ridership projections. If it does we’ll probably wish it hadn’t, or at least those that have to ride it.

    Anyway, the roads and rails are not competitiors, they are part of the same system. A lot of rail riders drive to the rail.

    I agree we need objective criteria. But if we find them they will be hideously complex, and unless it is really “Open Source” then the evaluation will be subject to political fingerpointing, as happened at Dulles.

    Then again, if the criteia we use are wrong, and it takes thirty years to find out, then that means at least ten years or so between iterations of the model and selction of better criteria: how long is that going to take?

    I think I predicted that politics would be a potential liability of any such study or model.

    If I had to say how we decide what is a better answer, rail or roads (for any particular project), then I’d say charge full cost for each, and see which one people choose.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar

    If you read the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2005 Urban Mobility Study carefully, you will find that, yes, the authors argue in favor of accelerated road construction. But they advocate a balanced approach.

    Permit me to quote from a story I wrote last year, “Guru of Gridlock,” about co-author Tim Lomax:

    “More money is needed, contends Tim Lomax, a research engineer at the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and co-author of the report, but it will take more than building roads and laying track to fix what ails transportation in the United States. “The problem has grown too rapidly and is too complex for only one technology or service to be ‘the solution,’” he writes with co-author David Schrank.

    “Lomax recommends balancing macro construction projects with micro refinements that squeeze more capacity out of existing roads. He also calls for “demand management” technologies, such as teleconferencing and telework, which would eliminate the need for many automobile trips altogether.”

    And, yes, Lomax says that land use reform needs to be part of the solution. He contends there is no single-shot solution. You need to push everything.

    My contention is NOT that we don’t need to raise taxes for transportation, and we never will. I’m saying that if we raise taxes now, the pressure will subside to institute other needed reforms. If we institute the other reforms — and we’ll never achieve any long-lasting congestion relief as a result. By instituting reforms first, we can buy ourselves some time before we find ourselves with no option but raising taxes — and we’ll get a clearer idea of exactly what projects we’ll need, and how much they’ll cost.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “I’m saying that if we raise taxes now, the pressure will subside to institute other needed reforms. If we institute the other reform”


    Until I see VDOT much more focused on optimizing the existing networks… and that includes recommending cost-effective congestion-reduction oriented projects… giving them more money.. will perpetuate a culture that is focused on road-building for road-building’s sake.

    re: TTI study showing cities with best reductions in congestion (or reductions in the increase of congestion), can someone please direct me to the study and page number(s)…

    Is there an actual rank-order list showing a direct correlation between dollars spent vs reduced congestion?

    It would seem to me that if such data existed… that Kaine and company… VDOT, et al.. would be waving such a study in front of anyone’s face they could but especially so with the legislators… headed to the special session.

    It certainly would enable the legislators to “sell” the tax idea to their more skeptical constituents.

    Of course.. then they’d have to actually deliver something… to their constituents besides 20-year old IOUs.

  11. My impression of what Lomax had to say about land use reform was that it was sort of a sop thrown in to appease the opposition. Immediately after the study was published, the Post printed three letters to the editor from three divergent positions and each latched on to the one thing in the study that supported their position and spun it all out perspective. Reading the three letters in juxtaposition made my day, because each was clearly providing agenda driven analysis.

    If they had been standing around in a circle with pistols aimed at each others feet they could not have done any more damage to their collective arguments. It was Reason Foundation gone mad.

    Lomax specifically doesn’t offer any suggestions on what we shoud do about land use. And that is the problem. One point the study I posted made was that the same circumstances in different locations can lead to different results. That same conclusion was reached in travel studies: when you take a study of conditions in one city, and try to apply the results to predict what will happen in similar circumstances in another city, they don’t work.

    I agree that every technology needs to be tried. I don’t agree that we should try some first, because evey second you wait, the congestion tax is being collected, the polllution tax is being distributed, and the cost of capacity increases goes up.

    If it turns out that the alternatives don’t work, the result will be horrendously expensive. (And I submit the alternatives are not alternatives, they are additives.)

    I’ll even agree that VDOT is broken. Here on the farm I’ve got equipment that is like VDOT, it is broken more often than it works. But, it is all I have to work with. If I do nothing and wait until new equipment appears, I will have lost whatever meager productivity I could have gotten.

    In the case of VDOT that meager productivity leads to more commerce and more tax revenue. (Induced traffic, you know.) So, bad as it is, it is still a positive multiplier while doing nothing is a negative multiplier.

    Stonewalling to get the reforms you want is just a holding action and a strategic stalemate. Meanwhile, you are screwing around with people’s lives and livliehoods, and they don’t get any instant replays.

    The government on the other hand, has eternity to do it all over again, and find yet more ways to waste money and line the pockets of its benefactors. Even my illiterate Mexican friend Jesus has enough understanding to say “What good is all the money if its not going around and around?”

    “The difference between lane-mile increases and traffic growth compares the change in supply and demand. If roadway capacity has been added at the same rate as travel, the deficit will be zero.”

    “Additional roadways reduce the rate of increase in the amount of time it takes travelers to make congested period trips.”

    “…only five of the 85 areas studied were able to accomplish that rate.”

    And there is a graph on page three that shows the cumulative results over time. “It also reinforces the idea that congestion is not a problem that can be addressed and then ignored for a decade.” In other words, we can’t afford a strategic stalemate.

    But my favorites are these two.

    “Analyses that only examine comparisons such as travel growth vs. delay change or roadway growth vs. delay change are missing the point. The only comparison relevant to the question of road, traffic volume and congestion growth is the relationship between all three factors. Comparisons of only two of these elements will provide misleading answers.”

    I think we have been guilty on this blog of going endlessly around this triad, two arguements at a time and missing the point.

    “It is equally clear, however, that only five of the 85 areas studied were able to accomplish that rate. There must be a broader set of solutions applied to the problem, as well as more of each solution than has been implemented in the past,….”

    I believe the study also alludes to several cases where cities saw substantial employment declines that led to less congestion growth. If you want less congestion, just make people poor.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Thanks for the link. There must be more to it. I was curious about what five places have had success reducing the rate of congestion. I’m curious because most urban areas are operating under EPA non-attainment regulations that pretty much limit new roads unless they are HOV or are operated with demand management such as congestion pricing.

    Let’s assume that the TTA study is correct then I’d ask again – why aren’t the folks who want to raise taxes using this report and others like it to make their case to the GA and voters?

    Where is this advocacy with the GA getting ready to meet in special session?

    Let’s assume that legislators do agree to raise taxes and say NoVa will get 500 million new dollars a year.

    What the number one improvement that would be done next?

    How about numbers 2, 3, 4, etc? How about a kazaammmm ranked list based on best congestion relief?

    Notice in todays WaPo that Metro is using analyses on just where to add their new cars – so as to best benefit the overall system as well as the most congested platforms.

    They know where the worst delays are and they are moving towards targetting them. By the way… Metro apparently is so crowded that their 700,000+ riders have to wait on platforms for multiple trains before there is room for them. This seems an odd situation when compared to articles and books that claim it is a failure.

    My point is that those that believe in more money as a solution.. and want to raise taxes have not made the case in NoVa as far as I know to the taxpayers who likely will cough up the higher taxes…and probably want to know what they’d actually get for their money. Why not?

    And let’s assume that at some point that such a list does actually appear and there is widespread taxpayer support – so much, in fact, that polls show that elected leaders will be thrown out of office if they don’t raise taxes

    … can you see just how crazy the whole concept is? it’s a series of totally unrealistic premises…

    … anyhow… all of the very unlikely things happen and we’re now ready to deal with the EPA and the non-attainment issue? You know, the rule that says if you exceed the pollution limits that road construction will be denied?

    … I don’t think the road advocacy … leads to realistically implementable solutions.

    I don’t think the legislators, the public at large, nor taxpayers, nor the EPA support it.

  13. How is it that when Metro, concerts, or stores are crowded that counts as a success, and when roads are crowded that counts as a failure, and one that cannot be fixed?

    You see the way the TTA is worded. It doesn’t say we can build our way out, just that the alternative is worse. Reason foundation and others have used this part of the study, only to be ridiculed.

    I don’t think that Metro is a failure, but both Metro and VRE are exhibitng some of the same problems as the highways, and as they add more branches and more stations the problems will get worse.

    I do think that taking the seats out so that more people can ride standing up amounts to a failure.

    I do think it is readily apparent that after thirty years of expeimentation culminating in the second worst traffic congestion in the nation, that we can say authoritatively that either Metro has not reduced traffic congestion, or has not reduced it enough. Therefor we should take that argument for rail construction off the table and out of consideration.

    If Metro is overcrowded at 700,000 riders when far more were predicted, then that is another case of train salesmanship that was overstated. And if you are one of those waiting for three or four trains, yes, you will begin to see it as a failure.

    What I think is that Metro offers a different and additional service to autos, and it is not an either or situation. But the service it offers ought to be valued for what it is and not what it isn’t, and we should consider the money we invest in it accordingly.

    When you look at the graph in the study and see how far the worst areas have diverged from the best areas, and over how long a period of time. Then you begin to realize the magnitude of the problem. Accordingly every alternative should be funded as best we can figure out how to apply the resources.

    My beef is that the process for allocating resources is more political than rational, and various factions have staked out a winner take all position to such an extent that nothing is getting done.

    Your argument seems to be that even if we had a logical way to allocate resources, the people would refuse to fund them anyway, and EPA won’t allow us new roads, so we should forget about it. Besides, the task is simply too huge to comprehend so we should just give up.

    Hey, if that’s the decision we make and we can reach some kind of consensus, it is OK with me. But let’s make it with a clear understanding of what the economic, environmental, and social costs are, and not base it on a lot of agenda based drivel.

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