Third Poll, Same Result: Public Doesn’t Want to Raise Taxes for Transportation

After reader Larry Gross referred to the AAA “Pockets of Pain” survey in comments on a couple of previous posts, I decided I ought to take a look. I found a summary of the survey in a press release but could not find the details of the survey itself. But even the pro-tax AAA’s spin on the data should deliver a sober warning to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who has been stumping the state in favor of a tax increase and wants to elevate taxes and transportation to a defining issue in the 2007 General Assembly races.

For all the angst and maelstrom about traffic congestion, the AAA reports, transportation is far from the public’s top priority. “When respondents were asked to rank a list of national priorities, transportation did not fare well.” In order of importance the respondents produced the following ranking:

(1) Healthcare (26% rated most important)
(2) National Security (25%)
(3) Education (24%)
(4) Social Security (12%)
(5) Energy Independence (9%)
(6) Transportation (3%).

Further, stated the report, the public is far more receptive to the idea of paying tolls, particularly for new projects, than to raising taxes.

When respondents were asked to choose from a number of funding options, the public did not favor using general purpose revenues. In fact, the most frequent choice – 52% – was some form of toll option to help raise money to fund our transportation system. The most popular options are those that add tolls to only new roads and highway lanes (39%).

In focus groups, people made it quite plain why they don’t like the idea of higher taxes.

“In previous surveys and focus groups, we’ve seen more reluctance to increasing funding for transportation,” said Robert L. Darbelnet, AAA president and CEO in a speech given at the National Conference of State Legislatures Transportation Leaders meeting in San Antonio, Texas. “Common responses used to be ‘I already pay enough,’ or ‘existing funds aren’t invested efficiently,’ or ‘I don’t trust my state DOT to do the right thing.’…

Those national responses track very closely to polls conducted earlier this year showing that Virginians have very little appetite for raising taxes. (For details, see our October post on the Survey USA poll and our August post on a Richmond Times-Dispatch poll.)

While the business and political elites tend to favor taxes, the public clearly does not. If Gov. Kaine wants to make taxes and transportation the signature issue of the 2007 campaign season, I say, “Bring it on!”

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25 responses to “Third Poll, Same Result: Public Doesn’t Want to Raise Taxes for Transportation”

  1. E M Risse Avatar


    The problem with this approach is that it will reelect the anti tax imcumbants who do not have a clue about how to really solve the problem — Fundamental Change is settlement pattern.


  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ed, First and immediate step: Fight tax increases that would shower more money on the wrong kind of projects. Second step: Educate the anti-tax incumbents about the need for deep structural reform in the governance system.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If value pricing (congestion) tolls are eventually implemented – they may well have an impact on settlement patterns – at least change via that approach is more likely more quickly (I think) than governance changes… heck… VDOT reform is small potatoes compared to governance reform.. and VDOT reform is in serious question.

    I was doing a little further noodling around for info and found the Resources for the Future org had done a paper just prior to the 2002 tax referenda.. where they pointed out that raising the gas tax by 5 cents in the NoVa would bring in an additional 60 million a year. page 9 whereas an increase of 1/2 cent on the sales tax would bring in about 140 million a year. Further, they estimated about 700 million a year from comprehensive congestion pricing… this is JUST for NoVa…!!

    An additional data point. The fuels tax in Virginia bring in only 40% of the transportation budget. The rest comes from sales and use taxes (which is consistent with the RFF study).

    But my view is that in 2002 the deal-breaker for voters was not the 1/2 cent sales tax but WHERE the money would have gone – to Richmond. Numerous subsequent local road referenda all passed.. the last one by 80%.

    Gov. Kaine is “on the bubble” here. He’s got the NoVa momentum from Warner and Webb… will he squander it on a misguided attempt to raise taxes or has he “got it” with regard to what taxpayers want and don’t want?

    We won’t have to wait long to find out….

  4. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Northern Virginia and I suspect Hampton Roads are a different story.

    The Northern Virginia Transaction 2030 plan had some surveys with some intersting results

    One of the key findings

    “Northern Virginia residents are willing to pay more to fund additional transportation projects and services. When given an accurate comparison, they preferred a sales tax as a way to fund these improvements.”

    The results of this study seemed very pro-transit and pro-money to me personally but this is the Northern Virginia Transportation Plan and is very respected and quoted around this area

    Here is the main page

    a letter to Kaine and IMHO why he is doing what he is doing

    Finally comments from the September meeting where Fairfax complains that transportation should be payed for by the state. Loudoun was also against the bill

    (Click on September minutes)

    The argument being counties shouldn’t pay for a state responsibility. The bottom line being once again land use and transportation reform are unfortunatly nowhere to be seen 🙁

  5. E M Risse Avatar


    I am with you 100% on step one as you know.

    The problem with step two is that, as a group, encumbents are not susceptable to retraining.

    They know how to get elected again, do more of what got them elected the last time. That is the reality of contemporary duopoly politics.

    Larry and No Va Mid Man make good points.

    It is very clear citizens will vote to pay more but only if they are convinced their money will improve their access and mobility.

    “Do not send my money to Richmond”

    “Do not spend my money on facilities that will make matters worse.”

    Without a balance between settlement pattern travel demand and transport system capacity every new facility is a waste of money. That is the problem with all those roadways on the NVTA Anaconda plan.

    VDOT staff knows this. Each time I post a column on the topic, VDOT staff write to agree.

    Encombent office holders(elected and appointed) are unwilling to risk their jobs by admiting reality in public.

    (I will address other issue over the weekend, but for now, I have to get to Missoula for the game.)

    Stay warm. Global Climate Change means “change” and some places will be hotter sometimes and colder sometimes.


  6. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Well, gee.

    If you raise 140 million in sales taxes, where do you suppose the majority of that will come from? If your raise $700 million in congestion taxes, where do you suppose that will come from?

    But if you raise the gas tax, won”t that hurt people like myself who drive all over creation the most? In other words those in the country side?

    Why not just come out and say you only want to tax the guy behind the tree?

  7. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “incumbents are not susceptible to retraining”

    I love it.

    Always vote against the incumbent, until you have nothing to complain about politically. In other words, always vote against incumbents.

    Besides, that way you don’t have to get wrapped around party politics, agendas, and messages, and you can concentrate on arguing the issues.

  8. I don’t see any discussion of the gas taxes having lost their 1986 buying power?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    One can make fair economic arguments in favor of higher taxes and/or fees for transportation. But those arguments don’t address the trust issue. Transportation in Virginia is not about moving people and goods in as efficiently as possible. It’s all about real estate investments — protecting all of those office buildings in Fairfax County against companies deciding not to move or stay there. (Putting office buildings in PW is heresy.) And it’s about opening up more areas for development, either out or up, as the case may be.

    I was talking with a friend of my the other day. She was berating me for my opposition to the Silver Line as proposed. As per usual, I said why are we spending billions without receiving any measurable improvement in traffic flow. She replied that it really doesn’t make any difference, we still need rail because it just has to help somehow. What can one say to that?

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “spending billions without receiving any measurable improvement in traffic flow”

    this statement could apply equally to roads, rail or transit – right?

    but why is the default measurement of improvement “traffic flow”?

    If METRO moves a gazillion people per hour at rush hour – do we still judge it ineffective if the roads remain heavily congested?

    Are we presuming that folks are riding metro at rush hour for the sheer fun of it and that if METRO went away – these folks would just stay put and not take a trip?

    and a related point.

    transit takes a hit because of things like having to run empty cars just to maintain a reliable schedule – though they can add and subtract cars.

    But how many virtually empty 4 passenger cars occupy the roads at rush hour with one person?

    If we’re going to judge METRO in terms of how much money is spent that results in no improvement in congestion – shouldn’t we also judge new roads the same way?

    One could say that despite BILLIONs of dollars for NoVa roads including the Springfield Interchange and the Wilson Bridge – that overall congestion has not been improved.

    Does that mean that spending money on either METRO OR Roads is a failure in terms of congestion relief?

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Why not just come out and say you only want to tax the guy behind the tree?”

    congestion pricing specifically targets the guy who is NOT behind the tree but in fact the one who wants services.

    All other forms of funding do exactly what you’re claiming – they get the guy behind the tree – on the flimsy premise that the guy behind the tree is BENEFITING from the tax on him.

    and this is what you advocate Right? tax everyone because everyone benefits. who is the guy behind the tree in your scenario?

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m no economist but on a macro level, is not a sound, viable, and efficient transportation system critical to statewide commerce and continued economic growth?

    Yes – believe it or not, funding and expenditures on transportation infrastructure is actually an investment towards this goal and does provide a return – though not always tangible.

    They guy behind the tree does benefit more from this than from a stagnant economy mired in a congested transportation system.

    I will ask again. Has not the true cost of transportation been artificially low?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    9:17 – If an efficient transportation system is so important to Virginia’s economy, why hasn’t the Governor addressed the report of the state auditor that concluded VDOT has no internal cost controls and the the CTB funds transportation projects without regard to their relationship to an overall state transportation plan?

    The goal of the tax-raisers is to put more money into a dysfunctional system. How does this help the public interest?

    Why not require VDOT/CTB to set forth the actual improvements in terms of safety, LOS, etc. that taxpayers would see if Project X is built? Why not set forth the alternatives? If we made transportation funding decisions based on engineering and economic data, instead of based on who had the best lobbyists, there probably would be less opposition to increasing taxes for transportation. But I also suspect that those who strongly support tax increases under today’s dysfunctional rules would fight this tooth and nail. Their goal is to get roads and rail built near their landholdings and not to improve traffic flow. Suppose the choice were to improve 50 interections and bottlenecks in NoVA or build a western bypass (with plenty of exit ramps near interested parties’ landholdings)? What would better improve transportation needs? What would the tax supporters fight for? What would the CTB fund?

    Transportation in Virginia is about land use and not about moving people and goods efficiently. Supporters of a better funded status quo only speak in sweeping generalities.

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “I will ask again. Has not the true cost of transportation been artificially low?”

    based on what?

    TMT made excellent points.

    It’s not how much you spend – it’s how effective it is in meeting the goals of why the money was taxed and expended in the first place.

    People do not get it. We are in the mess we are right now because VDOT sucked up as much money as it could with no cost controls, no prioritization, no ranking of projects, no objective standards for objectives and performance

    .. and what the folks who don’t get it (with all due respects) are saying are things like this: “Has not the true cost of transportation been artificially low?”

    the concept that the money is NOT being spent effectively AND the core of our failing transportation policy is treated as if it is a separate issue from the idea of raising taxes for more of the same.

    What a disconnect!

    Here’s the deal for taxpayers:

    “… even though a majority of drivers think that more funds are needed to address increasing congestion, there appears to be little support for raising non-fuel taxes, such as sales, income and property taxes. Only 15 percent favored increasing non-fuel taxes. Of those who supported increasing public funding for roads and highways, only 21 percent of respondents favored raising the gas tax.”

    Voters in 2002 in NoVa and HR said the same thing but pro-taxers apparently didn’t “get it” and prefer, instead, to insist that “we must fund transportation” and then glide right into the method – higher taxes.

    Taxpayers have made it clear – They don’t want to give more money to the DOTs so the DOTs can continue business as usual. They want a market economy with respect to transportation where they pay a fee and get a service.

    Read the stats above 15% support non-fuel taxes and 21% support fuel-taxes and 52% support tolls and 70% support more money for transportation.

    What part of this do the folks who want to raise taxes NOT get?

    No.. we cannot build every new road as a toll road but for every road that can be tolled – that is one less road that needs tax money… and it frees up tax money for other non-toll roads.

    A dozen other states are doing this right now. They are using the PROCEEDS from privately operated toll roads to finance other roads .. rather than raise taxes for that purpose.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think to better understand who supports higher taxes for transportation what could be revealing is WHO they are and WHY they prefer a statewide tax over other choices.

    If you were a developer or operated a business that is directly allied with development – what is best for business is twofold:

    1. – new “infrastructure ready” venues
    2. – a political process where state money can be obtained to enable/support development.

    TOLL roads won’t satisfy these needs because those roads go with there is demonstrated demand – not potential future demand i.e. – the likely “path” of new development.

    Developers would also be opposed to localities paying for roads because when they went to those localities for rezoning approval – those counties would have to balance the road costs that THEY would have to pay if the rezoning was granted – as opposed to claiming that “it’s VDOT’s responsibility”.. “All we can do is rezone and hope the State/VDOT will “step up to the plate” on transportation” – a euphemism for having taxpayers statewide fund development.

    This is why the developers are opposed to APF – not because of potential moratoriums – but because the question of who will pay for new infrastructure gets focused right on them when they bring new proposals forward.

    I’m agreeing with TMT – publically-funded transportation projects are red meat for development interests whereas TOLL roads have no equivalent benefit to them.

    This whole argument is not really about taxes – it’s probably more about subsidies for development in my view.

    How else can one explain the business community lobbying for higher taxes are virtually mute on their public support of TOll road?

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In the interests of intellectual honesty….there ARE arguments against TOLLs:

    Headline: Toll road argument thrown into doubt

    A new study throws cold water on a long-cherished claim of toll road advocates, surprising some of them, and could redefine a debate over if and how Texas should toll its highways.

    For more than a year now, [Texas] state officials have scared the dickens out of motorists by saying the gas tax would have to go up $1.20 a gallon to build all the roads needed statewide over the next quarter-century.

    That would almost triple the 38.4 cents drivers now pay in federal and state fuel taxes. Since that’s politically impossible to do, the argument goes, toll roads should be built wherever and whenever feasible.

    But now a Texas Transportation Institute study says gas taxes wouldn’t have to go up nearly as much.

    Just indexing the gas tax to rising construction costs would be enough, the 139-page report says. The extra money could finance bonds through 2030 and pay them all off within five years after that.

    Or, to avoid borrowing with bonds, the tax could be increased 12 cents in 2008 and indexed to construction inflation through 2030.

    Even if the tax weren’t indexed, a flat increase of only 39 cents a gallon would do the same — a far cry from the $1.20 that Texas Department of Transportation officials have maintained would be needed.

    Toll critics embraced the news, saying it’s proof TxDOT is pumping up numbers to justify toll roads.

    “All of this is a charade to draw us into TxDOT’s pointy-headed policy mindset that’s obsessed with tolls and how to sell the public on it,” said David Ramos of San Antonio Toll Party. “The bottom line is TxDOT is trying to create a crisis to justify their money grab.”

    rest of article at:

    so far.. not able to find the actual referenced TTI Study

    HEY.. but I did find this: “Summary Report: Development of a Toll Viability Screening Tool” which sounds like something VDOT could use on US 460 and the 3rd Crossing in HR.

  17. It seems to me tha ceh is right: the cost of maintining roads has gone up with inflation but the gas tax has not. If it had simply been tied to the dollar instead of the gallon in 1986 we would have far more money to work with now, without having raised the tax rate.


    With regard to Metro, carrying empty seats, etc. here are the facts. Many cars carry more than one person. In fact the load factor for autos exceeds that for transit: autos carry fewer empty seats per mile traveled. And in addition, they carry a substantial amount of freight.

    Nearly everyone uses a car or depends on roads in other ways: here on the farm we have a lot of goods delivered. There simply is no comparison between cars and Metro when it comes to utility and choices of destinations.

    We know from thirty years of experience that Metro has not reduced congestion. WE can argue as to whether the congestion would be worse without Metro, but we can’t answer the question. My guess is that it would be a little worse, but not alot worse because people simply would not put up with it: they would start making other choices. Because Metro is available, it is one of the choices that some people make.

    Metro does have some value, but that value does not come from reducing congestion Because cars are so much more flexible and utilitarian, not to mention comfortable, that no matter how many people you put on Metro there will be others who need and prefer the streets. If you beleive in the induced traffic theory, then you have to believe it applies to Metro and other alternates just as it does to increased traffic capacity. If you take someone off the road through alternate modes, someone else will opportunistically use that space.

    By providing additional spaces on other modes you will have created new opportunites for others to use the roads, so the end result is the same as if you added more road capacity. So now all you have to do is consider the costs of the alternatives to the cost of additional road capacity – and where the money comes from.

    Additional road capacity is fundamentally not available at any price in Fairfax. Therefore you can afford to spend an infinite amount on the alternatives – except that in this case the alternatives are not buying you very much because the roads are full anyway. For this reason the incentive for alternatives has to come down to what value they offer on their own.

    So what IS the value of Metro? Primarily, it allows the peak hour transport of 350,000 people twice day, and these people provide a critical resource to downtown employers. It carries almost no freight. The people who ride it pay only about half of their costs through fares, and probably not even that, because we can easily see that Metro, like many other public facilities is coasting along on a lot of deferred maintenance. The people who ride it also pay part of the difference through the sales and realestate taxes they pay. But there are many more people who don’t ride who also pay those taxes, in additon to paying full cost for their use of the roads.

    But, people say, look at all the development Metro has spurred….

    So, the bottom line on Metro is that it allows us to help fill some of the most expensive office real estate on the planet every day, and it has enabled us to build even more of it. But it has not reduced congestion. On the contrary. Since it takes two Metro trips to eliminate one car trip, all of that additional (“Metro Oriented”) office space also creates the demand for more auto traffice. This is exactly the phenomenon that TMT has pointed out with respect to Metro to Tyson’s.

    Now, if Metro riders are paying 60% of their costs, but it takes two Metro trips to eliminate one car trip, then Metro would have to be very efficient and very nonpolluting indeed to be cleaner and cheaper than cars.

    Sure, cars have unpaid externalities, but so does Metro. Just consider the millions of throw away newspapers Metro riders use to while away their time and avoid talking to their strap-mate.

    But you can’t compare costs unless you have an alternative, so what would be the costs if we had not built Metro and done something else instead? Depends on what something else is. If something else is building all the same office buildings in the same places as now, and then supplying them with massive highway and parking, then that is probably not a good alternative.

    But if the alternative is building the same amount of office space in locations where it costs 25% as much to build, and where they can be serviced by modest roads, then maybe that’s different. And of course you would have all the money spent on Metro which we can now see is leading us to nowhere but more and more congestion at higher and higher costs.

    And congestion is the issue, because congestion wastes time and energy, causes pollution, and makes our lives miserable and more expensive to maintain. So the question isn’t whether Metro is “better”, the question is what makes our lives better. Whatever that is, is going to have costs of its own, to be sure, but I can’t see any way that we can justify more of what we have done so far.

    I think more people are seeing it that way. Today’s article on Clarendon cites the complaints of people in neighborhoods around the Metro stations, the new plan for Clarendon includes, guess what, more parking and more green space.


  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – you made these two statements:

    “t seems to me tha ceh is right: the cost of maintining roads has gone up with inflation but the gas tax has not. If it had simply been tied to the dollar instead of the gallon in 1986 we would have far more money to work with now, without having raised the tax rate.”

    “Additional road capacity is fundamentally not available at any price in Fairfax. Therefore you can afford to spend an infinite amount on the alternatives – except that in this case the alternatives are not buying you very much because the roads are full anyway. For this reason the incentive for alternatives has to come down to what value they offer on their own.”

    so if the gas tax WAS raised – what transportation improvements would you spend the money on in NoVa?

    an an allied question – what AVAILABLE transportation improvements do you think should be prioritized to address congestion in NoVa?

  19. I don’t think you can solve the congestion problem in NOVA, at least in the core areas. Metro apparently increases the demand for roads faster than it decreases the demand, at a terrible cost, and its not that great in terms of efficiency, convenience or utility.

    The only things that can reduce congestion in the core area are fewer jobs and fewer people. Pittsburgh is a case in point. It is one of the few cities that has enjoyed a decrease in congestion, along with a decline in population and jobs. The Clarendon plan has put a limit on building heights for exactly that reason.

    Congestion tolling might have some effect, but it will likely result in moving traffic, not reducing it.

    In short, Central NOVA has become a poster child for Too Much Of A Good Thing, and it is long past time to say enough is enough. BRAC and the FBI move are two moves in that direction. Even PW and Loudoun have apparently had enough.

    The transportation improvements most needed are nowhere near the Metro service area anymore. The 29 and 66 interchange is a disaster. There is no way to go north and south between Front Royal and Gainsville, and 15 is overloaded. There is no way to transfer from the PW Parkway to the Fairfax Parkway or 123/Ox Road.

    In short, we need better connections between the ring cities, and more intraburb options.

    We have bridges all over the state that need repair. Are we going to wait until one collapses, as in Connecticut and New York?

    As far as mass transit is concerned, I think the answer is going to be, more and m, a matter of Jitneys and Van Pools. They could be a flexible and reasonably convenient supplement to private autos, but we need better information flow so people will know what is available, or could be. I’m sure you could find ten people in Warrenton, all wishing for a van pool, but with no good way to identify or connect their wishes. Jitneys and Van Pools need more government support, which is NOT to say subsidies.

    The U shaped Maryland to Reston commute is insane, so another river crossing outside the beltway could take a huge load off the 66/beltway/Tysons area.

    That’s just a wish list, without priorities. But, I’ll say again, the planning we do ought to be devoted to NOT making NOVA any worse than it is and also NOT repeating those mistakes anyplace else i.e. Tyson’s.

    I DO believe that Metro has value on its own, I’m just not sure what it is. What I’m afraid of is that its true value is primarily to big and powerful development interests. So, OK, transportation and development go hand in hand. But if transportation money is going to come from diverse stakeholders, then I’d rather see the benefits be diverse than concentrated in the hands of a few.

    Unfortunately, we have created a situation where only big players can build anything. Individuals, like myself, are prohibited from doing anything, in order that our land or land value can later be taken from us in favor of a power line, clean water easements, scenery, or what have you.

    I don’t want to see the world get paved over, either, but, had I been allowed to build, I could at least have had some choice in who my neighbors would be. Instead, my local authorities have taken it upon themselves to manage my land and run my life, only to see their power overruled be even higher authorities who want to manage my land and run my life. Either way, the benefit to them is far more than they are willing to pay me.

    It is stealing, either way.

    The result of that situation is that power and money is still concentrated in the hands of a few and they are the ones that benefit from transportation (and other infrastructure) improvements. In the end, the rest of us benefit only through the trickle down theory.

    What boggles my mind is that this is being successfully sold as if it was a benefit to many, and groups like PEC have bought into the myth. If PEC and others had promoted the idea that land use has to be paid for, fairly and universally, then they would be in a far better position to fight the power line (or more roads) today. But, the problem with that is that you must first agree that there is some price at which you will allow any land use, and that is not a position that PEC is fond of.

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Lots to chew on:

    re: “The only things that can reduce congestion in the core area are fewer jobs and fewer people.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen any city anywhere that approached congestion reduction this way. Can you cite one that willingly planned explicitly to respond to congestion in this manner?

    re: “The planning we do ought to be devoted to NOT making NOVA any worse than it is”

    Ahh … is the implication that job growth and development foster congestion and therefore are the root cause of it?

    Planners think the problem is NOT planning properly for the infrastructure that is required.

    Voters think that pro-growth folks don’t care about the infrastructure and that it will be addressed by taxpayers AFTER the growth has been approved.

    re: “In short, we need better connections between the ring cities, and more intraburb options.”

    are you advocating more beltways and/or spokes to outer beltways?

  21. No, I cannot point to any city that has done so. I also cannot point to any city that does not suffer from congestion problems.

    Why do we do this? Because that’s where the money is. Why is the money there? Because that’s where we put it.

    Sounds like circular logic to me.

    We do know that it works. Congestion in Silicon valley declined markedly during the slump, and Pittsburgh, as I have mentioned.

    Beijing is actively planning five new ring cities to take congestion out of the center.

    Too many jobs in one place is absolutely the cause of congestion. When the government closes down for a snow day, you can drive all over, without traffic, if you are stark raving nuts.

    Why did Clarendon place a limit on building height? Why did PW put a hold on new subdivsions? Why did Loudoun say no?

    The flip side is, where will those people live?

    One or two of them might have lived on your five acre lot, if the gov’t had not eliminated it.

    Right now there are 13,500 jurisdictions with some kind of growth restrictions. So where are those people going to live, exactly, and what will they do for a living?

    Unfortunately, yes, I think we need more beltways, and more spokes, because that is what is likely to work. What I would rather see is growth in Winchester Front Royal, Farmville, and a hundred other towns big and small that are withering on the vine for no good reason.

    Places like Marshall, that have been deliberately sabotaged in order to prevent the dreaded “growth” which is going to happen anyway.

  22. Let’s try this again.

    We have thousands of people crammed into apartments, condo’s, and townhouses. They are paying artificially high prices because a) they have to compete for space near the jobs and, b) developable land prices are artificially inflated due to growth restrictions and extraordinary proffers.

    On the other hand, they pay extraordinarily low (try telling thet to them) taxes because they are subsidized by all those farms and businesses that pay far more than they cost, and as we all know, residential is a net loss anyway.

    So here I sit, for decades, paying 3x in taxes what I owe (not my numbers, mind you), laboring mightily to provide far more than that in valued services and amenities(so they tell me), for which I am not paid, and being utterly restricted all the while from any of the benefits of growth.

    Meanwhile, all those people in town are highly dependent on electricity to run their heat pumps, which have to run even harder because they are pumping against the heat island they created by competing with each other. Not to mention the elevators, and the night lights for that “vibrant” city life.

    Guess what happens next?

    All of a sudden that land where houses was prohibited is suddenly a prime target for a power line to serve the city. Because houses were prohibited out there, the price is artificially low (there having been no sales), and all those other highly prized amenities are suddenly valueless because they were never paid for in the first place: they have no market value which might have been held against the power company.

    One reason they have no market value is that it has become fashionable to speak of the “public benefit” whenever we want to steal something that isn’t ours.

    So, don’t try to tell me that growth doesn’t pay its own way. I am fully aware of that. But the way I see it, what this means is that the entire city isn’t paying it’s own fully allocated locational costs. In the case of the power line, it’s all of the northeast including my (former) Yankee friends.

    If they were paying their full locational costs, then the country side would have some income and be much more valuable, instead of less.

    The result would be more balanced communities, not less. And it would mean more people with the opportunity to live someplace other than the artificial job centers, which would lower costs there dramatically.

    And probably reduce pollution.

    But it would wreck the country side, we would have no open space.

    Well, maybe, maybe not. If I am getting some kind of payments instead of a perpetual screw job, maybe I’m more likely to stay and less likely to sell out, no?

  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s a question.

    What if everyone had to pay their FULL locational costs.

    Would this materially change settlement patterns?

    I’m think the answer is not a resounding YES but a maybe/qualified Yes.

    What if you built those new rings and spokes but all of them were TOLLED and essentially self-supporting and all of this happened at about the time that we’re all using cars that are powered 90% by something other than gasoline – (so there is no air pollution issues with roads and no limitations on the where/when/how of them).

    TOLL Roads get built wherever there is demand for them (determined by PPTA investors).

    anyone is free to live wherever they please as long as they absorb the locational costs of their decisions.

    You determine the value of your own time and money and trade offs and congestion and commute times are responded to with PPTA projects.

    Would this materially change how settlement patterns evolve?

    I’m not sure this would happen – at least in ways that some believe they should without some sort of centralized “control” authority that would determine what is best – not what people want.

    For instance, I doubt seriously that people would willingly choose transit over the auto – all things being equal but I qualify that thought with an admission that I have much ignorance on this and it hurts my brain to think about it comprehensively so I rely on other deep thinkers to point the way.

  24. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, You are right, if people paid their full locational costs, they would not switch en masse from cars to carpooling or mass transit. There are very good reasons why people prefer cars — it provides them far more flexibility in an economy and society in which work and life are increasingly blended. People are demanding flexibility in their work schedules, and they’re demanding flexibility in their choice of transportation modes.

    Although people would not all abandon their cars, some might. I question whether massive, fixed-route forms of mass transit like heavy rail have a future (unless property owners are willing to help pay for them). But I do see a future for more flexible, more nimble, more adaptive forms of shared ridership — flexcars, vans, jitneys, carpooling, perhaps even Bus Rapid Transit. I envision the possibility of two-adult families figuring out how to live with only one car. I envision the possibility that some households — not all, but some — will be willing accept smaller houses/yards closer to the urban core in order to gain greater mobility/access. I envision that more people will figure out how to telecommute from home two or three days out of the week.

    We don’t have to convert the whole nation to telecommuting or shared-vehicle transportation systems to make a big difference in traffic congestion. We need covert only 10 percent or so.

  25. Jim, I agree with you, we only need to convert ten or 15% to make a difference.

    What I’m afraid of is that after we do that, we will discover that converting that 10% wound up costing us the equivalent of 40% of our transportation budget, and we still need almost as much as before to keep the other 90% running.

    I think it is a fools bargain. I’d rater settle for the one or two percent that can actually pay its own way.

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