How realistic are the revenue assumptions of Hampton Roads transportation planners? Del. Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, argued yesterday that the region’s transportation plan is based on faulty assumptions about how much the region’s drivers would be willing to pay at the tollbooth, reports Tom Holden with the Virginian-Pilot.

Using low toll rates, [lawmakers] said, forced Hampton Roads planners to seek a larger increase in transportation funding from the General Assembly when it met in special session in September. The “ridiculously low tolls” forced the General Assembly to turn down tax or fee increases intended to close a transportation funding gap, said Del. Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach and chairman of the House Transportation Committee. …

Regional officials had pleaded with lawmakers to approve $275 million in new funding for 30 years and authorize imposing tolls on existing and new facilities to help finance six major projects.

This is an interesting debate. When financing major transportation projects, planners must make realistic assumptions about toll revenues. How many people will use the tolled facility, and how much will they pay? The original investors in the Dulles Greenway found out what happens when optimistic toll projections fall short — they got taken to the cleaners. Over-optimistic toll projects also led to the restructuring and privatization of the Pocahontas Parkway southeast of Richmond. In sum, there are good reasons to be cautious.

But Wardrup also may have a point. If toll projections are too low, a different problem is created. Either projects don’t get built that could have been, or the special interests lobby for state subsidies that may not be needed.

I have no idea whether Wardrup is right or wrong, whether the postulated tolls are too low or too high. But I think his comments open up an important debate. Before any region of Virginia talks about raising billions of dollars in taxes, there must be a clear understanding of what the real demand is for the proposed transportation improvements. By “real” demand, I mean what value real people in the real world would put on the improvements, as measured by their willingness to pay tolls. If users aren’t willing to pay what it costs to build a road, is there any justification for building it?

As I’ve argued in other contexts, the business and political elites value their time more highly, therefore they are more distressed than ordinary Virginians by traffic congestion. Trouble is, they want everyone to share in paying for improvements. That’s just wrong. That’s why transportation improvements should be structured so that those who benefit from them pay for them.

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31 responses to “Toll Talk”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar

    One problem with tolls is that they charge everyone as if they were the elite: there is no nexus between the need to be at work and the ability to pay.

    Tolls can’t do the job alone, and the idea that if users aren’t willing to pay a big enough toll that the project isn’t worthwhile is silly. There are other beneficiaries. I don’t use the schools, does that mean I shouldn’t pay for them?

    Fuel taxes can’t do the job alone, but at least they encourage everyone to drive less. And the guy driving an econobox will pay less than the guy luxuriating in his Lexus.

    Congestion charges can’t do the job alone, plus they have other side effects, some of which are probably yet unknown.

    Taxes on development can’t do the job alone, and shouldn’t. As you point out everyone who benefits should pay, and sending the bill to developers doesn’t do that.

    Privitization can’t do the job alone, and shouldn’t. It places all the risk on too small a segment of society in a way that may not be supportable, or may need some restructuring or more time to come to fruition, as with the Greenway (How’s that for a name?).

    Some money is going to have to come out of general taxes whether it is real estate or sales. The day’s when we could claim that every new road is always a public benefit are over: we are not Huey Long or Harry Truman.

    At the same time, we don’t know enough about who benefits to claim that any group should be excluded, or be allowed a veto on account of some claimed disbenefit.

    There is a reason we all pay for roads and that we use many funding sources to do so. What we need to do is focus on what road priorities are and will be needed. Then, rather than dither over which funding source is best, we should increase all of them enough to raise the funds needed.

    If we ever catch up with the backlog, then we can reduce the funding level. Maybe we can dither with the proportions of each, but we should just realize that there are risks involved and the best way to minimize the risk is to spread it around. And we should realize that there are benefits that are equally spread around. We may never be able to quantify them, but we can at least recognize thet VMT and gross state product do seem to be highly correlated, if not mutually causal.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think Jim’s point is CENTRAL.

    If a road is thought to be “needed” but it’s cost cannot be recovered from tolls – what exactly does that mean?

    If you “need” a tunnel in HR – but you can’t charge high enough tolls to completely pay for it – does that mean you charge no tolls at all – even to partially recover it’s cost?

    What’s the alternative? Raising taxes on everyone in Virginia to pay for whatever is asserted to be a “need” in HR?

    Do we follow that same approach in No VA?

    Roads are not schools either. Schools are paid for by local property taxes where folks see a direct connection between their taxes and what it is spent for AND the opportunity to remove folks that squander it.

    Advocating that we collect money from a variety of sources .. put it in a big pot .. and then have some bureaucrat (just as unelected and unaccountable as regional govts)… decide who gets the largess

    is.. in my mind.. the exact opposite of TOLLs which put the question each time to each person – “do I need to use this road – right now?”

    The argument that it’s either a full-paid TOLL road or it’s NOT and instead fully funded taxpayers road is an argument designed to confuse – in my view.

    Do we really believe that if a full TOLL can’t be charged that the only other alternative is to build the road with tax dollars?

    I do think that roads that CAN be paid for with TOLLs alone – clearly indicate a true “need”.
    The environmental folk and the smart growth folk won’t likely agree but this is where I find myself accepting market-forces as legitimate even if the outcome means more roads when those folks want less roads.

    It is, in fact, the middle ground, in my view.

    For roads that are said to not be feasible as TOLL roads – I’m from Missouri.

    Show me the numbers – preferably from a private entity.

    Take note also – out of more than a dozen new TOLL roads going forward across the nation – not a one except for the ones in Virginia require a subsidy.

    One does need to ask – WHY this is only the case in Virginia?

    Again – show me the money. VDOT needs to produce a document that clearly shows what they are asserting.

    Don’t hold your breath. This is classic VDOT – “IT’s TRUE because we say it’s true and we don’t have to explain why”

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I also want to point out something about the toll issue.

    The PPTA folks told VDOT that in order for US 460 to “work” that some tolling of I-64 would be necessary.
    Clearly – almost no one will use a TOLL 460 unless the “free” I-64 is gridlocked… does that say something?

    This is a DUH “moment”.

    But.. VDOT … insists that US 460 must stand alone as a TOLL road .. and .. oh oh… quess what – it’s a no go that way… HEY GEEZE .. isn’t that what the PPTA folks told them from the get go?

    question: why would VDOT ignore the PPTA folks.. and go through with a study that had a preordained conclusion?

    read on…

    re: I-95 .. with a prospective toll of $15.00 for 50 miles… and a VPD count of 80,000+ vehicles a day – many from out of state… VDOT states that tolls alone may not “work” because inflation has pushed the cost to more than one Billion dollars. Isn’t this like saying.. we all decided never to buy another new car because of inflation?

    What? Okay.. let’s forget that for a moment.. and look at numbers….

    50,000 toll-paying cars a day will generate over $250 million dollars annually so it will cost 5-10 years to pay for the road .. and the alternative is what? what are the viable options on the table right now?

    This is totally bizarre. The only explanation I can think of is that VDOT wants the public and the folks in the GA to think that tolls “won’t work either” .. and to encourage them to come up with more taxpayer money – so they can continue to operate their slush fund shell game.

    Folks … we are Charlie Brown and Lucy is.. guess who? .. and if we’re going to “buy” this.. then we deserve Lucy.

    Virginia is not for Lovers – it’s for CHUMPS.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    For folks who wonder about whether or not TOLL roads are practical or real..

    go to: Toll Road News where you soon discover.. that they are very real

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Nice try, Larry.

    If pay as you go or user pays is a valid argument, then it is just as valid for schools, or Metro, or open space, or anything else.

    If that is what you believe, then the best and fastest and most surefire way to do it is to privatize everything and subsidise nothing: a pure free market.

    If I’m a power plant and I can advertize mercury free power and try to sell it at higher cost to those who are willing to pay. It matters not what the venue is the result of user pays will be that some things don’t get done, whether they are needed or not.

    All I said was that we have a variety of road funding sources for a reason. I don’t think I suggested anywhere that a faceless bureaucrat should make the spending decisions absent feedback and accountability from the community. I’m in favor of coldhearted metrics to make those decsions.

    Your argument says nothing against why we need a variety of sources, and why those sources are each fair in their own way.

    Shucks, I’m going to die before global warming kicks in very much, why should I pay now for benefits I won’t be around to receive? That’s why we have government. It is to take the long view and to make decisions that don’t make sense from a strict business perspective.

    Apparently you are willing to support the idea that government can take the long view with respect to my property, and put it out of use forever. Even if that decision makes no sense from a business perspective. I can find plenty of users who would be willing to pay the toll to live here. And they are willing to pay far more than those who would use it for nothing.

    You want to make the user pays argument? Fine, but make it universal.

  6. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim’s point is CENTRAL!

    There is a way to lowe travel demand and the cost of travel: Fundamental Change in human settlement patterns.

    There is a nexus between the cost of travel and the need to get to work: The profit speculators and agents made in selling the dwelling in a location that requires long journeys to work.

    Only those who profit from, or hope to profit from, dysfunctional settlemetn patterns refuse to face reality. (See “Five Critical Realites that Shape the Future” at

    There is another even more important reality: Maintianing the standards and benefits of contemporary civilization takes time, money and natural capital to provide for safe, happy citizens. Make a few richer by taxing or tolling everyone for goods and services that only those at the top of the economic food chain can afford is unsustainable, PERIOD.


  7. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    EMR – If Tysons Corner is changed into a functional place, instead of a dysfunctional one, don’t most of the benefits flow to the existing landowners? Keep in mind that, under the new and higher target proffer in Fairfax County, each one of the high-priced condos will contribute less than $1000 for schools and very little for anything else. The rest of the costs, both in terms of diminished quality of life and higher taxes hits the ordinary resident of Fairfax County.

    Aren’t there alligators in both ponds?

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “privatize everything and subsidise nothing: a pure free market.”

    I would agree .. except for services to those who truly cannot care for themselves.
    They would include kids, severely handicapped, the sick, poor and elderly.

    The working poor on a sliding scale…

    Everyone else pay up and pay up according to how much you consume.

    The problem I have with the concept of “various funding sources” and a little subsidy here and a little subsidy there is that is does not stop there – it spreads .. and it, in effect, becomes an expected entitlement to even those who do not need it. It then becomes a way for folks to make themselves wealthier not by their own dent but by gaming the system.

    One need only look to Congress and the earmarks to see how this gets completely out of hand.

    You seem to want to EXPAND this concept … I’d like to see it END.

    In the end – EVERYONE is looking for a handout.. rather than being personally responsible for themselves.

    Everyone wants to pay minimal taxes but get maximum benefits. This describes roads to a “T”.

    TOLLs solve this problem. Everyone makes a simple economic calculation – the same exact calculation when we decide to buy a $1.50 coffee at WaWa or wait until we get home for a 25 cent cup of coffee.

    It IS our choice but what you seem to be advocating is that we all pay into a fund so that we all can have that 1.50 coffee from WaWas and that it is “unfair” to make people actually decide if that money is going to come out of their own pocket.

    re: cold-hearted metrics…. Ray sidestepped here… WHO does this?

    everyone claims they use “metrics”… it’s an easy claim… the issue is WHO makes the decisions
    and how are they accountable and to whom? In other words – WHO decides that the guy who claimed to use
    cold-hearted metrics … actually did so?

    The guy sitting at a desk in the ninth floor of VDOT headquarters is going to tell you all about “cold hearted metrics”.. that determined that NoVa would get a road .. and Farmville would not.. and then he’ll spend the rest of the afternoon “proving” it to you.

    Only when that guy in Farmville… can have a role in deciding if that guy at VDOT is accountable for his decisions will we have a system that is truly accountable to those who pay gas taxes – and this same concept extends to other taxes used for roads…. same deal.. across the board.

  9. E M Risse Avatar

    The last two posts are an excellent demonstration of not considering the full potential of Fundamental Change:


    Fundamental Change in human settlement pattern yields functional (that is BALANCED) components of settlement. That is a balace of J / H / S / R / A.

    There is plenty of vacant and underutilized land in the Beta Community of Greater Tysons (G T would probably include the villages of McLean, Vienna, Merrifield and Great Falls and new villages in the station areas around each of the Shared-Vehicle System (METRO)stations that is three or four in the 1,500 acres that is now thought of as Tysons.

    All of these villages needs to move toward a reletive balance of J / H / S / R / A to become Alpha Villages.

    At S/PI we argue that with Fundamental Change in goverance structure and a fair allocation of location-variable costs these entities would evolve without detrement to any REASONABLE expectations.

    Under the current pattern of settlement and the current structure of governace they will not evolve and we will continute to move toward entropy and choas.

    Larry: Functional Governance means a real democracy with the level of decision at the level of impact.

    Every citizen must have the opportunity to make well informed decisions of their best interest as an individual, a member of a family as the owner of an enterprise and a memeber of institutions. They are also a citizen of an organic set to governance structures from Alpha Cluster to New Urban Region to continental trading systems.

    When you enter a cluster-scale hamlet in Bavaria the welcome sign reads: Welcome to Houslingen, in B District (I do not have the time to get out a map of Bavaria), in C (New Urban) Region, in the State of Bavaria, in Deutschland, in European Union. The same is true in most places in the EU.

    Without governace structue there is choas. There are no private rights and no community responsibilities.

    Unless we keep our eyes on the possible we will founder in the system that brings us this years “mid-term” elections.


  10. Gold_h2o Avatar

    EM –

    I think I am starting to “get your drift”, but I want to make sure.

    In regards to your Bavaria comment, are you saying that we need smaller governments, i.e., does the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (or any other number of suburban governments) represent too many people to be able to manage effectively? What is the ideal number of people/land a government should manage?

    In regards to a proper balance of J / H / S / R / A, would a big push towards having people work form home go a long way towards balancing where you work (J) with all of the other variables? Is working from home something you advocate?

    Not trying to be critical…..just trying to get a better understanding of what you are saying.

  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I did the math with the 02 Yes! data for their tax scam on Hampton Roads. If you make a dollar (charge 2?) per car, most of the projects in Hampton Roads are paid off.

    The bridge-tunnel across the James River costs more than low tolls (dollar profit a car) can pay. But, that low amount pays about half the cost.

    A share of what we (Tidewater) pay into the Transportation Trust fund and General Fund would cover the rest.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar

    You guys can pick on me all you want, but at least I stir the pot.

    I’m willing to stir in both directions just to see what floats to the top.

    Here is the kind of thing I enjoy:

    “The problem I have with the concept of “various funding sources” and a little subsidy here and a little subsidy there is that is does not stop there – it spreads .. and it, in effect, becomes an expected entitlement to even those who do not need it. It then becomes a way for folks to make themselves wealthier not by their own dent but by gaming the system.”

    OK, you got me. But, isn’t gaming the system part of the system? Isn’t that what you meant when you say that conservationists have the legal right to screw landowners by virtue of greater numbers?

    (OK, that isn’t what you said, and I’m paraphrasing. I was too lazy to go back and get the exact quote.)

    I agree there is a problem with metrics: they are enormously subject to spin. But wasn’t it you who pointed out that when it came down to land use, that probably I would NOT be the one to pick the metrics? Why is road selection any different?

    I have offered a solution. Let the county planning board from some other county make the decision, and make sure it isn’t a neighboring county. Third party arbitration, with insight, you might say.

    Or, use the reverse auction method to eliminate NIMBY objections. As long as we are promoting Fundamental Change, why hold back?

    You still hold that tolls solve the problem, but you have not answered my objections. If you suggested that we toll ALL roads, that might be different, but I submit the overhead and bureacracy is too high a price to pay for marginal benefits.

    I haven’t suggested anywhere that we increase the nefarious subsidies that seem to pop up, only that we created them through the democratic process for a reason or reasons. I do think that the general level of each of the funding mechanisms needs to be increased. Otherwise we can never overcome what even you recognize as a backlog.

    I’m not even sure I agree they are subsidies, so much as they are payments for benefits we don’t ordinarily recognize.

    But to the extent that there are real subidies involved, I have no desire to see the concept expanded. Here you are putting words in my mouth.

    If EVERYONE is looking for a handout and everyone is donating alms, then what is the problem?

    From my position, I think that those that want to preserve open space are looking for a handout. If you think people should pay for what they get, I’d be first in line for the next handout. And, knowing what I know about the true costs and the true benefits, I wouldn’t be the least bit too proud to accept the handout, either.

    No, I am not advocating that we all pay into a fund so we can all afford $3.50 lattes. That is ridiculous. All I’m suggesting is that we pay, through various means, into various funds, that are used for a comon purpose, even if the various funds have different intents. Bacon suggests that true economic development roadwork funds come out of the general fund, and I don’t disagree.

    Surely we can at least adjust the fuels tax (not gas tax) so that it at least pays for maintenance.

    All I’m saying is that the expectatation that all new roads will be payed for only by user fees is cynical and unrealistic. Not to say inconsistent.

  13. Ray Hyde Avatar

    EMR has yet to demonstrate that any kind of fundamental change will reduce travel demand without wrecking the economy.

    He can wave his hands in the air and make vague accusations about those who wish to make a profit from the urban diaspora. But I suspect, and do not know, that the Emporer has no clothes. Apparently he has moved out from the center he so adores, twice. I seriously doubt he took a loss in the process.

    He has consitently ignored, denied, and villified every reference I have posted to suggest that maybe there is more than one answer and maybe his answer isnt the only one or the best one, but I’ll try one more time:

    “Testing the conventional wisdom about land use and traffic congestion: The more we sprawl, the less we move?

    Andrea Sarzynski A1, Harold L. Wolman A1, George Galster A2, Royce Hanson A1

    A1 George Washington Institute of Public Policy, George Washington University, 802 21st Street NW, Suite 602, Washington, DC, 20052, USA, 202 994 8913
    A2 College of Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 48202, USA, 313 577 8800


    The paper explores relationships between seven dimensions of land use in 1990 and subsequent levels of three traffic congestion outcomes in 2000 for a sample of 50 large US urban areas. Multiple regression models are developed to address several methodological concerns, including reverse causation and time-lags. Controlling for prior levels of congestion and changes in an urban area’s transport network and relevant demographics, it is found that: density/continuity is positively related to subsequent roadway ADT/lane and delay per capita; housing centrality is positively related to subsequent delay per capita; and housing–job proximity is inversely related to subsequent commute time. Only the last result corresponds to the conventional wisdom that more compact metropolitan land use patterns reduce traffic congestion. These results prove two points: that the choice of congestion measure may substantively affect the results; and that multivariate statistical analyses are necessary to control for potentially confounding influences, such as population growth and investment in the transport network.”

    Now, what is it I have been saying about Metrics? They are highly subject to spin. But when you get down to real metrics and not invented ones, things get considerabley more clear, and considerably more difficult.

    Science is about nuance, and ideology is about absolutes. I’ll take science every time.

  14. Ray Hyde Avatar

    TMT is right. There are alligators in both ponds.

  15. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “…we will continute to move toward entropy and choas.” [sic]

    At least here, EMR and I agree.

    Work is the other side of the equation from entropy and chaos.

    People are fundamentally lazy and cheap, unless the effort in question involves their own well being, hence the primacy of NIMBY.

    I’m pretty certain we will continue to move towards entropy and chaos. The laws of physics demand it, and the laws of sociology must necessarily follow the laws of physics.

    Entropy always increases, and it matters not whether we evolve different settlement patterns or not.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Functional Governance means a real democracy with the level of decision at the level of impact.”

    ditto TMT’s request for further clarification…

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “But, isn’t gaming the system part of the system? Isn’t that what you meant when you say that conservationists have the legal right to screw landowners by virtue of greater numbers?”

    no. I presume that ALL land/property owners have defined rights but those rights are not sacrosanct.

    I also distinquish between landowner “rights” and development “rights”.

    No one is entitled to further develop their property without regard to impacts your neighbors and to the community.

    That why just about everything you might comptemplate doing – requires “permission”.

    But I would also point out that “gaming the sysem” and “subsidies” encompass much more than land/property rights.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “If you suggested that we toll ALL roads, that might be different, …”

    What I have suggested is that we match as close as practical – direct costs with direct useage.

    TOLLs didn’t use to work except for “closed” segments where toll booths could be erected.

    That’s no longer true. Tolls can be assessed anywhere that a sensor can detect a transponder.

    If every car HAD to have a transponder – then we could TOLL all users everwhere.

    I’m not advocating that – yet – but I’m pointing out that it now can be done.

    re: “but I submit the overhead and bureacracy is too high a price to pay for marginal benefits.”

    Ray – you gotta be kidding… you’re talking about a system .. that operates like your credit card
    that I’m betting you use almost everytime you buy something… Yes.. there is overhead.. but compared
    to how business was done 20 years ago.. it’s remarkable minimal…

    and more importantly – are you saying that comparatively that private entity toll roads … in terms of efficiency/overhead/bureacracy are no better than the VDOT administered world of infrastructure?

    Have you ever thought about VDOT’s “overhead”. They have over 8000 permanent employees. Did you know that VDOT is the largest non-private single-entity employer in Virginia and that those folks are paid from the general fund and not from gas taxes?

    ARE .. is your point that TOLL roads are inherently more inefficient in both construction and operation than roads that are not TOLLed or is your point that VDOT-administered TOLL roads are inferior in this regard as compared to private-entity administered TOLL roads?

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re:If EVERYONE is looking for a handout and everyone is donating alms, then what is the problem?”


    Now I KNOW>. you are pulling my chain…. I hope….

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “I do think that the general level of each of the funding mechanisms needs to be increased. Otherwise we can never overcome what even you recognize as a backlog.”

    Tell me which funding sources (I though only gas tax)… how much … and then how long it will take to build the 100 billion backlog.

    It’s THAT KIND of information that need to be front and center BEFORE we ever talk about raising taxes.

    Without that info… the “talk” is basically “talk”..

    Where is this info? why should any of us sign up for higher taxes without it?

  21. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    If one assumes that, because of air quality issues, the ability of VDOT to build significant new road capacity in NoVA is limited, wouldn’t a statewide tax for transportation mean that NoVA taxpayers will pay even higher taxes to subsidize roads in RoVA? Meanwhile, things will get worse around here as development continues?

    What am I missing?

  22. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I hadn’t thought about it exactly that way, but it’s a good point. Nova traffic is expected to increase 33% between now and 2030, and capacity will increase by nowhere near that much. It is going to be a horror show.

    But NOVA and HR account for so much of the state economy, I don’t see how we can avoid subsidizing those other areas. Certainly there is so little cash out there that we can’t expect to see money coming in from downstate.

    But think of what would happen if those areas were divorced as far as road funding goes. Downstate would suddenly have to pay for their own roads and maintenance for a change, and I don’t think they would like the result.

    It is one thing to advocate user pays if you think that rich NOVA is going to have to build exceptionally expensive new roads, and it is quite another when you realize that it is downstate that has the most miles of road per person, and therefore the highest costs per person.

    But, like you say, air quality issues mean that new roads are probably not in the future for NOVA. So wew ill put 33% more cars on the existing roads and we will all spend 50% more time idling in traffic. That’s a good air quality plan.

  23. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I understand that NoVA will always likely subsidize RoVA in many areas, but why make it worse if air quality issues truly create an effective barrier to building new transportation facilities? If one finds oneself deep in a hole, why keep digging?

    If this is a real issue and not a smoke screen against any tax increases, it should be discussed before decisions are made. This is another reason why I am so critical of the MSM for putting ideology before good journalism. Also, where are our elected officials of both political parties? If the EPA won’t let us build our way out of the traffic mess, why raise taxes with the expectation that we will see relief? Alternatively, if some of them want to seek legislation to exempt the D.C. area from air quality rules, then be open about that too.

    As I’ve indicated on a number of posts, Virginia’s problems are more complicated than just revenue shortages.

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Good … no Excellent questions!

    But let’s get the facts FIRST with regard to whether NoVa/HR are actually NET donors of
    gas tax revenues.

    Also – let’s see the FACTS about exactly how the economies of NoVA/HR actually benefit the
    rest of the state.

    It would seem to be that if that were true – that NoVa would receive LESS in General Fund disbursements
    on a percentage basis than other jurisdictions.

    And TMT is correct as far as I know with regard to the air quality issue… EXCEPT that roads CAN
    be built that don’t INCREASE air pollution levels and that means roads that have HOV and Congestion Pricing
    so you CAN build more roads.

    This also means that if some existing roads are converted to HOV/Congestion Pricing that they could result in lower pollution levels that would allow optimization of chokepoints, etc.

    So.. the money COULD well be used .. but just not for plain old vanilla type new roads.

    But I’d still like to see actual data for whether NoVa is a net donor of gas and income taxes to the rest of Virginia.

    People talk like it’s a well known fact… I must be the only one who has never seen the numbers.. right? 🙂

  25. E M Risse Avatar

    TMT and Larry:

    In general you are right in your “is this what you mean” summaries.

    Understanding human settlement patterns and Fundamental Change in both settlement patterns and governance structure is not rocket science, it if far more complex.

    I just cannot rewrite our thinkng from scratch in every string. That is why I cite past columns. On evolving a functional governace structure see “The Shape of Richmond’s Future” which provides a quick sketch of the process and the probable results.

    Here is just one example from your questions: Fairfax County is far too big to effectively represent the citizens in the 9 Beta Communities in the current borders, much less the 50 +/- Beta villages to say nothing of the 200 +/- Beta neighborhoodes or the +/- 1000 clusters.

    Fairfax is far too small to represent the interests of the citizens of the Virginia portion of the National Capital Subregion.

    That is why most of the things TMT says about Fairfax are correct. The solution is not to beat on the current system or the governance prarctitioners within it. It is not their fault, they are trapped in the residue of an 18th centruy governace structure that did not work well in 1790 but the citizens were more self-sufficient or were not yet citizens so it seemed to work ok.

    Fundamental Change is Fundamental Change.

    Those who make money or hope to make money from the present system resist change.

    Sorry that is all I have time for at this point.


  26. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Why not just collect the toll at the gas pump? The gas pump already knows how far you have driven and how much weight you carried.

    Why put GPS on every car and keep track of where it is every minute and then back calculate for mileage? If that isn’t the plan, then you have to put up a bunch of tolling stations all over the place and put in a secure communication system to collect all the tolling data, and another system to actually collect the money and deduct the calculated tolls.

    Then, how do you collect from out of state drivers who have no card or transponder? Stop them at the border to have them installed?

    The whole idea is as dumb as toast, and like TMT says, it is going to take a dictator to install.

    All I’m saying is that we have a bunch of different funding mechanisms for roads because we have a bunch of constituencies who enjoy different benefits. We elected the people who made it this way, which is your argument concerning land use.

    With land use you think it is OK if some faceless bureaucrat makes arbitrary and capricious decisions with no real metrics for back up, but with roads you think a similar system is wrong.

    You agree we have a backlog, but you would rather wait til later when it will be more expensive and take longer to catch up – in order to save money.

    You say everyone is looking for a handout, but you don’t think everyone should pay for the handouts they get. Apparently you think the distribution of handouts and payments is unfair. Yet you don’t see anything wrong with land use allocations being unfair.

    You think no one is entitled to further develop their property without regard to impacts your neighbors and to the community. I agree, and I also think no one is entitled to further restrict their neighbors property without regard for the impact to neighbors and the community. You have to have some balance as to what your neighbor may cost you, someday, and what you are costing him today.

    You think that drivers should pay for what they use, and so do I. I also think that those who want open space should pay for it.

    I think your arguments are, cynical, inconsistent and uneconomic. I don’t think we can make sustainable environmental or social progress that way.

    I agree that VDOT is out of control, but at least we own VDOT. To the extent that we turn roads and maintenance over to private enterprise, we may find out that we have even less control. Now you are going to pay for VDOT inefficiency in managing them, VDOT and PE overhead, VDOT and PE bureaucracy, you are going to pay for endless competitions and negotiations, and probably lawsuits, and you are going to add profit on top of that.

    Roadworks costs what it costs. I don’t see the equivalent of the transistor in the future of roadwork, I see incremental improvements here and there.

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s the mindset folks:

    “The tools currently available-local road bonds, new toll lanes and public-private partnerships-are inadequate and inefficient options when transportation needs are examined in their full context.

    The General Assembly this year declined to raise taxes or significantly reallocate existing funds for transportation. That left Loudoun voters with the question of raising taxes on themselves and reallocating limited borrowing capacity from schools to roads.”

    From Leesburg Today –

    So … my question is… if it’s not fair for Loudun voters to have their taxes raised for their own roads .. are they thinking that someone if the GA raises taxes at the State Level – that Loudoun would receive any large allocations of money than they’d get from their own citizens?

    Clearly – there is an expectation that MORE money would be forthcoming in the GA raised taxes than if Loudoun
    raised taxes.

    How can this be? Where would the extra money raised at the state level come from – other jurisdictions?

    I see this as the same tortured logic… being espoused by many folks… that somehow.. taxes raised at the state level will provide MORE local money than if taxes were raised locally…

    Hmmm… I must have flunked the part of Econ 101 where they went over this…

  28. Ray Hyde Avatar

    EMR seems to think there is something wrong with making money. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

    I’m also not opposed to change. All I’m saying is that if you really want to promote change, then show people how they will profit from it, both collectively and individually.

    Profit is what is missing in the environmental movement, and the sooner we figure out how to include it, and the more of it, the better we will do. See my comments on the Icelandic whaling and whale watching industries.

    Sometimes I wonder if my dog sees the world the same way humans do. Certainly he has different priorities in life, but when he goes up the stairs he does it just as I do, one foot at a time. I conclude the stairs are just as real to him as they are to me, and therefore they are real.

    When I look around, I can’t see any evidence anywhere that more density beyond some undefined point ever solved any problems. That is my reality. When EMR has some evidence for his ideas that is measurable and repeatable, then I’ll take notice. If he can show me the route to profit as well, so much the better.

    What I know about organizational behavior says that the more layers there are, the more resistant to change the organization becomes. Adding more layers of government can only come with more layers of taxes, and it will ultimately result in less change, not more.

    If what you really want is an eternal strategic stalemate, and not fundamental change, then by all means, lets add four or ficve more layers of bureaucracy.

  29. Ray Hyde Avatar

    What state funding provides is leverage. The state can afford to focus money on hot spots like Loudoun county. More than Loudoun can ever expect to raise on its own. But thee state can’t focus it all everywhere evenly all at the same time.

    The state pays unemployment compensation to those that are out of work, but it can’t pay everyone to be out of work. We put up with it because someday we may be the one out of work. Someday our county roads may be in the VDOT spotlight.

    It is the same with the Korean business funds. Everybody pays into the fund ans ome lucky guy gets the money to start his business. He can then pay more into the fund and the next lucky guy gets his business a little sooner.

    We have a lottery to support schools, why not one to support roads. What we are complaning about as unfair funding and spending priorities might only be unfair looked at from the short term. If we all play the lottery long enough, everyone will win (theoretically, eventually).

    But even the lottery system has overhead. If we don’t put enough in then the overhead eats it all and nobody wins. I think it is the same with road funding.

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I hadn’t considered the lottery angle.

    How about electroninc tolls… and everyday… the electronic signs will announce a “winner” – who would get free tolls for a year … or a brand new SUV or a McMansion in Facquier?

    The electronic signs would keep showing the ever rising pot of money…
    until there was a winner.

    Heck.. people would be turning right around at the exits and re-entering the toll road for another crack at winning.

    We’d have folks driving at 3am…
    “driving to win”…. 🙂

    And at the end of the day.. VDOT would have POTs of money for new roads.

    I hate to be cynical.. but I actually think this idea would work.


  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    FYI – for GAG (giggles and grins)

    “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who championed the Indiana Toll Road sale, has been
    sharply critical of the state agency that had operated the highway. Once, he says, he asked
    how much it cost to collect a 15-cent toll. “This being government, nobody knew, and
    they finally came back to me and said it was 34 cents. My response was that we’d be
    better off on the honor system,” says Daniels, a Republican who was a federal budget
    chief in the Bush administration”,+BETTER+KNOWN+for+political+patronage%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

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