Updates: Deadly Road Diet? Rider T1 Case

The Powerful Law of Unintended Consequences

A raging forest fire is hard to imagine in Northside Richmond, but there could be other emergencies where the city and its residents would come to regret the loss of vehicle travel lanes on Brook Road. A recent deadly fire in California we all watched on television may be giving us a warning.

Apparently, evacuations from the lightning-quick brush fire around Paradise, California, were complicated by a 2014 decision there to impose a “road diet” on a four-lane road that became the escape route.  The push for “road diets” is also behind the argument for creating new bike lanes in both directions of several miles of Brook Road, a topic of earlier Bacon’s Rebellion posts and furious local debate.

A description of the bottleneck created by the highway adjustments in Paradise, and its impact on the fire evacuation, was published on wattsupwiththat.com, an interesting blog I only found because it linked to one of my posts on Dominion Energy.

The bottom line problem is that people just like building in dangerous places in California, including fire-prone areas.   When I lived in Southern California in the 60’s there were regular local stories about houses sliding into the ocean or homes destroyed by brush fires, only to be quickly rebuilt.  The population has grown, development has pushed further into countryside and mountains, and now there are regular national stories.

Bottlenecks have already developed on Franklin Street because of its seldom-used bike lane.  Just about any activity (parked or parking delivery trucks, leaf removal) in the one remaining travel lane causes a backup.  Similar bottlenecks will happen if the Brook Road project proceeds.  In both cases there are parallel streets that were not available to evacuees in the High Sierra, but it still calls into question whether safety ever trumps ideology with some people.

Next Step, Supreme Court of Virginia?

The State Corporation Commission issued an opinion Friday reaffirming its earlier decision that Dominion Energy Virginia must include payments it receives from the PJM regional transmission authority along with the payments it makes to PJM in the separate Rider T1 it puts on all our bills.

Following the commission’s August decision the utility filed for reconsideration.  The next step, should it decide to take it, is to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The amount of money in dispute is minor, so the precedent must be the point.  Dominion Energy is seeking to book the payments it is getting back from PJM into base rates, which increases the amount customers must pay in Rider T1 (for transmission) and increases the profit the company earns (and keeps) in base rates – base rates that seemingly will never be adjusted downward again and profits which may never be shared as rate credits again.

“Put simply, Dominion seeks to charge customers dollar-for-dollar for these transmission costs through Rider Tl but opposes crediting customers in the same manner for transmission revenues received for the exact same service,” the order reads.

Since 2007, more and more of the company’s operations are being paid for with stand-alone rate adjustment clauses outside of base rates.  New renewable generation may be funded that way, and the coming rebuild of the distribution grid might be as well.  If there are to be silos keeping all the costs in one place, the same silos should hold any and all related revenues to offset those costs.

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9 responses to “Updates: Deadly Road Diet? Rider T1 Case

  1. Safety IS the reason why those who support the bike lane do so. As someone who’s moving into Bellevue, I want my wife, kids, and myself to be able to have clear routes to ride our bikes to places we want to go (Veritas, Brookland Corridor, LGRA, downtown bike trails) without worrying about being run down by cars screaming by at 40+ MPH.

    Bottom line, that’s a REAL mobility and safety concern. I can’t say I feel the same about our forest fire evacuation plan.

  2. If you want to starve then kill your city by strangulation, leaving its remnants for the very rich and very poor, and nobody else, here is the surefire way to wreak that harm in your city:

    1/ slow it down then tie it up with bike lanes skinnying down roads,
    2/ Strip parking spaces out of your city, leaving it high and dry, isolated,
    3/ Erect dynamic tolls that punish people, and drain their wealth, for visiting your city.

    Those three kill life in a city, like toxic Roundup kills a garden.

  3. I’m with Wonder Bread. We have tilted the scales to auto-centric and the idiots who do not care about those on foot and bike are legion.

    I want to see a world where folks who want to walk and bike – can do so -safely.

    That’s what makes a place that people want to live and work.

    And I’m all for the tolls … if we don’t do tolls – we’re going to get gridlock. At some point – people have to decide where they’re going to live and how far they’re going to commute and whether they carpool or ride HOV.

    the disaster that has damaged our cities is SOV commuting. There is no end to it.. and people who do it could care less what happens to others who are damaged by it.

  4. Would you lift the tolls in a fire emergency, or double them under the theory of congestion pricing? 🙂

  5. The tolls would not be in force in any emergency – obviously. The purpose of the tolls is to manage congestion – not impose dangers in emergencies.

    and yes.. people are going to drive in emergencies to escape but that’s not at all the same as day-to-day home-to-work commutes – solo.

    we simply do not have and cannot afford infrastructure sufficient to serve solo commuting at rush hour.

    When you look at a place like NoVa – and the congestion two things are true:

    1. – it’s not unique – it’s common in virtually all urban centers
    2. – if you add capacity – more people will drive more…

    congestion does have a “cost” but apparently sitting in traffic does not impact people the same way as having to fork over money. It’s an interesting thing that basically says people are willing to waste time but not money.

    People are idiots. I’m sorry but we’re like herds of critters when it comes to cars and traffic and we need critter-type controls… because people apparently once in their cars – turn into critters.

  6. I have to say, I’m ambivalent on this issue. I agree with Larry that the only affordable solution to congestion is encouraging more alternatives to single-occupancy-vehicle driving. In theory, bicycle lanes are one of those alternatives. Trouble is, I hardly see any bicyclists in Richmond. A few, but not many. I favor giving these bicycle lanes some time to see if more people begin using them. But if they don’t, let’s switch them back to automobile use. How many years should we give them? More than one, but less than ten.

  7. Jim says, “I have to say, I’m ambivalent on this issue.”

    My friends, that is pure B/S. Don’t believe it. Jim, like the Belgians, has a fatal weakness for the bicycle. I suspect he is also into chocolates, obsessively.

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