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Re: Officials Fear Freeway Crisis

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  • Mike Neuman
    It seems all governmental and transpiration planning officials ever want to do with our public highway funds is widen freeways, add and expand interchanges,
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 17, 2003
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      It seems all governmental and transpiration planning officials ever
      want to do with our public highway funds is widen freeways, add and
      expand interchanges, and construct more and more highways on new
      alignment. What they really need to do is to find ways to encourage
      the driving public to DRIVE LESS (miles), whether that driving is
      done to get to work, to get home, to do errands, or to visit some
      other place.

      Presently, counties and cities (assisted with state and federal
      dollars) act as if they have no other choice than to accommodate the
      needs of single occupancy vehicle (SOV) drivers, regardless of how
      far they may drive on a routine basis. There is very little
      incentive for people to reduce their driving mileage over the year --
      gas prices are reasonably low, the highways and freeways are
      generally accessible, driving in a personal vehicle is much more
      comfortable, private and usually more convenient than alternative
      forms of transportation.

      The closing quote by the transportation official in "Officials Fear
      Freeway Crisis" -- "One wicked problem of transportation planning,"
      [he said] "is that as congestion gets worse, the incentive might be
      higher to live closer to work", hints at a possible solution to the
      problem, and one that does not involve massive freeway capacity

      But allowing the continued and perhaps even increasing over-
      congestion of a traffic route, as a disincentive to get less people
      driving that route, is not community-minded solution.

      I believe finding the right solution lies in finding the right set of
      perks, positive financial incentives and accommodations that will
      encourage the majority of present SOV drivers to want to car pool
      more, take transit more, work at home more, or live much closer to
      where they work, study or recreate on a regular basis, thus reducing
      the SOV congestion on the freeways, so that the existing freeways
      become or remain less congested for those individuals who have no
      choice but to continue driving, alone or otherwise, or who prefer to
      do that regardless of any enticement offered by the government to
      drive less.

      My hunch is that what this would take would be for the state (or
      locality) to offer what would amount to as an annual "rebate" that
      would come out of the transportation fund, and be rebated to those
      individuals and/or families who demonstrate (via their vehicle
      odometer readings) that they did not drive more than, say, 10,000
      total miles on their vehicles during the preceding year. (The rebate
      amount would be determined by the number of individuals in the
      family. For larger sized families, the threshold level for earning
      the rebate would be higher, with the amount dependent on family size
      as well as the number of drivers in the family.)

      Where would the money in the transportation fund come from? Well,
      for starters, communities (or the state) would not need to build all
      those extra lanes of freeways and interchanges, so theoretically
      speaking, the money that was saved by the community not having to
      build additional capacity expansion into the highway system could be
      used to fund the reduced driving rebates. When the existing
      transportation fund money runs out, the authorities might consider
      raising fuel taxes to fund the rebates. (After all, this money is
      actually not an additional tax, as it is being returned, in total to
      the public that uses less of the existing subsidies given to highways
      and automobile driving.)

      Adding to the fuel tax would provide additional incentive for people
      to only solo drive when absolutely necessary, and consider
      alternatives or moving closer to their normal destinations.
      Individuals and families who choose not to drive at all over a years
      time would be eligible to receive the maximum rebate amount, provided
      they registered for the program (could determine from checking name
      with records to make sure they did not have a vehicle registered to
      them over the year).

      People/families registering for the reduced driving rebate program
      could begin the operating year on any day of their choosing; a
      nominal application fee be assessed to help cover the cost of
      administering the program.

      No exceptions would be given for travel outside the jurisdiction of
      the community (or state). People who choose to do that on a regular
      basis would likely drive too many miles over the year and thus the
      program would not be for them.

      Others who choose to continue with doing long personal SOV commutes
      on a regular basis would similarly not likely earn a rebates, but
      they would benefit at least by not having so much congestion on the
      highways and freeways because fewer other vehicles would be sharing
      the road. Long time commuters might possibly object to large
      increases in the gas tax (charged at the pump), as they would be
      paying more money for fueling roughly the same amount of travel as
      they did before. However, if there were a large number of people
      favorable to the idea (this would depend on the size of the rebate
      somewhat), then the chances of winning a majority of the public's
      support for the rebate alternative would be improved.

      Michael Neuman

      --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, Richard Risemberg
      <rickrise@e...> wrote:
      > <http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-
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