On Sat, 3 Jan 2004 12:34:23 -0600 "Chris Loyd" <tybalt@...
> It's not necessarily people that you will have to sell this on --
> people who actually vote. [snip]
That's true. But how do you get it too the voters to vote on if you
don't have support from the politicians?
I'd like to continue pushing for this plan in Wisconsin but I'm not sure
how to go about that anymore. I will explain below. But I would also
like to see others states (or metro areas) create similar such incentive
program (to reduce annual driving miles), because for every gallon of
fuel burned in driving, another 22 pounds of the greenhouse gas carbon
dioxide gets added to the already increasing volumes of greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere. CO2 remains for up to 120 years in the atmosphere
before it get sequestered back into the earth. While in the atmosphere,
it contributes to a warmer atmosphere. [Each CO2 molecule absorbs an
additional amount of radiated heat emanating off the earth's surface
after sunlight strikes the earth, thus adding to the ability of the
atmosphere to trap (slow the release of) heat near the earth's surface.
I proposed the Conservation Incentives plan as a Wisconsin DNR
(department of natural resources) alternative plan to the Wisconsin
Department of Transportation proposed $24 billion 20-year highway
construction plan alternative. The transportation agency administrators
were caught totally off guard by the proposal the after the Milwaukee
Journal/Sentinel newspaper published the proposal as "the DNR's
alternative plan (which it was then) to DOT's huge highway development
plan for the state. But after the real people in power in the state at
the time (the governor, the governor's cabinet of state agency heads, and
the road building and real estate industries), then the crap really hit
the fan. The Secretary of my agency (cabinet position) got cold feet
(maybe more than that), and he shifted his position on the drive-less
plan 180 degrees almost overnight. They blamed me in their responses to
the media and accused me of sidestepping my agency's authority (not true,
but I was order not to speak to the media and refer all calls to the
secretary's gopher at the time). I personally ended up being reassigned
by my agency to work only on duties that do not in anyway relate to
reviewing or coordinating transportation project plans. Enough history.
Presently, I believe the eruption of the crisis over global warming will
soon develop, and as a result, the setting for attempting to advance this
idea is better now than before. In addition, there exists excessive
automobile congestions in many metropolitan areas of Wisconsin and other
states in the country which will also work to the advantage of people
accepting this form of "transportation demand management" (congestion
reduction). Even in 2000, many people I talked to on a personal level
(voters) told me they thought the idea of encouraging people to drive
significantly less (or not at) by offering them more than just token
amounts (or bus tickets) made sense, especially considering the millions
and even billions of dollars it takes to build new and wider freeways to
accommodate more motor vehicle travel, oftentimes at considerable
environmental and socio/economic expense, and certainly detriments to air
quality, human health and quality of life in the cities and outlying
areas transected by the more heavily travelled freeways.
So what I'm saying is that Government may soon be pushing much harder for
people to drive less (and hopefully fly less, too), as a one of two ways
to reduce transportation caused greenhouse gas emissions from the
population. (The other way is by requiring automobile companies to
produce more fuel efficient automobiles.). Offering positive
conservation (financial) incentives as motivation for people to car pool
more, take transit, walk, bicycle, etc., might make some people think
twice before hopping in the SUV and driving solo somewhere everyday.
I am probably starting to repeat myself from other posts, so I will close
my response by referencing some links news media articles which were
published in 1999 - 2000, beginning with the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel's
initial front page story of "the DNR plan" which pays people to drive
less, as an alternative to funding the state's massive state highway plan
for the year 2020.
One note of caution - in reading the Milwaukee J/S's story, I noticed
they chose to call attention to the figure of $2,800 for people who agree
to reduce their driving completely (rather than just cutting back some on
their total vehicle driving miles per year). I suppose they did this
because it sounded more newsworthy to say people would earn the larger
amount. What they did not report was that it was estimated that the
typical Wisconsin household subscribed to the program would receive
around $400 - $800, for reducing their annual driving mileage to more
"community sustainable" levels of driving. In doing so, they probably
added to the controversy surrounding the proposal.
DNR Comments on Highway Plan (May - November 1999); proposal starts page
10 of DNR comments
First complete draft of proposal (January 2000):
Article for Wisconsin Bicyclists newsletter (April 2000):
Submittal to President Clinton, Congressional Reps., Local Officials (May
(Full text of articles provided last)
Conserve, Now! Proposal (Written in November 2000)
DNR plan would pay people not to drive
Gas-tax rebates of up to $2,800 could limit road expansions, it says
By Larry Sandler
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Nov. 29, 1999
Instead of building more highways, Wisconsin could pay people to drive
less, a state Department of Natural Resources official said Monday.
The DNR has asked the state Department of Transportation to consider
sending gas tax rebate checks of up to $2,800 a year to residents who
voluntarily limit their driving.
That could help reduce the environmental damage from highway expansion,
said Michael Neuman, a DNR specialist on transportation and the
"I think it's the only answer to solving this nightmare of highway
congestion we have in this country," Neuman said.
But key legislators of both parties and a DOT official immediately voiced
skepticism about the concept, which apparently would be the first of its
kind in the nation. They said the rebate plan would cost too much and
wouldn't make a difference in how much people drive.
"The DNR hasn't considered any of the downsides of doing it," said Ernie
Wittwer, DOT investment management administrator. "They just tossed
another idea out at the 12th hour."
Neuman said the rebates could cost as much as $800 million a year but
would be balanced by an equal cut in highway spending. If people didn't
reduce their driving, the state wouldn't pay that much, he said.
The rebate idea is part of a broader assault on the $20 billion
long-range highway plan. Over the next 20 years, the plan calls for
adding 2,800 miles of highway lanes and 34 bypasses, using 25,000 acres.
DNR Secretary George Meyer has said that this much highway expansion
could threaten air, water, land and wildlife.
At the same time, a coalition of local governments, environmentalists and
transit activists declared Monday that the highway plan should be
rewritten to consider alternatives to highway expansion, and to place a
higher priority on maintaining state and local roads instead of building
The DOT has touted its highway plan as a balanced proposal that assumes
train and bus service would be increased. But critics said that rail
lines, bus systems and local streets would suffer, because the highway
expansion would cost $4.2 billion more than gas taxes and license fees
can cover at current rates.
Neuman suggested the rebate concept in his critique of the DOT plan.
According to the DNR comments, still in draft form, the DOT should study
such rebates and other incentives, among them higher parking fees, to
persuade people to drive less and to reduce the need for more highways.
Drivers who want the rebates would agree to bring their cars to a
Division of Motor Vehicles office once a year and let state employees
check their odometers. They would pay a $30-a-year fee to cover the cost
of administering the program.
Checks would be based on the vehicle miles traveled and the number of
drivers, other people and cars in each household. For example, a family
of two drivers and three children could earn a $1,200 rebate by driving
less than 10,000 miles a year.
Households without cars could qualify for the maximum $2,800 rebate by
filling out a form and paying a $10 fee.
Andrea Broaddus, campaign director of the New Transportation Alliance,
praised the rebate as a "really innovative" idea that would pump more
money into the consumer economy instead of into costly highways.
But Rep. David Brandemuehl (R-Fennimore), chairman of the Assembly
Highways and Transportation Committee, said people wouldn't turn from
driving to public transit as long as gas is "relatively cheap."
Brandemuehl said the state must continue to support highways until it can
build a far more extensive network of passenger and freight rail lines.
Residents wouldn't stand for letting highways deteriorate, he said.
Even Sen. Brian Burke (D-Milwaukee), a critic of the highway plan, called
the rebates "an idea whose time hasn't come."
Burke, co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee in the Legislature,
said, "We have to focus on smart growth and better transportation
planning and more travel options and voluntary measures before throwing
money at a proposal such as this."
Still, Meyer said Monday that he is negotiating directly with
Transportation Secretary Charles Thompson and his top deputy to bring
more environmental sensitivity to the highway plan.
In a letter to Thompson earlier this year, Meyer said he was particularly
concerned that the plan "accepts increased vehicular travel as a given
and accommodates it through increased highway capacity."
Meyer said the DOT hasn't addressed his concerns. Wittwer disagreed,
saying the DOT has thoroughly considered the environmental impact of its
And although the DOT hasn't studied the rebate idea, it did ask the
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to examine 15 or 20
other ways to encourage people to drive less, Wittwer said.
None of those ideas would have significantly reduced driving, the study
found. Nor has driving been reduced because of rising gas prices or
higher vehicle registration fees in other states, Wittwer said.
Public hearings on the state highway plan are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to
8 p.m. Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County in Wausau
and from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Dane County Expo Center in Madison.
Written comments may be sent to the state Department of Transportation
until Dec. 17.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Nov. 30, 1999.
"Rebate Idea Not A Joke"
Capital Times :: Editorial :: 10A
Tuesday, December 7, 1999
``We are realistic at the Department of Natural Resources,'' announced
DNR Secretary George Meyer in a letter dismissing an idea by an agency
employee that Wisconsin could pay people to drive less instead of
building more highways. A DNR transportation specialist -- assigned to
critique the Department of Transportation's long-range highway plan and
come up with alternatives -- floated just such an alternative when he
suggested offering people gas tax rebates for voluntarily limiting their
driving. When the DOT weighed in, however, Meyer caved in, saying ``the
idea is, at the very least, controversial, but was offered as a trial
balloon to help spark public consideration for a wide variety of ideas.''
No, George, it wasn't controversial -- it was creative. That's the kind
of thinking that should be encouraged, the kind of thinking Wisconsin's
citizens need if we are ever to curtail the DOT's penchant for paving
over the state.
The DOT's 20-year plan calls for building 2,800 miles of highway lanes
and 35 new highway bypasses, which will eat up 25,000 acres. DOT gets to
decide which transportation alternatives it will study and it has already
nixed the rebate idea.
Meyer says DOT's plan will result in a transportation system that ``in
two decades substantially increases congestion . . . continues to
facilitate poor land use and harms Wisconsin's environment, economy and
quality of life in numerous, irreparable ways.'' But he must stand up for
his own department's ``trial balloons'' if we are to believe his concern
is genuine and that his department's alternatives will actually challenge
the DOT's road-building mentality.
The DOT will hold a public hearing on its highway plan in Madison
Wednesday -- tomorrow -- where citizens can see if they have any ideas
that don't use concrete.
Author Defends Offering Rebate For Not Driving
Others `floor It' To Get Away From Proposal
Capital Times :: Public Works :: 1C
Monday, December 20, 1999
By David Callender The Capital Times
Mike Neuman says he wasn't surprised by the uproar he provoked when he
suggested to a group of local officials last month that the state pay car
owners up to $2,800 a year not to drive.
But the Department of Natural Resources analyst says he was dismayed when
Secretary George Meyer publicly dumped the proposal in less than a day,
even before it received a fair hearing.
``It made me sick,'' he said in an interview. ``I felt personally
embarrassed and embarrassed for the department. I'm a 25-year employee,
and this is the kind of work I do.''
Although the DNR secretary has now disowned it, and the state Department
of Transportation said it would not even consider studying it, Neuman's
proposal remains at the center of a debate over the direction of the
state's long-term transportation plan.
Environmental groups and some local government officials have hailed it
for recognizing that building new roads and widening old ones carries
costs beyond just construction and concrete, without necessarily easing
Meanwhile critics -- road builders and their supporters in the
Legislature as well as Meyer -- have rejected Neuman's proposal as
unreasonable and unrealistic.
The debate over the proposal hasn't fazed Neuman, a soft-spoken
self-described environmentalist who regularly bikes to work from his home
on Madison's west side. He says he intended to provoke people into
talking about the state's future.
But he says he has been stung by how readily his own agency dropped the
proposal at the first sign of opposition -- and, more importantly, how
willing it was to shut down discussion about the long-term consequences
of what he views as Wisconsin's current road-building mania.
Driving need: Neuman says he hit on the idea of rewarding citizens for
not driving several years ago.
He says his inspiration came during a 25th anniversary celebration of the
Institute for Environmental Studies at the UW-Madison, where he received
master's degrees in water resources management and agricultural
The premise of his proposal is simple.
``Basically, the less you drive, the greater the (financial) incentive,''
he says. Participation in the rebate program would be voluntary, and
payments would range from $400 to $2,800 depending on the number of miles
driven. The money would be a rebate from the Transportation Fund, which
is supported by the state gas tax.
The rebate would cost $826 million a year and would last for 10 years,
for a total cost of roughly $8.3 billion.
The Department of Transportation would register participants, who would
pay a small fee, about $30 annually, to get the rebate.
Those who don't own cars would also be eligible for the rebates, but
households whose members drive more than 15,000 miles a year would not.
Neuman says the DOT's 20-year highway plan demonstrates the urgent need
for more alternatives to driving.
In the past three decades, the number of vehicle miles traveled by
Wisconsin drivers has more than doubled, from 25 billion in 1970 to 56
billion in 1998. The DOT plan predicts state drivers will travel at least
62 billion miles by 2020.
The DOT's road-building plan calls for adding 2,800 new miles of highway
lanes and 25,000 additional acres of highway infrastructure at a cost of
The environmental costs will be greater, Neuman says.
Wildlife habitats, wetlands and agricultural land will all be lost, while
tons of pollutants will be released into the air.
What's more, the road-building will trigger new development in the
countryside that will consume ``at least 10 times'' as much additional
land as that used by the roads. Residents will move further into the
countryside because new roads will take them to their jobs and other
Neuman contends those costs far outstrip the $826 million annual price of
his rebate proposal. And he argues that if the rebates remain in place
for 10 years, drivers will have changed their habits enough that the
additional roads won't be needed.
Hostile reception: Neuman says the DOT's and lawmakers' response to his
proposal -- and even the speed with which top DNR officials distanced
themselves from it -- wasn't a complete surprise.
``Most people, when they hear this, they just casually dismiss it because
it appears a little too radical and unrealistic,'' he says.
But he says it often takes a long time for people to change their
thinking, so it could be years before people recognize how the proposal
could improve their lives.
For example, if the plan were to take effect, in 30 years Dane County
would look pretty much as it does now, with farms, wetlands, and open
Neuman adds that even those who don't participate in the rebate program
may benefit from it.
``They'll have less congestion on the roads they drive. They'll have
lower gas taxes because less highways will be needed. They'll have
cleaner air to breathe, and there won't be so many people moving out of
the cities to where it's no longer the countryside,'' he says.
Boss Had Signed On To `unrealistic' Idea
Capital Times :: Public Worker :: 1C
Monday, December 20, 1999
By David Callender The Capital Times
Department of Natural Resources analyst Mike Neuman says officials in his
agency haven't told the whole story about their support for his
controversial rebate proposal.
The day after news stories about Neuman's comments to a coalition of
local government officials appeared, DNR Secretary George Meyer called
the rebate ``a trial balloon to help spark public consideration of a wide
variety of ideas'' to help reduce the need for more new roads.
``The DNR is realistic,'' he said.
But according to DNR records, Meyer himself launched the rebate ``trial
balloon'' along with two other alternatives in a letter last May to DOT
Secretary Charles Thompson.
The other options called for giving employers cash incentives to
encourage their employees to quit driving to work by increasing parking
fees and for creating ``restricted auto use zones'' in some cities, such
as the State Street Mall in Madison.
But Meyer's May letter gave the most attention to the rebate proposal --
which was essentially the same ``plan'' that got Neuman into trouble when
he presented it to the Fair Share Coalition on Nov. 29.
Meyer said this week that he objected to Neuman making the rebate
proposal public because it ``was not fully developed and did not receive
the endorsement of the administration of this agency.
``I personally would not take out such a plan without taking it to the
Natural Resources Board. This was not a minor proposal. This was an $800
million, taxpayer-supported proposal.''
Meyer also said there were ``significant differences'' between the May
and November versions of the rebate proposal, but he could not identify
what they were.
Both Neuman and Meyer acknowledge that the rebate proposal reflects an
ongoing fear within the DNR that continuing road construction and
ever-increasing traffic flows threaten Wisconsin's environment.
And they both say the DNR is becoming increasingly frustrated by the
DOT's unwillingness to consider more alternatives to driving.
In his May letter to Thompson, Meyer said the DOT's 20-year
transportation plan ``accepts vehicular travel as a given and
accommodates it through increasing highway capacity.''
``The result, I fear, will be a transportation system that in two decades
substantially increases congestion on our secondary and local road
systems, continues to facilitate poor land use, and harms Wisconsin's
environment, economy, and quality of life in numerous, irreparable
ways,'' he wrote.
The DNR, which reviews DOT plans as part of the environmental impact
study process, has consistently recommended that the state's extensive
highway-building plans should include some mechanism to cut down on
driving, which would reduce the need for new roads in the future.
The DNR began to voice those concerns five years ago in response to the
DOT's ``TransLinks 21'' long-term transportation plan.
Neuman, as a DNR transportation and environmental liaison, authored
several DNR reviews that recommended the DOT develop more alternatives to
new road construction.
The DOT repeatedly ignored those recommendations, ``and they got away
with it one too many times,'' he says.
That's why the DNR's review of the new highway plan recommended that the
DOT study the rebate proposal and two other alternatives to driving.
And to underscore the DNR's commitment to getting the DOT to consider the
alternatives, Neuman and Meyer filed a formal statement, dated Nov. 8,
reminding the DOT that they had proposed three alternatives in their
``We see no indication that this has been done,'' the two DNR officials
Meyer and Neuman then warned that if the DOT did not address the DNR's
environmental objections to the highway plan, ``they should be elevated
to Cabinet-level discussions.''
Controversial Dnr Analyst Is Reassigned
Capital Times :: Public Worker :: 1C
Monday, March 20, 2000
The Capital Times
DNR officials have reassigned an analyst who last year proposed paying
motorists to drive less as an alternative to building highways.
Mike Neuman, a 25-year Department of Natural Resources employee, was a
liaison to the Department of Transportation. Neuman proposed offering
rebates to people for driving fewer miles. Neuman offered the plan in
response to the transportation department's massive 20-year road building
DNR Secretary George Meyer initially backed the rebate plan as a ``trial
balloon'' with two other alternatives to driving in a letter to
Transportation Secretary Charles Thompson. But Meyer distanced himself
from the scheme after Neuman made it public.
Neuman told The Capital Times last December that he was ``personally
embarrassed and embarrassed for the department'' after Meyer publicly
disavowed the proposal.
George Albright, Neuman's supervisor, said Neuman's reassignment
``certainly was related to the controversy that developed after the
review of the state highway plan and the VMTs, or vehicle miles traveled,
we had put forward in 1999.''
Albright said Neuman would no longer be assigned to transportation
``He's going to be working on a number of projects and issues we've been
dealing with for years,'' Albright said.
Neuman's new duties include working up environmental impact reports for
the Army Corps of Engineers and the University of Wisconsin. He'll also
be coordinating some fiber optics projects, Albright said.
Albright said Neuman's reassignment was ``not necessarily because of his
statements to the media'' and that it was not a disciplinary move.
He said, however, that Neuman was no longer allowed to speak with the
``This has to do with an internal management issue and our interpretation
of the right duties for him,'' Albright said. ``Obviously, we want him to
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