Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Economic solutions, bureaucratic problems

Photo by kimberlyfaye.
Sluggers not hot on HOT: Sluggers, who carpool with strangers to commute as HOVs from Virginia, are happy about the HOT lane postponement. They think the new lanes would induce many people who now slug to switch to driving single-passenger vehicles and paying a toll. That'd make slugging harder for everyone, and increase the number of cars on the road. (Connection)

Yes, pricing existing lanes would be better: Ryan Avent wishes I would emhasize that while the current HOT lane proposal is garbage, the concept of pricing lanes in general isn't. Ryan is right. As I've written on occasion, tolling some existing roads, where transit alternatives exist, would significantly improve congestion. New tolled lanes are a bad use for the billions of dollars they cost to construct. Plus, the Fluor-Transurban contract, with things like penalties if people carpool, is bad. Also see what Michael Replogle said about congestion pricing: tolling is good when the money funds transit alternatives, bad if it just funds more lanes. (The Bellows)

Get paid to move closer to work?: The District Department of the Environment is considering using stimulus money to pay people to move closer to work or transit. However, this won't increase the supply of housing, and good housing in the city or near transit is already expensive, so the people newly living close to transit will just be there instead of someone else. Helping make homes more energy efficient is better. (Washington Examiner)

Washington Gas renegs on Capital City Diner: The folks trying to set up a historic diner in Trinidad have had a rough time. In May, an architect scammed them, leaving them with an illegal foundation. Now, Washington Gas promised to give them a free installation, but said the DC Public Service Commission wouldn't allow it. When PSC said go ahead, WashGas suddenly changed their mind.

New private roads still create "silos": VDOT's new rules may deter cul-de-sacs, but many new developments still have a "neighborhood silo" design that limits all traffic in and out to a single point, forcing pedestrians to go the long way around or cut their own path. The new rules don't apply to private roads. (Fairfax Suburbanista, mooniker)

Too much work to listen?: A woman was sexually harassed at Friendship Heights Metro last week. In order to report it, she'd have either had to wait a long time for police to show up in person, or go to the station. It's understandable that the police like complete, in-person reports, but it also deters reporting of incidents. (Holla Back DC)

Now vs. then's view of now: Silver Spring, Singular compares concept sketches from 1969, envisioning the Silver Spring of today, with the actual Silver Spring of today. Dave Murphy wrote while submitting the tip, "As a Silver Spring native, I think we fared pretty well."

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 


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tolling some existing roads, where transit alternatives exist, would significantly improve congestion.

I'd like to point out that there are few transit options around the I-95/395 corridor. The blue line isn't even close, except at Franconia-Springfield, where it's impossible to enter and exit the road for non-HOVers. Basically, if you live west of the interstate, you have very few options. And the more south, the fewer the options. Try transit from Occoquan to Shirlington.

To close of, I'll write my standard line against tolls. I think the same effect can be achieve by building transit options that are truly better than the road options.

by Jasper on Aug 21, 2009 9:51 am • linkreport

Congestion pricing forces drivers to pay for the delays they impose on other drivers. It is just that simple, and it would be in place on roads today if our leaders actually had any backbone.

Now, you can use the money raised from congestion pricing to build better transit, for which there would be a greatly increased demand. You can evenly distribute the income in the form of a tax credit, or you can rebate it progressively. The question for everyone should be separated in this way:

1.) "Is it optimal to congestion price our roads?" (A: Yes)
2.) "How should we divvy up the revenue raised from the tolls?" (The answer is unclear)

Essentially, we shouldn't waste our breath fighting about #1, while we should have a hearty discourse about #2.

by dear jasper on Aug 21, 2009 11:10 am • linkreport

@ dear jasper: Why should people trying to get to work and standing in a traffic jam pay for the transit project for others?

Infrastructure is a responsibility we all share equally. We should all pay our fair share. That's why the government collects taxes. Responsible people realize that investing in transit is more cost-effective than in asphalt. Hence, we will build a good transit network, reducing the demand on the roads.

Roads are "free". Transit should be "free" too. Wanna get people out of their car into transit? Make transit free.

Congestion pricing is a 'bear shaving'-type non-solution. It doesn't help to shave polar bears when they die because the climate is heating up.

There is plenty of money to be put in transit. We should just stop putting it in more roads. Do you realize how much transit the Springfield-Interchange, new Woodrow-Wilson Bridge and the ICC and I-270 widening would buy? There are billions around.

by Jasper on Aug 21, 2009 11:53 am • linkreport

Please explain to me how congestion pricing would not solve the dual problems of congestion and budget deficient transit systems.

by dear jasper on Aug 21, 2009 12:56 pm • linkreport

Better than paying people to move closer to work or transit would be encouraging them to move close to work in the first place and discouraging them from moving far away.

I proposed this on this blog a while ago. Basically we need to change the time and distance requirements for a federal tax deductible move.

1) Allow people to deduct moving expenses as long as they move 10% closer to their job. The amount they can deduct should be on a sliding scale based on how much closer they move with a 60% closer move resulting in a 100% deduction.
2) Do not allow them to deduct moving expenses if they wind up more than 10 miles from their job.

[I'm not married to those numbers, they're just examples]

You could also set the system up to include transit considerations.

by David C on Aug 21, 2009 1:39 pm • linkreport

@ dear jasper: Works just as well as shaving polar bears who are suffering from global heating.

by Jasper on Aug 21, 2009 2:07 pm • linkreport

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