Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Lies Repeated

Pam O'Connor, Los Angeles Metro Board Chair will be "answering" questions about traffic busting. Yeah right. She'll be whacking softballs. Here's the list of questions I submitted:
#1 Chairwoman O'Connor: Currently Metro collects 16 cents via fares for every dollar spent on transit.

What, in your opnion, is a "fair share" of costs that should be each borne by the riders, the community and the taxpayers?

Even with advance notice of ths question you all know the answer. "Things are about right." She's gong to talk about the need for more investment but she won't tell us who gets the bill.

#2 Chairwoman O'Connor: For the last generation Metro has disproportionately invested in transit at the expense of roads. Over that time congestion has gotten much worse. In fact the more transit the greater the congestion. Why after nearly a quarter century of failed policy do you think things are about to reverse?

You all know the answer: "We cannot build our way out of congestion." The bigger the lie, the more often repeated the less it is questioned.

#3 Chairwoman O'Connor: Why should drivers be expected to pay more for what is unquestionably worse service?

Again, the answer is "obvious." Depite paying more than their costs we all "know" roads users are "subsidized." Nevermind the facts, the myth cannot be questioned.

Chairwoman O'Connor I remind you of Metro's Misson Statement:

"Metro is responsible for the continuous improvement of an efficient and effective transportation system for Los Angeles County."

The word is TRANSPORTATION not transit. Depending on how you count anywhere from 78%-87% of your budget goes to transit oriented activities that provide some 3% of all passenger mobility and a miniscule fraction of all transportation in the region. Why is this not a fundamental abbrogation of your mission?

Any bets as to whether she replies?


Unknown said...


JohnDiddler said...

WHAT WE NEED IS MORE ROADS, RIGHT DAWG? WE DON'T WANT THOSE BROWNIES LIVING IN-CITY TO SCRUB OUR FLOORZ. WE WANT THEM DRIVING IN ON NEW ROADS FROM THE SUB-SUB-SUBURBS! Mass transit and rapid transit have no role because those things cost money. Roads, cars, smog, and insurance: All free.

Rob Dawg said...

Oh, sorry. I thought we were talking about the costs costs and benefits of transit. I entirely missed the point that we sohuld be talking about using tax money to keep the poor and minorities in their place. Not.

Peripheral Visionary said...

Rob, you're not going to like this response, but drivers pay for mass transit because they should be paying for mass transit. If people weren't on the trains or buses where would they be? The only reason you can (sometimes) drive above 15 mph on an L.A. freeway is because there is mass transit to take drivers off the road. Mass transit is not cost-effective, but it keeps enough cars off the freeways that the freeways become drivable--that's why drivers pay for mass transit.

Of course she's going to say that more roads won't ease congestion, because that's absolutely the case. Let me ask this: show me one metro area of any significance where freeways have freeway speeds for a vast majority of the day, and have been that way for more than five years after they've been built or expanded. Show me one. I'm not aware of one--well, maybe an economically burnt-out region like Detroit or Pittsburgh. But every major metro area of significance has severe congestion on the freeways, and--here's the kicker--it's WORSE for metro areas that have MORE roads (specifically Houston and L.A.) Draw your own conclusions.

Don't want congestion? Easy enough. Lock down zoning and drive the developers out of town. Suburban areas with reasonable traffic--e.g. Bethesda MD or Belmont MA--are the areas where land prices are insanely high and zoning boards notoriously tight in preventing development. It's when developers move in that the congestion arrives--and with it, the demand for newer, bigger, better roads.

serinitis said...

The Sacramento Regional Transit budget is around $150M. Assuming that fares pay 1/3rd and there are a million people in Sacramento, I am subsidizing RT by about $100/year or $8/month. RT estimates 50K riders a day (2004). Assuming 1/2 of these are in commute times when traffic is seriously impacted I suspect it is worth my $8 to get these people off the road.

Would adding an $8M/month budget for road and highway expansion in the Sacramento area be more cost effective. It vcould be. I do not know what it costs to add highway lanes in cities but I assume it is expensive.

serinitis said...


I suspect the reason new roads do not clear congestion is they are only added after current roads are operating over capacity and people are finding alternate ways of getting their tasks done. If road building got ahead of the curve, new roads would drop congestion.

Peripheral Visionary said...

New roads always clear congestion. Just not for long. I don't have any exact figures, but my observation is that a nice set of shiny new roads will keep traffic humming right along for five years, but after that the congestion will build back in and it will be right back to where it was before.

We're going to get a real-world test of that in D.C. with the I-66 expansion, which theoretically should eliminate it as a bottleneck (going from two lanes to three.) Uh-huh. All it means is more development in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. I give it three years--nah, make it two--before the stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper traffic is back.

The real solution is for people to live close to where they work. But for that to happen, prices need to come down in fully developed areas so that they can compete with new developments. When building a house is cheaper than buying an existing one, what do you think is going to happen? The other thing that needs to happen is for older neighborhoods to be redeveloped with open spaces, good shopping, etc. so that they're desirable places to live. When those conditions hold, people will move closer to work and the traffic will come way down. But we're not there yet.

Unknown said...

I know of two reasons why more roads don't help. First as serinitis observed people have already altered their schedules and trip planning to accommodate congestion. Add more roads and people will change their schedules back. Secondly is the "meat grinder problem". I'm not sure how this affects traffic up in Ventura, but it's a real concern in most urban areas. The limiting factor at the terminus is the capacity of the city streets. Santa Monica or downtown can only hold so much traffic. It doesn't matter how big the pipe is that feeds traffic in, everything has to be squeezed through those tiny city streets.

Dustin said...

Nobody has addressed the simplest solution. Toll roads. That's right, Lexus Lanes for everyone. Everyone who wants to pay anyway. With congestion pricing. Picture the San Diego Freeway on an average Monday at 6 pm, currently, gridlock in all lanes, plus the carpool lane. How much less congestion would there be if we charged a $2 toll? How about two toll lanes and two free lanes? Better yet, complete the 710, but make the new section toll only. Make the Harbor "Transitway" a toll road. Everyone can use the regular, congested lanes for free, but if I want to pay, I can use the two "carpool" lanes. Oh, their getting a little congested? The computer automatically bumps the toll up from $2.00 to $2.50. You don't want to pay? You don't have to. Don't want to sit in traffic? Pay the toll. This benefits everyone, including those who don't pay the toll, since this reduces congestion for everyone.

All this money spent on choo-choos should be spent building brand new toll roads with variable congestion pricing and automatic FasTrack toll collection.

This is the only way. Trains don't have wheels, and FREEways are a classic example of the tragedy of the commons.

JohnDiddler said...

i'm for toll roads! i don't want to pay for these enormo-bridges and freeways! i ride a bicycle and resent subsidizing the car infrastructure. why should i be expected to pay for what is an unquestionably overbuilt infrastructure supporting unnecessary tons of personal motorized vehicles? what waste!

w said...

Johndiddler, do you resent everyone else subsidizing your education, freedom and standard of living?

w said...

Rob, Why don't we just outsource the management and development of our transit system to the Japanese? If we are going to overpay for it anyway, then it would be better to use someone who knows how to do it.

Lost Cause said...

I hear they are building a wildlife lane crossing the 405. I suppose they are going to have to pay with nuts and berries.

w said...

Nice one Lost Cause!

I sure am tired of all these sidewalks they keep putting in cities. I am so tired of subsidizing these losers who walk around.

Rob Dawg said...

In an amazing turn of events none of my questions made it past the moderator.