Market Approaches to Congestion Control

Calvert Report November 2003
Market Approaches to Congestion Control
Transcript of a Discussion

On October 7, 2002, during the State election campaign, the Calvert Institute sponsored a symposium at Montgomery College, Germantown, including presentations by four leading transportation experts on the then little-discussed subject of Market Approaches to Congestion Control. The symposium coincided with the initial sniper attacks, and received little press coverage; the papers distributed were published by the Institute in October 2002. Since that time, there has been an explosion of interest in the subject, which has been actively pursued by a new state administration. Major increases in tolls at existing toll facilities have been announced, consideration of creation of a network of HOT lanes revived, and the use of tolling as a means of financing major transportation facilities such as the ICC and Wilson Bridge discussed. Consideration is being given to time-variable tolling of other facilities, such as the Bay Bridge. Against this background, publication of the Symposium proceedings is particularly timely.

Peter Samuel, a resident of Frederick, is the editor of the internationally-distributed Toll Roads Newsletter. C.Kenneth Orski, a Northern Virginia resident, has been for 13 years editor of Innovation Briefs, reporting on transportation sector developments. Kenneth Reid, a civic activist in Montgomery County and later in Northern Virginia is the former Chairman of Marylanders for a Second Crossing. Ronald Utt is the Heritage Foundation’s resident expert on transportation issues. All have relevant and impressive academic and vocational backgrounds.

(Videotaped by G. Stanley Doore, transcribed by W. Banister, revisions by the Executive Director)

MR. GEORGE LIEBMANN: Welcome to the Calvert Institute’s symposium on market approaches to congestion. This is a subject that is unfamiliar to many people. It’s not unfamiliar, I’m sure, to members of our loyal audience. We hope that what we have to say today will resonate and we believe that what we have to communicate will be of interest to anyone who is concerned with public policy in this state. The subject of market approaches to congestion is one that has received very little discussion in Maryland. It’s received very little discussion because a great deal of discussion was cut off late last summer when Governor Glendening issued a statement to the effect that HOT lanes would not be considered for adoption in Maryland on the premise that, “it’s unfair to equate an easier commute with a person’s ability to pay. Our goal is to ease congestion overall.” Our speakers this morning are generally going to review that policy judgment, and contend that congestion cannot be eased for all without some measure of making at least some forms of commuter travel a function of ability or willingness to pay. This is so for several reasons. One of them is that one of the best ways of facilitating highway travel in conventional automobiles is by attempting to smooth out the traffic flow so that there is not congestion for what are our peak hours. This can be done in a number of ways, through better information, but also through congestion pricing. A second reason that this policy judgment is a questionable one is that another way of easing congestion for all is to facilitate bus and van transportation, which is the key to all mass transportation. People are not interested in using buses or vans if their commute is going to be significantly longer than commuting by private automobile. Unless there are dedicated bus or van lanes, the common commute is inevitably going to be longer since it involves assembling and picking up more people. It becomes difficult or impossible to secure the necessary political support unless the lane is perceived to be relevant and will be used; buses and vans themselves do not generate enough traffic to fully occupy a traffic lane. If the lane is going to ease congestion , some other vehicles have to be let on the lane. A logical means to let them on is by some form of charging. When one considers the other means, they all seem equally unattractive. You could admit a limited number of cars in the order in which they appear in which case you would lose a lot of commerce from such cars on the HOT lanes. You could hold a lottery for the purpose of entering the HOT lanes but that would be totally illogical. It would do little to ease congestion. You could admit favored groups to the HOT lanes. In the former Soviet Union only the nomenklatura could use certain lanes. This is not a satisfactory way of doing things either.

In the long run, the fairest way of promoting HOT lanes, provided there was sufficient usage to justify their creation and at the same time provide a means for buses and vans to compete effectively with the private automobile, is to have some form of charging.

In any event, this is a subject of great fascination and I’ve only touched on one small aspect of it. It’s a subject of great fascination because unlike most public policy subjects, this is one area in which technology is far ahead of politics. This is not an area where people are creating high dreams of what will come possible 20 years from now when the necessary technology is available. This is an area in which, as our speakers will tell you, the technology is already available. It’s in use in many places, some in Maryland, some in other parts of the world, and has enormous possibilities.

There is one other matter that I’d like to touch upon, that is the Calvert Institute is traditionally thought of as a somewhat conservative think-tank. We have recently constituted its board, we think of ourselves now as a somewhat more centrist organization, one that has an interest in market based approaches. One point that is not sufficiently understood about the congestion charge is that it is an approach which is not a novelty to any particular political faction or ideology. Some of the major foreign developments have taken place under varied governments.

The Norwegian program on congestion charging was introduced by an essentially social democratic government and was carried forward by a centrist government.. The congestion charges program for the City of London were implemented by ‘Red Ken Livingstone who is a member of the left wing of the Labor Party. The program in Singapore was implemented by a man who has been a critic of most western ideologies.

These techniques aren’t the exclusive province of any particular party or ideology or faction. Our speakers are all figures who know far more about the subject than I do. We will begin with Peter Samuel who has done much work on toll roads, on what many describe as the supply side aspect of congestion charging.

MR. PETER SAMUEL: I think most people looking at this would say that congestion relief is job one for transportation policy because of the costs of congestion, estimated at $3.2 billion per year in the Washington-Baltimore area. Common sense would suggest that it would be the main objective of planners and policymakers, and I think that most citizens assume that the planners and policymakers are trying to relieve congestion, that it’s one of their principal objectives. But they’d be wrong on all counts. If you examine the documents, the long-range planning documents, such as the one for the Baltimore area, the 2001 long-range plan.

The four guiding principles in the Baltimore plan, are smart growth, linking transportation, managing growth; reducing emissions; alternatives to the automobile; preservation of existing systems.

The Washington plan has eight vision policy goals there. All kinds of oozy, clusey you’ve got to say kind of stuff about having the most modern technology and having reasonable this and reasonable that, preserving the environment. New mechanisms for funding that would mention tolls, that’s not anything of interest. Nothing whatever about relieving congestion.

In fact, when you look at these documents they’re planning for worse congestion. The preferred alternative for the Baltimore area has delays, the costs of delays doubling from about $400 million to $800 million. The Washington region plan doesn’t come up with any precise numbers, but stop and go congestion is expected to be prevalent throughout the entire region in 2025 and that’s not just in isolated areas. Why is this happening? It’s happening because of a lot of confused people. A lot of fallacies have taken hold of the imagination of these people. The first is we can reduce congestion with transit. The second is that any extra road space just congests. The third is no money in roads.

Now we could go into a big discussion of why these are fallacies but it’s still easy to analyze. Transit has narrow specialized roads, leading to downtown jobs which are in the minority and a declining minority. So transit services very few people, under 5% of the persons living and working in the Washington area ,about 2% in the Baltimore area and both numbers are declining. Of course transit does zilch, nothing, for intra-urban freight deliverymen, for service deliveries, and supermarket stock-ups, and commercial and freight tasks. National figures show continuing decline despite the huge program of putting money into transit.

In 2000 many people, including myself, are critical of the celebration of transit. It is still on a decline. The increase in car use in each decade is twice as large as the absolute number of people using transit everywhere in the U.S. as a whole, in metro areas, in the Baltimore/Washington area. It seems to happen regardless of how much you spend. So it just isn’t working.

The other fallacy that’s used to justify this kind of defeatism and fatalism about congestion is that extra road space will just congest as well. You can’t build your way out of congestion is one of the slogans that you hear all the time. It’s a complex question, of course, but I just look at some of the surveys of congestion in the Washington area and this is not my conclusion.

I live in Frederick, we talk about down the road. If you’re in Frederick you’re going down the road which means down 270. Number one is the Dulles toll road. It’s solid traffic but its moving well. That’s because they put the fourth lane in between ’96 and ’99. Extra lanes do help.

The next big thing we hear all the time is that we don’t have enough money to build more roads. This is such incredible nonsense. It’s certainly possible for someone who looks myopically at the existing sources of revenue, the fuel taxes and the license fees, and fails to look at the huge potential in the costs. I mean, here we have this massive congestion cost which surely indicate the opportunity for huge revenues to be going into avoiding those congestion costs. People would pay a lot of money to get around congestion. It’s over $3 billion dollars a year.

Patrick Tocola Souza has done estimates of what could be done with pricing, building two hundred miles of toll express lanes on congested interstates in the area. His estimate is that tolls of $600 million dollars a year could be obtained on those. This can reduce delays, reduce emissions and reduce accidents. That’s in the Enoch Foundation’s Transportation Quarterly magazine, summer, 2000.

The next thing that politicians sometimes say is that people don’t like tolls and that’s why they want to avoid any discussion of tolls. There’s no doubt that people dislike stopping and queuing and the stop and going involved in some traditional toll places. They dislike the process of paying, as much as the payment itself.

Technology has provided a fix, the transponder that’s attached to the windshield that allows you to, like a garage door opener, to see a radio signal identifying your account. We know that when the tolls and taxes are put together, as the alternatives, toll roads are usually preferred to higher taxes.

There’s just been a case in Missouri where the whole establishment, both parties, was strongly in favor of a beer, wine, and gas sales tax increase was defeated overwhelmingly, 3 to 1. Washington State has voted for tolls too when it was about to defeat a car tax there. North Carolina and South Carolina, you’ve got toll roads instead of taxes. Politicians often oppose tolls. They try to gain popularity through opposing them. This generally doesn’t work. Governor George Ryanin Illinois in 1999 made abolition of tolls a big issue there and put toll abolition to the legislature. It was dead on arrival. It didn’t get anywhere. In Miami, the Mayor proposed abolishing tolls in the expressway system there in the same year. Again, the establishment was completely undecided that toll abolition was a good thing. It was pretty decisively rejected 68 to 32 last year in New Jersey, Brett Schundler, the republican, I think he might have won too, was outspoken in promising by a date certain he’d get rid of tolls on the Garden State Parkway. Halfway through the campaign, he played it down and removed all reference to it from his website. He lost. There’s other cases as well.

The main reason currently that we don’t have any tolls on the New Wilson Bridge is that Governor Glendening said that tolls would cause congestion and he was probably thinking of the old style toll where you stop to pay toll plazas but there’s a double error involved because variable tolls a very powerful tool for preventing congestion.

There is a flow chart that you’ll find in the traffic engineering textbook showing how when you load up a lane, you go on a certain point, the stream starts to drop away a little bit, the stream drops away much more and then you get a break down. It’s a very unstable concertina-like movement, stop and go traffic. This is something which traffic engineers have known for 50 years. If you can manage the inflow of traffic into that road with a variable toll, you could avoid this sudden falling off the cliff, of the stop and go traffic. This is not just a theory, it’s in operation with variable message signs at the decision point about entry into the toll express lanes. In San Diego they have dynamic pricing and the toll can vary as much as once every six minutes in order to regulate the traffic and keep free flow going. There’s big money in this. People are paying. Highway 15 doesn’t have any great patronage and doesn’t make a huge amount of money. But Highway 91express lanes is quite different and there they’ve been running about 25,000 vehicles a day with people paying up to $0.40-$0.45 per mile. Here you have just some summary points about Highway 91 express lanes. The three toll express lanes very often carry over 40% of the peak hour traffic at 60-70 mph, with a 20-30 mph average in the other three lanes. So you have both. You are generating revenue and also you’re handling the traffic much more efficiently.

We have many examples now of various toll rates of different kinds. Trondheim, Norway was the first one, just a toll cordon around the middle of the metro area, a small metro area, a couple hundred thousand people. They have morning entry tolls. Singapore has had a system that started off with a sticker and has now progressed to the transponder technology. There are 91 express lanes in the Los Angeles area and the HOT lanes in San Diego and Fort Myers, Florida. The most significant one really is the Port Authority New York-New Jersey bridges. The George Washington bridge is one of those and it’s the busiest bridge in the world, toll or otherwise. They say that the congestion has been considerably relieved through encouraging traffic to travel before the peak period, particularly in the 5:00-6:00 a.m. period and also in moving some truck traffic into the night by offering a considerable discount there.

The New Jersey Turnpike has also got something which is now being used on all kinds of tolls. There haven’t been any serious problems, breakdowns, in almost every case the forecasts, many of which were made without experience of a similar system, have worked out well.

So it’s a very robust approach. We can toll congestion down. We can do toll financing of a major new facility, an intercounty connector or the second crossing. I think we should do a Y down to the District from within the Beltway or we could that perhaps just for trucks, a sort of mini expressway with maybe even one lane in each direction going down the gridline tracks and the right hand Y going up. But the District inside the Beltway very badly need to get better and tolls I think can work.

We’re also going to talk more about this, but I think what we could do, is a toll express lane, a HOT lane that’s networked on our major existing highways. They are not working. They’re not working satisfactorily. Car pooling has many of the same problems. Transit, very few people want to go to the same place at the same time. Organizations are much more informal nowadays than they were ten or 20 years ago about work hours, allowing flexibility to take time off. It’s very destructive to car pooling because people’s working days vary from one day to the other. They almost all have some excess capacity.

It seems to me it makes sense, since two people often travel together regardless of whether they get the privilege of a carpool lane, it’s better to raise the HOV limit to three or four and there you have more space and could really sell the remaining space with a toll to people who want to get a premium service right past the congestion.

I think these existing transportation plans could really be a political time bomb. Americans generally aspire to a better life, living longer, improving medical care, reduced pollution, better housing. We are succeeding in improving most things in our lives. It seems to me preposterous to suggest that in one area alone, in transportation, in urban mobility, that we have to put up with the deterioration and collapse in standings that the plans suggest. I’m firmly of the belief that Americans are problem solvers, they won’t vote for fatalists and obstructionists who plan for gridlock. I suggest that the fate of Blair Ewing here and Cronridge and the principal opponents of the intercounty connector is a sign of things to come.

Governor Glendening, in his speeches, makes it clear that he has no interest at all in transportation except as a means of getting around. It’s just a tool for smart growth. He stakes it out, he doesn’t make any bones about it at all. He’s very uninterested. The speech he made at the Smart Growth Conference recently says that the entire budget is a tool for smart growth. Every project has to pass a smart growth test. He says the transportation budget has become the incentive fund for smart growth.

So, transport policies and the motorists’ gas tax dollars have been conscripted into a jihad against the satanic sprawl by infidels like myself, in the suburbs. In this context it’s no wonder that mobility is the objective that’s disappeared; and the theme behind all this is let the infidel suburbanites stew in their congestion. I think there’s a great opportunity, a positive opportunity here for less ideologically-driven politicians to ask what does this do for people sitting in traffic and to say that the proper objective of government policy is not some holy war on suburban living but helping people get around by organizing the system more responsibly.

MR. KENNETH ORSKI: I think Peter has given you a pretty good introduction to principles of transportation, and my intent is to follow up with a description of some actual applications of this principle. Modern-day transportation solutions are still met with a lot of skepticism in this region. This will become clearer from my presentation. I have four examples to give. The first would be intercounty measures. This was in the marketplace approach. The approach was proposed by the so-called transportation solutions group, which was convened by Governor Glendening in 1999, which I had the pleasure of serving. The group was charged with coming up with a strategy to improve mobility and relieve traffic congestion in the metropolitan and Washington region. That is the portion of it.

As you probably know, the group concluded to recommend the construction of the ICC. The majority of us felt that if the facility was to provide a high level of service well into the future, it must be operated as a toll facility, using variable pricing to control demand and to assure free flowing traffic at all times.

The technology for this, of course, exists and I think Peter has already mentioned the California Interstate 15 from the north of San Diego a system which automatically raises and lowers tolls and bills users remotely without requiring them to stop at a tollbooth. In using this approach, I-15 HOT lanes have been able to maintain free flowing traffic even at the height of rush hour.

Our group felt that a variable priced ICC would be politically acceptable provided that travelers felt that they received tangible value for their money, in the form of faster, more reliable, and more predictable travel. Shippers and deliverers of time-sensitive merchandise, UPS and FedEx, would receive higher value in the form of faster and more reliable deliveries and of course, the ICC would also serve as a transit way for rapid transit.

There was some equity concerns expressed, but the group found them to be unjustified. In fact, surveys in California have shown that people of all income levels choose to use the California HOT lanes when saving time is really important to them. There are workers whose job depends on all those people in time, travelers anxious to meet their flight and businesses that depend on just in time deliveries. Indeed, the utility van or the deliver truck is a part of a common sight on California’s HOT lanes, not just the proverbial Lexus.

Well, despite these arguments, Governor Glendening, rejected our recommendations and chose not to proceed with the construction of the ICC. Although I don’t think that the Governor has the last word on it. The ICC is still very much on the agenda now. Both candidates for the governorship have declared their support for it. So the ICC, I venture to predict, will eventually be built. Whether it will be built as a toll facility, the kind I described, really remains to be seen. I think the winds have shifted now, to very much in favor of the ICC.

My second example of a market-based approach to transportation was a proposal to impose tolls on the reconstruction of Wilson bridge. In an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, Peter Samuel and I suggested that variable tolls could help to control congestion on the approach to the bridge as well as help with the funding problem. Tolls would be collected at highway speeds using smart technologies as Peter has described, similar to those already in use on the Dulles tollway. We noted that all comparable major crossings elsewhere in the U.S. are being financed with tolls. For example, the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington state, the reconstruction of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, and the new bridge in New York.

More to the point, several crossings on the I-95 cell, north of the Wilson Bridge, are toll facilities. These include the Fort McHenry toll in Baltimore, the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and the George Washington Bridge. So, we argue that tolls are really the fairest way of funding the new bridge since they would place the fiscal burden on the user. In addition, of course, they help to control congestion because they can spread the traffic.

My third example of a proposed market-based approach to transportation in our region was the 1999 study of variable pricing by the Maryland Department of Transportation. Variable pricing would be an appropriate means of managing congestion in the Washington- Baltimore region. MDOT identified several heavily traveled congested corridors as potential elements of a variable HOT lane network. If I recall I-270, I-95, US 50, Maryland 210,and several crossings, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

I think, and the three Baltimore Harbor crossings.

Well, in June of last year, Governor Glendening suddenly pulled the rug out from under his own State Transportation Secretary and canceled the plan to introduce a HOT lane on US 50. He cast his objection as an equity issue by saying it would be unfair to allow affluent drivers to buy their way out of congestion. In fact, in a letter to the Washington Post, the Governor explained his position as follows and I quote, “It is fundamentally unfair to give wealthy people the opportunity to buy a faster commute. Why should a lawyer, a lobbyist commuting to Washington, DC get to work faster than an entry level employee simply because the lawyer or lobbyist can bill the extra $1,000.00 yearly costs to clients? An easy commute should not be linked to a person’s ability to pay.” So said the Governor.

What he chose to ignore, however, was the fact that it isn’t just the rich lobbyists who understand the value of time, as I already mentioned, the surveys from California show that people of all income levels elect to use the HOT lanes when they need to get somewhere faster.

The favorite example has been pointed to again and again, is a parent racing to get to the daycare center before closing time which would make them pay $1.00 a minute, or something like that. He or she would be probably just as grateful to pay the toll as, say, a lawyer racing to a courthouse hearing. Besides, if the HOT lane reduces congestion in the free lanes, wouldn’t everybody be better off?

My final example of a proposed market-based approach to transportation in this region is the recent proposal by one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies, to widen the Beltway between the Springfield interchange and the Wilson bridge. I think they recommended four HOT lanes, two in each direction, and the project would be financed privately through bonds, underwritten by HOT lane revenue. It would basically use no public funds at all. The proposal did receive support in the Washington Post. But local and state officials reacted “cautiously,” according to press reports.

So, there you have it. As I think my four examples made clear, there do exist plenty of opportunities in our region to apply market based approaches to congestion mitigation. The know how and technology to implementing such approaches do exist. What’s lacking is the political will, and I hope that meetings like this will help to overcome and solve the current condition.

MR. KENNETH REID: I’m going to talk about how HOT lanes can promote mass transportation,so I have a little bit of difference with Peter. I think mass transit, and buses are a good thing. They’ve worked well in the Washington area.

Let’s first start with some premises. My philosophy is that congestion pricing using HOT lanes should be used to finance new capacity, not to convert existing free lanes to toll lanes. I feel that if we combine HOV and HOT lanes it will provide the necessary lanes for bus rapid transit which is by far the fastest, most flexible, and cost effective form of mass transit.

Unfortunately, a lot of groups think that buses and HOV are not mass transit. I believe they are and that the Washington area is a good example of where HOV and buses work very, very well. I feel that the fixed rail transit is suitable in urban settings and older suburbs seeking renewal, such as the line going to Bethesda, to Silver Spring, to Langley Park, College Park, and New Carrollton. The purple line was touted as a congestion relief tool. It’s not a congestion relief tool, but I have since converted to being an avid supporter of the inner purple line which would be light rail, although I personally support monorail as a solution. But it does not decongest roads.

All studies that have been done in the Washington area and Capital Beltway corridor, the latest transportation policy report study shows that light rail and the railway solution, even buses, these do not decongest freeways. But HOT lanes give you more choice than fixed rail, which is inflexible.

I’m going to talk about two things I am most familiar with. The issue of new Potomac River crossings. I was the co-founder and co-chairman of the citizens’ activist group called Maryland is for a Second Crossing. I’m not involved with the issue anymore.

What I’d like to talk about is the Second Crossing as a vehicle for generating money. The Maryland Commission on Transportation Investment, which was commissioned by the legislature and the Governor in 2000, said the State needed at that time $27 billion and we’ll revise upward, $29 billion, by the year 2025, that’s for transit and roads. That’s the whole State of Maryland’s need. Maryland currently has a $2 billion budget deficit.

The Washington region in itself, which is Maryland, Virginia and DC, has $1.74 billion transportation funding each year. I think if you count that up it’s probably about $30 billion over 25 years. I’m a journalist for a living so I’m not very good at math. Some of these numbers may not add up.

The major, major source of funding is federal. We spent 40% of the Federal Funds on transit and most of it goes to the metropolitan Washington region, Metropolitan area transportation. As the population of the DC area has increased by 1 million residents, I don’t buy the argument from so-called smart growth advocates and more mellow groups that we could put all these people in metro stations. Even if we did, I bet you all these new houses will have two car garages so everyone’s going to have a car. So one million residents, you can basically anticipate maybe half a million cars or more. That’s a lot.

CTR stands for the transportation policy task force in Montgomery County. In June of 2000 they convened 35 citizens. Originally it was designed to sort of put the official stamp of approval on using transit and land use densities to alleviate congestion. It was designed primarily to study, to show that we don’t need the intercounty connector, we don’t need the Montrose Parkway, which is another controversial road, we don’t need new roads, all we need is transit and land use and we can turn Montgomery County into something like an urban village or something like that. But, because o groups like Marylanders for Second Crossing flooded the planning board with comments, they opened the task force up to two of our members. One was Carol Graham who is now the chairman. She sat on the task force.

They eventually studied a river crossing, even though the Montgomery County Council was unanimously against it, the Governor was against it. There was really no politician for it. They studied this against great odds and essentially what they came up with were two concepts.

One was an express techway, which is the term that the Board of Trade and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance came up with to describe a river crossing connecting I-370 to Fairfax County Parkway, interconnected with Route 28. They studied HOV and bus lanes and they could be used for HOT lanes although that is not part of the study.

The other concept was what they called the low tech way, which means it didn’t constitute an express highway, it was just a stand alone bridge tied into the existing road network. 270 is probably the world’s largest, longest parking lot. I think it has replaced the Long Island Expressway with that distinction. I think it’s about 180,000 cars per day on 270. It needs a relief valve. It needs the ICC, if you’re cutting in from north, into the ICC, going east and it needs a river crossing. So there’s an incredible amount of demand.

In bus lanes, there are about 4,300 passengers, users, or whatever, and it can peak out at 5,100. The impact of the second crossing on congestion was great. It improved countywide speeds by 8%, better than the intercounty connector. The inter-county connector improved average speeds 6.9%.

So the river crossing, got a lot of traffic off of inferior two lane roads in Potomac and Darnestown and other areas. It cut traffic of the major route by 6%, about 20,000 vehicles on 270. The environmental impact statement was deliberately skewed. They came up with an alignment in the middle of north Potomac, you take 200 houses and put it through flood plains and what not. So they picked an alignment that was deliberately biased.

The Tyson’s Corner purple line the task force rejected because it costs a lot of money and did no good.

This is what certain people in Montgomery County are using as a fig leaf to cover their opposition to river crossings. They want the public to believe that if we build heavy rail or light rail over the Tyson that somehow we’ll alleviate the Beltway. Nine hundred users, each way, in 2015 and the opponents of the second crossing were projecting incredible density and land use and jobs. 900 users in p.m. peak. So obviously, the techway does more for transit than the purple line.

There’s enough bonding capacity, there’s enough demand for this new bridge, techway, whatever you want to call it, that a $3.00 toll could provide $593 million for construction and $831 million in bonding capacity. So it creates a lot of opportunity. What if we had congestion pricing? Well, once again, I’m just assuming that the growth congestion was so severe on 270, a lot of people do have to commute to Virginia and back, that if we charged $100.00 per month, we had about 2,000 people riding in the HOT lanes. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to pay for your buses. So that’s a little bit of gravy on top of the estimated, I think $100 million a year, that this thing would reap. Once again, it could be a perfect, perfect vehicle for congestion pricing.

Let’s look what it does for transit. New York City has 20 more bridges than we have in the Washington area. This is across from Virginia to Maryland. According to the New York MTA annual report which I got from Jerry Garson, this report shows that the New York MTA, since 1969, has taken all the overage in toll revenue, from the Triborough Bridge and other bridges that it deals with, the Port Authority deals with interstate bridges, they have funneled $560 billion into New York City’s mass transit. So why can’t we do that here, if we build a techway, a western bypass and an eastern bypass?

Well, the Maryland Transportation Authority hasn’t really built anything in years. It has paid off the JFK Highway, it’s paid off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, it’s basically used as a bank to finance the Baltimore Light Rail. So why can’t it be used to build a purple line or some other transit project or just to add lane capacity?

The other thing that some of us added to this was use for conservation purposes because the techway would most likely go through some rural areas of Montgomery County which are off limits to growth. There are obstacles, of course, and initially, I guess Peter summed them up in two words, Parris Glendening. Not only did he kill the HOT lane proposals we mentioned before, but he killed the public-private partnership which existed in this State.

Since that time there have been efforts to revive the techway which have been fought, interestingly enough by legislators who were previously for it, such as Jean Roesser and Jean Cryor. Nothing’s going to happen in this State unless the governor says so because the Transportation Secretary is appointed, he’s not elected

There are other obstacles to this bridge, which actually would be a major money-maker, a major supporter of conservation programs, and essentially the issue is off the table. I think it’s largely because of business groups. They pushed it so much in 2000 and 2001 but then Glendening canceled the federal study. I’m a firm believer that if we don’t get people out of the woodwork to support these projects, they’re not going to be built. Not every good politician is going to be leery of doing this.

Let’s talk now about another concept where congestion pricing would work, that involves toll roads. Maybe the difference here is that the Dulles toll road exists. It’s real there. The techway, there’s no alignment for it, there’s no land dedicated for it, there’s no study for it . . . The Dulles road is an existing road which I believe has, what, eight lanes for each direction. I think about $75 million in bonds remains. The tolls are supposed to be eliminated in 2015. Of course this is pending this rail option which we are looking at now.

The Dulles Airport access road is an airport access road. It was built, I think, in 1984. It’s there just to carry vehicles to and from the airport. It’s really very underutilized. The only data I could find is thatthere were actually 840 passengers at peak hours in the year 2000. I think the daily traffic on this access road is maybe 20,000 versus 90,000. So we have four lanes, completely free lanes, no traffic that are very underutilized. They’re not being used except for airport traffic.

About 81% of the people who go to Dulles Airport are riding by car or taxi or some other form of vehicle as opposed to buses. The transit is needed in the corridor but what kind of transit is the question. HOV is not an airport road, it’s actually on the toll road itself and utilization there isn’t great either.

According to the draft environment impact statement for the Dulles corridor rapid transit project, they’re saying that there’s only 1200 peak hour vehicles in the HOV lanes in the year 2000 and by 2025 it’s actually going to drop. It’s about the same, it’s maybe down by about 50 or 60 vehicles. So that will mean a major increase here which is a shame. Most of the congestion on a toll road, unlike the techway example which alleviates 270 from the Beltway, most of the congestion here is really the toll booths and the exit ramps. The peak hour traffic is going to increase, we now have 6,200 vehicles in 2000, it’s going to go to 8,200 in 2025.

This is pretty much in line with what Maryland finds with the ICC in developing corridors, 20,000 vehicles and buses. But look at the costs. I mean, heavy rail would cost $3.3 billion and in reality, at 78% cost overrun, it’s probably more like $5 billion or $6 billion. It would require a raise in tolls of $2.25 each way, to keep the tolls instead of getting rid of them in 2015. They will attract commercial properties in Fairfax County, it’s not what they want to do.

So once again, the amount of the taxes and the tolls would be higher than the number involved in the Virginia sales tax referendum.

But there is another solution. Essentially, to take the Dulles access road and make that into your busway, HOV and HOT lane. Right now when you get on the Dulles access road, you basically get on and get off at the airport. You really can’t get off. We could have flyover ramps to go over the toll road to get people on and off. People driving HOV, HOT lanes if you pay your bill and buses. That way you can have something to build from.

It’s from Leesburg to Reston. We have something going from Reston to Tyson’s Corner. You take buses and you have different routes, you don’t have to wait for a train to come and stop there at the station and then move on. The bus stop can be at the absolute center, like an erected town center.

In order to lower the costs and get the Airport Authority to buy in, give you the land for nothing, put all the stages in the middle of the toll road, except in Tyson’s Corner. You’d have to walk over eight lanes of traffic in order to get to the station, you’d have catwalks or some form of that. Buses could run , HOV’s too, we need more, and HOT lanes with congestion pricing. The toll should be increased, right now it’s $0.85 flat, all the time, no difference in pricing, I believe that people would understand a $1.50 increase.

I would say to charge $25.00 per month for HOV, $50.00 per month for HOT lanes and with the new revenue help build these ramps, finance the buses, and improve Dulles Airport expansion.

If the density warrants it, fixed rail eventually. Maryland’s looking at that with the Carter City project on 270. It could start with buses, an elevated busway, two lanes, and then they could use that for light rail, if the density warrants it. Montgomery County has a very good plan to create density in that corridor.

So what’s the difference? With the heavy rail option, we’re asking toll payers and taxpayers to essentially subsidize a government monopoly. In this case WMATA. This is only going to benefit a select few people. $3.3 billion, not to mention the annual operating costs of $111 million which would be borne by Fairfax and Loudon County taxpayers.

Rail in corridor will eliminate buses. That’s another big, dirty secret. They did a study in 1996 of 600,000 rail riders, something like three-fourths of them were people who were taking buses. That’s what MATA does, they bring rail in, they cancel the buses. That’s what happens.

And so now we have 20,000 people using the Fairfax connector every day, and I think there’s 13,000 people on the WMATA buses, they will all be converted to rail, most likely. We’re asking for single occupancy motorists to subsidize transit. Private companies can operate these buses, they do it now on Shirley Highway in Virginia, under contracts. Congestion pricing lets the market decide the cost of using the transportation facility based on supply and demand. That’s not being done on the Dulles toll road.

But with a rail solution, what you’re doing is only giving people two choices. They can drive or they pay for the rail. Buses will most likely be eliminated. So if you want to find out other success stories, Shirley Highway in Virginia, There is a website, roadsofthefuture.com. I highly recommend, if you’re interested in history of transportation in the Washington area. Dallas and Pittsburgh have successful busways, as well as Los Angeles.

MR. RONALD UTT: Batting in fourth place usually makes me the clean-up hitter, but since all of my predecessors have hit home runs, the task is a lot easier. I share their concerns. I believe in many of the same things that they do.

What I’d like to talk about is how do we take these interesting ideas that we’ve talked about and fiddled around with in one way or the other for many years, and discussed and been implemented here or there all with great success. How do we turn those into public policy action rather than thoughts and projects and debate?

One of the problems that we confront in public policy in a democracy is that things just take a long, long time to happen. The idea is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s probably a good enough description of people’s attitudes towards change as anything else. Sure, it doesn’t work quite as well as it does, yeah, it’s inconvenient but I’m afraid of change, it could be destabilizing, I may be a loser. Yes, this situation is bad but the other situation afterwards may even be worse and the costs of congestion would be simply paying more money.

Well, what we have to do now, I think, or how we have to start thinking about this is how do we begin the process of implementing these steps? There’s lots of good ideas around and there’s lots of case studies that we can draw on. How do we make a case to the people? Well, a case has been made.

I think that what we have to understand is that congestion is a big priority in Washington, DC. We are, in fact, the third worst congested metropolitan area in the United States, which is the same ranking it had ten years ago in 1990 when this was performed.

So, it’s a big issue here, but is it a big issue in other places? Jacksonville, Florida., Richmond, Virginia. Are people in those communities challenged with the same kind of inconvenience and the same problems that we are? In fact, are congestion factors here in Washington materially worse than they were ten years ago? I’ve been in Washington now for 25 years, I have never known it to be an uncongested place. This is something we’ve learned to live with and we always complain. Has it reached the crisis proportions, perhaps?

In fact, the Department of Transportation does every five or so years a study called the Community Tops, and they report this. It turns out that for the average American, the commute time to work is a couple minutes shorter today than it was in 1969. Now, part of that reduction is that fewer people are riding transit which was very slow compared to riding in automobiles.

Though national averages tell us very little about what’s happening in a particular city or a particular region, it would suggest that in order to find solutions, the solutions we’re going to have to look for are going to have to be regional in nature and we’re not going to be able to look to the Federal Highway Program or the U.S. Congress to make changes in something that simply isn’t galvanizing the rest of America.

Another aspect that I also want to address is congestion pricing, the idea of tolls, as both an scarce resource to make people change their traffic pattern, and a funder for new resources and to repair existing resources’

In all the congestion pricing discussion people are talking about not finding the resources to do something, but providing motorists and commuters with signals to change their behavior and act more efficiently in how they allocate their time in how they get to work and how they do other things.

We may find opportunity to begin making inroads, not directly, but by setting up a process in which congestion pricing is an inevitable outcome as opposed to a goal that we seek from the beginning. Most transportation in the United States is funded by the gas tax, which is a state gas tax and there’s a federal fuel tax. The fuel tax is $0.18.4 per gallon. That yields about $32 billion a year to the federal government that is then allocated toward a variety of different transportation center divisions.

There’s a couple of problems with the federal fuel tax and a high rate program that absorbs it, contains it in a trust fund, and then spends it by sending it back to the States. One is that it has a number of fairly severe national, regional inequities associated with it. You send your dollar to Washington, not everybody gets a dollar back. Some people get $1.20 back, some people get $0.90 back, some people get $0.75 back.

This is not a random pattern. It turns out that the donors and the recipients, or the payers and the beneficiaries of the system tend to involve long-standing regional differences. Although some of these differences shift from time to time, if you look over the last 15 years, all the fast-growing states, south of the Mason-Dixon line, have been the donors. That is, they have been sending more to the Federal Highway Trust Fund than they have getting back on a consistent year-after-year basis.

At the same time, many of the states or most of the states above the Mason-Dixon line, Pennsylvania, New York, New England, have traditionally gotten more back from the highway system than they put in. This has gone on year after year.

This makes a big difference, even though we’re talking about small percentage points that you pay at the tank. Both Maryland and Virginia in the last couple of years have been getting back about $0.80, $0.89 on the dollar. For each of those states, that shortfall, means that we’re surrendering, we’re losing, we’re giving up, we’re not receiving something on the order of $80 to $100 million dollars a year. This money is going elsewhere around the country, specifically to those states that are getting more than $1.00 back.

This happens year after year. We’re talking about a fairly significant volume of resources. Within states themselves, there are also fairly significant inequities all depending upon what the jurisdictions are. If you’re looking on a county-by-county basis, particularly in Northern Virginia which feels that its resources are for transportation. Northern Virginia shifts an enormous amount of money to address the State. I suspect that Montgomery County is doing the same for Maryland, although I don’t have the figures.

Another problem associated with the highway trust fund and also with many state trust funds is that even after you adjust for the mutual inequities, once you get your dollar back, there is an enormous number of leakages that occur before you the average motorist gets something that’s of value. Of the money that you send in to the Federal Highway Trust Fund, $0.18 to $0.20 per year goes to fund federal transit programs. What they say is that nobody expects the highway trust fund to operate at a profit.

Well, folks, it does operate at a profit with large surpluses providing for transit or a variety of environmental programs, a lot of beautification programs, along with historic renovation programs. In fact, I calculate something on the order of $0.65 is what comes back from $1.00 of fuel tax to the average motorist. We’re also paying for roads in national parks and or for national parks as well. The Federal Highway Trust Fund has become a huge source of money, a huge money pot for a variety of programs and the pressures to extend that into other areas are growing year after year.

As everybody gears up this time for the reauthorization of T-21, transit groups say well it’s hard for us to get a bigger share and environmentalists want a bigger share. Amtrak is saying we can’t face financial insolvency year after year, we need to have access to the Federal Highway Trust Fund. So the competition between motorists and everybody else is only going to get more intense before it’s solved and gets better.

Another problem is the gas tax besides all these inequities is turning out to be less than an attractive source of revenue to highway programs than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Driving, whether measured in mileage or passenger miles per year, has yet to peak but it has slowed down significantly. I look at mileage, incremental increases in mileage every year of the 1990′s to the present, and compared them with growth in the economy and the growth in mileage is not growing as fast as the economy has been growing.

We have a revenue source that’s simply not keeping up with the recent growth of the economy. It’s what we call an inferior good. Spending on it is less and less.

As a consequence, the growth of revenue is ceasing at a time when the costs of recurring highway projects we now confront are escalating. Because most of what we need to do on the Federal Highway Program is retrofit the railway, highways and interchanges, roads already subject, in fairly dense parts of the country, to quite a bit of congestion. We have a cost to retrofit.

When the needs and costs are rising, the revenues are not coming in as quickly as before, we are confronted with a revenue problem that can be used to make tolls more attractive to individuals than they have been before,in other words, to add tolls. Efforts to have experimental toll programs within the Federal Highway Trust Fund have been very difficult to impose, have been always at the risk of being removed and repealed in subsequent years.

The idea being that, hey, you paid for this once, why should you have to pay for it again. The problem is that any road that has ever had a federal investment in it, no matter when the time, ends up carrying some vague federal property right that prevents you from doing anything else to it. So, we’re limited there.

Let me briefly pick up on something that Peter and Ken have both talked about and that is one of the popular ways now of building your way out of congestion or relieving congestion is to look at transit rather than look at the price. We see this in the Northern Virginia governments saying that fully 40% of the funds that are being raised are to be devoted to transit. Yet, in Northern Virginia only about 7.5% of commuters, and that’s a shrinking share of the commuting market, actually use transit. So, 40% of the money is going to 7% of the commuters.

The statistics on these factors are all from the U.S. Census Department so they can’t be disputed as something the Heritage Foundation or the Federal Highway Administration, or AAA, or truckers made up. They indicate that transit has been falling year after year and in fact efforts to make it even more appealing with very costly systems have not been very successful. A lot of us believe that the Washington metro area is one of the great transit successes.

If we look at the trains they’re packed and crowded. People seem to be using them with great frequency. It’s interesting to note that in both, the lion’s share of the transit commuter market is in the Washington metro market. I’m told the numbers I’m using are a share of the commuter market and some of the numbers I’m using are actually broke out in the Washington metro area, in what is now recorded as the Washington-Baltimore area.

Frankly, there’s such dramatic differences between the two cities that the conglomeration of numbers for something like transportation often doesn’t make any sense. But anyway, the Washington, DC area in 1970, a couple of years before the first metro line opened up, the share of commuters in the Washington metropolitan area using some form of transit, whether it was a bus or commuter rail or whatever was around back then, was about 16% of the market. Shortly thereafter we began a massive investment program which in inflation adjusted terms amounts to $10 billion dollars. Quite a very substantial and costly system.

We now have one of the most extensive systems in the country and yet the share of commuters in the Washington metro area using transit, whether it’s the metro now or the buses, is now down to just a tad over 10%. So, despite the investment, a massive investment relative to other communities, we have not been able to reverse this trend of people simply moving away and choosing cars over transit because cars are cheaper. They’re more convenient, your mobility is enhanced, notwithstanding issues of congestion and everything else.

We’re seeing that and we’re seeing the mistake being repeated, but even at a more extreme level in the Northern Virginia, where people are expected to raise $5 billion dollars and spend 40% of it on transit, which means that we’re spending an enormous amount of money that will have very little impact whatsoever on the congestion that most people confront in the Northern Virginia area.

I just completed an Op-Ed on that which will be published by the Virginia Public Policy Institute. Just trying to come up with looking at the balance and how the money is being allocated in comparison to how actually people choose and what their preferences are in getting from one place to the other. What can we hope for and where should we be focusing on, and hope will sort of bring about the change that we’ve all talked about today.

Change comes very slowly and the most likely source of an impetus for change would be a local level. I see no expectation that we’re going to see some dramatic change or dramatic recommendation occurring at the federal level. Notwithstanding the problems associated with the gas tax and the revenue shortages its slow growth is now revealing to members of congress. I don’t think it’s sufficient to induce them to change from the sort of very basic program they have now.

More importantly, it’s become so politically attractive with the federal fuel tax raising over $30 billion dollars per year which the Congress gets to spend, whether on new road projects, on making the environmentalists happy, the transit people happy, the bus people happy, that’s a huge pot of money that can be spent for political purposes and it’s not likely that they’re going to give that up or put it on some form of automatic pilot in which their discretion is diminished.

So one thing I think we need to being doing is start looking for ways to take this basic program and look for mechanisms to decentralize it. To move more and more of the decisions within the confines of the federal program more and more to a local level because these are where the problems are. Transit may work in some places, it doesn’t work every place, but we are trying to impose a one size fits all program on the country we are then trying to set up billion dollar light rail systems in small Nebraska cities and small cities in South and North Dakota. It just makes no sense.

When you begin the decision-making and control of resources down into where the problems are and where they vary from place to place, the better off you’re going to be. You end up with more authority and more responsibility, you have an opportunity to be more innovative and more creative. It’s out of impatience, and people talking about it that it will emerge.

I think the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. As I’ve said, the gas tax is providing less and less money compared to what people perceive are the needs. At some point, maybe not any time soon, maybe not over the next five years, I think the shortage of resources is going to be quite severe and people are going to look for other things to do.

There is an enormous amount of hostility toward raising taxes. People don’t have confidence in their state DOT’s, they don’t have confidence in the politicians.

A classic case that Peter mentioned was the positive increase in fuel tax in Missouri. It was to be dedicated entirely to transportation. It lost by 3-1. Almost nothing in an election ever loses 3-1. This was whomped. This suggests that despite the problems voters simply have no confidence in taxes as being the solution.

It will be interesting to see whether this is repeated in Northern Virginia or in the Hampton Roads area which also has the referendum that relates to gas taxes for transportation and a portion to be used for schools there. What I think is going to happen is that tolls are going to be implemented not as a general policy, but to deal with projects for which there is no other money. Your inter-county connector may be hastened with existing state funds. You’ve all worked to do this but we can fund it on a toll basis. Once you’ve established the principle of tolling, it’s a very easy next step to move to the principle of congestion pricing. We’re not quite there yet, despite the fact that there are a numbers of successful toll roads in the country. They still remain quite controversial, difficult to get underway, and more are proposed and discussed then are ever implemented.

We need a change in attitude, I think, before we can move there and that change in attitude will come by being stuck in traffic that will make people consider looking to something innovative that they have previously discouraged, at least at the political level.

MR. LIEBMANN: The first question I would ask the panel members is, can you give us some grip on what the costs are, what the capital costs are of implementing a fairly based congestion pricing scheme on a road. In other words, if one were to decide to impose time of day pricing on Interstate 270 or on sections of Interstate 270, what would be involved in dollar terms in installing the technology and the infrastructure necessary to collect tolls?

MR. SAMUEL: If you did it in the existing HOV lanes and there was very little civil engineering beyond some signs, the antennas, and the cameras to get violators busted, the professional work in developing the software and so forth, around $5, $6, $7 million dollars.

MR. LIEBMANN: The preferred technology, the easiest technology to utilize to collect a toll is what? Is it a, sort of like a calling card that you buy at your local 7-Eleven and attach to your car?

MR. SAMUEL: No, the ideal thing to do would be to issue transponders. The kind that Maryland DOT — or Maryland Transportation Authority is issuing already the transponders, easy-pass transponders. They used to call them EZ-Tag. I think they’re getting rid of that term because they’re now compatible with all systems up north.

It would be very nice also if the transponders that are used on the Dulles toll roads and the Dulles freeway were made compatible too so that you could use the same transponder on both. But that’s just a matter of business arrangements being made between the Virginia DOT and the EZ-Pass interagency group that sets standards for inter-operability. You’d use transponders and you could possibly also do license plate recognition, which is a well-established trend of technology now. It’s used mostly for getting violators and of course it’s used for trying to get people who run red lights, and who speed in a few cases. I don’t approve of its use in that case.

Cameras are also used for tolling itself in a number of places on Highway 407 in Toronto, one third of the transactions every day, 70,000- 80,000 transactions a day, are done by license plate imaging with a camera. Then the license plates are matched to the motor registry database with the name and address of the owner of the vehicle and they’re tolled through the mail. That’s also a similar system is in use in Melbourne, Australia, the city link and in Israel, just a month ago they opened their first toll road, the Trans-Israel Highway, up along the green line there, just south of the line. They’ve also used the same technology which is based on Hughes Aircraft’s imaging hit on the Maverick missile 3 that does pattern matching and is extremely high quality license plate recognition technology.

MR. LIEBMANN: The transponder, , costs what, and is obtained how?

MR. SAMUEL: The transponder costs about $20.00- $25.00. Half of the cost of that is the battery, which is a long life battery. About a seven or eight year battery.

MR. LIEBMANN: And that is attached where?

MR. SAMUEL: Oh, it’s normally put in the windshield of the car, near the rear vision mirror. It’s usually placed there and it communicates with an antenna that is either hung on sign edging or on an arm from a post, or in the canopy of the toll plaza, up around the 14 foot height. Around that height. So, it’s very short-range radio communication which occurs very quickly, in just 2 or 2 milliseconds, the radio communication back and forth. It operates at a high frequency but, essentially its not different from garage door openers. Its more sophisticated. It works at high speed and frequency but it’s essentially doing the same thing as you do when you open your garage door.

MR. LIEBMANN: The EZ-Pass works how?

MR. SAMUEL: You have to establish an account with an EZ-Pass and normally you give them the right to debit your credit card or direct to your bank account or else you can pay by check if you want to. It compiles the trips and debits the account. They actually, I think, normally do prepayment. You have to put $30.00, $40.00, or $50.00 in at the start so it would be a debiting against that and when the balance gets to a certain level then an agreement that you sign when you sign up, you give them the right to debit your credit card when the balance gets down.

MR. LIEBMANN: Are there privacy concerns? Are you compiling a central record or are there other ways of doing it so that this is as anonymous as using a garage door opener?

MR. SAMUEL: There are different approaches to the privacy issue. It does get raised by people concerned with privacy and in Singapore and Japan they both have systems that don’t depend on a central database. Particularly in Singapore. The whole electronic funds transfer is done between a smart card that is inserted in the transponder. The smart card is a stored value card with a chip in it that gets filled up with a certain value of funds and that money is transferred to the Land Transportation Authority which runs the tolling in Singapore instantaneously.

So they have no central database there, no records of who has paid. That system is compulsory. In Singapore everyone has to have them, a transponder and there’s no other way of paying.

No one forces you to have a transponder. You can still pay cash if you want to and indeed, the privacy issue is addressed also by arrangements to have an anonymous account without a name and address on it that they could just get an account at the customer service center and put in money there. Very few people do that. In fact, I think, my personal opinion is the privacy issue is an issue of sort of policy works, and lawyers and activists, rather than a major public issue because very few people seem to take advantage of the anonymous accounts.

Roads are public places, anyone can observe you going on them. Photography is perfectly legitimate, of course, in surveillance, in public places it’s perfectly legitimate, the Courts have always decided.

In my personal opinion, privacy is greatly overrated as an issue but there are ways to address that issue if you want to. There are technological ways of doing that.

MR. LIEBMANN: In terms of congestion pricing, time of day pricing, if one were to attempt to implement on an existing road, without any extension of capacity, is that political non-starter or are there ways of regaining the proceeds?

For example, putting all the proceeds in a pool, allowing all the residents of a county to share in a reduction of their annual registration fees? It might make it more politically more palatable to do that. Do you have any reactions to that?

MR. UTT: Peter’s right in one of his polls that showed that people preferred tolls to taxes. But they prefer nothing to those two, if given the choice. The message that Congress seems to get when they decide to toll or not toll about this, is that people are opposed to everything. One particularly powerful lobby in transportation AAA is very strongly opposed to tolls and they would fight tooth and nail any effort to do existing roads. Now, one way to get over that is if one of the existing roads need very substantial renovation so you could essentially claim that the road is now fully depreciated of all federal contributions it has received and most of them are. The tolls could be designed to operate in ways that people would buy into. Extra roads, HOT lanes, or something like that.

But I think you have to be willing to declare it. It is even more politically different to do an existing road than let’s say a new bridge which is obviously a new service.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The last thing that would be desirable here would be to sort of re-invent the cities. It’s been done in Trondheim and it’s now about to begin in London. But, apparently in those places, a lot of people view the program as adding revenues. It is not happening in a suburban setting in this country, when you’re not reinventing a city and you’re just trying to spread out the traffic on existing arteries.

MR. ORSKI: Well, look what happened on 270. The original HOT lane idea was to be put on the Maryland to the Capital Beltway corridors in 1993, and the 495 Beltway. They looked at HOT lanes and the study came out in 2000 and showed them the cost of $1billion dollars to add two lanes, to make it ten lanes instead of eight. That’s from The Wilson Bridge, that’s 42 miles and it would cost only about $1 million dollars a year to operate buses, instead of going with the inner purple line also which does nothing to alleviate congestion.

I mean, once again, I support it but there was this big hue and cry over it and that’s why the Montgomery County council wrote a letter also opposing HOT lanes on 270. They’re supporting it on US 50. Once again, put them into Prince George’s County but not here. Because they were talking about existing capacity. Some environmental groups support congestion pricing but I think they want to do it in existing capacity and they want the money to go into transit. They don’t want it to go into new lanes. That’s why I personally feel that if you’re going to do congestion pricing in HOT lanes, it has to be new capacity because I don’t think the public is going to support the situation where you have Lexus lanes on existing roads. If you build maybe they’ll support it.

MR. SAMUEL: Can I just say something there. I think the only place where that’s really a possibility politically in the United States is in New York City. You’ve already got a lot of tolls there and you know you’ve got the Brooklyn Bridge, the Queen-Midtown Tunnel and then you’ve got four free bridges. You’ve got tolls already on the Hudson River. You’ve got no tolls coming down the east and west side and across 59th Street there.

I think there’s a real argument for doing some kind of cordon pricing around Manhattan south of Central Park. I’ve looked at that very close and I think that might make a lot of sense, rationalizing the tolls and the lack of tolls on the East River bridges, and they need the money really badly.

One of the things that I found when I look at these European experiments in some detail is that most of them mainly, but certainly the Norwegian ones were mainly motivated by raising money. It was almost an afterthought. They thought, well, we can manage traffic as a result of this, but there was a desperate need which resisted higher taxes. There was some desperate need for some modern highway facilities around Trondheim. They didn’t even bother with variable pricing. They were basically toll systems and a cordon is a very efficient toll system because no one can get around it. Now it happens that they’ve made use of that in order to do good things with variable prices.

The basic political drive was to raise money for highway works. I think in the case of London the basic drive is to raise money for transit there.

MR. ORSKI: I just wanted to comment a little bit on what Peter has just said and ask him a question. First, as far as political acceptance of pricing is concerned, I think the California experience shows that people are willing to pay tolls if they receive a benefit from it. That is the secret of the HOT lanes. The HOT lanes provided the network service and is superior to the lower service obtained in the regular lanes.

MR. SAMUEL: Can I interject here? They pay very high tolls too. On most premium service lanes they are paying tolls that are several times the tolls that people pay on normal toll roads.

But, if the toll is perceived as a penalty or an instrument of trying to influence people’s driving habits, I think it’s a non-starter.

MR. LIEBMANN: Let’s talk about another matter which doesn’t involve funding, that is information. The information you get about traffic flow on the roads now is primarily information you get after you’ve committed yourself and you’re already out of your garage and on the highway. You get traffic ‘copter information. You may, on some roads, see signs which tell you whether the roads are congested or not.

Do you think any benefit would arise if the highway authorities would simply publish in the local weekly papers, half hour by half hour traffic patterns along the most congested arteries. Would this have a tendency to encourage people to drive earlier or later?

MR. SAMUEL: Well, you already have real time information on the Internet. I mean, you can obtain real time information about traffic, the speed of traffic or the volume of traffic, simply by logging on one of those sites that States and county departments of transportation have.

MR. LIEBMANN: How many people know this and how many people use it?

MR. SAMUEL: I think very few people actually do that. But there is a theoretical means of obtaining that kind of information. I don’t think it’s very useful.

MR. ORSKI: I think as a user or a potential user of these systems, of course a lot of these things are funded out of the intelligent highways program that has millions of dollars to do these things. So if your new fancy signs are going up across the interstate, it was funded by the federal government.

The problem I have found in the Virginia attempts to give you information is the information is not really good. It’s often delayed and when the situation changes that doesn’t change. We have discovered that the most efficient thing to do would be traveling on 95 or if you do it during the day, is to ignore all the warnings because they tend to be something that happened and by the time you get there it’s been cleaned up. I think that people don’t check because it’s not valuable information.

So I think we have a long way to go between promise and performance but it’s a potentially good idea. The problem is that on many places, like 95, we don’t have an option other than, let’s say, calling up Ken and saying, Ken, can I come and stay the night with you?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I live in Montgomery County and we have an incredible system here. They have on their cable channel, during rush hour, morning and evening, they show all these key intersections throughout the county, they show the Beltway, they show everything. The counts are not necessarily going to do anything, because everybody thinks they can get on that freeway and I shudder to think that we want to have people getting up earlier to go to work than we are now.

What they need in this county, what the need in the state of Maryland, and all over this country is more road capacity and they need better transit solutions than what we’re getting right now with fixed rail. So the idea of telling people that if you go at 7:30 you’re only going to hit 150,000 versus 8:00, I don’t think most people are really going to care. If they have to get to work at 9:00 or if you get in at 8:30.

We’re going to have an 18 hour rush hour in 2015 if we don’t do something. Eighteen hours a day we will have rush hour in this county. All we have is 270 and the Beltway as our only limited access freeways.

MR. ORSKI: The problem is the unpredictability of the accidents. I mean, if you have an accident at 7:30 when the traffic is still light, you may have a gigantic back-up just as easily as at 8:00. So really the ITS, intelligent transportation information systems, are aimed not so much at predicting delays. They’re also used to compel local authorities to clear up accident scenes more quickly. They are useful, but as far as the influence on the personal driving is concerned, I have some doubts.

MR. SAMUEL: I think the Connecticut turnpike’s traffic has increased very seriously since tolling was eliminated and congestion is much worse. Many people in Connecticut say it was a mistake that they lost a valuable revenue source and now they’re debating possibly how they are going to finance the widening of it or managing it better. Its flow is much worse than the New Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway.

It’s a mess and I think they made a mistake.

You know, sometimes these decisions are taken in a very emotional climate.

MR. LIEBMANN: On Glendening’s point, do you feel that any common studies comparing the gasoline tax and tolling systems, in terms of their impact on income groups? It strikes me that the tolling system in Montgomery County where people commute from farthest out and who tend to be wealthier than the average individual might be more progressive in impact than gasoline taxes. Do you know if there are studies along those lines?

MR. UTT: I know of one which is about 12 or 13 years ago when there was talk of using the gas tax to reduce the deficit. If anybody remembers Ross Perot’s proposal to raise it $0.50 per gallon. There was some studies a couple of years before which show that states that would be most heavily impacted, I know that Tennessee and Texas would be the most heavily impacted because people tend to drive further distances and I think states like New York and most of them on the East Coast would be less impacted. At least at that time, states like Tennessee and Texas certainly had a lower standard of living, certainly lower wages, but I don’t know about, you know, within a state or within a city having an impact.

All taxes are unfair. Every tax is based on who wouldn’t pay. Property taxes are extremely progressive in New Jersey and some other states.

MR. LIEBMANN: So if such a study were done, the result would probably show the tolls are less regressive than the gasoline tax and that would be a point in your favor.

MR. SAMUEL: The other question relates to the impact the gasoline tax in light of new automobile technology which are really categories of driver who aren’t going to be paying a gasoline tax either because they aren’t using gasoline, they use some other fuel or they’re using much less gasoline. So the impact of the gasoline tax is going to be more and more arbitrary in terms of the people who pay for the revenue.

As to progressiveness across income groups there are studies you can pick up in Los Angeles. It’s very easy to do those studies about who pays, who is paying or not and as you mentioned the gasoline tax is very simple. It costs about $0.08, $0.10, $0.30 divided by miles per gallon.

MR. SAMUEL: Except for the very poor who drive big old cars with horrible fuel mileage.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I think the reason why Gov. Glendening killed the HOT lane thing was because he doesn’t like roads. He doesn’t want to add lanes, he doesn’t want to add bridges–

MR. SAMEL: Well, he actually said that in some of the things he wrote in USA Today, he actually added in the smart growth argument. Saying that we shouldn’t be reducing congestion because what we want to do is get people on the trains. He actually said that in USA Today.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: He has bought into this very, very extreme philosophy which not all the environmental groups want necessarily that you have to have only trains, you have to have only transit, and he is programmed to just don’t believe in fine reality and how the world really works. Maryland is becoming more and more suburban, less and less urban under his administration. More and more people are driving and less people are living in the city of Baltimore and using transit. In Maryland, especially in Maryland, when you have rail up in Baltimore, there are a lot of people who think that we can get by with rail. Whereas in California, everyone has to drive. Therefore, that’s probably why you see that kind of support here.

You tried to add a road, like the Montrose Parkway which was like two miles long, you have to go through 20 alternatives and five years of facility planning to get the road through.

So people are willing to fight roads and in that whole debate in 2001 on this, there was incredible outcry on talk radio about the idea of converting the HOV lanes on 270 to toll lanes. So he got that message that nobody wants it and he has used opposition as the vehicle to cancel road projects. Unless the politicians and civic groups, and the citizens step forward and say they want something, these politicians just aren’t going to move.

MR. LIEBMANN: To what extent would deregulation of taxis increase the mass transit capacity in the Washington area? We still have a medallion system for taxis in Baltimore City. It’s like the system in New York, and San Francisco. In Washington, there is open entry.

MR. SAMUEL: They’re not really competively based, I mean, you know, the DC cabs cannot pick up in Montgomery County and I think Virginia. Your Virginia cabs can’t pick up in Maryland either. So it’s very much the old style of essentially preserving a monopoly. There is a monopoly in Montgomery County pretty much. While all taxis are not considered mass transit, it makes sense that they’re now considering people who take taxis to work as mass transit users

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ve been doing a lot of study on taxis. To answer your question, Montgomery County has Chapter 53 of the Montgomery County Code which regulates taxicabs and the executive sets the number of taxis. They’re set to fund 600. It hasn’t changed in six or eight years. Barwood has about 80% of those. There are three other companies, Action, Montgomery and Regency, which have about the other 20%. Barwood has bought this monopoly because the other companies went out of business.

Nobody could make money, so he just bought the licenses for them. He has about 20 or30 sitting in a lot that aren’t running because they can’t get drivers. So the 600, he can’t even get out of the road because there’s no drivers. It’s an interesting point. I would like to talk about it because I’m interested in the taxi system which we haven’t talked about as an alternative, everybody ignores it.

I did a little study for the County, the Committee on Aging asked me to compare senior buses which take them from their home to the senior center versus ride sharing where you can run four people in a cab. I showed it’s cheaper for the County to pay for a cab ride than to take a bus and run them to the center. It costs $6.00 a seat. Government is no longer competent to manage our transportation. They don’t have the political will, they don’t have the technical competency, and it looks like the taxis are a regular failing. The other alternative is for civil engineers, private enterprise, the transportation technologists, they have the will, they have the competency but they don’t have the money and so tolls are a natural topic to be talking about by a group with these kinds of characteristics. Also, tolls could raise money as a business profit. Make more money than taxes, New York City urbanized by taking transportation and putting it under an authority which is out of politics. It not only pays for itself it provided for additional expansion of roads. Somehow this County which is going through urbanization, or a denser suburbia, needs to find a non-profit, private agency outside of politics, get those incompetents out of it and then the people can solve the problem, solve it and pay for it with tolls and other means.

MR. JERRY KRESGE: In New York, the IRT, which is a 1904 construction, was private. The BMT, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company was private. Most of their construction in New York City was done privately. After the depression the stuff fell apart, that’s when the city took it over and the amount of miles built since the city took it over, I think is actually negative. They’ve actually torn out miles and miles of track.

You take all of that, coupled with a total lack of interest in the things that drive up the costs of rail and mass transit. The labor union contracts, the provisions making it impossible to discontinue unused bus lines and all the other things that riddle mass transit.

MR. REID: Well, I guess that my feeling is that the reason environmental groups in this area are so fenced in on a fixed rail solution is because one, they want an inflexible system, I think that they sort of think that the good old days of the bus going around and trolleys was great because we live in the cities and we all knew each other. They have a sort of mythical vision of how life should be and you know, we should preserve all these rural lands and put everybody in urbanized settings.

One of the hidden agendas actually is to rob the trust fund because they know these projects are expensive and they know that if they can take more and more money away from highways and fixed rail solutions then they will supposedly stop sprawl. It ain’t going to happen. If anything, if we don’t invest in highways in urban and the older suburbs, people are going to move further and further from there, out into Frederick County, further out where I live, in Leesburg. I mean, people are going to move, to get away from the traffic, to get away from the congestion.

That’s why, unfortunately, they are better organized and in some cases better funded. The business groups go from one subject to the other. The Montgomery County election was the first time that businesses teamed up with civic activists, like Jerry, to actually throw the congestion coalition out of office.

MR. LIEBMANN: Let me raise another topic of discussion that hasn’t been discussed much and that is, degradation of roads through curb cuts to the point where new parallel roads have been built.

Ritchie Highway is one classic example, but I suspect that Route 355 is another one.

`The Maryland law on curb cuts hasn’t changed much since the 1930s. As long as you are not totally landlocking someone, he has no God given right because he owns property on a new road, to cut to get into it. The underlying premise the highway departments seem to operate under is a different one. Unless it’s a expressway, almost anyone can enter if anybody wants to and the cumulative impact on the road is a matter of indifference. Do any of you have comments on that?

MR. REID: Yes, if I could comment. Montgomery County has what they call an adequate public facilities law. The adequate public facilities says you can’t build additional units of housing or offices or jobs if they don’t meet the standard. The standard is such an impossible standard to meet that basically, even if you had half, you will not exceed their requirable limits. I proposed that they change and state that if you can’t cross an intersection through light cycles, then you have congestion. They refuse to make any changes.

They are on the books, they sound nice, but in reality they don’t work.

In Montgomery County, 355 was always meant to be a freeway. In 1964, Montgomery County adopted Regis and Carter’s plan and 270 was always intended, it was called 240 back then, or Route 50, it was intended to be a freeway. I-95 was another corridor in Prince George’s County and we were supposed to have the inter-county connector and our Beltway to connect these suburban areas. What happened was it never happened. 270 was deemed the only corridor through development. But it’s still a limited access freeway and 355 did get those curb cuts, true, but so did other routes. Now we have a situation where they think that they can build roads with curb cuts and intersections and that will solve the problem. It won’t. It’s a limited access freeway that we’re thirsting for in the Washington area and we don’t have it –

MR. SAMUEL: There is a technique, the frontage road, seen in the appearance of Route 50 from Annapolis to the Bay Bridge. Texas is the land of the frontage road. Every highway in Texas has to provide, if it doesn’t provide direct assess, there has to be a frontage road alongside of it. They’ve developed a whole freeway system based on slip ramps from the main lanes of the freeway onto the frontage road and then the frontage roads go into intersections.

For a long time Texas built very few freeway and freeway interchanges. They simply used frontage roads and the intersections to the frontage roads from the cross streets. Now they’re in a terrible mess because the frontage roads don’t carry the volumes of traffic so the whole highway establishment in Texas is turned against the frontage roads because of the mess they have inherited as a result of that. They are very heavily entrenched in practice there. It’s very interesting.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: These are some figures I’ve heard. I’m wondering if you could confirm them. One was that the number of registered cars increases faster than the population and for each car, the number of miles driven increases faster than the number of cars. So there’s sort of a step function. I’m not sure on that, and would like your response.

MR. SAMUEL: I think that was true up until the mid ’90s.

One of the reasons for the continual decline in transit over that period is that from an income perspective, people no longer would probably use it if they have a car. Has filling in the inventory of people who need cars pretty much come to an end? I think you’re just seeing something that was more stable in the past.

As I said, looking at the numbers over the 1990′s, the economy has year after year continually advanced faster than has usage of the automobile and you’re just seeing some of this. Driving is not peaking but not increasing as fast as it had been.

As people become more prosperous they get more cars for different purposes but you can only drive one at a time.

You’ve got your SUV for you weekend adventures and hunting trips and then your more modest size car for your commuting but you are only in one of them at a particular time.

MR. REID: Well, let’s go back to the policy report where the environmental groups like to tout , that in 2050 with their vision of the future of Montgomery County with a transit and land use oriented scenario, that there would be a 37% reduction in vehicle miles traveled. The problem is, is that the Council of Governments has determined that there’s going to be 78% increase in VMT, vehicles miles traveled, just through 2025. What are you really getting?

In 1968 only 30% of the people in this country owned two cars or more. It’s now up to about 70%. Women, mothers in particular, or should I say parents who stay home with their kids or don’t work full-time are heavy users of cars and vehicles. They cannot depend on transit. As Jerry Garson has discovered, when school is out of session, in Montgomery County traffic flows very well. Why? Because more and more parents are driving their kids to school. They’re driving their kids to school because they are afraid to let them walk or they are afraid of the distances. I think the amount of kids who walk to school is down to 10% in this country.

A lot of traffic is because of non-work related issues. That is 75% of the trips we take are non-work related. Only 25% of the trips in the Washington area goes to commuting. This is why we need more road capacity. If you don’t build the roads here, people are just going to move further and further out. That’s what creates the sprawl problem that the environmentalists want stopped.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I heard a figure that of the increase in demand for transportation, however you calculate it, transit and pick out exactly what you mean by it, is only 3% of that increase in passenger miles or any other measure of transit demands. Does that sound about right?

MR. UTT: MR. SAMUEL: That would probably be in the range as the numbers we’ve talked about today. About 4.5% of the people, they have been riding transit to get to work. Today there are only two metropolitan areas where transit use is above 10% . It’s been declining since the numbers began to be calculated in 1960. Including transit used for all trips, transit is about 1.9%.

The share of all trips is now 1.9% and capturing 3% of the net increase sounds a little high.

MR. ORSKI: The figure Ron has given you is perfectly right. There is however the danger in talking about statistics, national statistics, because transit is concentrated in a few major urban areas. In some areas, especially with the trip to downtown, transit plays a very important role. Even in Washington where something like 40% of the commuter trips to downtown are made on the metro. Yes, you can talk about national statistics but really in order to understand the politics of transit, you have to look at major, major metropolitan areas. There transit has, does, and always will, I think, play an important role.

MR. SAMUEL: Well, half the transit in the country is in New York. Seventy-five percent of all to-work transit trips occur in several metropolitan areas. 42% of all transit is inner city.

It’s really the downtown trip.

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Some Food for Thought

Maryland Constitution, Art.II,sec.24

The Governor may make changes in the organization of the Executive Branch of the State Government, including the establishment or abolition of departments, offices, agencies or instrumentalities, and the reallocation or reassignment of functions powers and duties among the departments, offices, agencies or instrumentalities of the Executive Branch. Where these changes are inconsistent with existing law or create new governmental programs they shall be set forth in executive orders in statutory form which shall be submitted to the General Assembly within the first ten days of a regular session, An executive order that has been submitted shall become effective and have the force of law on the date designated in the Order unless specifically disapproved, within fifty days after submission, by a resolution of disapproval concurred in my a majority vote of all members of either House of the General Assembly

Education article, sec.6-703.

The [Professional Standards and Teacher Education] Board consists of 25 members.8shall be public school classroom teachers…6 shall be chosen from a list of nominees provided by the statewide teachers’ organization representing a majority of teachers in the state for collective bargaining purposes. 2 shall be chosen from a list of nominees provided by a statewide teachers’ organization representing teachers for collective bargaining purposes in at least one jurisdiction in the state …other than the majority organization. 1 shall be a certified nonpublic classroom teacher, chosen from a list of nominees provided by the Association of Independent Schools. 6 shall be teacher education faculty members from colleges of the state chosen from a list of nominees provided by the Maryland Association of Teacher Educators and the Maryland Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. 4 shall be administrative or supervisory staff members of public schools, 2 from a list provided by the Public School Superintendents’ Association,1 from a list provided by the Maryland Association of Secondary Principals 1 from a list provided by the Maryland Association of Elementary School Administrators, …2 shall be administrative or supervisory staff of the approved nonpublic schools, 1 shall be a member of a local board of education. 1 shall be chosen from a list provided by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, 1 shall be chosen from a list provided by the President of the Senate, and 1 shall be the State Superintendent or a designee of the State Superintendent

Calvert News Notes

With assistance of a grant from an anonymous donor, the Institute’s website(www.calvertinstitute.org) has recently been updated to include publications and press hits for the last two years, and will be maintained on a current basis in the future.

The Institute plans to conduct symposia in the 2003-2004 year on Maryland Health Care and on the Maryland budget, both of which are being organized in cooperation with MDFREE, the nonprofit affiliate of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.

The Institute also plans to conduct an all-day symposium on devolution of state power to local and sublocal institutions in late 2004. The support of various foundations is being sought for this effort.

The Institute gratefully acknowledges recent sponsorship contributions from David F. Tufaro, the Grace and Ross Pierpont Foundation, Richard E. Hug, and Carl A.J. Wright, and a recent contribution of software by Microsoft Corporation.

Three of the participants in the Institute’s recent symposium on the Baltimore City Criminal Justice System, Judge Timothy Doory, Page Croyder, and George Liebmann testified by invitation before a joint judicial-legislative-executive committee considering jury prayer issues in Annapolis in late September.

The Executive Director recently attended meetings of the State Policy Network and the Heritage Resource Group, and engaged in discussions with various foundation representatives.

The Institute congratulates Trent M. Kittleman, a member of its Board, on her appointment as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and David R. Blumberg, another board member, on his appointment to the State Parole Commission. Two other board members, Christopher R. West and David F. Tufaro, have been appointed to membership on state commissions dealing with the arts and economic development respectively.

Various Institute publications on special education, science education, sub-local institutions and civil legal aid have been discussed in articles in the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Daily Record, Reason Magazine, and the Gazette Newspapers.

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