Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

When you pay a toll, what are you paying for?

My post yesterday about reconstructing the Interstate Bridge and converting it to a potential toll bridge (which I thought fairly innocuous) has attracted more than 50 visits from the Washington State Department of Transportation, the state attorney general's office and a, um, interested party.

As a follow-up, however, I see today that Coyote at Northwest Republican has quoted from Wendell Cox at the Heritage Foundation regarding tolls, and it turns out that only 60 percent of tolls goes to road projects. At least half of the remaining 40 percent goes to transit projects that those government planners (who are oh-so-much smarter than us) claim will reduce congestion.

But that Heritage study shows that, in Portland, "a smaller share of people in Portland take transit to work today than before the light rail line[s...were] built. Portland's traffic congestion has increased at a rate well above the average for large urban areas."

So, when the Interstate Bridge gets rebuilt, not only will Vancouver drivers pay more than their share of tolls due to the government's interest in "variable charges," but they'll be paying at least 20 cents out of their dollar for transit they likely don't use and that doesn't help, and which is used by less than 5 percent of the commuting public.

Why doesn't it work? Cox's comments spell it out:
The problem with transit is that, on average, 90 percent of jobs are not located in downtown areas. Those 90 percent of employees area spread over an area more than 500 times as large as the downtown areas. No transit system can serve this type of demand at a speed that is competitive with the automobile.
Cox makes clear that transit has a role -- in New York, 70 percent of workers travel to the central business district on transit, while Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia sit at 50 percent. But in a city like Portland, the jobs are too dispersed for transit to take the place of the automobile, no matter how many light rail extensions are built.

But shhhh . . . don't tell Rex Burkholder. Not that he'd listen anyway.

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  • At 9/13/2007 11:07 AM, Blogger OregonGuy said…

    I think it can be asserted that "most" people think their government is working for them, not against them.

    That is, light rail is good, even if they neither want it or use it. If a toll on bridges will be necessary to fixing the Interstate, then, the toll is also good.

    Look at that stupid thing at the base of Sam Jackson Hill. It's laughable, at least to me, for so many reasons. But there are enough people out there who, without regard to cost or use, see it as a good thing, that my simple derision of the thingy is/can be overlooked without moral cost or qualm.

    Doing good is what we hire government for! We want Good Government. Have for years. You've probably even said so yourself.

    Asking people if the unintended consequences of their actions are worth either anticipating or cause for not taking an action and you ask someone to think. Hard. No one has ever been for Hard Government.

    Further thoughts on light rail, and the root causes of Good Government in Oregon here.

    Thanks for your post. This issue steams me...but apparently few in Oregon seem to care.

    How do you argue against a government that wants to help kids, old people and teachers?

  • At 9/13/2007 6:10 PM, Blogger Market Speculator said…

    I live in the NorthEast, Upper Right coast and know all too well about tolls.

    Keep up the good work!!!

    I love central Oregon, beautiful over there.

    Election 2008 Message Board


  • At 9/15/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger MAX Redline said…

    We do hunger for that of which we've been too long deprived: Good Government. Over the years, this term has become emblematic of the oxymoron.


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