Bipartisan Pandering on Congestion Pricing

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Three Democratic Congress Members, Grace Napolitano of Santa Fe Springs, Hilda Solis of El Monte and Diane Watson of Los Angeles, have joined a pair of suburban Republicans in sponsoring federal legislation that would effectively end Metro’s efforts to put HOT Lanes on the 10, 110 and 210 highways.

Bi-partisan or not, the Members of Congress are showing a lack of understanding of both congestion pricing and the process going forward.

The Whittier Daily News quotes Solis as saying:

This plan could transfer traffic from the freeways to our residential neighborhoods, posing significant and unnecessary safety and public health risks.

The effect of moving a significant amount of traffic off the highways and on to surface streets, the Solis Effect, has never been documented in cases where congestion pricing has gone into effect.  If Solis had done her research, she would have found that congestion pricing actually improves public health by reducing congestion and air pollution.Of course, understanding the relationship between car culture and pollution would require actually admitting that there’s something unhealthy about driving cars.  A thought alien to residents of third world countries, the Daily News and Members of Congress.Solis goes on:

Rather than rush this plan through the process, the MTA should allow the public an opportunity to learn more about it and discuss its potential impacts.

Metro’s HOT Lanes proposal has to be approved by both houses of the state legislature and the California Transportation Commission before the end of this year.  Solis’ statement shows she either doesn’t understand the process or believes that the United States Congress is the best place to debate local issues.If federal lawmakers want to oppose Metro’s HOT Lanes plan, they should offer an alternative.  If they want to deny Metro the funding for additional buses and park-and-rides they had best be working on earmarks to get LA County the funds to replace the funds they lost.

Photo:Wikipedia 

  • Anything that prevents people from driving is viewed quite negatively in the L.A. area.

    Additionally, people and politicians think that traffic is like water, and everyone knows that if you build a dam water builds up behind it or flows around it.

    A general pro-car attitude and this traffic-is-water fallacy add up to some silly political maneuvering to get mentioned in the press pretending to be a populist.

  • Tom Rubin

    While I support many forms of congestion pricing, including many HOT lane proposals, I have real problems with what MTA is proposing. The El Monte Busway/HOV lane is the most cost-effective and productive surface transportation improvement in Los Angeles that no one knows about. This is the only HOV-3 lane in the Southland and, between the buses and the HOV vehicles, this one lane produces more “transportation work” (passenger-miles) peak hour, peak direction, than the four general purpose lanes on the San Bernardino Freeway combined. If this is converted to HOT, then these HOV-3 (and up) vehicles will either have to pay to use this road or go somewhere else — if this doesn’t happen, there is no room for HOV-2 or SOV drivers to pay to drive. It isn’t difficult to do the math, this proposal will REDUCE passenger thruput.

    We screwed around with this once before, when it was converted from HOV-3 to HOV-2 — and the result was a disaster that had to be quickly reversed by corrective action.

    I am generally in favor of HOT lanes created by BUILDING new capacity, but converting existing lanes to HOT is often a bad idea from a transportation viewpoint, let alone the problems in telling people they have to pay to use the road that their fuel taxes already paid to build and maintain.

  • “… they have to pay to use the road that their fuel taxes already paid to build and maintain.”

    Highway and road repair and maintenance funds are only partially paid for through gas taxes, vehicle fees, etc.

    Highway and road construction and maintenance is SUBSIDIZED through general funds.

    That means that someone like me, who rides a bike, pays for your freeway maintenance through sales and income tax.

    If I ran a business and paid business license taxes, some of that money goes to road construction.

    I have no problem with subsidies for public goods. We subsidize trains, buses, and airports – we also charge people to use those services.

    The only mode where demand-based user fees do not exist is driving an automobile.

    Taking away a car travel lane will reduce congestion. Adding a fee to the entire “freeway” would be a better option. The funds raised could go to providing real transportation solutions for an urban area – rail, buses, streets cars and bicycle infrastructure.

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