Gordon “Blowsback” and Times Blowsout Rutten’s Pricing Misinformation Piece

6_15_09_express_lanes.jpgExpress Lanes on the I-91. Photo: Caltrans

Poor Tim Rutten.  Last week the Times' columnist wrote an "opinion piece" that attacked congestion pricing and now everyone is attacking him.  Some hack blogger pointed out that congestion pricing actually would make life easier for the fictitious poor people he used to argue his point.  Now, a USC professor has pointed out that he didn't really do any research on congestion pricing and his own newspaper has printed an editorial that basically talks the opposite viewpoint that he expressed last week.  Heck, even Metro itself took the time to take apart Rutten's argument piece by piece.

The Times officially backs road pricing in yesterday's editorial, "Congestion Pricing on Freeways Benefits All."  It starts out slowly, noting that "proponents of economic justice" are concerned about the plan (translation: Tim Rutten is pretending to be concerned about the poor), but that it makes sense for everyone.

The toll lanes will provide people of all incomes with a choice they don't currently have. It's true that choosing to pay the toll will be easier for people of means, but it's senseless to argue that even low-income people are better off having no choice at all.

Professor Peter Gordon's "Blowback" piece that appeared in the Times over the weekend is a more direct condemnation of Rutten.  After Gordon points out that unpriced roads are one of the biggest giveaways the government can give and are a guarantee of high congestion going into the future, Gordon also points out that the poorest people, the one's Rutton so eagerly "defends" in his piece will benefit from the increased transit that congestion pricing brings.

Third, Rutten's objection to pricing is based on his concerns over "equity." But the poorest of the poor would not be tolled, as most of them use transit. Buses on tolled freeways would move faster and be attractive to more people...Finally, as our experience with the tollway along the 91 Freeway in Orange County has shown, people in all walks of life value the time they save if and when they choose to pay the toll. Many get extra time with family, extra time to earn income or both. This is why no one calls these tolled lanes "Lexus lanes" anymore.

While there are some serious concerns people could have with Metro's plan, teh concerns should be that the plan doesn't go far enough, not that it is unfair to the working poor.  I'll be unable to attend any of the community hearings on the plan that are scheduled over the next couple of weeks.  But if someone else goes and wants to write a review, I'll be happy to post it here.