Media, Congress Members, Running Another Express Lanes Mis-Information Campaign

Gary Miller speaks on stimulus spending at a 2009 press conference while Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica looking on. Mica is reportedly backing Miller's plan to end Metro's Express Lanes project. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/transportationgop/3730662410/##GOP House and Infrastructure Committee/Flickr##

Congressman Gary Miller (R-OC) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-LA) have teamed up to try and stop Metro’s “Express Lanes” project to allow single-passenger vehicles to buy their way in to the carpool lane on the I-10 and I-110 HOV Lanes.  Just as we did with the bike lanes opinion piece in City Watch yesterday, it’s important to take a look at the arguments against congestion pricing, because we’re going to start seeing them a lot in the press.

First off, let’s look at the given reasons for opposing congestion pricing from Miller and Waters to the Times:

Even though driving in the carpool lane is voluntary, Miller said the toll would be tantamount to a double taxation on motorists, who already paid gasoline taxes to build the freeway lanes.

“If you want to do a toll road, build a toll road with private funds,” he said in a Capitol Hill interview. “But don’t use taxpayers’ dollars to build a road and then charge them to use it.”

We should note that Miller’s last legislative attempt to end the this project was called the “Free Way Act,” because Miller apparently believes that the most highly subsidized form of transportation should be completely free.  Research that goes back as far as 1994 shows that drivers don’t come close to paying the cost of their driving habit, and that doesn’t include the cost in pollution and other negative secondary impacts.  We should also note that if three people are in a car, than they can use the lane for free.  Only drivers who refuse to carpool with three people per car will be charged to use the Express Lane.

Maxine Waters Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliedermansky/4942212934/##jsdart/flickr##

Waters’ position is even less defensible:

Waters, whose district includes part of 110 Freeway corridor, said in a statement that she too had “significant concerns” about the project’s effect on low- and middle-income drivers.

“I don’t think it’s fair that drivers of lesser means, making a grueling commute to go to work and make ends meet for their families, should sit in stand-still traffic while those who can afford to pay about $4 for a one-way trip get to use the carpool lane,” Waters said.

First, as we’ve noted literally dozens of times before, when “people of lesser means” are polled as to their feelings on congestion pricing, they approve of it by a 3 to 2 margin, the same margin that people of greater means do.  Why?  Because the entire purpose of congestion pricing is about providing a congestion free commute and there are emergency situations where even “drivers of lesser means” are going to appreciate the choice to have a congestion free commute.  Besides, three “drivers of lesser means” can always form a carpool and pay nothing to use the lanes.

If Waters is really concerned about “PEOPLE of lesser means” instead of “drivers of lesser means,” she would be enthusiastically backing this proposal.   Metro recently received an over $213 million grant to implement HOT Lanes on two area highways, and purchase new buses for and build new park-and-ride facilities adjacent to the new HOT Lanes.  So the entire transit dependent population of the 110 Freeway Corridor will benefit from this proposal because of better bus service and better parking to access the lanes.

  • Jerard

    What a load of claptrap!

    They dangle this FastLanes money at us and then take it away right as LA is ramping up the work for it, paying for the new buses and facilities that will go with this. Is there any wonder why LA passes its own Sales Tax funding measures to counter such nonsense from Washington?

    Congresswoman Waters ought to be ashamed of herself, this would provide a means of improved mobility to her constituents, its acts like this and her longtime grandstanding and preventing the Green Line to reach LAX is what setting Angelinos mobility back.

  • Spokker

    ““I don’t think it’s fair that drivers of lesser means, making a grueling commute to go to work and make ends meet for their families, should sit in stand-still traffic while those who can afford to pay about $4 for a one-way trip get to use the carpool lane,” Waters said.”

    Couldn’t you use the same argument about cars and transit? Why should people of lesser means make a grueling commute to work on the bus while those who can afford to pay for a car get to use the freeway?

    The argument is so absurd. On top of it, she is jeopardizing funds for buses that people of lesser means like me would like to use.

  • ds

    I understand the “don’t rich people have it easy enough?” instinct, but there are times when anyone would be willing to pay a hefty toll in order to get somewhere faster.

    The price is supposed to increase automatically as demand increases, so it will be interesting to see how high the prices will go.

  • Fart Box 3000

    Triple tax them! Nobody is going to be able to drive this summer anyway with gas prices being speculated through the roof.

    Ironic that the rural parts of the US that have the most to gain as the low-wage manufacturing, food, and non-oil based logistics centers they once were are the most pro-car sumbitches out there.

    Your small town along the river struggling? Perhaps getting rid of the interstate will persuade farmers to once again move goods on rail and by boat through your stupid little town again, bringing back domestic middlemen jobs.

    Yes, commodity prices would surge but we’d have a lot more legitimate work in rural america is we stopped funding all these stupid highways.

    I’m not joking. Rip that crap out and I think it would actually do our rural communities some good.

  • Erik G.

    The irony is that carpoolers, who already have to arrange to get the 1 or 2 passengers into their vehicle, now will have to have an account and a transponder too use these lanes. This is not being publicized and this is not the policy for car- and van-pools on other HOT projects in other areas. (See I-15 in San Diego for example)

    Say goodbye to casual carpooling. And only local (LA Metro/Foothill/FlyAway/etc.) buses will be able to use these lanes; not intercity or tour coaches visiting the area. Motorcycles? You need a transponder too!

    Look also at the FAQ for the ExpressLanes:
    http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/expresslanes/images/ExpressLanes_FAQ.pdf

    Q:If people get transponders and don’t use them,
    will they be charged?

    A:Yes. There is a fee of $3 per month per transponder. The
    monthly non-use fee of $3 is waived for commuters who use
    the ExpressLanes at least four times (one-way trips) per
    month, whether they are in a carpool, vanpool or toll-paying
    single occupant vehicle.

    Translation: If you aren’t using these new ExpressLanes (one-way) more than three times a month, even the users who are now bonified HOVs will find it actually NOT FREE because of the monthly charge.

  • Kenny

    Somehow there’s a bit of a double standard here. Car drivers shouldn’t have to pay twice for a road, but transit takers are required to pay twice for transit. Why are there any charges for riding a bus or taking a train? Wouldn’t it make things work much easier and faster for everyone if they were just free?

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