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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Times Brings Back Pricing Misinformation Campaign

|
Photo of 110: Wikipedia As Metro’s "Express Lanes" project starts to make headlines, you can expect to see more and more of these types of articles; misinformation dressed up as altruistic concern for others, appearing in local papers everywhere.  For those of us who love the idea of congestion pricing on highways we’re left with […]

Suburban Congressmen Introduce Anti-HOT Lanes Legislation

|
A pair of Southern California Republican Congressmen have authored legislation seeking to halt Metro’s plan to add congestion pricing in the form of HOT Lanes to two Los Angeles County Highways. Representatives Gary Miller (pictured) and David Dreier have introduced "the Free Way Act" which, according to a statement on Miller’s website would, "prohibit states and localities […]
STREETSBLOG USA

The Mythology of HOT Lanes

|
In July Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe stood on the platform of a train station in Alexandria to announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation had granted $165 million for the Atlantic Gateway project. While this is a multimodal project featuring rail, bus, and highway improvements, it was clearly the latter that most enthused the governor. At one […]

Feds. Look at Miami HOT Lanes and See Good News for Transit

|
Miami’s conversion of HOV lane space to new high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes as part of the federal Urban Partnership program, which also prompted New York City’s congestion pricing push, is cutting travel times for local transit and boosting use — but overall bus ridership in the corridor has stayed static, according to a new report […]

Ridley-Thomas Introduces Congestion Pricing Legislation

|
Locked in a tight battle for the Board of Supervisors seat held by Yvonne Burke with City Councilman Bernard Parks, State Senator Mark Ridley Thomas may have taken a risk by introducing S. 1422, the enabling legislation that will allow Metro to move forward with it’s plan to bring congestion pricing to Los Angeles. While […]