The Dernogalizer

May 8, 2010

Maryland reverses decision to defer $56 million payment to Metro

Filed under: transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 7:10 pm
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It’s good to see that the major pending cuts to Metro services appear to have been addressed, at least for now.  The Washington Post reported yesterday that Maryland chose not to defer its $56 million two-year payment to metro in exchange for better accountability.

“Interim General Manager Richard Sarles said that Maryland agreed to support Metro’s proposed $5 billion capital improvement program for 2011 to 2016 in return for the agency providing greater “transparency” on how it spends the funds.

The details are being negotiated, he said.

“They have assured me we will get the $28 million for this current fiscal year” and are “committed to” supporting the program, called Metro Matters, Sarles said during a meeting of The Washington Post’s editorial board. Maryland officials confirmed their position Thursday morning, he said.”

April 9, 2010

Want to Save Metro? Contact Governor O’Malley

Filed under: MD Politics,transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 1:49 am
Tags: , , ,

Another action alert for Maryland residents.  We need Metro.  I know I need Metro!  Below is an e-mail from the Coalition for Smarter Growth on this issue.  Contact Governor O’Malley!

Ask Governor O’Malley To Save Metro Service

Dear Matt ,

Time is running out – Metro service cuts may soon be a reality.

Our leaders can stop these service cuts by committing more funding to Metro, but despite all of our emails, Maryland is balking at adding additional funding. Time is of the essence because Metro will soon make budget decisions. The proposed service cuts include:

  • Eliminating 8-car trains, even during rush hour
  • Closing the Morgan Boulevard and Cheverly Metro Stations on weekends
  • Slashing bus service throughout the system
  • Closing Metro earlier and opening later
  • Imposing half hour waits between trains during the evening
  • Closing some Metro station entrances on weekends and evenings
  • Ending Yellow line service to National Airport on evenings and weekends

We need your help to stop these drastic cuts. Send an email to Governor O’Malley urging him to prevent these devastating cuts. Metro is a basic and essential service for the region’s economy. Metro will make its budget decision soon. Emails will also automatically be sent to the Metro board.
signon

metro
Longer Waits, Fewer Trains?
Polls show a clear majority of residents support more funding for Metro. Email Governor O’Malley today and urge them to listen to us and help save Metro service before it’s too late.signon
Photo by Flickr user mlcastle

Maryland Remains Non-Committal

The State of Maryland is saying they can’t afford to provide its share of the additional funding necessary to prevent drastic cuts in service. It is the joint responsibility of Metro jurisdiction governments – Maryland, D.C., Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria – to collaboratively fund Metro. Metro is the region’s transit service that takes hundreds of thousands of area residents to and from their jobs, stores, appointments and school every day. We ask that the State of Maryland and all the member jurisdictions fulfill their responsibility to the region’s residents.

More Traffic, Longer Commutes, Lost Jobs?

The cuts that Metro is facing – detailed here – would not just be inconvenient, they would be devastating. Cuts will damage the economy, hurt local businesses, cause job losses (how will people 100% dependent on transit get to work?), increase traffic and discourage transit-oriented development, which has been key to revitalizing D.C. and the inner suburbs.

Just Monday, the Washington Post released a poll showing that a clear majority of area residents support new funding sources for Metro. Eighty percent of Metrorail riders rate the system as good or excellent. Sixty-two percent said that efforts to reduce traffic congestion should focus on public transportation.

It’s Not Too Late – Tell Governor O’Malley To Listen To Maryland Residents

It’s time for Governor O’Malley and all area government leaders to step up to the plate and preserve the system they have already built and over a million riders depend on every day. We’ve already submitted more than 2,000 petition signatures and 1,200 emails to leaders in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, but we need more to get their attention. Please email Governor O’Malley one more time.
signon

We recognize that all governments are strapped for money, but letting Metro service fall to below minimal levels – on top of charging riders higher fares – makes no sense. We need true leadership from Maryland, D.C., and Virginia in these challenging times. Instead of abandoning the system that we spent billions of dollars to create, we need to maintain it. Email Governor O’Malley today and remind him that Metro is still the best and safest ride around. Tell him what Metro means to you and ask for his leadership in supporting the necessary funding for Metro.

Thank you for your passionate support of our Metro system!

Sincerely,

Rebecca Perring

Coalition for Smarter Growth

action@smartergrowth.net

March 31, 2010

Washington Post: Cuts to Metro Would be Economically Dangerous

Filed under: MD Politics,transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 1:33 pm
Tags: ,

Below is an editorial by the Washington Post on the need for Maryland, DC, and Virginia to adequately fund Metro, or risk severe economic ramifications in the region.  I wrote a column last summer about a way these states could raise funding and allocate more money to mass transit.

“HERE’S A QUESTION for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: Will you join Virginia in protecting Metro from crippling service cuts that could represent a downward tipping point for the economy of the entire Washington area?”

“That may sound like an overstatement, but it’s not. Metro is facing the threat of service cuts — shorter trains, much longer daytime and weekend waits, and other drastic curtailments, including to bus service — whose effect would be to further sap an anemic transit system already losing ridership and facing the prospect of a long-term death spiral. If Metro has any hope of pulling out of its nosedive, it will be badly undermined by the $44 million in service cuts proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Officials in Northern Virginia, which ponies up almost a quarter of the region’s $574 million contribution for Metro, seem to understand this. Although no formal commitments have been made, there are signs they’re prepared to find some extra cash that would avert some cuts. Those cuts, particularly to the Yellow Line, would turn quick and convenient trips to and from National Airport, Alexandria, Verizon Center and other popular destinations into slogs involving endless waits and multiple changes.

But officials in the District and Maryland, which together chip in the other three quarters of Metro’s regional subsidy, are balking at coming up with funds. This is dangerous, because there is no formal mechanism to coordinate higher contributions from all three localities. If one jurisdiction stiffs the system, the funding formula dictates that the other two follow suit. The result: Metro’s hole gets deeper, and the most vulnerable residents — the poor, the sick, the aged — get hurt most of all.

Metro’s ridership contributes about 55 percent of the system’s $1.4 billion operating budget, more than the ridership of virtually any other major transit system in the nation. That contribution is set to rise as a result of stiff fare increases. But fare hikes alone will not cover even half of the $190 million deficit that Metro faces in the coming fiscal year, which is largely the result of falling ridership and rising costs for health care, pensions, contract workers and service for people with disabilities. And if Metro’s riders are bearing the burden by paying higher fares, it’s unfair for the District and Maryland to freeze their contributions.

It’s also dangerous. State and local governments nationwide have been forced to make painful cuts to services in recent years, but Metro is a service of a different sort: It’s the region’s vital strategic linchpin. If people can’t get where they want to go with relative ease and affordability, the basic functioning of the region itself will falter, along with its prospects for prosperity. Metro is the priority on which other priorities depend. Given that basic truth, it shouldn’t be so hard for the District, Maryland and Virginia to find an extra $50 million or so among them, which is what it would take to maintain an essential regional resource.”

January 6, 2010

Further cuts to Metro on the Horizon

Filed under: MD Politics,transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 10:01 pm
Tags:

Need funding much?

Back in April, I wrote about Metro cuts that would affect access to and from the University of Maryland, and right now further cuts are being considered for the new round of budget reductions.  Here is an e-mail I got from the Coalition for Smarter Growth, asking citizens to sign their petition for Metro funding, and to send an e-mail to the Metro board to get public input before they make a decision.

What Metro is Proposing

Metro faces a $40 million deficit in this year’s operating budget (ending June 2010), and to address the shortfall, Metro is proposing serious service cuts. We are concerned about and opposed to:

  • Increasing wait times from 20 to 30 minutes after 9:30pm on Orange, Blue, Yellow & Green lines; and from 15 to 20 minutes on Red line.
  • Reducing 8-car trains to 6-car trains during rush hour.
  • Bus service cuts that will leave many riders waiting long periods in the cold and rain.

Instead we believe Metro should examine other rail and bus service approaches that allow Metro to maintain service while closing the budget gap. For bus service in particular, by giving buses priority on key routes, we can speed bus service and save money. The state transportation agencies need to commit to doing this.

In addition, state, local and federal government should provide funding to help bridge the budget shortfall. The states of Maryland and Virginia should be reprogramming transportation funds to support critical transit operating needs.

You can read more about the proposed cuts and alternative ideas for meeting the budget shortfall on the Greater Greater Washington blog.

Metro Needs Sustained Investment

In the longer term, Metro needs the support of all levels of government to secure the needed funding to:

  • Replace track, switches, electrical power systems, and station platforms; and,
  • Purchase new buses and rail cars to keep up with growing transit ridership.

Total replacement and capacity needs between 2011 and 2020 is $11.4 billion. In December, Congress approved and President Obama signed an appropriation of a first, one year installment of $150 million for capital investments to address some of this need. This is the first part of a 10-year proposal to match $1.5 billion in federal funds to $1.5 billion in state and local funds. But we will need additional commitments each year from local, state, and federal governments for not just the $3 billion, but the full $11.4 billion in needs.

For comparison, the region has spent about $4.6 billion on the Beltway (Wilson Bridge, Springfield Interchange and HOT Lanes) and $3 billion on the Intercounty Connector in recent years, and Maryland DOT is now proposing $4 billion to widen I-270 to Frederick. Clearly, we have to make choices — we believe that investing in Metro should be a top priority, because of the many benefits it offers.

August 13, 2009

Column on Funding Transit and Closing Deficit

Filed under: MD Politics,transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 3:36 pm
Tags: ,

I have a column out today about how to close the state’s looming budget deficit while at the same time providing more stable funding for public transit.  Although this is a Maryland proposal, I would suggest something similar for the Federal Government.  I’m pasting it below along with sources.  I just noticed they really badly got my e-mail wrong.  Oh well.  It’s mdernoga@umd.edu

Transit: Tax gas

MATT DERNOGA

To the applause of mass transit advocates, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced his support for the light-rail option of the Purple Line on Aug. 4. While completion of the Purple Line sometime late next decade will be a positive step forward for our state, the cuts to transit in the last year alone amount to a comparable step backward.

This past April, cuts were made to Metrobus routes that run through and around the campus. When the state had to cut $1.1 billion of transportation funding last fall, tens of millions were cut from engineering work on the Corridor Cities Transitway, a lesser-known proposed mass transit link within Montgomery County’s Interstate 270 corridor. The state canceled a planned contribution to local efforts to extend light rail from the Branch Avenue Metro station to Waldorf. MARC train and commuter bus services all around the state were scaled back or eliminated.

It recently came to light that another $700 million worth of state budget cuts are on the way thanks to slumping revenues, so there will be plenty more to complain about. The point is that advocates for the Purple Line should celebrate their progress, but look around and realize if in 10 years there is only one light-rail system connecting two counties, we’ve lost.

The state will face a lot of tough choices on how to make up the budget shortfall. It comes down to two options, cut spending or raise taxes. I despise government waste, but the state has already had to cut several billion dollars out of the budget. All the fat has been trimmed, and we’re now scraping bare bones. Taxes hurt, but cuts to essential services, including the brittle legs holding up what’s left of our transit system, will hurt far more.

To help reconcile the persistent lack of funding for transit and the immediate budget shortfall, Maryland should make two changes with our source of transportation funding, the gas tax. First, raise the gas tax. It has stayed at 23.5 cents a gallon since 1992, and should at least be raised to keep pace with inflation. Second, redirect the revenue from the gas tax to the general fund, rather than having a separate transportation fund. One of the big reasons we’ve had revenue shortfalls is the price of gas was about $4 last summer, which massively curtailed gas consumption.

Expect a future of peak oil, increased fuel economy standards and plug-in hybrids. Expect falling gas consumption as the years pass, which will mean less revenue. Even if we do nothing, we’re eventually going to be forced to tap the general fund to fund transportation. We might as well fix the problem now so we don’t have to cut billions of dollars worth of road and mass transit funding due to unanticipated and underestimated shortfalls.

We’d also correct a flaw in our transportation funding structure. Right now, our source of funding is dependent on us buying gas, contrary to the mass transit’s goal of decreasing gas consumption. This backward incentive to build roads is a reason why roads get such a disproportionate amount of funding compared to mass transit. By raising the gas tax and redirecting its revenue to the general fund, we’ll ease the pain of coming budget cuts and provide stabler funding for mass transit in the years to come.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga@umdbk.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/04/AR2009080402766.html (O’Malley backing Purple Line)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/10/AR2008091001812.html (1.1 billion in cuts)

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/files/2009/transitfirst20090402.pdf (Metrobus cuts to UMD)

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/getthere/2008/10/maryland_to_cut_transit_servic.html (MARC+commuter bus cuts)

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/may/24/little-support-for-plans-to-give-drivers-gas-tax-h/ (info on gas tax)

http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/business/display.htm?StoryID=91811 (better info on gas tax)

http://www.mddailyrecord.com/article.cfm?id=11961&type=UTTM (700 million in cuts)

June 13, 2009

Transforming Transit

In 2006 transportation made up 28% of  greenhouse gas emissions,  second only to electricity generation.  Since 1990 the growth in the greenhouse gas emissions for transportation represent 48% of all US emissions growth.  Since forever, spending on roads versus mass transit has been very very much in favor of the roads.  President Obama is seen as the strongest advocate in a long time if not ever for a more  balanced transportation approach that places an emphasis on rail and bus transit.  The stimulus bill received a record and unprecedented amount of funding for rail and transit, and it was only 8.4 billion.  Spending on roads and highways well eclipses that, so even with a spending binge done by a progressive Congress and a strong rail advocate in Obama, mass transit did ‘ok’ at best.  The good news is that the public has always been for more mass transit spending, and a recent poll shows that support has gone up, possibly due to concerns over gas prices rising again.

There’s going to be a big opportunity in the Congress later this year as they consider a massive 6 year transportation re-authorization bill that will decide what priorities America invests in.  It’s a good chance to get transportation right.  A recent US Daily News interview of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is a very good indicator that the Obama administration will be looking to give mass transit a whole lot more love.  Really, just about all LaHood talks about in the interview for every question is the need for more rail and more mass transit!  A long way to go, and the Congress usually has a way of screwing things up, but for transit advocates out there, this interview is worth reading . Notable excerpts below.

“Four months into his new position as secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood has a great deal on his plate. As well as overseeing 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget, he’s in charge of $48 billion in stimulus funds directed to his department by the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is gearing up for the reauthorization of the massive, six-year “highway bill” that funds transportation projects. The former congressman from Illinois sat down with U.S. News to talk about the administration’s priorities, high-speed rail, and where all that money will come from.”

“We’ve spent three decades building an interstate system. We’ve put almost all of our resources into the interstate system. This is a transformational president, and the department is following the president’s lead. People haven’t really been thinking about these things. They have been thinking about how to build roads, how to build interstates, how to build bridges. People now are thinking differently about where they want to live, how they want to live, and how they want to be able to get around their communities.”

“When you look back when the interstate bill was signed, I’m sure people were saying, “Well, where are we going to get the money for it?” And I guarantee you this, all of the lines weren’t on the maps. Three decades later, we have an interstate system that’s a model for the world, built with Highway Trust Fund money. Eight billion dollars is a lot of money. It will help jump-start opportunities all over America. You know what? It’s an excellent start.”

April 6, 2009

Metro Cuts to affect University of Maryland

Filed under: MD Politics,transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 12:07 am
Tags: , ,
the sad state of our Metro....

the sad state of our Metro....

I can’t say I’m surprised that these cuts were coming considering the size of the state’s deficit, and Governor O’Malleys determination to move forward with the InterCounty Connector. I got a press release in my e-mail today about how the Metro cuts are going to affect students at my college, and will make it more difficult for us to be mobile without using a car.  However, in my opinion this is more than just about how myself and fellow students are being impacted by O’Malley’s ridiculous decisions, it should be an outrage to communites all across the state that Metro is being cut.  This is despite the fact that with these tough economic times, mass transit ridership and demand is higher than ever, and gas prices are likely to go back up once the economy recovers.  I’ve never quite understood Governor O’Malley, because he seems to understand global warming, and he understands the need for clean energy, but when it comes to our transportation system and reducing sprawl, I’ve never seen this kind of incompetence on all levels.  Just last week, he announced the creation of a Maryland Clean Energy Center in Montgomery County, but put it in a place where there was no transit access, so now people have to drive to get to the clean energy center.  Good grief!   Below is the press release on these recent cuts by the Transit First! Coalition, as well as a link to a more detailed press release

link: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/files/2009/transitfirst20090402.pdf

PRESS RELEASE:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2009
Source: Transit First! Coalition

For information contact:
Ben Ross, 301-706-6826

PROPOSED METRO CUTS THREATEN UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

Proposed cuts in Metro service would have a severe effect on the
University of Maryland campus in College Park, transit advocates
pointed out today.

Metrobus route C8, which runs from College Park Metro to White Flint
via Campus Drive, would run only in rush hour under the proposed
Metro budget.  A rush-hour-only bus is of little use to students, who
rarely follow a 9-to-5 schedule.

Route R3, which runs from Fort Totten to Greenbelt via Adelphi Road
and Metzerott Road, would be canceled entirely.

The Transit First! Coalition, composed of transit rider, environmental,
and labor organizations, has called on Governor Martin O’Malley to
provide the funds needed to avoid drastic service cuts in suburban
Maryland. The group urged the governor to match the additional Metro
funding commitment made by D.C. and local Virginia jurisdictions.  The
Transit First! plan to fill the gap in Metro’s budget and avoid service
cuts is here:
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/files/2009/transitfirst20090402.pdf

“It makes no sense to cut service when people are driving less and
riding transit more,” said Ben Ross, coalition chair and president of
Action Committee for Transit.  “More transit, not less, is required to
protect our environment and to create a sustainable economic recovery.”

Metro will hold two public hearings on these cuts.  Transit First!
urged transit supporters, especially those who will be directly
affected by these cuts, to attend and speak out.  The hearings will be:
* Monday, April 13, 6:30 pm, at First United Methodist Church, 6201
Belcrest Road, Hyattsville, near Prince George’s Plaza Metro.
* Tuesday, April 14, 6:30 pm, at First Baptist Church of Wheaton,
10914 Georgia Ave., near Wheaton Metro.

Emails opposing the cuts can be sent to Maryland Secretary of
Transportation John Porcari at secretary@mdot.state.md.us .

Members of Transit First! are the Action Committee for Transit,
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Audubon Naturalist Society, Clean
Water Action, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Greater Greater Washington,
MCGEO—UFCW Local 1994, Prince George’s Advocates for Community-based
Transit, Progressive Maryland, Save Maryland Area Rail Transit.  The
coalition is chaired by Action Committee for Transit president Ben Ross;
vice-chairs are David Alpert, editor of the Greater Greater Washington
blog, and Jason Rylander, Arlington environmental lawyer and transit
activist.

-end-

March 19, 2009

MD Inter County Connector Action Alert!

Breathe the Air!

Breathe the Air!

So if you live in Maryland(or if you know someone in Maryland who would be interested) this post is for you!

The bill being considered in the State Senate and House of Delegates right now would strip the Inter County Connector, a monstrous 18 mile highway being built in Maryland, of its 4 billion dollars worth of funding.  The environmental implications of this road are far-reaching, and killing it would be a huge victory.  Just related to global warming, the ICC is going to increase driving by 750 million miles a year by 2030, making it very difficult to reduce transportation emissions.  At the same time it will deplete state funds that could go to mass transit.

Here are a couple of columns myself and a friend wrote on the ICC in case you want more info:  column 1column 2

I’m pleading with you to take 5-10 minutes of your time and e-mail or call all 3 of your delegates, and your state senator asking them to support to bill to defund the ICC.  These are 4 calls/e-mails anyone who wants to stop global warming and protect the environment should be making.  The action alert is below.  Thanks so much.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————
ACT: Please call 1-800-492-7122 Ask your Senator and Delegates to vote FOR
House Bill 27 / Senate Bill 753 to defund the Inter County Connector highway.

FIND: your Representatives at http://www.mdelect.net/electedofficials/ or http://www.congress.org/
or call the General Assembly switchboard at 1-800-492-7122
State Senator’s emails are firstname.lastname@senate.state.md.us

STATUS:  Soon, the bill to defund the $4 billion dollar 20 mile long toll ICC highway will be heard in the House Appropriations & the Senate Budget & Taxation committees.

Opponents will try to kill the bill in committee, because if the bill gets to the floor of the full House or Senate, it becomes very difficult for legislators to oppose such a common-sense measure in such difficult economic times.  We need your support to get this bill out of committee with a favorable committee report.

This is a good time to contact your representatives in Annapolis to let them know you want them to reduce wasteful spending and take a stand against this environmentally destructive project.

DESCRIPTION: There is debate on the amount of money that would be saved overall by not building the ICC since money has been spent already, however, let’s not throw good money after bad. The negative effects of building it (increased traffic congestion, global warming gas emissions) are too great.
Text of the bill http://mlis.state.md.us/2009rs/billfile/hb0027.htm
More information:   http://maryland.sierraclub.org/action/p0157.asp

Please join us AND write your legislators to ask them to vote FOR HB27/SB753 to come out of committee and onto the floor.  Thank you!

January 27, 2009

Column on Stimulus Bill

So I have a column out today criticizing part of the stimulus bill and making a suggestion. Enjoy!

http://media.www.diamondbackonline.com/media/storage/paper873/news/2009/01/27/Opinion/Environmental.Stimulus.Thinking.Like.Its.1999-3598314.shtml

Environmental stimulus: Thinking like it’s 1999

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 1/27/09 Section: Opinion

Last year was a rough year. Layoffs at the unemployment office, foreclosures extending to our doghouses and a national debt in dollars approaching the distance in miles between the Earth and the nearest galaxy. Good news has been hard to come by. Fortunately, our elected officials are experts at spinning bad news into “good news.”

How else can local and state politicians proclaim with an infallible sense of pride that there are thousands of infrastructure projects backlogged and ready to go? The “good news” is they’re perfect for President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. Why have we had trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure spending waiting for shovels to hit the ground since before I hit kindergarten? Is it because the government isn’t spending enough of your money? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Or is it because the majority of our land-use policies, transportation policies and infrastructure planning have been based on a flawed 20th century model for growth?

Our cities have been expanding at an unsustainable rate, swallowing up rural land that dares to reside on the edge. The creation of all these suburbs on the edges of cities means people and the new infrastructure they require – especially the roads connecting them back to the city – are spread out like butter on a slice of bread. This expansion took place at a pace so furiously irresponsible that governments could no longer raise the funds to upkeep the new roads, bridges, schools, firehouses or even Vice President Joe Biden’s hair plugs. All that stuff costs a lot of money.

There’s a major environmental negligence with these kinds of growth policies as well. Everyone driving to and from the city for work gets stuck in congestion. We end up with worsening air pollution, water pollution from runoff and increased gas consumption. Then, all of our local and state officials declare that we need to clean up our environment while promoting the same poor growth policies that were causing the pollution in the first place.

The majority of the delayed projects that Obama is planning to resurrect follow our 20th century growth model – that’s when they were designed. To an individual lacking peripheral vision, the stimulus money needs to go into these outdated initiatives where shovels are ready to hit the ground. But the leaders of our local governments, our state governments and our federal government need to stake a step back. Try looking at the whole picture rather than at just a single pixel.

There needs to be a conscious recognition that the way to address the economic, national security and environmental challenges we face is not by building new roads. It’s not by further expanding our cities. Poor land use and transportation decisions have driven each other for far too long. Investments need to be made that will have long-lasting positive ripple effects for decades.

Invest massively in bus transit by replacing and upgrading every single fleet of every region in the nation. The struggling automakers can learn how to make buses, right? Fast-track all of the mass transit projects in the books, and revitalize what we already have. This includes light rail, subways, rapid transit and freight rail. Make everything state of the art. This will take cars and trucks off the roads, reduce our infrastructure upkeep costs, decrease the check amounts we write to foreign countries for fuel and cut carbon emissions at the same time.

These investments should be the priority of the economic stimulus when it comes to transportation. The stakes couldn’t be higher. What do we want for our money? Good news, or “good news?” Change, or more of the same? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu

January 1, 2009

Panel Agrees with me on Disease, not Treatment

Filed under: Energy/Climate,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 9:42 pm
Tags: , ,

I Thought I Told You to Drop It!

I Thought I Told You to Drop It!

So a Federal Commission tasked to figure out how in the world to fund transportation decided that we need to substantially increase the gas tax.  Article can be found here.  Increase it by how much?

“In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 12 to 15 cents a gallon. At the same time, the commission will recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation.

The commission will also recommend that states raise their fuel taxes and make greater use of toll roads and fees for rush-hour driving.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for increasing the cost of driving because I want us to reduce carbon emissions, reduce oil use, and transition to more efficient vehicles.  However, as I stated in a recent blog post(:  https://madrad2002.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/federal-and-state-transportation-funds-need-new-source/)

The gas tax is ultimately a dead end.  Even if raising it is a good way to increase funding for transportation, we’re inevitably going to lose the revenue when gas prices rise and more efficient cars are on the road.  In addition, the gas tax puts an incentive for roads over mass transit, which is a bad way to get off oil or fight global warming.

People who are quoted miss the mark..”I’m not excited about a gas tax increase, but the reality is our current gas tax doesn’t pay for upkeep of the system we have now,” said Adrian Moore, vice president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, and a member of the highway revenue commission. “We can either let the roads go to hell or we can pay more.”

Right on sentence #1… our current tax doesn’t pay for upkeep.  But the choice between letting the roads go to hell or pay more….no?  How about we stop building roads, and start building transit?  And if we’re going to pay more, pay it out of the general budget so we adequately fund it.  I don’t care what you do with the gas tax specifically, I’m just saying that the funding source needs to change.

At least the writer of the article throws out a bit of a hint..

“The dilemma for Congress is that highway and transit programs are dependent for revenue on fuel taxes that are not sustainable. Many Americans are driving less and switching to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and a shift to new fuels and technologies like plug-in hybrid electric cars will further erode gasoline sales.”

Pretty much what I said…

The recommendation ultimately is

“According to a draft of the financing commission’s recommendations, the nation needs to move to a new system that taxes motorists according to how much they use roads.

“Most if not all of the commissioners have a strong belief and commitment that we need a fundamental transformation of the current system,” said commission chairman Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology policy think tank in Washington.

Okay so I like that they recognize there needs to be a change, but I think they are wildly off target.  It’s pretty simple, just take take the funds from the gas tax, and put them into the general fund, and draw what you need from that fund.  Otherwards, we’re subsidizing roads, and doing a bad job of funding and upkeeping them at the same time.

Incompetence at its finest.

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