Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box Left at DOT

Yonah as usual has a great post up on the confirmation hearing of future Secretary Lahood. There were a few parts that bothered me, including the repackaging of old ideas as innovative. When Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota asked what kind of innovative ways to replenish the highway trust fund, he said:
Public/private programs… Tolling of new lanes, tolling of highways, is a different way of thinking about it… We need to think of those kind of opportunities… Differently than just the gasoline tax… We know that people are still using Amtrak even though gas prices went down, we know people in places like Chicago are still using mass transit.
While I like all the nods to transit that were mentioned, and there were a lot of those, the idea of taxing cars alone as the only way to get things done, even if it is tolling is a bit one sided. What about how the Red Line in Portland was financed by trading property in exchange for Bechtel building the line. Or the Seattle Streetcar where property owners taxed themselves for half of the capital cost.

We need to somehow tie transportation investments to land use and that could mean funding based on true costs and things like tolling for suburban roads, but also other ideas that are floating around out there that could change the way we think about these investments and their value (H+T). Let's start to think harder. It's like we don't know how to be super innovative anymore. Or maybe I'm just hoping for too much.

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