Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 7

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Just a reminder, there’s a reason they haven’t begun digging the 710 tunnel (Streetsblog L.A.) 

The foremost reasons are that the environmental review process is still far from complete and the more expensive alternatives under study for the SR-710 project — in particular a tunnel or light rail line — are not fully funded. But Streetsblog editor Damien Newton says the real reason is lack of any kind of broad-based support for such a project. He also takes another shot at tonight’s Zocalo Public Square forum on the 710, intimating that it will be a Metro-sponsored rally for 710 expansion although conceding that “it’s possible that tonight’s discussion will take a different turn.” One correction: The event at MOCA in downtown L.A. is free and is near the Red/Purple Line’s Civic Center station and numerous Metro bus lines. It’s only $9 for those who choose to drive and to park at Disney Hall.

MTA may have tough time getting federal rail money past House GOP (L.A. Times) 

Republicans in the U.S. House are proposing spending cuts to the federal New Starts program that helps local agencies pay for large transit projects. That could impact $200 million in next year’s federal budget for Metro’s Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension projects. Excerpt:

Raffi Hamparian, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority director of federal affairs, said county officials would work to increase the amount when the House committee acts on the bill in coming weeks or to win approval for a higher amount from the Senate, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sits on the Appropriations Committee.

“It may be that the Senate is going to come in with a solid number that fully funds the program, and we don’t have a problem,” Hamparian said. “But the bottom line is, a low number adds uncertainty, and we don’t like uncertainty.” [snip]

“We’re determined to get these projects built, on time and on budget,” Hamparian said. “Los Angeles County voters have repeatedly stepped up to fund these projects, and we look forward to Congress meeting us halfway to get these great American infrastructure projects built.”

L.A.’s plan to make Figueroa a ‘complete street’ makes sense (L.A. Times)

The editorial backs the city of Los Angeles’ plans to put four miles of Figueroa on a road diet between downtown L.A. and Exposition Park, meaning that two traffic lanes could be lost and replaced, in part, with protected bike lanes and other improvements to help pedestrians and bus riders. Businesses, including USC, have pushed back. The Times says that’s a bad idea and that transferring some of the improvements over to Flower Street (which runs parallel to Figueroa) would be a bad idea.

How tolls could prevent a U.S. transportation crisis (The Atlantic Cities) 

With the federal Highway Trust Fund in perpetual crisis mode, Eric Jaffe writes that it’s encouraging that President Obama is proposing to allow states set tolls on their portion of the interstate system to pay for maintenance. The proposal would also allow some toll money to be used for public transit. My three cents: the interstates have been toll-free for so long that it’s going to be a mighty tough sell to get this past Congress and to get states to go for it, even if they have the permission to set tolls.

8 replies

  1. The comments here point out the reasons why tolling interstates are a bad idea. Should truckers and businesses be forced to pay more to move food and commerce from state to state, because guess what people, the prices of everything are going to go up, but I guess if your wealthy with a great job, who cares about the poor whether it’s called a tax, toll, fee or anything else. By the way taxes, fees, tolls etc. can be distributed any way the government wants unless it is otherwise specifically written into law. LAX cannot send monies collected by fees to the City of LA because it is specifically written into law. Facts are good to know.

    Should people who want to visit relatives or maybe a national park or just cruise Route 66 for fun now have to plan for additional expenses, but I guess those who like to use transit or bicycles will be better off….but wait for it, no they won’t, because the costs of tickets and fares from transit companies (i.e. Greyhound, etc.) are going to have to increase also.

    Will there be a National transponder system or will every State have their own? I guess those trucking companies and people who travel will have plenty of boxes lying around their vehicles.

    These are just the tip of iceburg.

  2. If we’re going to toll the freeways, then it has to be equitable.

    Should a motorcycle be charged the same rate as a Cadillac Escalade?
    Should a Toyota Prius be charged the same rate as a Peterbilt semi-trailer?

    Obviously the more heavier the gross vehicle weight, the more strain it causes the freeways. You can’t treat a motorcycle the same way as a semi-trailer, they need to be charged differently.

  3. A toll is a user fee, not a tax. I suppose buying groceries is a regressive tax too? How sad 🙁

  4. Tom,

    The mistake is equating tolls for taxes.

    Tolls are meant to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the freeways only. If tolls collect $15 million, those $15 million can only be used to maintain the freeways. Government can’t use the $15 million collected from tolls to say, give new squad cars for the police.

    Taxes are ones that are collected that is allocated throughout budgeted government services. If $15 million in taxes are collected, $15 million gets spread out to government services like education and law enforcement.

  5. Tom,

    And who creates the jobs? The rich. The rich is only going to move elsewhere if you keep taxing them. Then who’s next? Tax the middle class. And if you keep increasing their taxes, they too will move elsewhere. Now you’re left with millions of poor jobless people like California because all the rich and middle class left California and took their jobs to other states likes Texas.

    Taxes only hurt everyone. Besides, when has government ever used our tax money wisely?

  6. Tom,

    Poor means having trouble finding enough to eat. If you own a car, you are not poor by definition and can afford to pay basic services and responsibilities like insurance, registration, gas taxes and tolls if necessary. Don’t worry, we are still a progressive country as many people pay no income tax, while professionals are hit with tax bills in the tens of thousands of dollars. If we are going to charge just a few people to pay for everything, what happens when they get tired of paying all the taxes and just hang out on beach.

  7. Tolls are a very regressive tax, that is they’re the same for the rich and the poor. This amounts to a almost free ride for the rich because it takes a much smaller bite out of their wallets. When I was in grade school we were taught we were lucky to live in America because the tax system was progressive–the richer you are the more you could spare to pay taxes and in a way the more services you used. more The rich have more to steal so they “pay” more for protection. Now, even Obama has given up and instead suggests that an average “Jane” should pay the same toll as one of his “1%-er” contributors. After all, we’ve got to find the billions for the 710 toll tunnel if the construction companies and unions are going to support the next Democratic candidate.

  8. Tolling the interstates makes completely perfect sense, provided that it doesn’t come with silly things like “monthly maintenance fees” like the ExpressLanes.