Increasing taxes and increasing the cost to transport people and goods hurts the economy, not helps it. Charging motorists a premium to get to work will only encourage drivers to avoid the roadway to seek a free route. After 40 years of HOV social engineering and trying to manipulate drivers into ditching their cars to use transit, it has been a colossal failure. So, the policy intentionally inflicts economic pain on drivers through tolls in order to use that money to benefit those who are traveling in politically correct modes of travel. The government picks the winners and losers.
By Terri Hall l November 7, 2016
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe brokered a deal with the Assembly Republicans to forge a compromise on imposing tolls on Interstate 66. Whenever tolls enter the picture, controversy is sure to ensue. Environmental groups and progressive local governments pushed for opening up the HOV express lanes to single occupancy vehicles, if they paid a toll. Transit users would get a free ride. No effort would be made to expand the highway — that is until General Assembly Republicans threatened to stop the project through legislation unless widening commenced at the same time tolls are imposed.
The threat worked and the parties ended up with a compromise plan that likely won’t help economically challenged commuters. According to McAuliffe’s press release, Virginians will have the nation’s first dynamically priced tolls on all of the express lanes inside I-66. The aim of the I-66 inside the beltway project is to encourage carpooling and transit ridership or pay a penalty, if you choose to drive alone.
Today, only carpoolers can use the beltway express lanes during peak hours. Once single occupancy cars can finally access the lanes if they pay a toll, the restricted time periods will increase to 5:30 AM-9:30 AM and 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM, giving commuters no relief without paying tolls. The I-66 widening won’t be finished until 2020, so the only option for solo drivers to get any congestion relief until then is paying a toll.
McAuliffe erroneously claims: “This initiative, coupled with Virginia’s new SMARTSCALE transportation prioritization process, will unlock Northern Virginia from the traffic congestion that was strangling this region’s economic potential.”
I-66 tolls could cause more traffic “between the Capital Beltway and VA Rt. 7 once changes for high-occupancy lane usage take effect, according to new projections,” wrote Max Smith for wtop.com.
Increasing taxes and increasing the cost to transport people and goods hurts the economy, not helps it. Charging motorists a premium to get to work will only encourage drivers to avoid the roadway to seek a free route. After 40 years of HOV social engineering and trying to manipulate drivers into ditching their cars to use transit, it has been a colossal failure.
Most commuters travel by car, and few can arrange to carpool. Transit ridership has remained flat for 45 years — which includes the timeframe when millennials supposedly eschewed cars and instead opted for and liked transit. Now that those millennials have been in the workforce long enough to have rising incomes, they’ve become the fastest demographic to gobble up cars. Even liberals have limits to their political philosophies. When confronted with reality, millennials prefer the freedom and convenience of cars and have been voting for auto travel with their wallets.
Yet progressives, wedded to their manipulation of the public and having risen to positions of power, continue to sway government officials to keep engaging in a failed policy despite their lack of success. The elitist urban planners and radical environmentalists have infiltrated all areas of transportation and forced transportation policy to include all modes of travel in any project — wasting money and directing funds to transit and alternate modes of travel like biking and walking in the name of equality and fairness. It’s a page out of the Agenda 21 playbook.
The big misnomer with the pro-transit crowd is that transit already uses our roads, so do bicyclists. Roads are already multi-modal. The pro-liberty crowd needs to start calling their bluff.
To make matters worse, the I-66 toll revenues will be diverted to transit. The Transform 66 web site states the program will “allocate toll revenue to fund additional and improved travel choices that could include roadway, bus, Metro access, bicycle and pedestrian options.”
So, the policy intentionally inflicts economic pain on drivers through tolls in order to use that money to benefit those who are traveling in politically correct modes of travel. The government picks the winners and losers. Virginia has seen a drop in transit ridership, a 15% drop in the month of June alone due to the Metrorail accident, yet officials continue to push transit and make auto users pay for it.
There’s been a clear hesitation to use the Metrorail system or its alternative, the bus, after the horrific Metro D.C. accident in June. The government’s refusal to properly maintain the tracks and rail cars has made the rail option unsafe. Rail dropped another 2.3% in July and bus ridership also dropped 4%. Prior to the accident, the Metro had a 5% drop in ridership over five years as of October 2015.
While 45% of inner core commuters typically used Metrorail, 42% of them are federal employees. The federal government subsidizes the Metro system to the tune of 56%, while many federal agencies also pay for employees’ Metro rail passes. This arrangement is why transit ridership in Virginia is higher than elsewhere in the country, where ridership is actually closer to 2-3%.
The real reason for pushing restricted lanes is control. The toll rises or falls depending on the level of traffic to guarantee certain speeds. All cars will be required to have a toll tag transponder in their vehicles to access the express lanes during restricted periods. It’ll be even harder to carpool in 2020, when the widening is completed and the threshold switches to require three people in the car to qualify for carpooling. Clearly the plan is to get auto users to switch modes. Virginians can and must push for all restrictions to be lifted and to eliminate this discriminatory plan.
Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of ten turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.