Monday, June 25, 2007

Too exotic and sinister

Congress' role in local transportation taxing and spending is just a way to expedite porkbarrel politics. Earmarks are now so outrageous that even some pols are almost blushing.

Yet, in the year 2006 AD, the feds discovered and began promoting road pricing.

Time-of-day pricing is, of course, the no-brainer "gridlock" remedy that (until recently) only an economist could love. But London's Red Ken and New York's Green Bloomberg are now on board.

But, alas, it is still all too exotic and sinister for Los Angeles planners and politicians. This morning's LA Times reports "Bid for federal transit cash is bounced from fast lane ... A proposal by the city of Los Angels and the MTA to curb freeway congestion is rejected after planners failed to do their homework" (excerpted below).

It appears that even the offer of a bribe to at least take pricing seriously in their proposal for federal aid, the locals could not bring themselves to do so. It is just too strange for the locals.

In May 2006, the federal government published a call to arms
for traffic-ridden cities across the country.

The feds — their big wallet loosened to the tune of $1.2
billion — asked cities to propose novel ways to ease congestion. One of the key
requirements for being considered for funds was that cites include a proposal
for "tolling," or "congestion pricing."

Congestion pricing has become an in-vogue term in
transportation circles and is already in use on the 91 Express Lanes in Orange
County. It's the practice of charging a toll, but with a twist: The price
changes as traffic increases. As the price goes up, the theory holds, fewer
motorists will use the road. Several government entities in Los Angeles County —
including the city of Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
— submitted a joint application. Nationwide, nine of the 27 cities that applied
were named semifinalists earlier this month, but the local effort was bounced
from the competition.

Why? Having reviewed the 30-page application, we offer this
easy two-step guide to blowing a chance at millions of dollars in federal

1) Don't follow instructions. Whereas other cities actually
proposed tolling and congestion-pricing programs, the local application stated
only that it would study the concept.

2) Use suspect spelling. The sixth sentence on the
application's cover sheet read: "For this effort, Los Angeles County partners
will bee seeking [the Department of Transportation's] technical support on