King County Executive Ron Sims and former Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald are both in favor of congestion pricing.
Sims seems to be vacillating on whether congestion pricing is designed to reduce throughput of vehicles, or increase it. Doug MacDonald definitely believes in the latter. After all, would Kemper’s White Guys and the Discovery Institute support the idea if it cuts down on driving? (My guess: no) I don’t think the Sierra Club has thought this through. If variable tolling makes the existing freeways work more efficiently, doesn’t that mean you get more volume and more throughput? Add in the issues raised in that Willamette Week article (linked below), where environmentalists are raising red flags on charging per mile instead of per gallon (because of how each system might affect vehicle choice) and you have an even weaker “green” case for tolling.
This raises some fundamental issues and contradictions – which may explain why both greens like Ron and roadwarriors like Doug, Kemper and others all seem to like the congestion pricing concept – it can be all things to all people. The fact Discovery has attached themselves to it should be the first warning sign…
Sims: That’s really interesting. We have tolls on the Narrows bridge. We’re going to have hot lanes on 167, that goes through the Kent Valley. One thing we know is that traffic… it really affects traffic. When we have congestion pricing, it reduces traffic volume 15 to 20 percent, because people begin to use those roadways smartly. And it’s also complemented by increasing the transit service that we’re going to have there. So we expect that people are going to move much better. You know our goal is to have an average speed of 45 miles per hour, which is a lot faster than they’re going now.
Doug MacDonald, who sponsored a competition to put the transpo-nerd term “through-put maximization” into regular-person language:
Haase wrote in his winning entry: “The physics of car-flow in a highway resemble those of rice poured through a funnel. If you pour slowly, you get little out, but if you pour too fast, the rice clogs and you get little — or nothing — out either. Car-flow involves similar thinking. For any highway there’s a particular in-between speed that moves the most vehicles under typical conditions.”
While “through-put maximization” — moving the maximum number of vehicles through a stretch of highway at the maximum speed — might sound good to transportation technophiles, much of the public doesn’t understand it, said MacDonald.
The Willamette Week did a story on Oregon’s consideration of congestion pricing:
Environmentalists question why the state would switch to a system where a Hummer owner would be treated the same as a Prius owner. And civil libertarians raise alarms about the mileage tax’s underlying technology—an electronic collection system that uses a global positioning system to count the number of miles driven. That information would get uploaded and recorded at service stations.
“We must be cautious and understand how information can be linked and how information can be used in a way that is not intended or foreseen,” says Andrea Meyer, legislative director of ACLU of Oregon.
I wonder how much it would cost to equip every car in Seattle, King County, or Washington state with the “homing beacons,” or if that would even be possible to do in the next few years? I’m a fan of the Logan’s Run-style bar codes on human beings, but without the ritual killing on your 21st birthday. You know, because that seems at least plausible to achieve within the next few years.