||[Oct. 31st, 2007|10:22 am]
I know, many of you have probably mailed in your ballots already.
There have been lots of election things showing up in my mail and on my answering machine. I've been ignoring most of them. Why? My real dilemma is what to do with Prop. 1. I think I'm siding with Ron Sims' viewpoint. It seems sad to vote against the expansion of light rail and other things with this package. However, I'm disappointed by some of the choices the light rail district made, including going with the highest-cost option which seems to provide light rail to a slew of areas with low-density housing, and I totally agree with the congestion pricing concept; it seems like an innovative way to maximize the throughput of highways by using economics to reduce the traffic volumes to the sweet spot where the most vehicles can get through (for this reason, WSDOT now only counts congestion when traffic speeds drop below 70% of the speed limit; see WSDOT's Gray Notebook, Sept 2006, mentioned in Lite edition, but only the full edition has a decent explanation).
I actually started thinking in this direction before Ron Sims went public with his opinion; what got me started was my brother dzolo's comment on my viaduct post when that went up for vote, as well as my own ruminations of how expensive WSDOT's ferry system is. The ferry system is rather expensive, and most of the time, it benefits a small percentage of the state residents even though it's heavily supported by state funding. WSDOT's default mode of operation is to try to keep doing as good or better at moving people; from there, it's a small step to always building out transportation facilities. What if we froze our ferry system's capacity at its current levels, and raised prices to maximize the income from ferry fees (based on at what threshhold various percentages of people would stop using the ferries), and possibly used congestion pricing there as well? This way, very gradually, we could wean the ferry system away from the subsidies they get, without abruptly disrupting the communities that have come to depend on the ferries. Taking my brother's comments into account, gradually, people's choices would change, as they took the ferry price increases into account when selecting housing, and thus many things would be kept more or less in balance.
Which gets me thinking...if this idea can safely be applied to the ferries or the viaduct, could it be applied to the 520 bridge? How could we design a system that would provide the right incentives to slowly shift our region to not needing that bridge at all over the next 10-20 years, or having just a 2-lane bridge for some combination of transit, HOV, and people willing to pay (probably quite high) congestion-based tolls? I've seen fiscal analyses indicating that in order to afford to replace the 520 bridge, in addition to whatever funding we get, we should start tolling both 520 and I-90 now to pay for it; why aren't we doing that?
Should we be doing *more* of this, say at every bridge that crosses the ship canal?
I'm not actually qualified to evaluate these things. However, I think the people guiding our choices should be evaluating these options, and my impression is they're not, because they're not politically viable options.