Friday, June 27, 2008

Congestion relief for wealthy, Evenson advocates

Highway planning according to SEWRPC chief Phil Evenson: People of means should be able to buy their way out of congestion while everyone else breathes car exhaust.

Evenson proposed this week that drivers who can afford to pay tolls to drive in less congested lanes should be allowed to do so.

“What’s wrong with a premium charge for a premium ride?” Evenson said during a forum on transportation funding sponsored, according to the JS.

Where to start...

Well, for one thing, SEWRPC and the highway happy planners at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation keep insisting that easing congestion is essential for a strong economy. But here comes Evenson, completely disowning overall congestion relief. He's now willing to provide better traffic movement only to those who can pay more for it.

SEWRPC has long dismissed concerns that adding highway lanes will increase air pollution because there will be more cars on the road. SEWRPC has argued repeatedly that cars moving at faster speeds are less polluting than cars stuck in stop and go traffic. Under Evenson's proposal, though, many people would still be stuck in traffic. The freeway would be wider, more people would be on it, but traffic jams in a majority of lanes could actually be worse. Even under SEWRPC's convoluted logic on pollution, air pollution could well be worse than it otherwise would be.

How high would the tolls have to be to cover the cost of building and maintaining the extra lanes for rich people? Or would the average Wisconsin driver, who can't afford to drive in the rich people's lanes, have to pay to build them?

What happens if too many people want to drive in that lane? Do we build yet another rich people's traffic lane, or do we convert a regular traffic lane to a rich person's lane, thereby increasing congestion in the regular people's lane?

Evenson's proposal does nothing to address the negative aspects of freeway construction -- the noise, dirt. loss of green space, loss of wetlands, loss of flood plain, loss of tax base, etc. The negative impacts of SEWRPC's existing freeway expansion plan is visited mostly on City of Milwaukee residents -- Evenson's proposal for rich people's traffic lanes likely would also most negatively affect city residents. At least he's consistent on some things.

And, as a commenter on Jim Rowen's blog points out, Evenson's proposal conveniently overlooks the fact that people are driving less.

Evenson's proposal benefits a few people with adequate disposable income who experience a few minutes of delay in their drives to the suburbs. The costs are borne by everyone else.

And global warming impacts? Shhhh. SEWRPC doesn't like to talk about that.

Sounds like the type of SEWRPC plan we have come to expect.

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