September 08, 2007

Tolls : Buy in haste, repent at leisure

CAMPO is meeting next Monday, September 10th, at the Capitol in the extension auditorium, E1.004. The meeting will start promptly at 6:00 or whenever Mike Krusee is able to make it on one of the time machines as he'll be driving in from WillCo where he'll be busy trying to find anyone who will support his re-election. I kid! He totally has supporters. He'll actually be spending most of the day looking for supporter #3.

If you're entering from the Capitol building from the north, hit the elevators closest to you (before you get to the rotunda) and drop on down to E1. If you're coming from the south, just walk through the rotunda to the elevators in the north wing. As for parking, you're best bet is the garage at 1201 San Jacinto. It's 3 or 4 blocks to the Capitol from there but it's an easy walk.

Now that the mundane details are out of the way, here's what you need to know. This ISN'T the vote on Phase 2. This is a meeting to hear public testimony and evaluate what TXDoT has said. The politicos call that accountability, but it's really a requirement of state law (though we did like your attempt to make it seem like you were being gracious, Gerald). Accountability is the word being used by the electeds which is good because it means they are listening. And they know what's at stake.

The members of CAMPO are in a tough spot. On one side is TXDoT saying if you don't toll, you get no roads. On the other is the Austin Chamber whining about how much we need roads. As an aside, this is exactly the reason why I shun Chamber's of Commerce like I would a boy with a venereal disease. They are masters of the obvious, always late to the party and usually with the wrong solution. These are smart people (you don't rise in even a smaller, regional bank or title company without some modicum of intelligence) but they are none the less acting like impatient children ready to give up far more than needed for a system which by design will be inadequete. Phase 2 is a poor substitute for what's needed. Moreover, what CAMPO should be focused on is us.

The always stupid Ray Perryman, in a op/ed a month ago, referred to the opposition of a 'vocal minority' to toll roads and that needs to be corrected. We aren't one big group. We're all independent of one another. We've all come to roughly the same conclusion which is that tolls are too expensive. We are the tip of the iceberg, just the most vocal and informed in the community. We represent the majority who want roads and have no problem paying reasonable taxes for them. We do, however, have a massive problem with tolls. Why?

Because they are too expensive to consumers.

200,000 commuters daily. 8 cents per day per commuter vs. $3.00 per day per commuter. That's the math. $16,000 from the pockets of Central Texas taxpayers vs. $600,000 per day. Which do you think is cheaper?

Sounds incredible, right? The numbers are solid. Tolls include profits for private contractors. The gas tax does not. Granted, if the gas tax is indexed it will go up over time. But so will the tolls and their starting point is far higher. The other complaint about the gas tax is that it hits everyone. As we've discussed a number of times, so will the tolls. Seriously, there isn't a region in Texas that isn't getting toll roads and there isn't a freeway or highway in Texas that's not being considered for toll lanes. We're all going to pay, whether it's a gas tax or tolls. Wouldn't you rather pay the least?

Yeah, so would I.

Part of the mission of the Chamber's Take on Traffic is to reduce congestion. The only way to do that in Austin is to take traffic off 35 and the only way we're going to do that is to cut the tolls on 130. The only way that is going to happen is if CAMPO sends a message to the Lege that they aren't going to be bullied.

Let me be clear... what CAMPO is tasked with is choosing to put Central Texas taxpayers into massive debt with extremely high costs or choosing to wait and see what changes come in January,2009. Is it too much to ask to err on the side of caution before you write a check we'll have to pay off over the next 100 years?

Let the CAMPO board know what you think by clicking here...oh, and if you really want to rehash the TakeOnTraffic talking points, here they are.

Posted by mcblogger at September 8, 2007 04:21 PM

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