Vol. 16, No. 4; Jul/Aug 2005
We hoped to be able to report in this issue that the reauthorization bill has been signed into law - or at least that the House and the Senate have reached agreement on a bill. Alas, agreement has proved to be far more elusive than anyone had expected. As we go into the month of July, Congress was obliged to pass yet another temporary extension - the eighth since TEA-21 expired in October 2003...
"It is time to seriously look at the possibility that we need to devolve all surface transportation funding out of Washington." This was the provocative conclusion of Tom Downs, President of the Eno Foundation, speaking before the annual convention of the American Society of Civil Engineers (October 16, 2004). His speech revives a debate that reaches back to the mid-1990s. Calls to reduce the scope of the federal-aid highway program and turn the federal gasoline tax back to the states have been made before. Back in October 1996, John Kasich then a republican congressman from the state of Ohio, introduced a legislative proposal, the "Transportation Empowerment Act." The bill, (co-sponsored with Senator Connie Mack [R-FL]) would have phased out all but two cents of the federal gas tax and turned most of the responsibility for highway financing, construction and maintenance over to the states (See, "The Winds of Devolution," Innovation Briefs, October 1996.)
Devolution also had its critics. They argued that development and maintenance of a national system of highways is a federal objective. They further contended that there was no guarantee that states would enact their own gas tax increases to make up for the repealed federal tax. Underneath these concerns lay unspoken reluctance to see power, money and influence shift out of the friendly hands of the federal government to state governments that might prove to be less sensitive to the priorities of the urban and environmental constituencies.
Two and a half years ago, my colleague Bob Poole, and I published a study entitled "HOT Networks: A New Plan for Congestion Relief and Better Transit." (Reason Public Policy Institute, Policy Study 305, February 2003). In it, we proposed marrying two promising urban transportation innovations - high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). In our vision, metropolitan areas would convert their existing HOV lanes to toll lanes and progressively expand them to create regional networks of dynamically priced lanes. Cars would share the free-flowing toll lanes with express buses, providing transit riders and individual toll-paying motorists with superior mobility not just in individual corridors but throughout a whole region. That vision may find its first expression in the National Capital region.
Joseph S. Sussman, professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been involved in the Intelligent Transportation Systems program since the late 1980s. He participated in the development of the original ITS Strategic Plan, served on the Board of ITS America and has been an active participant in numerous ITS-oriented professional activities. He also has been a prolific writer. A selection of his writings has now been published in book form ( Perspectives on Intelligent Transportation Systems , Springer Inc., 2005). In it, Sussman examines the state of the art of ITS technology and assesses its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities... For anyone interested in the origins and evolution of this still young technology, Perspectives on ITS offers valuable insights from one of its most distinguished chroniclers, interpreters and advocates.
UK's Transport Secretary Proposes a Nationwide "Pay-per-Mile" Charging System
A radical plan to launch a distance-based "pay-per-mile" national road charging scheme has been proposed by United Kingdom's transport secretary, Alistair Darling. But Darling cautioned that the system could take up tp 15 years to implement and would require political and public consensus that does not exist today...
Stockholm Moves Ahead with a Congestion Charging System
The city of Stockholm will introduce a cordon-based congestion charging system on a trial basis in January 2006, according to a government announcement...
Is San Francisco Ready for Congestion Pricing?
The congestion charging fever has reached our shores. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority, at the urging of its chairman, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, has applied for a federal grant to study the feasibility of a city wide congestion charge. The decision was no doubt influenced by London's Mayor Ken Livingstone who several days earlier came to San Francisco to address the nation's mayors at the United Nations World Environment Day Conference...
German Satellite-Based Truck Toll System Operating Successfully
After five months of operation, Germany's truck toll system, Toll Collect , is reported to be working reliably...
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