Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A German Model for Transportation Finance

In August 2008 the Humphrey Institute's State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) organized a visit to the German Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) tolling system. SLPP selected Germany for this visit because: (1) the German HGV tolling system to be at the cutting-edge of large-scale, distance-based tolling for the purpose of infrastructure investment funding, and its use of incentives to reduce vehicle emissions, especially as they relate to greenhouse gases (GHG); and (2) the HGV system could be used as a possible distance-based financing model for Minnesota and the United States in the future. It is anticipated that the next Surface Transportation Authorization Bill will likely include a distance-based implementation demonstration project.



The German Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) tolling system, introduced on January 1, 2005, is a satellite-based, electronic system covering the entire national motorway (Autobahn) network (12,500 kilometers or 7,768 miles). Tolls are assessed to all heavy commercial vehicles over 12 tons (26,400 pounds) gross vehicle weight, based on distance traveled, number of axles and emission class. The toll system is operated by Toll Collect, a private-sector joint venture made up of Daimler-Chrysler Financial Services, Deutsche Telecom and Cofiroute. The system generated 3.3 billion Euros or $5.15 billion in 2007.



On October 1 the Humphrey Institute hosted a roundtable on the German system. The purpose of this roundtable was to provide a better understanding of the challenges and successes of the German system and its possible relevance to Minnesota and the US. The roundtable was sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies and the Humphrey Institute’s State and Local Policy Program with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. A copy of the agenda, presentation slides, and full report on the German system can be downloaded below.



A GERMAN MODEL FOR MINNESOTA?
A DISTANCE-BASED SYSTEM FOR TRANSPORTATION FINANCE
Rethinking Transportation Finance Roundtable
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Roundtable Agenda
Presentation Slides
Full Report

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miami Advice

A central principal of the Hippocratic Oath is "first, do no harm." The same principal applies to congestion pricing practitioners. As this CNN
story
shows, Miami transportation officials are learning that even a relatively small amount harm can take a long time to live down.

Miami transportation officials acknowledge that the design and public education around their new high occupancy toll (HOT) lane could have been better, and that their initial shortcomings contributed to early safety problems. To their credit, those officials took quick and effective actions to mitigate the problems.

But the CNN story shows that first impressions have lasting effects. So it's important for officials to invest the necessary time and resources into project design and public education.



Road design and public education are not inexpensive items, and transportation budgets are tight all over. But repairing a battered reputation and regaining public confidence is much more expensive. As the old Fram oil filter ad used to say, "you can pay me now, or pay me later."

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Pricing" v. "Tolling" v. Something Else: Does it Really Matter?

Shakespeare’s Juliet famously said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Well, that “what’s in a name� issue has been the foundation of perhaps the most persistent debate in the history of road pricing or value pricing or congestion pricing or dynamic pricing high occupancy tolling 

The fact is, scores of different names have been applied to the concept of charging varying fees according to driver demand. Various names have gone in and out of vogue over the years, with each new variation promising to be more effective than the last. The most common Flavors of the Month right now seem to be “road pricing� and “congestion pricing.� But next year it could easily be something different.

I’ve been at this for a long time, so I can’t help but wonder: Does labeling matter as much as we pricing advocates think it does? After all, the history of public acceptance of road pricing tells us this: Consumers always are highly skeptical of the concept, whatever we call it, in the early stages. Pre-implementation, labeling doesn’t help minds. That initial skepticism only morphs into support after consumers can EXPERIENCE IT, whatever we happen to be calling “it.�

So, historically, it’s not the marketing label that changes citizens’ minds; it’s the experience. Moreover, some of the people I know who are most devoted to our Twin Cities “congestion pricing� project describe it with the four-letter word that sends chills up the spines of marketers, “T-O-L-L.� Gasp!

So I ask you, does labeling matter as much as we think it does? If so, what’s the best label?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sen. Scott Dibble Speaks Out on Transportation

Sen. D. Scott Dibble gave the following luncheon address on transportation and congestion pricing at the 13th International HOV/HOT Systems Conference in Minneapolis on September 8, 2008:



60Dibble.jpg



I’d like to give you a little bit of background about what brought me to be so passionate about transportation. I first got my start in politics, “community organizing�, around basic issues of justice, fairness, access, civil and human rights. That quickly led me to fighting for basic common sense approach in the drive to expand I-35W through south Minneapolis and the southern suburbs at a time when transit and LRT were dirty four letter words (likened to the great social engineering experiments of the Soviet regime).



Thousands of homes and dozens of small businesses were on the chopping block, all to save just a few minutes of commuter travel via auto at the peak, which would have evaporated by the time the road was opened. All of the pollution and social impacts were to be borne by Minneapolis residents, with no access and no benefit. Downtown Minneapolis, which was supposed to benefit, could not fit one more car on its streets, and the project was going to cost $1B then the bulk of the agency’s for a whole year.



Surely there had to be a better way. Expensive new highways, congested as soon as they’re opened up, thousand of cars spewing out choking exhaust, people having to buy second and third cars for the family, old people and young people being stranded something wasn’t working. We knew that people wanted transportation to be a net benefit, to serve much larger goals and aspirations. Transportation engineers building monuments to themselves was not good enough.



But what did people want? To get into buses and trains (even pay to do so) and give up the freedom and convenience of a “free� car trip? To pay a toll on a road between their home and work or school or the store? To move into the city, out the gorgeous and inexpensive 1.5 acre, 4 bedroom home they bought for $150,000? People running around with all of these great ideas, transit, demand management, congestion pricing, seemed like pointy headed Debbie Downers.



To read the rest of the speech click below on "Continue reading this entry"

To be sure, the concepts and ideas that support the innovations you are all working on and trying to advance are compelling, are vital to solving are vexing transportation and mobility challenges. Better use of existing investments in infrastructure, driving the external costs from society to the user, creating a more rational set of economic choices for individuals and businesses, making transportation subordinate to our greater goals, rather than have the transportation tail wag the dog.



Along the way we have spin off benefits   raising additional resources for transportation alternatives, better use of land and redevelopment, more livable communities, mobility for those stranded seniors, low wage workers, the disabled and youth, and on. Who could be against that? But, for better or for worse, having the best idea around is, in my estimation, only about 15 percent of the equation.



Elected officials are really not dunderheads, craven seekers of adulation, power and control over vast sums of
money. Most are actually earnest, hard working, wanting to do right by their constituents, wanting to both lead on ideas that are ahead of the curve and to represent the interests of constituents. Most have a different focus and expertise than the one you have, so you are competing for their time and attention. And when you’re bringing an idea that might seem to be ahead of its time, upsetting the proverbial apple cart it is up to you to be sure that the ground has been prepared so the idea can be planted, grown and ripened. [big on metaphors]



Some might think that my role as a legislator is fairly straightforward – get a good idea, introduce a bill, present it through the committee process, bring it up on the floor for a vote, send it to the Governor for signature. Along the way have a few conversations with my colleagues and ask some regular people to show up and testify. Voila, good things happen, justice prevails!



As the sophisticated people in this room well know, my role actually comes somewhere near the end of a very long, very complicated and iterative chain of events. Before we’re ever ready for the prime time at the Capitol, squadrons of regular people have been asked to join the cause, other levels of government have made important policy shifts, private interests and businesses have made changes to their internal policies, the media has been engaged, your mom and dad have decided the idea is great, or at least worth trying out. Every sector of Minnesota life has been touched, organized, affected in some way – education, legal, social services, business, faith community, media, government, political parties, and on. You need to decide where you come in, what part you play: as a convenor, a leader, do you implement the new activity?



If we profess to really be for something, a high minded ideal or principle, we actually have a moral imperative to go about all of the practical steps to bring about its realization. It is not good enough to be right on the facts and own the so-called moral high ground and sit up there sneering or complaining about all of the know nothings who don’t get it. It really is actually pretty lazy and a cop out.



Also key to change are all of the tasks and activities involved in influencing the large systems that permeate our lives, our culture, our society, our political climate and our government. Extremely complex and varied, those actions involve a lot of people, a lot of expertise and a lot of money. It also requires untold quantities of persistence, diligence and coordination. No one person, no one organization can solely take that challenge on. There is much to be done, plenty to go around.



One of the best examples I can think of is the work that has been done right here in Minnesota by none other than our own Lee Munnich and the University of Minnesota – The Humphrey Institute and the Center for Transportation Studies. Lee, of course, has the benefit of having been a practitioner of the finer arts of policy implementation as an elected official.



Converting the I-394 HOV lanes to HOT lanes, which has now given rise to the Urban Partnership Agreement innovations on I-35W and Cedar Avenue, was the result of research, conversation, persuasion, patience, collaboration. Public opinion was well researched, best practices, a community based steering committee was formed, earned and paid media was employed. It took patience and diligence over a number of years. It is a great story to tell and I hope you’ve had some time to really examine it as a case study during this conference.



By the way, I believe all of this is not a bad thing, and in fact, makes our work more fun and more interesting. Creating change in this way causes more buy in, allows for the improvement of an idea, forces the setting of priorities, increases the level of accountability for results, ensures that larger principles are in play, builds in greater sustainability, creates and climate for broader application of the larger ideas and on.



Again, thank you for giving me the honor of sharing some of my thoughts with you. Let me take this opportunity to commend you on a great conference and to thank you for all of the hard work you do to help make our communities better.



Senator D. Scott Dibble, Chair-Minnesota Senate Transit Subcommittee
Luncheon Address
13th International HOV/HOT Systems Conference
Partnerships for Innovation
Minneapolis, Minnesota
September 8, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Real community-based transit

"Community-based" transit is a topic that we have addressed from time-to-time, and the Center for Transportation Studies (Center for Transportation Studies - University of Minnesota has a page on the related topic of Community Transportation



However, I thought it would be useful to highlight a post from our Humphrey Institute colleagues at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship By the People - A vehicle for learning in St. Paul

They have worked to create a small set of transit circulators that meet a particular need at a particular time. While I don't believe these circulators can replace major transit systems, I also don't believe they need to. Rather, they are outstanding complements, providing additional customized service that fills gaps left by larger providers. The existence of such circulators thus meets the particular mobility needs of a population, freeing them from the need to have access to a personal automobile.



It would be interesting to learn more about how these circulators are financed, and to develop a model for providing such service on a wider basis

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Introducing some of our contemporaries

Planetizen has done a bit of homework on other good planning blogs (and critics). A great way to plug in and get in on the conversation! On Blogging and Planning | Planetizen

Friday, September 5, 2008

Speed Enforcement Cameras on the Rise

Unexpectedly having your picture taken can be unsettling. Having a camera take an unexpected picture of you while speeding and issuing you a $300 ticket takes unsettling to a whole new level for most drives. Yet across the country, highway speed cameras are being used by state governments and local municipalities in an attempt to slow down drivers while making some extra cash for government coffers.

In Arizona, over 100 speed cameras are being placed on highways in order to reduce accidents and fatalities. These cameras have the ability to not only ticket a vehicle going over the speed limit, they also have the ability to snap a photo of the driver. Some drivers have learned this the hard way, like Jennifer Bitton, who lives in Nevada where automated enforcement devises are illegal. On a trip to visit her parents in Arizona, a speed camera caught a picture of her cruising 28mph over the legal limit. She was not aware the picture was taken until officers showed up at her parent’s home to arrest her.



Not all states have been so eager to allow their citizens pictures to be taken while speeding. In 2000, the California legislature passed a law strictly forbidding the use of such speech cameras due to privacy concerns. Since then, local jurisdictions like the city of San Jose as have been battling the state over their use of speed cameras, in the hopes that their desire to enforce speed limits locally will trump the privacy concerns expressed in the state legislature. The prospect of them winning that battle is on the verge of being realized this years as a bill is currently working its way through California legislature would allow the use of these cameras on highways throughout the state.



In Maryland, the recently authorized cameras are being heralded as a great success as 20,000 drivers are being ticketed a month on Maryland highways. Though Maryland is an example for other states in how effective the cameras can be in capturing violators (as well as extra revenue), privacy concerns about these cameras and their use still exist in the state and go beyond just picture taking. Maryland did not help put those privacy concerns to rest when they posted the name, birthday, Social Security number and address of speed camera violators on their state web site.



Not to insinuate that the states are doing anything wrong - at least legally, however. The law varies widely from state to state. The main legal challenges to enforcement cameras (both red light and speed cameras) concerns their legality within the framework of pre-existing states laws defining who can be liable for traffic violations. In Iowa, courts began throwing out tickets issued by speed cameras as local jurisdictions with cameras attempted to hold owners civilly liable for infractions committed with their vehicle, whereas Iowa /a> state law only permits law enforcement agencies to hold drivers criminally liable for traffic infractions. The issue of who can be civilly or criminally liable for traffic violations caught on video has also been central to Minnesota’s rejection of Minneapolis’ red light camera program, yet has not been an obstacle in other jurisdictions like Ohio.



Back in Maryland, law enforcement officers have decided to take advantage of the legal uncertainties around this issue. Police officers are literally giving the bird to speed cameras, leaving the owner of their vehicles (the county) responsible for over 224 unresolved speeding citations.




Thursday, September 4, 2008

A little love for Hiawatha LRT

Well, actually, the Minneapolis LRT has received lots of love from planning types since it opened. Altho dedicated readers may want to keep an eye out for an independent review led by my colleague Ed Goetz sometime in the near future . . .



But, in this particular story (http://www.planetizen.com/node/34842), a Planetizen blogger states his humble opinion that the Hiawatha LRT gets the common folk to the airport better than nearly any other landside connection in the country. As someone who has figured out how to get from the office to the gate in less than an hour via LRT, I heartily concur!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Humphrey Institute’s 2020 vision for Urban and Regional Planning and Policy

Last Spring, Dean Atwood asked us to identify significant policy and planning issues the world will face in the year 2020. Given the fact that in recent years the world’s population crossed a threshold and became for the first time in human history more urban than rural, the challenges of the coming years relate to the rate and scale of urbanization.



We are, as a species, creating larger places, and more of them. The Greater Mumbai region in India, for example, has a larger population than 173 countries in the world. Currently, India has 31 cities with populations of more than one million people; China has 53 such cities. The rate at which we are adding new urban dwellers in the developing countries of the world is unprecedented. China added more urban dwellers to the world in the 1980s than did all of Europe in the 19th century. The World Bank estimates that within 30 years, “cities in developing countries will triple their entire urban built-up area, generating the same amount of urban area as the entire world had cumulatively generated by the year 2000.� Forty years ago, the American sociologist and demographer Kingsley Davis claimed that "cities exceed in size and densities the communities of any other large animal. They suggest the behavior of communal insects rather than of mammals." The scale of our urban settlements today dwarfs that which Davis commented on in the 1960s.

The attached powerpoint slides outline four key challenges that arise from this trend. The first is simply the challenge of creating and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to manage urbanization. The rapid growth of cities, especially in developing countries, far outstrips the ability of national and local governments to create water and sewage systems, transportation facilities, and housing.



Second, rapid urbanization is creating problems of ecological management. Urbanization around the world consumes land at a rate greater than the growth of urban populations; i.e., our urban settlements are spreading at lower densities over ever greater land areas. Sprawling urbanization puts intense pressure on natural ecosystems, and thus creating sustainable patterns of urbanization is an important challenge we will be facing in the years to come. In addition, most of the world’s urban growth is taking place in coastal cities, 12 of the 15 mega cities in the world are coastal. If global climate change generates a rise in sea-level, hundreds of millions of urban dwellers are at risk.



Third, our urban areas must deal with rapidly increasing social and ethnic diversity. In the U.S., suburban areas now have more poverty than central cities, and they have more immigrants than do the central cities. Patterns of mobility and immigration are producing a bewildering array of social and ethnic groups sharing the same urban space. How we deal with that diversity will be very important. Can we build multicultural urban areas to take advantage of diversity and the economic and social benefits it can produce? Or are we lurching toward some dystopian future of segregated urban spaces in which economic deprivation or ethnic differences are overlaid with spatial segregation?



Fourth, we see significant challenges in urban governance on two levels. First, rapid advancements in information technology is producing a population with different expectations regarding urban planning and the roles of ‘amateur’ citizen and ‘technocratic’ planner in that process. Can we use IT to provide citizens with greater understandings of planning and policy outcomes? In addition, will we be able to match the scale of governance to the scale of our urban problems? In the U.S. at the turn of the century there were over 85,000 separate local governments in existence. But, our urban areas grow into regions with housing markets, labor markets, transportation systems, and watersheds and natural resource systems that span municipal boundaries, county lines, state lines, and sometimes international borders. To fully address our urbanization challenges in the future we need to devise governance systems that have the capacity to act across jurisdictional boundaries.



While these may seem like formidable challenges, and indeed they are, we sometimes forget how much our daily decisions influence outcomes. One urban planner estimates that in 2030, one-half of all buildings in the U.S. will have been built since 2000. And, remember the World Bank’s estimate that in 30 years cities in developing countries will create new urban space equal to what the entire world has settled to date. To me, those observations suggest that we are not simply being swept along by some unmanageable tide of events. On the contrary, our actions every day contribute to building the future of our urban areas.

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