Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Funding Transit Elsewhere

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Two news stories today provide some insight into how other places are tacking the same problems that face us. And I am afraid neither is good news.

Greater Manchester in England has rejected congestion pricing by a very large margin.

A majority of voters in all of the region’s 10 boroughs voted against the plans, with 812,815 (79%) no votes and 218,860 (21%) in favour of the charge.

It means the application for government Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) cash will not now go ahead.

The overall turnout across the 12 local authorities was about 53.2% with 1,033,000 people casting their vote.

While the turnout was better than we get for our local elections, I still want to know why the other 1m voters did not care enough to go put a cross on a piece of paper.

Closer to home Seattle is still wondering what to do about its downtown viaduct. One of the options includes a commitment to increase transit service but there is a problem with that.

state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said the state money can’t be used for increases in Metro bus service that are part of the surface-transit package, because the state constitution requires gas taxes to go toward highways.

“There’s been no decision on, if transit service is part of the package, how that gets paid for,” she said.

That’s the problem with predicated taxation. It severely hampers choices. Originally the federal gas tax was also limited this way but that changed under ISTEA and now regional transportation planning agencies have the ability to choose from a wider range of options. Even so, federal funding is still restricted to capital projects – which gives an incentive to ignore maintenance and wait until replacement is needed to apply for new capital funds. That is one reason why America’s highway infrastructure is in such a poor condition.

It is also worth reading a bit further in the Seattle Times piece to see how political personalities influence these decisions. Of course the role of Mr Speaker has evolved quite differently south of the 49th.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 12, 2008 at 10:23 am

One Response

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  1. I was following the Manchester congestion charge scheme with interest through the LRTA. The failure may be attributed to a failing economy and not very coherent transportation planning. Also, councilors in Borroughs, without light rail, did not want to fund transit in other peoples Borroughs with light rail.

    Sadly, the taxpayer can only afford so much and the road pricing scheme may have been the last straw for the beleguered taxpayer.

    A lesson that some of our elected officials should take note of.

    Malcolm J.

    December 12, 2008 at 10:39 am

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