What’s in a Headline?

Monday’s O had a piece by Jim Mayer on the Regional Transportation Plan. It did a good job of pointing out the resource disparity and contrasted the “we have to do more with less” point of view (Rex Burkholder) with the “we need to think big and find new funding sources” perspective (Clackamas County Commissioner Bill Kennemer).

What’s interesting is the headline for the article: “Transit projects running on empty”. Curious – it could just as easily have said “Roads running on empty” or “Transportation running on empty.” I wonder why transit was the lead word? The general practice is that headlines are written by editors, not the reporter. Maybe Jim will jump in and share some insight into where the headline came from?


13 responses to “What’s in a Headline?”

  1. I would guess that “Transit” fit the space better. Headlines do sometimes seem dis-connected from stories…must be frustrating for reporters.

  2. In Clackamas County an effort is just getting started to push around the idea of access type user fees to be charged against property owners in some of the municipalities to fund road maintenence and some road impovements.

    Much as Rex has told people in our region the sources of transportation funding is not adequate to even fund reasonable maintenance and that is not good.

    Deferred road and highway maintenance comes at a very high cost in the long run to everyone.

    I personally support raising the state gas tax. It is time for this issue to be brought before the state legislature this coming session.

    The old adage, “Pay Now or Pay Later” should have said “Pay LESS now or Pay MORE later”, this is more then just a pragmatic statement, it is a reality.

    So lets get back to charging user fees for the projected incidents of travel generated by every piece of property.

    This method of collecting revenue in user fees “MUST BE A ACROSS THE BOARD, WITH NO EXCEPTIONS” to work. I would accept a transportation/road user fee that had No Exceptions.

    We have problems where special interests have gardered special priveliges, tax exemptions and shelding where in the case of districts where TIF methods redirect property tax without compensation for true impacts of new development on our roads and highways.

    A local and/or regional user fee for access and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure may have to a point to where its day has come.

    This user fee must be looked at as a “Flat Tax” no exceptions, NO BS.

    This would mean that property located in a TIF/UR District would pay money/”user fees” for the incidents of travel that the property generates and the money goes to roads, “not transit”, not into a UR District fund, but into a funds that supports the maintenance of the roads that are needed for the incidents of travel generated by that property.

    This would mean that “Tax Exempt Property” like an ELKS lodge or any fraternal organization that owns property and generates incidents of travel must pay their “User Fee” just like everyone else.

    Currently there are to many exceptions, businesses and organizations that are not paying anything and that is wrong and that transfers the burden on to those who do pay their property tax.

  3. Chris,
    As you probably know, reporters typically have no role in writing headlines.That job falls to the copy editors. The page desinger gives the copy editor working on the story the size and shape that the headline has to be and a precise count of characters. Usually copy editors have about five minutes to write headlines, after correcting all the grammer errors, misspellings, and logic problems committed by the reporter. I have done that job and it is hard, but fun. Creativity with a gun to your head. So, while I wasn’t thrilled with the use of “transit” in the headline, it wasn’t wrong, just kind of off the mark. And “transportation” is dang hard to fit in a headline.

  4. And of course churches.
    But I don’t believe the shortage of money story. Imagine an organization, say a university, where every department submitted their wish list for projects, programs, expansion, etc. You would expect that to come in at well over the organization’s budget…like at least twice. The RTP is just a list of everyone’s projects with no criteria, no budget management. So of couse we can’t afford them all….thank God.
    Our budget should start with the resources we have, and then ask “what do we want?” Based on the answer to that question, you decide “A” gets funded, “B” does not. Everyone does this, except until now Metro on transportation. Bravo to Rex for starting a rational budgeting process for regional transportation.

  5. And of course bicyclists must also pay – every pair of pair of bicycle lanes on the pavement takes up the same amount of space as one auto lane. A bicycle tax is in order!

    And of course transit users must also help pay – busses, especially loaded ones because they are heavier than cars and light trucks than cars do more damage to the roads per vehicle than cars and light trucks. A surcharge on transit fares would help as would totally eliminating Fareless Square with the money going to roads.

  6. Terry –

    An opposing argument: Pedestrians and bicycles (as well as other forms of human and animal powered transport) predate the automobile.

    As automobile use increased over time, some modes were nearly completely eliminated (horses and pull-carts are rare on public streets these days) but others such as walking and bicycling remained. However, automobiles, by moving at higher speeds and causing greater injury, basically muscled bicycles and pedestrians out of the road.

    It can be argued that the burden of cost sharing to provide safe designated ROW for bicycles and pedestrians should be borne by the users of conveyances which have forced the human-powered modes to the sidelines.

    Furthermore, nearly every time I drive, I notice people driving with tires intruding into the bicycle lane. When there are no bicycles around, this ROW is being used (consciously or unconsciously) by cars.

    Perhaps the entire cost of bicycle infrastructure could be paid by enforcement of fines on drivers incapable of staying between the painted lines? :-)

    – Bob R.

  7. I will gladly pay the $1 the City of Portland spends per capita on bike capital infrastructure each year… and, hell, the $3 Metro might spend and the 25 cents ODOT spends. Chalk up that Bike Tax at $4.25 a piece and now let’s figure out how much money the drivers still owe us for all that air they’re polluting…. hmmm. Quite a bit more, I dare think.

    Of course, the $4.25 might be a bit spendy for the 73% of kids who ride bikes, but hell, they’re 5 year olds, they’ve got plenty of cash.

  8. A “An opposing argument: Pedestrians and bicycles (as well as other forms of human and animal powered transport) predate the automobile.”

    B And in Portland, a bicycle tax predicated the gasoline tax, but somewhere along the line the bicycle tax was dropped. Furthermore motor vehicle lanes predicated exclusive bicycle lanes. Logic dictates each mode should pay for their own lanes.

  9. A “I will gladly pay the $1 the City of Portland spends per capita on bike capital infrastructure each year…”

    B You seem to have forgot about the millions of dollars poached from motor vehicle taxes that Metro contributes to bicycle infrastructure and is not included in PDOT’s budget. Furthermore, Commissioner Sam’s office will not even disclose the total amount of money and hidden costs spent on bicycle infrastructure in Portland. They keep hiding behind the budget figures only.

  10. Terry –

    I’m curious about this historical bicycle tax you mention… can your provide a link to an excerpt from the tax code, or at least a description of how the tax was implemented and enforced, and in what years?

    Bob R.

  11. Headline writers seem to think that “transit” is an abbreviation for “transportation”. Several articles in today’s Tribune are headlined this way. A chart accompanying one article refers to funds spent on “Transit”, and I think actually may be referring to transit, but nobody picked up on that difference, as the article makes no mention of the “transit” funding comparison.

    Who can set these folks straight?

  12. Who can set these folks straight?

    Who can set the pro-Transit folks straight also is an important part of the question. I love buses and trains, but only when they’re effective. I drive my single occupancy 39 mi/gal car to work solo most days, but I also drive a significant amount to take parts and myself to my customers.

    If mass transit options allowed me to get to my customers with the equipment I needed, then I’d probably stop driving my car nearly altogether. The “problem” as some might state it, is that I’m unable to get to all the locations I need to through mass transit in an efficient manner, let alone with the equipment I need.

    Would I prefer to take mass transit? Absolutely. It’s just not a legitimate option for what I do. I could move closer to my office, but we’d still need a vehicle to get me to the sites I need to get to. There’s an environmental cost in building a new vehicle, and either way I’d keep my car so I could see Mt Hood on a Saturday afternoon, or so I can drive down to see my brother in San Francisco every now and then.

    Transit includes buses and trains obviously, but also roads and freeways, no matter what you might want. If you want to keep professionals who have to get to customers in the economy though it’s quite important to allow those professionals an opportunity to get to their customers as well.

    Freeways may be unpopular, but some of us can’t do our job without them. Maybe you don’t like the sound of that, but maybe there’s also a reason that Portland’s economy isn’t as strong as many on the west coast. If someone wants to subsidize my moving every time my customer base changes, great, but otherwise I’ll need to drive most of the time. Sorry.

    The real solution to Portland’s transportation issues is one many complain about, but maybe tolls can help things. San Diego, CA for example is adding High Occupancy/Toll roads (HOT lanes) to it’s existing freeways. Yes, the freeways are being widened, but to use the extra lanes you have to be in a carpool, bus, or pay a toll based on congestion. I could see this as a way to contribute to (if not pay for) a new Columbia River Crossing, as well as get traffic moving again.

    Portland doesn’t seem to appreciate that some people will pay for a toll lane where they can move at 50 mph, vs sitting in traffic for hours. If you won’t pay the toll, you can sit in congestion. It’s a way to generate a lot of funds for transit (read: roads, buses, bikes and trains) as well as increase capacity at the same time. At the same time, it gets buses moving, espescially BRT routes, and damn, there’s a lot of revenue (millions of dollars) associated with these types of routes.

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