Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

I can’t say I have a lot of love for folks who attempt to use the initiative system to limit the role of government. I cut my teeth in statewide politics a decade ago working to oppose measures by anti-tax activists that would have gutted critical services.

But now here is Tim Eyman, Washington State’s answer to Bill Sizemore, but with a bent for transportation, pushing an initiative to prohibit variable tolling, which could be one more source of heartburn for the Columbia River Crossing.

Sigh… but I don’t think I’ll bite. Just as I wouldn’t really want to ally with anti-transit activists in Clark County, I don’t think this is the way to take down the CRC. There are too many good reasons to change it.

Besides, I don’t really think of myself as an ‘enemy’ of the CRC, I see myself more as the ‘loyal opposition’.

Sorry, Tim.

33 Comments

33 Responses to Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

  1. maccoinnich
    May 5, 2011 at 12:32 am Link

    I’m 100% with you on this… but isn’t Portland Transport supposed to be apolitical?

  2. Aaron Hall
    May 5, 2011 at 2:02 am Link

    I’m not a moderator, but it should be OK to advocate for or against an initiative that has major implications on transportation funding. That’s a policy debate, nothing to do with any individual candidate for office.

  3. Chris I
    May 5, 2011 at 6:49 am Link

    It’s not worth it. Washington will need variable tolling in the future as gas tax revenues continue to dwindle, and road maintenance costs rise. This is just another attempt by “fiscal conservative” drivers to avoid paying for what they use, and force cuts to things that they don’t use.

  4. EngineerScotty
    May 5, 2011 at 7:20 am Link

    As a nonprofit, Portland Transport does not endorse candidates for elected office. Beyond that, we are not “apolitical”, in that we openly advocate for better (or what we believe is better) transport and land use.

    Given that the subject is politically contentious, its hard not to be apolitical in this business.

  5. Chris Smith
    May 5, 2011 at 7:44 am Link

    As a 501(c)(3) Portland Transport may not engage in candidate politics. We are able within limits however to “lobby” on issues, and ballot measure campaigns are legally defined as lobbying since it involves urging the electorate to act in their legislative capacity.

    However, I would hasten to add that the opinion expressed here is mine personally, not that of the organization (and that is our general policy regarding posts – you’re probably never going to see a post that begins “Portland Transport’s position on …”).

  6. Ron Swaren
    May 5, 2011 at 8:49 am Link

    Limited government conservatives also support “critical services” but tend to do that through private efforts. A good recent example would be Chris Dudley with his diabetes foundation. It’s not simply that property owners or business owners or the garden variety tea-partier fritter the money away that they save through antitax measures. Charitable contributions almost by definition come from the discretionary income left over after you pay the bills. If the anti tax people are part of a religious group they’re also being besieged with financial requests from that sector, too—-and some of that money will get sent overseas to various endeavors, as well.
    When you get to the wealthy CEO’s that seem to be on everyone’s radar screen, yes, maybe they spend way too much in conspicuous consumption. The ratio of politically conservative CEO’s to politically liberal ones has been balancing out in recent years as new industries emerge.

    You don’t have to be opposed to transit or alternative transportation to question what the appropriate spending level is. And, a lot of conservatives are big rail freight fans. Or even mass transit supporters, like the late Paul Weyrich.

  7. Douglas K.
    May 5, 2011 at 9:47 am Link

    It’s a stupid measure. Variable tolling is probably the simplest, cheapest way to manage peak-hour congestion. It’s also a fairly libertarian approach … let the market set the price to use a limited resource (highway lanes) during periods of scarcity, and cut the price — or “give it away” when demand is low.

    Fact is, we could probably use variable pricing right now to address rush hour traffic on the I-5 and I-205 bridge with no need to build anything.

    The fact that Eyman’s initiative makes the CRC more difficult is no reason to support it. The money to build this thing won’t be there, variable tolling or not.

  8. EngineerScotty
    May 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm Link

    Eyman gives an interview on the subject; his position is that this propose initiative “reinforces” existing law. (Specifically, he considers tolls to be a form of tax, and tax increases are subject to existing restrictions under Washington law). Not being a Washington resident, I don’t have any comment on his interpretation of things.

  9. Doug Allen
    May 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm Link

    In principle, I agree with Douglas K. that variable tolling is a good way to manage congestion. However, in Oregon, there are some reasons to be wary.

    I listened to the podcast of Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Gail Achterman’s April 22 speech to the City Club http://www.pdxcityclub.org/friday_forum_archive

    While she talked about a “sustainable transportation system” she appeared to be referring to sustainable spending on highways. For this, the Highway Lobby is looking at charging vehicle owners by the mile. Until Oregon changes its constitutional limitations on such taxes and fees, imposition of tolls risks enabling highway expansion. Worse, such fees may not be as positive as a fuel tax in discouraging carbon dioxide emissions.

    Granted that a variable bridge toll is not the same as a mileage fee, I still have some concerns that the proposed bridge toll is largely a way to expand the highway system. I do think Chris Smith is right that there are better reasons to oppose the current CRC plan.

  10. jimkarlock
    May 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm Link

    Doug Allen Says: I still have some concerns that the proposed bridge toll is largely a way to expand the highway system.
    JK: What is wrong with expanding the highway system, allowing people and freight better mobility?

    It also increases our standard of living by reducing transportation time and costs.

    It will reduce CO2 emission since the new Federal automobile efficiency standard will make cars far more efficient than any form of mass transit. Even compared to those systems in our densest region, Los Angeles and densest city NYC where they have more passengers per vehicle.

    And it will make buses faster by reducing congestion. (Yes, increasing road capacity DOES reduce congestion!)

    Thanks
    JK

  11. jimkarlock
    May 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm Link

    Chris: I can’t say I have a lot of love for folks who attempt to use the initiative system to limit the role of government.
    JK: How about those who used it to take away the ability of the government to mis-interpert the constitution and forbid voting by women?

    How about that conservative initiative that took away the government’s power to ban doctors’ writing fatal prescriptions (assisted suicide)?

    Chris: I cut my teeth in statewide politics a decade ago working to oppose measures by anti-tax activists that would have gutted critical services.
    JK: You mean like gutting Portland teachers’ pay, so they have to survive on a paultry $93,800 per year average.

    Perhaps you mean like taking $100 million per year property tax money and effectively giving it to developers?

    I suggest the real gutting of services is being done by taking$100 million of property tax money away from schools, social services, fire and police. I further suggest that this should be the next target of an initiative.

    Thanks
    JK

  12. jimkarlock
    May 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm Link

    Oops, I forgot that the medical marijuana initiative took away the states’ power to throw you in jail for using this medication.

    thanks
    JK

  13. Bob R.
    May 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link

    Alright JK you’ve had your say, and yes Chris brought up the general issue of the appropriateness of initiatives and “limited government”, but let’s keep this thread about the specific case of CRC tolling. (And the Medical Marijuana initiative most certainly did not take away the state’s power to throw you in jail for using that medication. Instead, it created a set of _government_ _regulations_ which, if followed carefully, can provide a legal means to consume that medication. But step outside those bounds (or get caught be the feds), and boy howdy, you can still get arrested. But that’s way off topic for this blog.)

  14. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm Link

    Speaking for myself, I don’t view the scope of government (increasing it or reducing it) as an end in itself; instead I view governments (or markets) as means to other ends. On many subjects I agree with libertarians, on many others I do not–but for me, “limited government” is a non-issue.

    Others’ mileage may vary.

    Back to the subject at hand; I would generally support additional infrastructure to help with freight mobility. The problem with the CRC is that by adding only general-purpose lanes, the benefit to freight is far less. The demand elasticity of freight is far less than the demand elasticity for commuters–thus the likely result is for freight to be stuck in the same traffic, just more of it.

    But the CSA proposal does provide extensive freight-specific enhancements.

  15. jimkarlock
    May 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm Link

    The problem with the CRC is that by adding only general-purpose lanes, the benefit to freight is far less. The demand elasticity of freight is far less than the demand elasticity for commuters
    JK: Why is freight mobility more important than people getting to work?
    Or repairpeople getting to a job site?
    Or a salesperson getting to their customer?
    Or a homemaker going shopping?

    Thanks
    JK

  16. ws
    May 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm Link

    JK:

    I can’t speak for everyone else’s logic, but many people at least have the option of taking transit for their work.

    Freight is one of those things that needs roads (or railroads).

  17. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm Link

    JK: Why is freight mobility more important than people getting to work? Or repairpeople getting to a job site? Or a salesperson getting to their customer? Or a homemaker going shopping?

    I didn’t say, necessarily, that it was more important. However, persons travelling have more options for getting around than does freight–a truckload of boxes cannot use the bus. People can.

    But the reason I bring up freight is that the needs of freight are frequently described by essential to the economy. I won’t argue that point–movement of goods is important. However, the needs for freight are then used to justify greater capacity which fills up with cars, and the trucks are still stuck in traffic.

  18. jimkarlock
    May 7, 2011 at 10:19 pm Link

    ws Says: … many people at least have the option of taking transit for their work.
    JK: If they want to spend double the commute time (Portland #) and give up the convenience of door to door travel and not make a stop on the way.

    EngineerScotty Says: But the reason I bring up freight is that the needs of freight are frequently described by essential to the economy.
    JK: So are ordinary people.
    (I thought progressives cared about people more than corporations)

    Thanks
    JK

  19. Bob R.
    May 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm Link

    Knock it off with the who “cares” about what BS. Similar attacks on so-called “libertarians” are also off-limits, and you know that, so be civil or go away.

  20. some body
    May 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm Link

    “If they want to spend double the commute time (Portland #) and give up the convenience of door to door travel and not make a stop on the way.”

    (Getting back to the topic at hand) Do people who decide to live on the same side of the bridge as their work, because having to pay variable tolling (as in market rate, like a private organization would charge) makes living on the other side not worth it, have commutes that are twice as long as those who cross the bridge?

    After all, if you’re so worried about commute times, wouldn’t living closer to where one works be best (having access instead of needing mobility)? Or charging market rates to reduce congestion?

    Not to mention that people who currently ride the C-TRAN express buses across the bridge don’t have commute times that are double the ones who drive across (and if they’re getting on/off at a park & ride, they can still stop on the way).

    And what are the details of that statistic, anyways?

    Also, a homemaker has a choice of going shopping at a time when roads are not congested. Not to mention that they probably have choices that don’t require crossing the bridge (it might mean that they don’t get to illegally skirt Washington sales taxs, though).

  21. jimkarlock
    May 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm Link

    some body Says: Not to mention that people who currently ride the C-TRAN express buses across the bridge don’t have commute times that are double the ones who drive across (and if they’re getting on/off at a park & ride, they can still stop on the way).
    JK: When the toy train opens, some of those C-Tran buses probable will be discontinued, making a scheduled 15 min trip on bus into a 30+ min trip on the toy train. (I call it a toy because it costs too much and does too little)

    some body Says: And what are the details of that statistic, anyways?
    JK: it was compiled from the American Community Survey for 2005-2007. You can see all the details at: http://www.portlandfacts.com/commutetime.html

    The actual numbers for the Portland region (Trimet is rgional, not just city) are car commute: 22.4 min; transit 41.9 min.

    some body Says: Also, a homemaker has a choice of going shopping at a time when roads are not congested.
    JK: But most workers do not have a choice of commute time. Repairpeople have limited choice. Salepeople have limited choices.

    some body Says: Not to mention that they probably have choices that don’t require crossing the bridge (it might mean that they don’t get to illegally skirt Washington sales taxs, though).
    JK: You forget that a lot of Portland people go to their closest full service Walmart which is in Vancouver.

    Thanks
    JK

  22. Dave H
    May 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm Link

    Jim, here’s what the rest of the world understands “toy” to mean:

    toy

    –noun
    1. an object, often a small representation of something familiar, as an animal or person, for children or others to play with; plaything.
    2. a thing or matter of little or no value or importance; a trifle.
    3. something that serves for or as if for diversion, rather than for serious pratical use.
    EXPAND
    4. a small article of little value but prized as a souvenir or for some other special reason; trinket; knickknack; bauble.
    5. something diminutive, especially in comparison with like objects.
    6. an animal of a breed or variety noted for smallness of size: The winning terrier at the dog show was a toy.
    7. a close-fitting cap of linen or wool, with flaps coming down to the shoulders, formerly worn by women in Scotland.
    8. a simple, light piece of music, especially of 16th or 17th century England, written for the virginal.
    9. Obsolete .
    – a. amorous dallying.
    – b. a playful or amusing act; diversion; pastime.
    COLLAPSE
    –adjective
    10. made or designed for use as a toy: a toy gun.
    11. of or resembling a toy, especially diminutive in size.
    –verb (used without object)
    12. to amuse oneself; play.
    13. to act idly; or with indifference; trifle: to toy with one’s food.
    14. to dally amorously; flirt.

    Source.

    I’m sure it’s fun to incorrectly use the phrase to make those of us who like MAX look like children, but it also seems to me that by using the phrase repeatedly that you’re too biased about the topic to have a rational discussion about the topic.

    I would love to see a citation that the average teacher in Portland makes an average salary of $93,800, since that’s about twice what any career site shows for the area.

  23. jimkarlock
    May 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm Link

    Correct. The here are the ones that fit LRT:
    2. a thing or matter of little or no value or importance; a trifle.
    3. something that serves for or as if for diversion, rather than for serious pratical use.

    Light rail is an extremely expensive replacement for a bus. It has little value compared to its cost:

    Based on current transit usage, light rail construction alone will cost $36 to move each person across the river each trip. Using the CRC ridership projections, it is around $7 per crossing. The bridge for cars will be under $1 each crossing.

    Thanks
    JK

  24. Aaron Hall
    May 8, 2011 at 7:29 pm Link

    It’s amazing how you can twist numbers to fit predetermined outcomes.

    If you total the purchase price of all the cars that will use the bridge PLUS the cost of the bridge itself (including the additional freeway lanes and ramps) PLUS the maintenance and fuel and upkeep of all of those cars….. then you’re moving FEWER people per dollar spent with cars than you are with light rail. So aren’t the cars the real toys here?

    That was fun…. now let’s use the same logic for air travel. OK, airport construction PLUS airplanes PLUS ground crew and flight crew salaries PLUS TSA, FAA, NTSB bureaucracy = toy planes.

  25. Bob R.
    May 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm Link

    JK, take a break. “Toy trains” is not a welcome expression here, you do that deliberately to demean rail supporters, and there’s plenty of evidence out there of you using it as a put-down, and you’ve been warned before. Further, this blog operates with a pro-transit (rail and bus-inclusive) bias. Occasional departures form that baseline is tolerated, but you’re once again getting far too repetitive and off-topic and headed into troll bait territory.

    Similarly, while it might be occasionally interesting for an “intelligent design” supporter to challenge assumptions on a blog about classroom biology and science instruction policy, repeated pointless arguments are counter-productive.

  26. sharon nasset
    May 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm Link

    We need to add capacity. Data showing we just do not have the infrastructure we need, in every mode. The quicker people, goods, and services are moved the better for everyone. The economy and environment benefit. Freedom and choice of movement needs to be expanded in every manner for a healthier society and region. We are blessed that goods come here from all over the world … and we make money on getting them across town and out of here. How renewable is that. Air, rail, road, and water you go anywhere from here and so can your stuff……
    Cars are polluting less. choices are increasing and that needs to be in all modes. Buses are best, buses are the work horse …. the backbone
    variable tolls are not good. The people who are stuck in traffic are the least likely to be able to change their time of day or they would already. People do not choice to go when it is the busiest. Those that can’t change their time of day….. shift-workers…. usually make less too.
    We need buses to be 24-hrs again and loop bus service into our ports and industrial areas from park and rides.
    As for the CRC….. They have not followed the NEPA process of studying all reasonable alternatives. Like it or not Third Bridge Now.com was here from the start and is very reasonable…. Please check out thirdbridgenow.com

  27. jimkarlock
    May 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm Link

    Aaron Hall Says: If you total the purchase price of all the cars that will use the bridge PLUS the cost of the bridge itself (including the additional freeway lanes and ramps) PLUS the maintenance and fuel and upkeep of all of those cars….. then you’re moving FEWER people per dollar spent with cars than you are with light rail. So aren’t the cars the real toys here?
    JK: Lets see your numbers!

    Thanks
    JK

  28. Aaron Hall
    May 9, 2011 at 12:17 am Link

    jimkarlock Says:
    “Lets [sic] see your numbers!”

    That was my point. It doesn’t matter what “numbers” I, or anyone else, come up with. You can cherry-pick thousands of documents to find a few numbers that will add up to whatever you want them to. And you’re obviously very adept at doing just that. But using dubious formulas to compare apples to oranges is not proving your (seemingly) predetermined conclusion that light rail is bad.

  29. Chris I
    May 9, 2011 at 6:38 am Link

    Ya, if you buy a $40,000 car and own it for 10 years, that’s $5 per crossing! Oh my gods!

  30. Aaron Hall
    May 9, 2011 at 7:24 am Link

    ….and that’s not even including the cost of the bridge and freeway. Whereas, one lightrail vehicle (likewise, not including the cost of the infrastructure) can move a million people over just a couple of years, so is actually quite cost effective.

    See? Numbers can add up to whatever you want.

  31. Aaron Hall
    May 9, 2011 at 8:42 am Link

    ….and that’s not even including the cost of the bridge and freeway. Whereas, one lightrail vehicle (likewise, not including the cost of the infrastructure) can move a million people over just a couple of years, so is actually quite cost effective.

  32. Bob R.
    May 9, 2011 at 8:45 am Link

    You can cherry-pick thousands of documents to find a few numbers that will add up to whatever you want them to. And you’re obviously very adept at doing just that.

    OK everyone dial down the heat. JK has been scolded already, time to discuss the original topic.

  33. some body
    May 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm Link

    “time to discuss the original topic.”

    Yes, lets!

    Would commute times be as big an issue for people who, instead of crossing the bridge by car or transit, decide to live on the same side of the bridge as their work, because having to pay variable tolling (as in market rate, like a private organization would charge) makes living on the other side not worth it?

    After all, if commute times are such an issue, wouldn’t living closer to where one works be best (having access instead of needing as much mobility)? Or charging market rates to reduce congestion?

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