Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tidbits: Libertarians; Tax Fever; Spreading the Booty

Three items:

Libertarians: Libertarians have always struck me as the kind of people who regale you at lunch with tales about the miracles of the free market and then try to stick you with the check. That's an unfair stereotype, but this is a blog so so be it.

To their credit libertarians clustered around the Reason Foundation have been very active and very creative in the global discussion on transportation issues. A Reason Foundation study entitled "Innovative Roadway Design: Making Highways More Likable" shows why the Foundation and its ideas are playing such a role.

The study, authored by Peter Samuel and Robert W. Poole, Jr., is just crackling with ideas about how to reconfigure highways so that they work better and have a much better environmental profile. They draw from examples worldwide where government and private highway operators are doing some very interesting things to press the envelope in terms of how we think about and practice highway design and operations. These hard-nosed libertarians even stress the importance of aesthetics in highway design.

While highways are not the focus of this blog, I commend the study as an example of the kind of creativity that we can only hope we will find in the Moving Beyond Congestion effort's upcoming final report. Such creativity certainly was missing from the interim report.

Kane: A recent article indicates that Kane County is thinking about doubling its local gas tax and tolling some new bridges. It is interesting that Kane County is doing this before seeing what kind of transportation capital program and/or transit bailout package comes out of the General Assembly this spring (or summer). I t appears that suburbanites--and hopefully City of Chicago folks--are increasingly willing to pony up more in tolls and gas taxes if such pain will result in tangible transportation improvements.

The proponents of the Kane County gas tax increase point to the fact that neighboring counties have a 4 cent tax and that after the increase Kane's tax would match that level. Apply the same logic regionwide. If a regional gas tax were imposed uniformly in the region, then maybe there would be less resistance than a tax--like the current RTA sales tax--whose rates vary by sub-region.

Booty: Another recent article reveals the strategy of the RTA and the Moving Beyond Congestion proponents to travel around the region and promise the locals all sorts of public transit improvements if only the Moving Beyond Congestion package is approved.

The article reports that the MBC proponents "will consider requesting a tax increase for the six county area." T his is yet another trial balloon. The article gives no indication that the assembled group from the south suburbs objected to this notion. Indeed, State Senator Halvorson is quoted as saying she favored the MBC initiative.

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