MPO Toll Vote Ignores Alternatives
and High Gas Prices!
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
December 3, 2007
For some time now, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which establishes local transportation policy and then distributes hundreds of millions of dollars consistent with its policy, has been waltzing up to a huge endorsement of toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor. Because our top Texas elected leadership and the Legislature have abdicated their responsibility in the area of transportation financing by not facing and telling Texans the cold hard truth about its failure to index the gas tax and reform other financing approaches, TxDOT has decided to take matters in hand and, with the Governor's blessing, do what it believes it needs to do, including if need be, giving away our public roadways to the private sector, foreign or domestic!
Well, the MPO's decision has been made: toll roads it will be! But the need for our diligence continues in the policy process!
Two things have been short-changed big-time in our transportation policy:
Alternatives in transportation
Before launching into a very expensive and "just trust me" driven toll roads policy, I would like to know why we are not first giving serious focus to and investing money in the following alternative transportation measures:
- Telecommuting (work from home by computer)
- Contraflow Lanes (like the AT & T Center)
- Flex-Hours of Employment (a little earlier or later)
- Ride-sharing (Flex-Car)
- Car Pooling (violate the one-car, one-person rule!)
Why are we not emphasizing the following and investing more money in these?
- Mass Transit
- Austin-San Antonio Commuter Rail
- Light Rail/Bus Rapid Transit
Unfortunately, the highway lobby, along with the City of San Antonio and unelected staffers are in substantial control of our MPO.
TxDOT's recent history of secrecy e.g., comprehensive development agreements (CDA's) and monopoly tactics such as attempting to control traffic lanes & arteries surrounding toll roads in order to herd us into the toll lanes and make money for the big private road builders with their deals on public rights of way, has eroded confidence.
Energy shortages & its transportation implications
Add to the failure to develop and pursue cheaper alternatives and the shenanigans the ever-shortening energy supply and you can see why our current environment places a premium on intelligence and creativity!
In February of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office dropped a quiet little bombshell: a report on peak oil concluding that there is an urgent need for a swift, coordinated government strategy to assess and develop alternative energy technologies to avert "severe economic damage".
This report followed on the heels of a 2005 peak oil risk management report by the Department of Energy, which warned of the "extremely damaging" and "chaotic" impacts that will ensue if "intensive", aggressive and expensive mitigation measures are not put in place at least 10 years ahead of time. None of this speaks to loftier national security considerations that attend an inadequate energy supply.
All of the stats and trends show that we are entering a time like none that we have ever experienced before, and even if we disagree about peak oil, etc., because of the influence of the highway lobby and its allies on the MPO Board, the MPO and other highway lobby-aligned planners have failed to take into account the fact that because the energy picture is changing, their plans generally and tolls specifically will be expensive, but may not be economically viable.