Wednesday, June 11, 2008

With Oil Prices High, Why Have Congestion Pricing?

Sometimes newspaper reporters, like bureaucrats in Washington and Los Angeles, hate to abandon a bad idea, even if conditions have drastically changed.

What else could explain the content of Steve Hymon's article in the L.A. Times yesterday, in which the writer seems to lament the possibility there could be delays in implementing toll lanes on the I-10 and I-210 freeways?

Since Hyman started writing about this screwy idea, the price of oil per barrel has shot up into the $130 range, and gasoline prices are headed toward $5 a gallon. Various surveys have shown something that is not surprising: Fewer people are driving. Freeway traffic in the Los Angeles area is down about 4%, which can mean considerable relief of congestion.

So, it is not necessary, at least for now, to pursue this foolhardy idea, which would introduce double taxation on the highways, and allow the wealthy to drive fast, while the poor commuter out there will be driving slow. It's a recipe for bad feeling all around.

Hymon does conscientiously report that two members of Congress from the San Gabriel Valley -- Hilda Solis and Gary Miller -- are trying to call, "Whoa."

But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has been so busy campaigning all over the country for Hillary Clinton, and now is going to Israel and then has plans to campaign all over the country for Barack Obama, still supports congestion pricing. Villaraigosa hasn't been spending enough time running his home city to know any longer what is happening there. No, rather than surveying the traffic, or assorted women, Villaraigosa has his eyes on the big prize: a cabinet job in the next Washington Administration.

Hymon, meanwhile, airily dismisses the notion that money should now be spent on building new light rail lines in the Los Angeles area, like extending the Gold Line to Azusa. This shouldn't be necessary, he suggests, because as an incentive to instituting congestion pricing, the federal authorities are offering $213 million to help buy new buses and improve Metrolink nearby.

He quotes none other than former legislator Richard Katz, a Villaraigosa stooge, as saying expanding the Gold Line would be unnecessary if Metrolink is improved. Yet Metrolink is several miles from the Gold Line and serves different cities altogether.

The Times, and Hymon himself, are doing a good job covering other transportation issues. But they seem to have a bug up their ass on congestion pricing. I hope it's not part of Sam Zell's plan to follow Dennis FitzSimons at treating Los Angeles as a poor stepsister of Chicago.

Already, Times "publisher" David Hiller and "editor" Russ Stanton spend more than enough time cowtowing to Zell. We certainly don't need Hymon to follow them, or anybody else on the staff for that matter.


The article Faye Fiore wrote yesterday in the L.A. Times on sentiments toward the Obama campaign in Neshoba County, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964, was, I thought, a very good political piece.

And so was Matea Gold's article on CNN's political coverage expanding its number of viewers. Gold says there is concern that when this year's scintillating presidential campaign is over, CNN may drop off again. But I don't think that would be true in an Obama administration, because he would bring such a clean sweep to Washington that there would be huge amounts of news to discuss endlessly.

I watched a good deal of CNN during my cruise around Africa. We had it on the ship all but three days crossing the Atlantic, and we did not have either Fox or NBC, so there wasn't much alternative. But that was all right, because I very much liked Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room" broadcast, which is seen in Los Angeles in mid-afternoon, but was seen on the ship, as we moved eastward, later and later at night.

Not all the CNN commentators are great, but Jack Cafferty and David Gergen are often thought provoking and Blitzer's studied neutrality is welcome. This year, at least, as Gold points out, the network, for once, has found a winning formula.


It is certainly legitimate for the Wall Street Journal and the McCain campaign to make an issue of Jim Johnson, head of Obama's vice presidential search team, taking loans from the squalid Countrywide company, and to force his resignation. Johnson went today.

But it is out-of-bounds for bigots determined to do anything they can to avoid America electing a black president to go after Obama's classy wife, Michelle. This is tasteless. Michelle Obama seems to have gained unwanted attention by saying what she thinks. I imagine the contrast between her sincerity and Hillary Clinton's persistent phoniness in Clinton's late campaign annoys these people.

The fact is, Michelle Obama, is well qualified and apt to make a fine First Lady.



Anonymous another old fool said...

To enlightened the uninformed, congestion pricing is an idea being bandied about by the Bush Administration, in the person of Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, as the REAL (e.i. conservative republican) solution to urban traffic gridlock in this country.

Not Rapid Transit. In the eyes of conservative republicans, public mass transportation is failed democrat inspired socialist urban planning. Congestion pricing basically turns the Freeways into Toll Expressways during the rush hour. Political suicide in Los Angeles County for sure.

Why is it being considered? Because federal money is attached to the implimentation of congestion pricing. Something like $500 million in transit and transportation funding. If the federal government offered $500 million in bikeway funding for L.A. County with a proviso that all L.A. bicyclists cycle in the nude, L.A. Area politicians would fall all over each other passing nude cycling ordnances. That pretty much explains the local political interest in congestion pricing.

6/11/2008 6:46 PM  

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