Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Traffic Woes

Have you ever thought that the traffic on US 75 couldn't get any worse? Does the fact that the HOV lane has no entrance/exit for Richardson bug you? How about those red light cameras? Did you ever wonder if there are parking meters anywhere in Richardson and, if not, why not?

After the jump, traffic news from around the state and beyond.

DART says it is looking into paid HOV lanes. By limiting access to car pools, DART has been leaving money on the table. Those under-utilized HOV lanes are a revenue opportunity. DART is thinking of selling the excess capacity. Those half-empty HOV lanes have been a public relations black eye for DART forever. Steamed drivers stuck in traffic jams fume every time time they look at that empty lane on their left. DART will now have a way of relieving that irritation and filling that HOV lane with paying traffic. Frustrated drivers get a way out of the traffic jam. DART gets a new funding source. Win-win.

Houston is taking another look at red-light cameras. Voters will get to pull the plug on the program in the November election. The latest nail in the cameras' coffin is the news from KHOU that the share of the fines that the state of Texas insisted on for itself has not been used to fund trauma centers as promised. State legislators feared local government would use red light cameras not as a safety program, but as a money-generating scheme. It turns out, unsurprisingly to any who follow Austin, that it was the state who was interested in using the red light camera programs as a money-generating scheme. Sadly, the loser in this wrangling between state and local government will be the victims of red light runners, as the status quo before cameras just wasn't working.

Speaking of cameras, Plano is seeking a ruling on the use of hand-held cameras to ticket speeders. Plano asks whether use of new hand-held radar guns that contain video cameras would violate a 2007 state law forbidding use of automated cameras to catch speeders. An irony here is that the public loves to poke fun at government for being inefficient while simultaneously insisting on laws that prevent government from adopting new technology that would improve efficiency. It's almost as if the public is telling police departments that we really don't want you enforcing the law all that effectively, at least not traffic laws. Actually, that's exactly what the public is telling police departments.

Next, the always insightful Patrick Kennedy (WalkableDFW) links to a review by Tyler Cowen of a book, "The High Cost of Free Parking," by Donald Shoup in The New York Times. They argue, counter-intuitively, that "we have way too much free parking." They make a persuasive case that city zoning and development restrictions that mandate a minimum amount of parking in new development amounts to an unfair subsidy for automobiles to the detriment of other forms of transportation. Cowen quotes Shoup, "Who pays for free parking? Everyone but the motorist." Anyone who professes to be a champion of free markets on Richardson's Zoning Board, Plan Commission and City Council should read the article, then review the assumptions built into Richardson's own development restrictions. The assumptions are probably wrong.

Finally, Texas isn't the only place where traffic is in the news. China is suffering from a 60-mile long traffic jam on its Tibet-to-Beijing highway, caused by heavy truck traffic and road construction. Authorities say it may take weeks to clear the backup, although others consider that optimistic. At the rate China is developing, there are more than a thousand cars added to Beijing's streets each and every day. Even with the trillion dollar stimulus spending China adopted to fight the recent global recession, there's no way road-building can keep up. Texans like to say that everything is bigger in Texas. Maybe, except for things in China.

No comments: