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Mobility Choice Coalition Launches 10-Point Policy Blueprint to Move US to a Competitive Transportation Market

Mobility Choice, a new project of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), released its 10-point Blueprint for Mobility Choice outlining a market-oriented approach to expanding competition among transportation modes for the purpose of reducing oil’s strategic value.

Mobility Choice brings together Anne Korin and Gal Luft, co-directors of the IAGS; R. James Woolsey, former CIA director; Robert C. McFarlane, former National Security Advisor; Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Deron Lovaas, Federal Transportation Policy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

America’s dependence on oil not only undermines our economy, it also poses serious risks to our national security. We must act now to strip oil of its status as a strategic commodity by eliminating government regulations that stifle competition and promote inefficiencies in our transportation system.

—Anne Korin

The Blueprint for Mobility Choice lays out four guiding principles on how to move to a competitive transportation market in America. Following these principles, the Coalition proposes 10 transportation policies that will remove barriers to competition among transportation modes.

The four principles are:

  1. Align price signals to consumers closer to a full and transparent reflections of the costs—i.e., as much as possible pricing goods so users pay true costs and are not subsidized by or subsidizing others.

  2. End federal bias for any particular transportation mode by basing investments on performance criteria and allocating costs based on use.

  3. Push responsibility down to the metropolitan level where most traffic and oil-savings potential is located, with expanded accountability for performance.

  4. Aggressively deploy technology to improve operations in each transportation mode.

These principles results in the following ten policy suggestions:

  1. Ensure the price of fuel better reflects oil’s security impact—an oil security fee should be levied either per barrel or at the pump.

  2. Deploy HOT lanes and Congestion Pricing. Highway Trust Fund financing for new highway, bridges and tunnel infrastructure should be to the extent possible shifted to user fees based on tolls, and incorporating congestion pricing where appropriate.

  3. Allocate transit dollars to optimize oil savings. Transit routes that have the highest load factors save the most oil. Thus, the coalition argues, taxpayer monies allocated to transit should go to capital improvements that would improve service on those high-load routes, or add new routes expected to be consistently high-load.

  4. Increase insurance choice. Today, low-mileage drivers subsidize risk for high-mileage drivers, distorting price signals for driving. Legislation should lift state regulations that prevent pay-as-you-drive insurance.

  5. Transit vouchers. To encourage mobility competition and to allow transit agencies to become more self-sustaining, transit vouchers could be provided for low-income neighborhoods.

  6. Unburden the trip not taken. Accelerate the adoption of telecommuting though judicious policies.

  7. Return gas tax revenue to areas with the most traffic and oil savings potential. Metropolitan areas, which host most of the population, employers, GDP and traffic, are the logical recipients of a large proportion of federal gas tax receipts.

  8. Liberalize local land-development rules.

  9. Deploy smart traffic management technologies. The new program should include a strategic technology plan for rapid deployment.

  10. Deploy electric rail if justified by cost efficiency and oil displacement potential.

Resources

Comments

Engineer-Poet

This is the sort of initiative which could kindle serious interest in the Blade Runner dual-mode scheme.

JMartin

EP:
Dual Mode or PRT of some sort, but from the proposals I have seen, Blade Runner does not look like a winner to me. But then my crystal ball is foggy. See
http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/ for others.

Engineer-Poet

That site makes my eyes bleed.

Reel$$

Just in case you gentlemen thought these discussions need be kept too serious, here's some levity from GM:

"Hello, Mr. Woods. This is the On Star operator. We have detected that an angry person has put a golf club through your window. We've called Nike. A new club is on its way."

Bus fares in any city I've lived in have always been non-competitive with vehicle ownership. Public transit if it is to succeed MUST be subsidized to lower fares well below cost of vehicle ownership. This is one municipal expense that should get much better funding.

ai_vin

Carefull Reel, your begining to sound like a socialist.

SJC

I have thought that a form of light rail running in the middle of freeways could get commuters to use them. Decades ago, some talked about an elevated monorail between the opposing lanes, but that never occurred. Commuters use a lot of fuel, so until we get more telecommuting and living closer to work, we will have to come up with other ways to reduce fuel consumption and reduce imported oil.

country mouse

area of service, fares and transit time put busses/subways at a disadvantage to personal transit vehicles especially the two wheeled variety (scooters/electric bicycle/motorcycles).

sjc, moving closer to work is not really an answer. I changed jobs on the order of once every year and a half. That would mean I would have to move every year and a half. That means I would never own a house or have any sort of connection to community. If I had a partner with the job, our relationship would end when I moved because of work. I believe that in the future, finding an employer close to home will work the first time but not the second or third because there will not be enough "talent" to justify that concentration of employers in a given domain Or field.

The alternative model means sticking with a job that eats your soul. When my grandparents get tired of moving for every job, my grandfather stuck with a lousy job, they were miserable.

frankly, living 10-20 years in a community and commuting off-peak to jobs within 30 min has been a good quality of life.

Tim Duncan

@ Reel$$, I agree, same experience in big city. In small busses are even worse choice vs personal car. I love the oil and congestion savings potential of public transportation, but it needs to be way more efficient to compete.

@ country mouse, very humane and insightful comments. The nearly infinite choice and flexibility in our modern transportation system is a wonderful and precious thing.

As for this article, it is long on wind and wishing for more energy security and short on market reality, which it claims is its method. I hate taxes and controls, but could probably live with Policy #1. #2 might help traffic jams, not much on changing the role of oil; people will find a route around jams and tolls, probably not onto transit. Transit engineers already do #3, it is the politicians that gerrymander transit investment. As long as transit relies on public money, this is how it will be, thus this will never improve under this plan. #5 transit vouchers sounds like another subsidy, how is that an improvement. Vouchers work in school systems because they give students the economics for choice and thus increase competition. I used to live within on a city bus line, within walking distance of one train line and easy biking distance of another. All three systems could get within a few blocks of my work, given time, money and conformity to their schedule. I hated all of them, they were slow, inconvenient and expensive. I much preferred to drive my old car, when it ran, it was cheaper. Transit was not competitive vs auto, even with 3 systems, how will vouchers change this? #6 is great, but government should not be telling people how to do their work. #7 is terrible. Take from everyone and give to the system that is most broken? What about the millions of miles of infrastructure outside of these urban centers, just let it rot?

Except for the insurance idea, I did not hear one government regulation reduction, and not one true competition promoter. This is just a new way for liberals to lobby for transit authority handouts.

HarveyD

The pay as you go (use) appraoach is not new.

Adjusting charges to real total cost (+ 20% profits?) is also not very new.

Implementing better services where future revenues would be best is also not new.

The problem with this type of maximized revenues and profits approach to people transportation systems is that you would quickly create various quality of services based on customers capability to pay. Areas with rich people would get gold plated very high speed systems while areas with poor people would always get fifty years old, dirty, low reliability, low speed, irregular, overloaded vehicles.

The other extreme, i.e. a high quality free public transportation system paid partly by over sized private vehicle users plus an extra income tax on people making more than $200K a year plus a 10% tax on all junk food and drinks etc may be a better approcah to reduce oil consumption and imports.

SJC

Living closer to work IS an answer IF we have a more stable job market, but with down sizing and out sourcing, people have to get another job when the last one goes away. It is something like sub prime, create good paying stable jobs, don't lower the loan standards....but that is harder to do.

So we just have words and people commuting, polluting the air, clogging the roads, burning out cars and themselves and last but NOT least, wasting a TON of precious imported oil and driving the value of the dollar even LOWER. With stable long term jobs, you could live closer to work and be a part of a long term community relationship. Some situation are not always either or when you find the right solutions to the core of the problem.

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