LaHood Favors Non-Motorized Transportation

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued new rules for bike- and walkways and announced at the National Bike Summit that “This Is the End of Favoring Motorized Transportation at the Expense of Non-Motorized.” This led to more critical remarks from the BoydGroup, an aviation consulting firm that previously criticized LaHood for “advising” airlines not to oppose high-speed rail.

LaHood’s dichotomy between motorized and non-motorized transportation is politically astute but historically inaccurate. For most of the last century — roughly 1920 through 1990 — our institutions favored forms of transportation that paid for themselves as opposed to those that required huge subsidies. Those were primarily highways, aviation, and rail freight.

Fortunately for cyclists, most roads can accommodate both motor vehicles and bicycles. While a few motorists are impolite to cyclists, most are not, and as a cyclist I’ve rarely felt discriminated against by state or local road designers.

In my home state of Oregon, freeways outside the city of Portland are open to bicycles, and I’ve gone hundreds of miles on I-5 and I-84. But even where freeways are closed to cycling, they are the ultimate pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly device as they draw hundreds of thousands of vehicles off of city streets.

The Antiplanner has nothing against designing roads to provide for cycling and walking. But LaHood’s implication that we should spend billions of dollars of highway user fees building a whole new network of bike routes doesn’t make sense. Until bicycles pay their own way, they should be happy to share the road with automobiles.

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30 thoughts on “LaHood Favors Non-Motorized Transportation

  1. Dan

    For most of the last century — roughly 1920 through 1990 — our institutions favored forms of transportation that paid for themselves as opposed to those that required huge subsidies.

    Yeah, excluding the interstate highway system. And local access roads. And that thingy that you put in the hole that makes the car go…the..um…oh, yes, fuel.

    So sure, take out the interstates and the road in front of your house and the gas, I’m all on board with the italicized.

    DS

  2. Scott

    railwayman, People naturally move better on good roads. How profound.

    Dan, Identify your made-up subsidies.
    Gas tax paid for ~90% of Interstates.
    Property & sales tax paid for local roads. That’s a part of living. All parcels have road frontage.
    Gas prices pay for gas.
    Sounds like you want all gov services to be paid for directly. How extreme free market of you.

    Regardless of amount of subsidy, is it significant, when roads benefit 100% of all people, w/ ~90% of adults driving, & <3% using public transit regularly?

    Hey, can I be part of a small special interest group to get extra money from gov?
    How about free size 13+ shoes? It's transportation.
    I have a hard time finding size 14, so I deserve special treatment.

  3. Dan

    Don’t they teach junior high school students anything these days?

    Fossil fuel subsidies: http://www.eli.org/pressdetail.cfm?ID=205 *, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE58O18U20090926.
    Parking subsidies.
    Interstate & highway funding. http://www.subsidyscope.com/transportation/highways/funding/

    Joke.

    DS

    * The research demonstrates that the federal government provided substantial…subsidies to fossil fuels…[they received] approximately $72 billion over the seven-year period,

  4. Scott

    Dan, Thanx for the links.
    However, I need to explain some of the content to your limited comprehension ability.
    One thing you are doing is changing the items from what the original part of the discussion.

    The term subsidy is misused, in reference to a deduction in tax liability, rather than a direct payment. The article about the $10 billion/year energy “help” does make a distinction between direct payment & tax breaks, but still falsely uses the term subsidy. Of that energy help, almost half is for renewable. For coal & gas, the only true subsidy comes out to $2.3 billion/year. That is an extremely small amount for about a $trillion annual expense.

    Parking was not part of the original discussion. Donald Schoup is way off on his amounts. For example, he believes that there are 7 parking spots for every vehicle. That is ridiculous, exaggerating by about thrice. He imagines that because a car might occupy 7 different spaces in one day, that all 7 spaces could be simultaneously occupied, by every car. He also mischaracterizes “free”, when it is part of companies’ properties & retail prices & part of residential neighborhoods original build-out, often paid for by developers or property taxes for capital.

    O’Toole’s original statement was about the past, until the 90s, and actually, it was about what people wanted, rather than what actually was. The Interstate cost was on first build, roughly 50s to 70s, not the expansion & maintenance since then. People are assumed to be generally moral in that it is fair to pay for what is used. Politicians have been too weak to raise the gas tax. And many are actually hypocritical when it comes to projects for federal funding (ie rail & Big Dig).

    AS I mentioned before, there are certain municipal taxes that naturally go to infrastructure, such as roads, where there are not direct user fees. I have not seen any other complaints where just about all gov expenditure is not based upon direct user, by use, revenue, to cover all expenses, such as: families pay for schools; membership for libraries; monthly assessment, per person, rather than property based, for protection by police & fire; park admission/membership, etc.

    You & others, still, have never addressed why any subsidy amount for highways is significantly wrong, when used directly by ~90% of adults & still even benefits 100% (goods transport, deliveries, access, etc.).
    And why there should be a double standard, with public transit getting considerable mount more subsidy per passenger-mile, and for <4% of people????

    Fair is right! Right? Is that wanted?
    Increase gas tax by $0.50/gallon.
    Triple (apprx.) public transit prices.

  5. the highwayman

    Scott said: People naturally move better on good roads. How profound.

    THWM: Then Scott why put pressure on government for better roads?

    Why not let free market capitalism for making a profit from tolls produce better roads?

    Yeah, I know that would put O’Toole out of his lobbying “job”.

  6. the highwayman

    Scott said: Dan, Identify your made-up subsidies.
    Gas tax paid for ~90% of Interstates.
    Property & sales tax paid for local roads. That’s a part of living. All parcels have road frontage.

    THWM: Though plenty of taxed gas is burned off of freeways on roads paid for property taxes.

    Scott: Sounds like you want all gov services to be paid for directly. How extreme free market of you.

    THWM: Then why bother with government.

    Scott: Regardless of amount of subsidy, is it significant, when roads benefit 100% of all people, w/ ~90% of adults driving.

    THWM: Well that’s socialism for you.

  7. Scott

    highman, previously, you quoted me & then typed something:
    Scott said: People naturally move better on good roads. How profound.
    THWM: Then Scott why put pressure on government for better roads?

    You didn’t seem to understand that I was restating your previous comment, The whole good roads movement had it’s origins with bicyclists. which didn’t make much sense, as usual, for you.
    Then you typed
    why put pressure on government for better roads? which is not even in context & the answer is obvious & posed in statement that you just quoted.

    What makes you think there is pressure against tollroads?

    Your claim of lobbying is unfounded & slanderous. Try proving that O’Toole’s income is dependent upon any laws or projects that employ any particular company.
    Regardless of income people across the spectrum advocate for many positions/ideologies base upon many reasons (just or wrong).
    You seem to imply that a lobbyist will try to get payouts to one company & with no benefit to anybody.

    Plenty of taxes went to public education for you, but with bad results.

    Why do you pose anarchy?
    How should roads be funded?
    How should public transit be funded.

  8. Dan

    One thing you are doing is changing the items from what the original part of the discussion.

    You either cannot comprehend the topic or are mendaciously making sh– up. Either way is embarrassing.

    The original point, as italicized above:

    For most of the last century — roughly 1920 through 1990 — our institutions favored forms of transportation that paid for themselves as opposed to those that required huge subsidies.

    It is blatant bullsh– that autocentricity pays for itself. Hand-flapping away from the topic doesn’t hide the fact that it is blatant bullsh– that cars pay for themselves.

    DS

  9. Scott

    That quoted statement does not say that “autos pay for themselves”. The key part of the quote is “favored”. To help your understanding, that means “prefer” or “leans toward”. A big reason for that is that the taxes are specific, by use, & avoidable if don’t drive. If highways were even more paid for by user fees, they would be better, but the gas tax has been too low.

    You are still missing points & nitpicking on details. If you are against highway “subsidy” then you should be against “public transit” subsidy, especially with its only ~2% of all travel miles.

    See the funding too. Look at those 2 sources, & and you can see how little the random taxes are for roads, per passenger-mile, about 20x public transit.

  10. bennett

    “LaHood’s dichotomy between motorized and non-motorized transportation is politically astute but historically inaccurate.”

    Interesting. I don’t like this dichotomy either. Fact is, cars and non-cars have to share the “public” and “communal” space we all call streets and roads. The street is not only how we access transport but also how we access everything else in the built environment. To have a system in which the only concern is point a to point b as efficiently as possible, with little consideration for what the individual has to contend with once their car has arrived is silly. Streets are not solely for cars. Not even close. Street design should be reflecting this fact better.

  11. bennett

    “What makes you think there is pressure against tollroads?”

    It’s one of the biggest political issues in TX. Austinites are asking themselves why they would allow the government to use eminent domain so that a private company could build a gargantuan highway (everything is bigger in TX) through some of the most fertile farmland in the entire state. Now they have started to toll already existing state highways. Texas toll roads are a great example of transportation plutocracy and political wheelin’ and dealin.’

  12. bennett

    Another question for the Antiplanners. When calculating your cost per passenger mile stuff, do you exclude the costs mandated to transit providers under ADA? These services are the most expensive, the most heavily subsidized, and most would argue are the most appropriate.

    It just seems that sometimes we are loosing sight of the important differences between personal autos and transit. Some of the biggest subsidies in the transit industry are directed toward transit dependent populations (those who cannot drive for some reason).

  13. Dan

    Apparently, according to the incoherent and silly hand-flapping @ 11, Murrica has never favored any transportation, because nothing has paid for itself.

    The comedy writes itself, really. You can’t make that stuff up. Apologies in advance if the three stooges characters are made-up sockpuppets, for example by a performance artist or a PR firm.

    DS

  14. MJ

    Another question for the Antiplanners. When calculating your cost per passenger mile stuff, do you exclude the costs mandated to transit providers under ADA? These services are the most expensive, the most heavily subsidized, and most would argue are the most appropriate.

    ADA-compliant services are more expensive on a per passenger-mile basis, but make up a relatively small share of transit operating costs. In my region, they account for less than 10 percent of total operating costs. And there was also a significant of such service available here before it became codified in ADA.

    Also, it makes little sense to suggest that it only affects one mode of transportation. New road construction or reconstruction projects must also conform to ADA standards (curb cuts, etc.), thus raising their costs.

    Some of the biggest subsidies in the transit industry are directed toward transit dependent populations (those who cannot drive for some reason).

    I don’t agree. New transit projects (especially rail) seldom benefit the poor. Many of them are designed to extend service to non-poor suburban locations. Subsidies are lavished on all users, regardless of income, including many who arguably do not need them. This is the unfortunate effect of subsidizing bureaucracies vs. subsidizing individuals.

  15. bennett

    “ADA-compliant services are more expensive on a per passenger-mile basis, but…”

    According to what I’ve read on this blog, to antiplanners, there is no “but” when it comes to “per passenger mile.”

  16. Scott

    Be against roads because of non-use taxes are ~$0.02/passenger-mile.
    Be for public transit because non-use taxes are ~$0.40/passenger-mile.

    If those differences are exaggerated, it still doesn’t matter that public transit is significantly more funded by non-users, and to benefit 90%.

  17. MJ

    According to what I’ve read on this blog, to antiplanners, there is no “but” when it comes to “per passenger mile.”

    Interpret it whichever way you want. My argument is that ADA-related costs are small beer, and that overall per passenger-mile costs would be quite similar whether these costs are excluded or not.

  18. msetty

    Dan,

    I don’t think the “Three Stooges” who generally are on the side of The Antiplanner on this blog are sock puppets or Google monkeys–it’s just not very high enough in the transportation blog pecking order to attract the attention of those who would want to pay sock puppets to do their bidding.

    If the likes of the stuff you see here was being posted on the major transportation blogs like Streetsblog or The Transport Politic, I’d have my suspicions.

  19. Dan

    Michael, I suspect you are correct, but I want to be polite just in case a performance artist is working out the bugs here before moving to the big time. You never know. The three stooges certainly come across as parody characters.

    DS

  20. Andy

    msetty,

    Do those other sites have moronic trolls like Dan, who posts 5-20 junior high level snarky comments a day, the same ones over and over again, without one intelligent thought anywhere in all the verbiage?

  21. Scott

    Dan & hman & betty sure are convincing, for whatever their points are.
    Hey, insults, labels & accusations are very persuasive. No need for any support.
    No need to get bogged down with facts, principles, concepts & anything of substance.

    Those guys would make excellent lawyers, capable of convincing the jury of anything.
    Impeccable logic & mastery of data.

    However, what are their points & positions?
    It just seems that they are so negative, being against about anything that involves liberty, free enterprise & cost-benefit analysis.

    They should all move to Curitiba, Brazil.

  22. StevefromMKE

    I second that…Dan and all the other urbanists can feel free to move to Curitiba, Paris or anywhere there heart desires…I just never understand their hatred for personal freedom a car affords people.

  23. ws

    MJ:“ADA-compliant services are more expensive on a per passenger-mile basis, but make up a relatively small share of transit operating costs. In my region, they account for less than 10 percent of total operating costs. And there was also a significant of such service available here before it became codified in ADA.”

    ws:10 percent is huge! Washington Metro’s paratransit costs 6% of their annual operating budget:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/08/AR2009060803758.html

    “MetroAccess is by far the transit agency’s costliest and fastest-growing service. An estimated 25,000 people are enrolled in the program, which provides door-to-door shared rides for a $2.50 one-way flat fare. Each trip costs Metro $38. The service accounts for about 6 percent of the agency’s $1.4 billion operating budget. Riders take about 7,500 trips on an average weekday. “

    $2.50 flat cost to ride paratransit that actually costs $38 for service…You can’t simply scoff at these costs. Transit does provide a service that private autos do not provide.

  24. Dan

    I just never understand their hatred for personal freedom a car affords people.

    You don’t understand it because it is a mischaracterization some partisan or PR firm made up to demonize the opposition (the Other). It doesn’t make sense, and that is why you don’t understand.

    That is: it is a false premise that some of us here hate th’ fraydum and hate Freedom Fries and wipe our *sses with the Constitution etc. It is bullsh–. Whoever is peddling this bullsh– to you is lying to you to engender emotion in you.

    DS

  25. Scott

    Dan,
    Don’t explain why people who continually have ideas that are anti-car (against personal mobility), anti-yard, anti-freedom, anti-responsibility, etc. are not really that way & that it’s a mischaracterization.

    You see, your labels & accusation don’t have meaning, you need to explain why.

    Go ahead too, & avoid the other points where your comments are continually destroyed. There might be a few other biased, leftists who don’t comprehend, since your ideology is based on the collective, rather than individuals.

    Your type are immoral, wanting to be forcing others to live your idealize, dense way & pay for your transit (~2/3 of it, for <4% of pop.).

  26. Dan

    Go ahead too, & avoid the other points where your comments are continually destroyed.

    Is there some fold in the fabric of space-time where typing gibberish and incoherence isn’t gibberish and incoherence, but”destroying”??

    DS

  27. StevefromMKE

    Hey Dan, I’m not from a PR group or a partisan, just an average guy who always sees you acting like some little tyrant taking up space in EVERY post on this site.

    But I do understand that basic human psychology flies over your head when the simple truth is that most people do NOT wish to sit on a bus or a train if they do not have to. But by all means, keep telling yourself that all of us who don’t are somehow brainwashed by the highway lobby…keep living in your little urbanist bubble.

    And some wonder why people don’t wish to live in the city anymore…they would be surrounded by the Dans of the world…not that Dan lives in the urban core…just where he feels safe.

  28. Scott

    Dan, You are self-identifying again, w/”typing gibberish and incoherence.”

    It’s a shame that you don’t understand certain principles, facts & common sense. You do not address specifics. I’ll try to communicate on lower levels so that you understand.
    Your points are easy to refute. Actually, you rarely have any points.

    Just on this page, you have avoided points on this page @ 3, 5, 11, 18, 23, 27.
    I can expand all of those points to a full page.
    Many religious & superstitious did not understand things (like you), until science explained them. I’m guessing that you don’t understand that analogy.
    It doesn’t mean that anything here has to do with deities or science.
    But there are certain principles of economics, math, statistics, human nature & some just reality/data that you don’t comprehend, so you just dismiss certain things as unintelligible.
    You have even demonstrated your lack of understanding when you referred to articles, such as by Krugman & Glaeser–they both explained how zoning pushes price, but you thought they meant “not”. You even referred to the Tiebout principle, but then later ignored it. You are contradictory, inconsistent, irrelevant & just very short on substance often.

    You don’t seem to get the analogy of being a lawyer. You need to show evidence.
    Do attorneys win by insulting, asserting & obfuscation?
    You are following Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
    Certain points: avoid the main issue, insult, misdirect, avoidance, ask for mundane details, etc.

    Well, it’s people like you (ie Kuntsler), in the media & BO admin & other Dems, which are working hard to destroy the US & to force change to a socialist style (ie Cuba) fuktopia; spread the misery. If only a few can excel greatly, then no one can.
    It’s a combo of best intentions & desire for power.

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