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AAA Lashes Out Against D.C. Congestion Plan

Monday, June 30, 2014 - 12:51 PM

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Rush hour traffic, South Capitol Street Bridge (Elvert Barnes/flickr)

The District's plan to tackle traffic congestion in downtown Washington is facing opposition from a group that represents drivers.

The MoveDC plan calls for better bike lanes, bus lanes, sidewalks and streetcars, a 25-year vision to provide commuters alternatives to driving. The most controversial aspect of MoveDC is a proposal to toll key commuter routes into the city, a form of congestion pricing to keep downtown traffic from getting worse as the region's population grows.

Testifying at a D.C. Council hearing today, AAA MidAtlantic's Lon Anderson says the planned improvements to walking, biking, and transit will come at the expense of motorists. "So we are here today in vehement protest of this plan that ratchets up the District's hostility to motorists to a fevered pitch, seeking to make it even more difficult and more expensive for motorists to get here," Anderson said.

Anderson says tolling highways into the city amounts to a commuter tax.

D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh objects to that label. "It is not a commuter tax to have a toll on a road that would be subject to people commuting," she said. "I don't know where you are getting that, but it is not a commuter tax."

Cheh then asked Anderson a question: "How else are you going to control car congestion with a growing population?"

Anderson did not provide a specific solution, but said MoveDC will make driving into the District more difficult while improving mobility for everyone else.

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Comments [11]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Bronx, you keep missing the real point of the issue. The Beltway already has enough tolls, though some of them had already paid for the bonds long ago. Those that are living in areas where the car is the only efficient way to get around see it as adding insult to injury. Also, they would have to pay a double toll if this passes. Keep in mind that many transit agencies have a history of mismanagement, which is why groups such as AAA oppose such an idea as they see it as just another way to nickel and dime them. As for the income studies, what you could have given could have been from fudged data. Don't give me the claim that it's not a regressive tax when opponents found evidence that proved the exact opposite of what you said. Just to let you know, the most vocal opponents to congestion pricing when it was tried in NYC weren't conservatives, they were liberals, which disproves where one has to be on the political spectrum to take a view. More importantly, if you have the right to supporting congestion pricing, others like AAA have the right to opposing it, and last time we live in a democracy, not an authoritarian country your group runs. Of course, you have an anti-car bias, so getting the message to you has as much of a chance of getting the Muslim Brotherhood to accept Israel as a Jewish state.

Jul. 07 2014 06:27 PM
Bronx from NYC

"Bronx, I believe your statement about congestion pricing not being a regressive tax as much as I will believe Hamas is not a terrorist organization. If you really did a demographics study, you will find that those that live in the main parts of a city have actually higher incomes than those living on the outskirts and suburbs."

Wrong.

Median household income of Washington DC Metro area; 2012

District of Columbia: $64,267
Arlington: $102,459
Fairfax: $109,383
Montgomery: $96,985
Prince George: $73,568
Prince William: $96,160
Loudoun: $122,068

The Washington D.C. suburbs are among the wealthiest in the US.

"As a matter of fact, much of the housing in the main area are lot more expensive than anywhere else, which makes me feel that you are looking at a reflection in the mirror here. The reason why those living on the outskirts and suburbs drive a lot into the main area is because there are hardly any viable alternatives, not to mention the DC Metro doesn't run all day like the NYC subway that does, so those whose work areas don't go well with it have to drive."

Service Hours, Washington DC Metro

Monday - Thursday: 5 am to midnight
Friday: 5 am to 3 am Saturday
Saturday: 7 am to 3 am Sunday
Sunday: 7 am to midnight

The vast majority of workers require transportation at these hours. Rapid transit in DC serves areas inside the beltway and provides parking at all suburban stations.

The DC Metro is also decentralized. Very different than NYC.

"BTW, if congestion pricing does get fewer to drive, then no real revenue can be made from it, which is most likely the main priority of this."

It's priority is the reduction of congestion. Revenue is a bonus.

"On a side note, the reason it failed to pass in NYC was mainly because it was seen as a regressive tax to those living in the outer boroughs and suburbs."

Wrong. It was not brought up for vote at the state level due to political BS. Congestion pricing has already been analyzed to death in NYC and is not a regressive tax. Only 1% of low income workers drive into Midtown during peak hours. Heavy pollution, collisions, limited funding for transit and the high cost of outer crossings is adverse to the poor.

Jul. 07 2014 04:32 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Bronx, I believe your statement about congestion pricing not being a regressive tax as much as I will believe Hamas is not a terrorist organization. If you really did a demographics study, you will find that those that live in the main parts of a city have actually higher incomes than those living on the outskirts and suburbs. As a matter of fact, much of the housing in the main area are lot more expensive than anywhere else, which makes me feel that you are looking at a reflection in the mirror here. The reason why those living on the outskirts and suburbs drive a lot into the main area is because there are hardly any viable alternatives, not to mention the DC Metro doesn't run all day like the NYC subway that does, so those whose work areas don't go well with it have to drive. BTW, if congestion pricing does get fewer to drive, then no real revenue can be made from it, which is most likely the main priority of this. On a side note, the reason it failed to pass in NYC was mainly because it was seen as a regressive tax to those living in the outer boroughs and suburbs.

Jul. 07 2014 02:19 PM
Bronx from NYC

Tal Barzilai, congestion pricing is not regressive because those that drive into the charging zone are wealthier than the general population.

The whole point of congestion pricing is too reduce congestion first and foremost. In Washington D.C., congestion heading into and out of the city during rush hour is outrageous. At the same time, the DC metro is does not have centralized employment like NYC. There are rapidly growing job centers outside the city like Tyson's Corner. As a result, without congestion pricing and increased density near mass transit, traffic in Washington D.C. will only get worse. This will result in reduced commerce and desirability.

Jul. 07 2014 02:15 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

AAA has every right to protest this plan just as you guys have every right to supporting it. Congestion pricing is all based on theory rather than fact. From the view of a motorist such as myself, I just see it as just another way to nickel and dime those are already can't live near good transportation hence adding insult to injury. From the way it's implemented, it feels nothing more than a regressive tax, because those that can't afford it will be hurt the most while those that can won't feel affected that much. Also, it's viewed as a double tip when we are being told to pay on site for something that our tax dollars already go to just like how waiters at restaurants try to make customers give a tip despite the fact that it was included in the bill. Another reason why I feel that it's only theoretical is because it's mainly for revenue purposes. What will happen if more stop driving to avoid the charges and the revenues are down? Then, it will be seen as a net money loser. The claim that it can always be removed if it fails will be easier said than done, because politicians with their cronies will always find ways to fudge data or other things to make it work for them just like how that was done in London despite the fact that it was doing bad. One more thing, we motorists do pay the roads, so it's our money being used on this just as well.

Jul. 02 2014 04:17 PM
Sam from Newark

A toll on a road is no more of a commuter tax than paying a fare for the Metro or commuter rail. Guess what AAA, you have no God-given right to a government-subidized slot for your car into a highly congested city at rush hour free of charge.

Jul. 01 2014 04:49 PM
lop

Tom those who live far away are catered to at the expense of those who live closer in.

Why is that the default? Why is it so inappropriate to put the needs of locals above those of commuters?

Jul. 01 2014 02:42 PM
Guest

The title of this article can also be renamed "AAA supports increased congestion in D.C."

I'm not too concerned about this. After all, the increased congestion thanks to metropolitan suburban sprawl will eventually make traffic so unbearable that people will beg for this.

Jul. 01 2014 02:05 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

But will the MoveDC implementation improve it for everyone else? Including motorists who switch to an alternative mode. That's not entirely certain is Anderson's point.

Predicting, especially about the future, is difficult. In this case looking at a forced result, the plan, versus the obvious and unencumbered by governmental actions result, the 2040 baseline, is fascinating. We are to believe that the resident population will grow by 170,000 and the jobs in DC by 200,000 but the volume of motor trips will drop from the already outpaced number from 2010 by a negative 7% required more than a model. It requires an act of faith in your own certitude. It is a big bet and you don't want to be wrong. You want to have all your countermeasures and alternative modes up and running and proven before the crowd arrives.

Jul. 01 2014 12:07 PM
Eric F

AAA "lashes out" whereas bike and transit lobbying groups are "passionate".

Jul. 01 2014 09:19 AM
Alex

"Anderson did not provide a specific solution, but said MoveDC will make driving into the District more difficult while improving mobility for everyone else."

Well, yes, that's the point, Lon. I'm glad AAA at least grasps the concept. And ideally, many of those newly "oppressed" drivers will become "everyone else" and take the Metro or bus or bike. We've catered to drivers for 60 years and it hasn't worked very well. Time for a change.

Jun. 30 2014 02:21 PM

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