Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gas prices work

HOV lane use is up, general purpose lane usage is down, the Transportation Commission heard this morning (Tuesday). More than that, weekend traffic is down (except Mother's day, when it was up), King County purchased 117 new vanpool vans, rideshare inquiries are up, transit ridership is up.

Year-over-year traffic changes mapped against gas prices show indisputable results. Doug MacDonald, Transportation Secretary and the best re-hire in Governor Gregoire's tenure, said, "The long-term implications are profound" for higher priced gas.

What is surprising to me is that nobody is surprised that gas prices cause behavior change. Depressing to me is that few see this as an answer, but as a problem. Depopulating the planet is a nuisance, but a hit in the purse for driving an SUV is a crisis.

Higher prices mean a closer correlation to costs, including environmental costs and infrastructure replacement costs. Prices correlated to real costs means people will make better decisions. At the same time, energy alternatives will have a chance in the marketplace. The terrible and real problem with higher prices is that the proceeds go to oil monopolies and despotic foreign governments, not to rational public investment. This means not only are the rich are continuing to exploit public goods, but a great deal of financing is going out of our communities. No tax ever bled a state like excess profits to Oil have. The same money in the form of tax revenue funding public goods would be a boon.

MacDonald said he would endeavor to get some of the information up on the Department's web site, but what good is a map if you're going to use it for toilet paper?
An interesting note at the end of today's morning session: MacDonald was reporting on a recent trip to Melbourne (which he describes as a "parallel universe"). He cited an important source of funding for highways -- insurance. All auto insurance is provided through a public corporation. Premiums are used to fix "black spot" roadways, dangerous spots, such as are the target of the "nickel" program. The savings in reduced payouts is channeled back into the next "black spot" fix. A healthy cycle, I'd say. Better transportation through economics.

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