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Borrow from transit to pay for highways?

 
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:56 am    Post subject: Borrow from transit to pay for highways? Reply with quote

Drop in Miles Driven Is Depleting Highway Fund; Loan From Mass Transit Is Urged

By MATTHEW L. WALD
New York Times, 7/29/08

WASHINGTON — Gasoline tax revenue is falling so fast that the federal government may not be able to meet its commitments to states for road projects already under way, the secretary of transportation said Monday.

The secretary, Mary E. Peters, said the short-term solution would be for the Highway Trust Fund’s highway account to borrow money from the fund’s mass transit account, a step that would balance the accounts as highway travel declines and use of mass transit increases. Both trends are being driven by the high price of gasoline and diesel fuel.

Ms. Peters said vehicle miles traveled on the nation’s roads fell in May by 3.7 percent from May 2007, a drop first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal. That made May the seventh consecutive month of year-to-year decline, and the ninth in the last 12. Historically, miles traveled have risen by 1 percent to 2 percent a month compared with the year earlier.

Put another way, for every 25 miles that Americans were expected to drive, they are now driving about 24.

That dampens proceeds from the federal tax on motor fuel: 18.4 cents a gallon on gasoline, 24.4 cents a gallon on diesel. Revenue from the tax goes to the Highway Trust Fund, with most of it designated to the highway account, which finances construction and repair of roads, and a much smaller share to the mass transit account.

The highway account had a balance of about $8 billion at the beginning of the fiscal year, and the expectation was that it would have some $4 billion by year’s end. But it has been emptying faster than anticipated, and the Bush administration now projects that at some point in the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, it will hit zero, causing payments to be made from it only as revenue arrives. Ms. Peters predicted a shortfall of $3.1 billion.

Transferring the money from the transit account would require Congress’s approval, according to Congressional aides. And it is sure to face opposition.

“Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the way to go,” said the president of the American Public Transportation Association, William W. Millar. “The administration proposal is shortsighted and would mean that the mass transit account would be reduced to the point where there would not be enough money to fund the federal transit program in 2010, even at the current level.”

Last week the House passed a bill that would spend $8 billion of general tax revenue on highways. But the White House said President Bush’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto any such provision, and called for borrowing from the mass transit account instead. That account is currently in surplus, the White House said, and the transfer “would not harm transit spending and would not increase the deficit.”

As for a longer-term solution, Ms. Peters said that on Wednesday she would propose a new arrangement for paying for highways, based in part on private capital financing and use of tolls that vary by time of day.
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Mr. Linsky
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like a 'Catch 22'; we're darned if we do and darned if we don't!

If we drive more it's going to cost less, and if we drive less it's going to cost more!

Actually, if there's less traffic there should be less need to repair the roads, but in the condition that our infrastructure is now in that idea becomes absurd.

I would say that our best bet though is to concentrate on getting people over to mass transit, and that we should double our efforts to build up our public transit systems.

It's the only logical way to go in the face of the present situation.

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The roads are already in need of repair, and it only takes one overloaded truck to make a bridge fail. Investment in mass transit and rail freight is necessary, but it isn't going to make the VMTs drop significantly for quite some time. And however the USDOT wants to spin the numbers, 3.7% isn't significant.

It's been pointed out all over the industry that despite the jump in ridership, the increased revenue isn't keeping up with the increased costs transit agencies are facing. Not only do they have to fuel the buses, they also need to buy more equipment and hire more personnel to keep up with demand. Raising fares only goes so far and isn't always politically viable; cutting funding now is a gigantic leap in the wrong direction.
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Dieseljim
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2008 11:22 am    Post subject: Stealing Money from Mass Transit Fund Reply with quote

It is our overdependence on highways and airlines that got us into this energy trouble in the first place and George Bush's logic behind even suggesting stealing from the mass transit fund makes about as much sense as a cocaine addict trying to justify his or her habit. If more of the freight now moving over the highways could be forced back onto the rails where it belongs, that would cut down on the wear and tear of our roads. They must have had one hell of a cocaine party in the Oval Office to come up with that one. At least that's my impression of it. We need a real TRANSPORTATION POLICY, not more of the same horsecrap dished out since the Eisenhower years.
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Mr. Linsky
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2008 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As seen in today's New York Times;

Energy Follies

Published: August 4, 2008

It’s hard not to be exasperated and even a little frightened by the Senate’s selfishly partisan approach to the nation’s energy challenge in the days leading up to its August recess. Given one last shot at taking modest but meaningful steps to deal with tightening oil supplies and climate change, the Senate instead settled for a schoolyard blame game whose main purpose was to exploit public dismay over rising gasoline prices for short-term political gain.

Senate Republicans tried to leverage voters’ anguish by offering proposals that furthered their unexamined strategy to expand offshore drilling. The Democrats responded by pinning the blame for the surge in oil prices on financial speculators, and offering a bill to curb trading. The usual bogeymen appeared, with Republicans’ accusing environmentalists of locking up precious oil supplies and the Democrats’ blaming Wall Street.

These competing bills provided a dashing image of senators hard at work, but neither provided any hope of relief at the pump for beleaguered constituents. The oil industry already has access to fourth-fifths of the nation’s recoverable offshore resources, mostly off Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico, and drilling the forbidden areas — protected by a longstanding Congressional moratorium that President Bush is trying to lift — would make only a marginal difference in prices 15 years down the road.

As to the speculators so reviled by the Democrats, most economists believe that they have little or nothing to do with oil prices.

This political theater — for that is all it was — exacted a price. It diverted the nation from the intellectually rigorous debate over energy policy it needs to have (and should have) in an election year, while sparing the Senate from developing serious policies that could help set the country on a more energy-efficient and environmentally sound course.

Among the victims of this poisonous bickering were serious proposals from Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, that would have provided an estimated $18 billion for alternative and renewable energy sources. Much of this money would have extended tax credits, set to expire in December, that are vital to the further development of climate-friendly sources of energy like wind and solar power, while providing new credits for plug-in hybrid cars that over time could actually make a difference in fuel prices.

The most vivid symbol of the Senate’s ineptitude was the majority leader, Harry Reid, who tried to make the best of a terrible two weeks by asking his opposite number, Mitch McConnell, to join him in an “energy summit” in Las Vegas. From one perspective, given the farce we have just witnessed, it makes sense to move the debate over energy policy as far from Washington as possible, even to an environment as distant from reality as Las Vegas. But Mr. Reid has to know how silly this looks and what it really says about the Senate’s capacity for action.

COMMENT; if we're not already in it, we're sure heading for the 'Twilight Zone'!

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY
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Dieseljim
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:55 am    Post subject: Another Dose of 9/11 Might Wake Up Washington Reply with quote

Perhaps what it may take to wake up those worthless morons who make up Congress might be another dose of 9/11 on Washington, only this time while Congress is in session. Besides the energy issue, they could very easily solve the Social Security issue by making themselves subject to ALL of the Social Security Act's provisions, which means THEY would have to pay into it like everyone else.Like so many, I am so fed up that I would like to see a large mob with rifles storm Capitol Hill in a large mass. NOW that ought to get their attention- a revolution to take back our government, just like the Spirit of 1776.
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's not get too crazy here...
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Mr. Linsky
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm all for waking Washington out of its coma - but not that way!

While violent uprising did originally bring us to the freedoms we now enjoy, it is no longer a viable solution to our problems.

Our strongest weapon today is in our ability to vote which unfortunately was not used very wisely in the last two presidential elections - but that's water under the bridge.

I'll tell you what I'd like to see aside from wiser choices this November;

I'd like to see a non-violent nationwide boycott of all Exxon-Mobil dealers the intent of which would be to force fuel prices back down to reasonable levels.

That would at least start to reignite our beleaguered ecomomy.

Million man marches on Washington wouldn't hurt either.

That's the way I see it!

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr. Linsky wrote:
I'd like to see a non-violent nationwide boycott of all Exxon-Mobil dealers the intent of which would be to force fuel prices back down to reasonable levels.


I don't think that would accomplish much aside from making Shell, Citgo, Gulf, and the others very happy! What would be better is a nationwide boycott (of sorts) of all of them, in favor of a monthly transit pass! According to the original article, that's exactly what's happening, except it isn't working out to transit's favor...
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Mr. Linsky
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael,

You're missing one point;

A boycott of Exxon/Mobil will force them to reduce their prices which will then force the rest of the industry to follow suit!

This will work!

Mr. 'L'
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HwyHaulier




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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject: Re: Stealing Money from Mass Transit Fund Reply with quote

Dieseljim -

Dieseljim wrote:
It is our overdependence on highways and airlines that got us into this energy trouble in the first place...

Blame the messenger? The underlying cause seems very much to be a thousands of years old striving of all people for freedoms of travel.
As the tools to do it evolved, what we see now is likely most efficient use of available options. (Yes, it didn't help at all that earlier, quite
ignorant national imperatives drove a great deal of traffic off the rails.)

Quote:
...If more of the freight now moving over the highways could be forced back onto the rails where it belongs, that would cut down on the wear and tear of our roads...

The onto the rails where it belongs mentality by the rails was what caused so many competitive problems in the first place! They were so
smug as to believe traffic belonged to them. The thinking ignored there had long been earlier roads and waterways...

Besides that, what is being said here? Go to "pig"/TOFC heavily? And, that solves? On most of the Interstate Highway line haul system, it
is hardly anywhere near capacity. With "pig"/TOFC, it still needs pickup and delivery in congested urban areas.

Otherwise, it is quite the dated view that rail can provide much help. So much of business today involves a very large distribution center,
and dedicated fleet support on pickup and deliveries within up to 250 miles distant. To complicate the issue, many of the loads actually
serve multiple stops, and all on a timely basis. So, one truck does in a day what would take up to a week if same shipments all on rail.
The rail option is more efficient because...?

An even more complicating factor. Business is no longer done between short lists of moves between clearly identified Central Business
District
areas, in equivalents of Medieval Walled Cities. The processes have evolved into myriad moves between random points, much in
distant suburban and rural points. One must consider the present day, infinitely complex movement matrix. City transit planners don't
know how to deliver economic solutions on their side of the business.

Rails now do what rails do best. In the long haul merchandise business, it is in trailers/ containers riding the rails. The highway carriers,
with the names on the trailers, still must do the city pickup and delivery functions. Rails wisely were out of the retail side (door to door,
one bill) many decades back. A limiting factor on container/ trailer hauls, ideally rail ramps should be at least (circa) three hundred (300)
miles separated. On the shorter hauls, rails would better rely on its own trucks, anyway...

.....................Vern...............
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