Cars Crush Transit

traffic-los-angelesThe Los Angeles Times has recently reported that public transit agencies “have watched their ridership numbers fall off a cliff over the last five years,” with multi-year decreases in mass transit use by up to 25%. And a new UCLA Institute of Transportation study has found that increasing car ownership is the prime factor for the dive in usage.

As Homer Simpson would say, “Doh.”

Southern California residents bought 4 times as many cars per person in the fifteen years after the turn of the century, compared to the decade before. That substantial jump in automobile ownership caused the share of Southern California households without access to a car to fall by 30%, and 42% for immigrant households. As one of the study’s authors, Michael Manville, put it, “That exploding level of new automobile ownership is largely incompatible with a lot of transit ridership.” In other words, once a household has access to a car, they almost universally prefer driving to mass transit.

This patronage plunge threatens transit agencies. Typical responses echo Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, who said, “We need to take this study as an opportunity to figure out how we make transit work better for us.” In other words, we should ignore increasing access to automobiles and overwhelming revealed preferences for driving over mass transit, and find new ways to fill bus and train seats.

Many things are already in motion to solve transit agency’s problems. For instance, in 2015, Los Angeles began a 20-year plan to remove auto lanes for bus and protected bike lanes, as well as pedestrian enhancements, diverting transportation funds raised from drivers and heightening congestion for the vast majority who planners already know will continue to drive (it would have doubled the number of heavily congested–graded F–intersections to 36% during evening rush).

Such less than effective attempts to cut driving (and bail out transit agencies) by creating gridlock purgatory suggest we ask a largely ignored question. Why do planners’ attempts to force residents into walking, cycling and mass transit, supposedly improving their quality of life, attract so few away from driving?

The reason is simple–cars are vastly superior to alternatives for the vast majority of individuals and circumstances.

Automobiles have far greater and more flexible passenger- and cargo-carrying capacities than transit. They allow direct, point-to-point service, unlike transit. They allow self-scheduling rather than requiring advance planning. They save time, especially time spent waiting, which surveys find transit riders find far more onerous. They have far better multi-stop trip capability (which is why restrictions on auto use punish working mothers most). They offer a safer, more comfortable, more controllable environment, from the seats to the temperature to the music to the company.

Those massive advantages explain why even substantial new restrictions on automobiles or improvements in alternatives leave driving the vastly dominant choice. They also reveal that policies which will punish the vast majority for whom driving remains far superior cannot effectively serve all residents’ interests.

The superiority of automobiles doesn’t stop at the obvious, either. They expand workers’ access to jobs and educational opportunities, increase productivity and incomes, improve purchasing choices, lower consumer prices and widen social options. Trying to inconvenience people out of their cars also undermines those major benefits.

Cars’ allow decreased commuting times if not hamstrung, providing workers access to far more potential jobs and training possibilities. That improves worker-employer matches, with expanded productivity raising workers’ incomes as well as benefitting employers. One study found that 10 percent faster travel raised worker productivity by 3 percent, and increasing from 3 mph walking speed to 30 mph driving is a 900 percent increase. In a similar vein, a Harvard analysis found that for those lacking high-school diplomas, owning a car increased monthly earnings by $1,100.

Cars are also the only practical way to assemble enough widely dispersed potential customers to sustain large stores with affordable, diverse offerings. “Automobility” also sharply expands access to social opportunities.

Attempting to force people out of cars and onto transit recycles earlier failures and harms the vast majority of citizens. As Randal O’Toole noted:

Anyone who prefers not to drive can find neighborhoods…where they can walk to stores that offer a limited selection of high-priced goods, enjoy limited recreation and social opportunities, and take slow public transit vehicles to some but not all regional employment centers, the same as many Americans did in 1920. But the automobile provides people with far more benefits and opportunities than they could ever have without it.

Gary Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University, an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, part the Foundation for Economic Education faculty network, and a research associate of the Independent Institute. His books include “Apostle of Peace” (2013); “Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies” (2014); and “Lines of Liberty” (2016).

California ‘Road Diet’ Antagonizes Drivers Still Stuck in Traffic Gridlock

traffic-los-angelesQuick, name the place where drivers suffer through maybe the worst traffic on Earth while policymakers are committed to making it altogether intolerable. Yes, of course it’s California.

Earlier this year, Inrix, a transportation analytics firm, ranked Los Angeles as the city with the worst traffic in the world, as measured by annual “peak hours spent in congestion.”

Southern California drivers who commute regularly to Los Angeles experience this gridlock every day. They spend an average of 104 hours “in congestion in 2016 during peak time periods.” Inrix says that sitting in traffic costs the average driver in the Southland $2,408 a year in lost productivity, and fuel burned while idling or creeping along in slow-moving parking lots.

Los Angeles also had “10 of the 25 worst traffic hotspots in America,” according to Inrix, “costing So Cal drivers an estimated $91 billion over the next 10 years.”

While California drivers slog through grueling traffic, policymakers have been putting them on a “road diet.” Joel Kotkin of Chapman University says “the notion animating the ‘road diet’ is to make congestion so terrible that people will be forced out of their cars and onto transit.”

The governor’s office has pursued road diets, as well as the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose. San Francisco has been putting its drivers on various, and often costly, road diets since the 1970s. The Reason Foundation says that in addition to its Vision Zero effort “to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025,” Los Angeles “is still planning to implement over 40 road diet projects” across the city.

Further antagonizing California drivers is the $52 billion fuel tax hike that lawmakers passed to repair the state’s cracked and battered infrastructure. Is there a dime available for expanding highway capacity to open gridlock? Apparently not. But don’t be surprised if considerable portions of the revenue are spent on “transportation” projects that will not improve automobile travel. Transportation analyst Wendell Cox says that California lawmakers “don’t have any problems spending money on roads” as long as the funds aren’t used “to make drivers’ experiences any better.”

It’s not out of the realm to imagine that lawmakers will also try to siphon off some of the revenue to repair the high-speed train wreckage.

In addition to increasing the typical California family’s financial burden by nearly $800 a year, according to Reform California, the fuel tax hike is also organizationally incoherent, as are other elements of the state’s transportation policies. Consider:

  • How much of that $52 billion will be raised over 10 years if policymakers are able to eliminate vehicles with internal-combustion engines that burn the fossil fuels subject to the tax hike and replace them with electric vehicles? As the forced transition to EVsthat Brown and Democrat Assemblyman Phil Ting favor overlaps with the final years of higher fuel taxes, revenue will fall.
  • If the objective of road diets is to get drivers off the roads, won’t that also hurt revenue?
  • And if it’s a policy goal to remove cars from California roads, won’t the mandatory transition to EVs actually require a less than one-for-one replacement ratio? In other words, replacing every internal-combustion vehicle with an electric vehicle won’t decrease the number of cars. Will policies change from efforts to subsidize EV sales to discouraging them?

Public policy should be consistent, coherent and just. Not muddled, contradictory and heavy-handed. It should never be used to herd people, to compel them to conform to politically favored behaviors. But this is what we get from the government we have in California. It’s as lousy as the traffic congestion.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Study: California Worst State for Drivers

traffic-los-angelesCalifornia is the worst state in the Union for drivers, according to a new study by Bankrate.com — and Iowa is the best.

The study considered the following criteria, and scored states on a 50-point scale:

To rank the best and worst states for drivers, we looked at a number of criteria to capture the overall experience of being behind the wheel in each state, including:

  • Average commute times, from the census.
  • Average annual auto insurance costs, from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
  • Estimated average annual spending on fuel, using data from the Oil Price Information Service and the Department of Transportation.
  • Average cost of a car repair, from CarMD.
  • Rate of car thefts relative to population, from the FBI.
  • Motor vehicle deaths relative to miles driven, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

First-place Iowa scored 48.0; California only scored 21.0. New York had the longest average commute time — which was, at 33.1 minutes, by far the longest commute of any state. Iowa benefits from relatively low commute times and low car repair costs. California also won the dubious honor of having the highest rate of car thefts, at 436.8 thefts per hundred thousand people. South Carolina had the highest level of car fatalities, with 1.7 deaths per 100 million miles driven.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown tried and failed to push a new transportation funding bill through the state legislature. Newly-installed Democratic leaders in Sacramento have made new transportation funding a top priority for next year. The perilous state of California’s roadways is a frequent cause for local complaint.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Cellphone use among drivers is rising, but fewer citations are being issued

As reported by the Orange County Register:

On an October day last year, 18-year-old Alexis Patlan stood at a busy intersection just west of Garden Grove’s Santiago High School at morning rush hour with one task – log distracted drivers.

The hourlong survey, part a larger awareness campaign with schools, yielded troubling results. The majority of motorists observed were fumbling with their cellphones, downing breakfast, or both. One standout offender was “eating a doughnut with one hand and on the cellphone with the other hand,” recalled Patlan, who graduated from the school last month.

Despite years of warnings about the potentially fatal consequences of using mobile devices behind the wheel, distracted driving jumped significantly in the past year, according to a newly released state traffic safety study.

The increase comes as law enforcement agencies face added challenges in catching violators, and experts say the upward trend is being exacerbated, in part, by quickly evolving mobile devices as well as a growing obsession with texting and social media. …

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CA Traffic Citation Amnesty Law Gives Drivers Relief

Financially strapped motorists are catching a break through the state’s traffic citation amnesty law, which began in October and gives discounts of up to 80 percent on unpaid traffic tickets due before Jan. 1, 2013.

In Los Angeles Superior Court, $2.8 million in fines had been collected and more than 28,000 driver’s licenses restored by the middle of December, according to a new KPCC report. The law passed in September after advocates for the downtrodden urged the Legislature to lessen the effect of some of the nation’s heaviest traffic violation fines.

Three measures, passed last session, provide relief to motorists in trouble:

  • Senate Bill 85 requires counties to implement an amnesty program. Amnesty runs through March 31, 2017.
  • Assembly Bill 1151 provides a way for drivers facing parking ticket fines to pay by installments.
  • Senate Bill 405 allows drivers to contest fines before paying the fine by a set deadline and gives those in arrears more time to make good. The previous law made it difficult for drivers to contest tickets and added penalties for prolonged pay periods. Traffic tickets for $35 violations were turning into $200-plus fines once a state fee, a court cost fee and a county assessment were tacked on.

Now, though, the state and municipalities will have to deal with a loss of revenue.

Following the Money

The money ends up funding any number of government projects and enterprises, depending on the location, the issuing agency and the type of violation.

Traffic Fine Fees - source Los Angeles Superior Court (1)

The state attaches 20 percent onto any traffic ticket, of which 70 percent is distributed to a number of operations. Leading that is a restitution fund (32 percent) followed by driver training assessment (25 percent) — which pays for driver training in schools — and police training (24 percent). Eight percent also goes to the corrections training fund, which exists “for the development of appropriate standards, training and program evaluation.”

“California is unique in that traffic fees go to so many different funds as a revenue source,” said John Bowman, vice president of the National Motorists Association. “You just don’t see it to that degree in other states.”

Diverting portions of the revenue to things like officer training, he said, makes no sense.

“It seems logical that the proceeds of the fine should be tied to the nature of that fine.”

In some cases, cities and counties battle for the revenue. The city of San Jose in 2011 complained in a report that the $4 million it had been receiving for 50,000 violations has been tapped by outside government sources.

“Most revenue from traffic citations benefits the state of California and the county, not the city,” the report stated.

Legislative analysts found that amnesty would have no effect on local or state coffers.

But that seems unlikely, unless SB405 was simply a feel-good measure to make motorists feel like their representatives were offering them some relief.

“This sounds like a gesture,” said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “If a person feels they have a good chance to win in court, why wouldn’t they in the first place?”

But language in SB85 does give more money to state funds supported by traffic fines and fees:

The bill would, following the transfer to the Judicial Council of the first $250,000 received, increase the percentage of specified penalties to be deposited in the Peace Officers’ Training Fund and the Corrections Training Fund, which are continuously appropriated funds.

Speed Traps (1)

California, with 13 million registered vehicles on the road, ranks second to Texas in the number of speed traps over the last five years, according to arecent study by the National Motorists Association.

The state also ranks in the top 10 based on speed traps per 1,000 of lane miles.

The crowd-sourced speedtrap.org website has tracked trouble areas and warned drivers since 1999.  Los Angeles tops the list of speed traps in the state with 57, with San Diego second with 48.  San Jose, Riverside and Fresno round out the top five.

For more information about how to qualify for the program, organized by county, seehttp://www.courts.ca.gov/trafficamnesty.htm

Steve Miller can be reached at 517-775-9952 and avalanche50@hotmail.com. His website is www.Avalanche50.com

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Traffic deaths climbing in California – Is there a fix?

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

It’s an unfortunate downside to the recession’s end: As more people return to work and more cars hit the road, fatal accidents are on the climb.

Nationally, road deaths jumped nearly 10 percent in the first three months of this year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. California officials say they saw a 13 percent uptick over three recent years through 2013 and expect that trend to continue when 2014 numbers are finalized.

It’s no surprise, safety officials say.

“Realistically, when the economy started getting better, all indications …

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California could soon legalize motorcycle lane-splitting

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Motorcycle lane-splitting — the rush-hour time saver for bikers that enrages many drivers — may be poised for formal legalization.

California would be the first state to sanction the traffic-evading tactic, already widespread on traffic-choked freeways of Los Angeles.

The state Assembly is expected to approve the legislation as soon as Thursday, and supporters believe it will clear the Senate as well.

The measure would allow motorcycles to travel between cars at speeds up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic, up to a speed of 50 mph. …

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Excessive Traffic Tickets: Hurting the Middle Class Again​

Police carEven good drivers get an occasional ticket. But in the last several years, there has been a perverse incentive for eagle-eyed enforcement officers to issue even more citations.  We are now discovering that California drivers are a goldmine for government by the imposition of traffic fines that are absurdly excessive.As recently as 2005, a ticket for drivers going from one to 15 mph over the speed limit in California would cost $99. This would include a base fine of $25 and additional charges of $74 to be shared with the state, the county, the courts and other programs.  Only nine years later the same ticket would include a base fine of $35 and another $203 to be divided among the usual suspects for a total of $238.

Currently, a ticket with a fine of $120 will cost the motorist about $627 by the time all the additional charges are added.   These penalty assessments are running more than four times the base fine.

Years ago, the idea behind traffic fines was to encourage safe driving by penalizing those who put themselves and others in danger.  In 1953, the first penalty assessment was established at the rate of one dollar for every $20 in base fine.  In those days the proceeds of the additional charge went to fund driver education in schools.  Today, the additional charges go to pay for state and local programs and to build and renovate courthouses.

No one seems to know exactly how much government rakes in from fines and the penalty assessments, but a study dating back to 2006, when the charges were much smaller, estimated the revenue at over a half billion dollars a year.

State Senator Robert Hertzberg has introduced legislation to help those who have lost drivers licenses due to failure to pay non-public safety related tickets.  Concerned that local jurisdictions have piled on fees for minor traffic violations to make up for lost revenue during the recession, he wants to match these drivers up with an amnesty program proposed by Jerry Brown that would reduce fines by 50 percent for eligible participants.

The problem is that both Hertzberg and Brown, while trying to help low income drivers, are ignoring the elephant in the room.  That is the millions of average folks for whom a traffic ticket can result in having to forgo almost a week’s pay.  Those in public office do not want to stand up for the typical motorists because they are not about to give up the income these punitive fines provide.

There’s no reason for these grossly inflated fines — fines that far exceed what is needed to deter unsafe driving — other than to provide the politicians with more spending money.

Excessive traffic fines are yet another example of the war being waged against the middle class by the political elite who have already burdened California drivers with high gas taxes and registration fees.  For the rich, a $500 traffic fine is no big deal.  For a working family, it may mean skipping a few meals.

So while the majority party in California loves to talk about how much they look out for the middle class, the reality is that they really don’t care.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Bill Aims to Crack Open SoCal Carpool Lanes

carpool-lane

As reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

 — State lawmakers again this year will debate whether to crack open some of Southern California’s carpool lanes to all drivers before and after rush hours.

Most of the region’s carpool lanes, including stretches on San Diego County’s Interstates 5 and 805, are restricted 24/7 to vehicles with at least two occupants. Not so in Northern California, where the diamond lanes are open to all outside of commute hours, and have been for decades.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, introduced AB 210 last week that would require Caltrans to open diamond lanes along portions of state Routes 210 and 134 in Los Angeles County to all drivers during non-commute hours. It would be a pilot program, though Gatto has said he would like to see the change made statewide. …

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