Vol. 17, No. 6; November/December 2006
Since March 2006, we have issued a series of reports documenting the mounting interest and activity in highway tolling and in public-private partnerships for toll road development and operation. Tolling-related news continues to dominate transportation reporting. This latest update, arranged in reverse chronological order, covers the months of September and October.
After two meetings filled with tutorials on various aspects of the federal surface transportation program, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission finally got down to the business of examining substantive policy issues. At its October 18-19 meeting, with newly confirmed Transportation Secretary Mary Peters in the chair, the Commission focused on three related topics: tolling, congestion pricing and the role of the private sector in transportation infrastructure. All three issues are of considerable relevance to the transportation community and are likely to influence the development of any future national transportation policy.
We commend the Commissioners for coming to grips with one of the most consequential issues facing the Congress at the expiration of the current federal surface transportation program in 2009. That issue is whether the nation’s surface transportation program should continue relying exclusively on the traditional sources of transportation financing or whether it should begin a transition to a more market-oriented approach—an approach in which tolls, demand-based variable pricing, private capital and public-private partnerships are allowed to play an integral role.
For our part, we believe that maintaining the status quo is no longer tenable. The forces of change and the need to respond to them are compelling. They include the alarming levels of congestion on the nation’s highways, the eroding value of the Highway Trust Fund revenue, and the growing desire and determination of the states to solve their transportation funding problems in novel ways, without raising taxes.
We hope the Commission will rise to the occasion and become an agent of change rather than merely a ratifier and endorser of the status quo. The nation’s transportation program deserves nothing less.
How have commuting travel patterns evolved over the last decade? Is our dependency on the private automobile growing or lessening? How about carpooling and transit usage? What has been the impact of immigration and the changing nature of the workforce? What are “extreme commutes”? You will find the answers to these and hundreds of other travel-related questions in the latest edition of “Commuting in America,” the third and latest decennial analysis of the nation’s work travel trends, authored by Alan Pisarski and published by the Transportation Research Board.
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