Carpooling. Seems simple enough. We build the HOV lanes, so why is participation dropping? It is all about people’s ability to find a carpool partner. The government terms it “rideshare matching”.
We have State and Local governments that oversee problems of : Traffic Congestion, Air Pollution, Global Warming, High Oil Prices, and the expectation that Californian domestic crude oil will run dry in 26 years, which fuels War over Oil.
There is CalEPA, California Air Resources Board, California Climate Action Team, the various Air Quality Management Districts, Caltrans, California Energy Commission, National Guard, the various Metro/Regional Transportation Authorities, and of course our elected leaders.
So far, we are starting to look like we are in the 1970’s again. The air is getting more brown, traffic congestion continues to get worse, and oil prices are skyrocketing. Those were the ingredients that caused a Federal EPA take action and create carpooling programs. It was either that or even/odd day driving privileges.
Well, here we are 30 years later, but things have changed.
30 years later we have carpool lanes, but our government agencies are not supportive of using them for carpooling. In fact the support for carpooling is barely rhetoric at this point and it is unlikely that you would ever hear your elected officials talk about carpooling or promote it. So what has changed? The math of taxation.
Our leaders look at the taxation of the car as a means to balance budgets. And when our leaders are helping to protect the sale of cars (and even promote them) it really makes one pause to understand what all of the above mentioned agencies are really about.
In about 2000 as I was heavily involved in promoting events in Southern California, I came to realize that Friday Night is an entertainment dead zone in California. Most of us just want to get through traffic and get home. Of course our weekends suffer from traffic congestion also, and sadly, that is hurting small businesses in California. Also, during a short stint as an HR hiring manager, I came to realize the problems of traffic congestion with employment. The number one reason people would turn down a job is the commute through congested traffic, and that makes us less competitive globally. Over the years I tried to work with the metro.net system to get carpooling matches, and the results were always poor. So, it was time for me to take action. It was time to contact the elected officials. And that is when the game of pass the buck started.
I have found that we have a nicely segmented State, County, City and even Pseudo governments that have broken up and duplicated responsibilities for issues so that in the end, no one is accountable. It appears we have a government of the civil servant, by the civil servant, and for the civil servant.
I went to Caltrans, they told me to talk to the MTA. I contacted the MTA and got no response. I then contacted every elected official in the chain of relation of funding of Caltrans and the MTA. And they all passed the buck back to the MTA. In contacting the county supervisor Zev Yarovslawsky, I pressed the issue and was finally able to get a meeting with the people at the MTA responsible for Carpooling. Not Zev’s office mind you. I never got a chance to meet with a single representative. And along the way something funny had happened, I stumbled on to the fact that the Los Angeles MTA was downsizing their carpooling matching services and were essentially planning to use the Riverside Transportation Authorities carpool matching budget. FY2006 was the last year that the Los Angeles MTA provided budget line item to help people form carpools. That year, the budget was slashed to $367,000 out of a $4,200,000,000 budget. Less than 1/10000th of the budget is spent on helping people form carpools. And yet Roger Snoble has stated that at 1.3 riders per car there would be no traffic congestion.
The MTA is chartered to help relieve traffic congestion. So why the budget cuts to the program that helps people form carpools. Well MTA admits that at least 20% of their budget is from new car sales.
We build outrageously expensive HOV lanes in California. We are projected to spend $1Billion on a 10 mile stretch of a single carpool lane. Something stinks really bad.
Here is the deal. You can’t borrow money unless you have a plan to pay it off. So when our governments runs a deficit, they have to borrow money. They only way anyone will lend them money is if they can show they have a plan to get more revenue. And that is where cars come in. They can’t raise income taxes; people would revolt. They can’t raise sales taxes; people would revolt. They can’t raise the tax on gasoline; people would revolt. But they can work to help car sales, and that increases the tax base.
Why are hybrids allowed in the carpool lane? Because the California Air Resources Board came up with a scheme to save their budget in a lean fiscal year. Go ahead, check the public records of CARB and you will see it in the minutes. They needed to save their own but.
Why are we pushing the new HOT (read toll) lanes? Because people that can afford really nice cars might not buy them if they can’t drive anywhere. So, where are going to get rid of the carpoolers and sell access. That will increase the sales of high end vehicles. Also, it is a voluntary tax to use the HOT lane. Just because those lanes are public property and will become off limits to the public….. who cares! As long as the tax revenue increases.
We simply live in a world where we want what we want and we want it cheap. When we apply that to the government, we find that the automobile is taxed to help cover the costs of unrelated tax burdens. And that is a problem. And when you look at all the agencies that are created and funded to mitigate the problems of too many cars on the road, you have to wonder who is benefiting from these actions. Not the commuter, and not our troops in Iraq.
And of course, politicians increasing demand on long term energy resources is a disaster that is starting to come to fruition.