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[VIDEO] – Kenny for Occoquan Supervisor: Bridge to a Brighter Future

https://www.youtube.com/embed/6dDE0hcn_BY Three years ago, my mother passed away due to chronic homelessness and substance abuse. Despite being one of the strongest people in my life,...

On Untolled Congested Highways, Every Day is Free Cone Day

zakimGreat analogy from Matt Yglesias to explain why congested roads should be tolled:
Build a useful road and you'll find that space on the road at peak times is a valuable commodity. And yet it's also a commodity that's generally either available for free or else available for a price that's unrelated to the demand for space on the road. Naturally an underpriced valuable commodity leads to overconsumption. Traffic jams, in other words.

Every once in a while Ben & Jerry's holds a "Free Cone Day" that invariably leads to long lines. Roadways in dynamic metro areas are basically holding Free Cone Day five days a week. Charge people enough money to eliminate routine congestion and you'll find yourself with fewer traffic jams and an enormous pool of revenue that can be used to maintain your basic infrastructure and upgrade your bus service.

Virginia is experimenting with congestion-priced HOT lanes, but only as additions to free congested roads. And instead of looking for solutions that would actually cut traffic and raise desperately-needed transportation revenue, Gov. Bob McDonnell is instead playing political games (read much more from Jim Bacon here and here).

Watch Jonas Eliasson, Director of the Centre for Transport Studies at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology, explain how congestion pricing can improve traffic patterns - and drivers may not even realize they've been nudged out of their congested routine:

Drivers Oppose The Best Policy To Speed Their Commutes

DC, Friday afternoonStudies have shown that while people like to complain about traffic, most long-haul commuters don't do anything to change their drives. Today's Washington Post article is misleadingly headlined
Traffic science struggles to keep cars flowing on highways in D.C. and elsewhere - we know exactly how to keep traffic flowing, but drivers would rather pay less to sit in gridlock:
First, we don't hate spending time in our cars as much as we pretend to. How do I know? "Because building more roads doesn't improve traffic flow," says Chris Barrett, a Virginia Tech professor who constructs traffic modeling systems and was involved in the Los Alamos effort. "If you decrease the amount of time it takes to travel a certain distance to work, people just move farther away from their offices [for larger yards and cheaper housing, instead of staying put to reduce their commutes]. It changes behavior in a negative way."

Moreover, people have strongly resisted the best congestion-fighting tool that can be immediately implemented. Every traffic expert I spoke with pointed out the runaway success of London's congestion pricing system. Drivers who want to enter the heart of the city during busy times have to pay 10 pounds - about $16. The system has made a huge difference in reducing congestion, and the city is using the extra revenue to renovate the subway and add buses.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to adopt a similar strategy in 2007, but the state government killed it. A congestion tax has never gotten anywhere in the D.C. area, which one recent survey found was first in the nation as measured by hours wasted stuck in traffic.

That's not a failure of science. That's a failure of political will. So instead of gridlock-busting congestion pricing that could be used to fix Metro, we get Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) trying to make it look like he's doing something by pushing terrible ideas like the Outer Beltway and Charlottesville Bypass that will cost taxpayers enormous sums of money without easing traffic.

Top 10 Virginia Political Blogs in Terms of Traffic: May 2011

Starting now, this will be a monthly feature on Blue Virginia, providing the most accurate traffic statistics rankings possible for the Virginia political blogosphere (not counting corporate media or politicians' blogs). Based on Sitemeter statistics, for those Virginia blogs which show them publicly (at least a couple have Sitemeters, but oddly don't show the results publicly), the top Virginia political blogs in May (in terms of traffic to their sites) were:

1. Blue Virginia: 47,587 visits (NOTE: Blue Virginia also has 740 Twitter followers, plus I have 1,333 Twitter followers and 809 Facebook friends)
Not Larry Sabato: 45,782 visits (NOTE: NLS also has 3,504 Twitter followers and 1,058 Facebook friends)
3. Bearing Drift: 34,066 visits (NOTE: JR Hoeft has 520 Twitter followers and Brian Kirwin has 253 Twitter followers)
4. Moonhowlings: 22,619 visits
5. BVBL: 18,464 visits (NOTE: Greg Letieq has 50 Twitter followers)
6. NOVA Townhall: 12,225 visits
7. NOVA Commonsense: 7,621 visits (NOTE: Brian Schoeneman has 380 Twitter followers)
8. The Green Miles: 3,988 visits (NOTE: Miles also has 2,866 Twitter followers and 1,472 Facebook friends)
9. The Richmonder: 2,703 visits (NOTE: The Richmonder has 50 Facebook fans and JC Wilmore has 305 Facebook friends)
10. Red NOVA: 1,567 visits

Now, if we could just get Sitemeter stats for a few others, particularly Too Conservative (my guess is that they'd be in the BVBL/Moonhowlings range, maybe a bit higher) and Vivian Paige (based on the # of blog posts and local focus, I'd guess the middle of the pack somewhere, but hard to say), we'd have a pretty comprehensive idea of the major political blogs (not counting corporate media or politicians' blogs) in Virginia.

P.S. As we've discussed, Technorati and Alexa are almost completely unreliable proxies for "traffic." They also have other serious problems which make them essentially unusable for the purpose of tracking blog traffic. What I'd urge is for every Virginia political to get Sitemeter or Google Analytics and display the stats publicly. Then, we can all compare "apples to apples" and get as accurate a read of the most "popular" Virginia political blogs as possible.

P.P.S. Waldo Jaquith hasn't been blogging much for the past couple years, but his blog used to be (back in 2005, for instance) the leading progressive blog in Virginia in terms of influence, by almost all accounts. However, Waldo never displayed a public Sitemeter, so I have no idea how much traffic he received.

Annals of Terrible Ideas: An Outer Beltway

DC, Friday afternoonThere's been revived talk lately of building an Outer Beltway, a large highway with a radius about twice that of the existing Beltway. There are plenty of reasons it would be a terrible idea, starting with how ludicrously expensive it would be. If adding HOT Lanes to the Beltway cost $2 billion, how much would a whole new Outer Beltway cost?

But as David Alpert writes at GreaterGreaterWashington.org, the main reason an Outer Beltway would be a boondoggle is that it simply wouldn't ease regional traffic congestion:

The mobility problems outside the beltway are primarily about getting to and from the core, plus the local trips tied up by inadequate local street connections. Yes, traffic is bad for many people, and that's something planners need to address instead of dismissing.

However, more beltways will only accommodate a small fraction of the trips involved. Most people will still drive toward or away from the job centers at or inside the beltway, in DC, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Tysons Corner, Arlington, and Alexandria. An Outer Beltway or three doesn't help with that at all.

That "or three" is no joke - road advocates NVTA envision no fewer than six Beltways (PDF).

We Need These in NOVA Now!

For anyone who's ever tried to walk around congested, car-friendly-but-pedestrian-unfriendly northern Virginia, you know that it can be a hair-raising, if not life-and-limb-threatening, experience. For instance, here in relatively progressive Arlington, walking to the Metro can be an adventure, given that Metro stops are often located in the middle of busy streets (e.g., Clarendon Metro is in between Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards) or across several busy streets (e.g., Courthouse Metro is across several lanes of traffic; a walk to Virginia Square often forces you to cross several major, east-west roads). Cross-walk signals, of course, are not particularly helpful. Press one, and you still have to wait a minute or however long for it to turn. What's the point of having a crosswalk button if, after you press it, nothing happens for a long time?  The incentive is to jaywalk, especially if you're in a rush to work or whatever, but that can be extremely dangerous, especially given all the lunatic drivers out there.

All of which is why this should be a no-brainer for Northern Virginia jurisdictions to install ASAP!

Should We Feel Bad For Long-Haul Commuters?

It seems like every week, there's a new article telling us we should feel bad for long-drive commuters. Take, for example, this new Reuters article is titled Hate your commute? Then pity workers in Beijing, Mexico City. It reports on the results of the IBM Commuter Pain Study, saying traffic's getting worse, people hate it, and it's affecting their professional performance & personal health.

However, it closes with this:

But despite the frustrations and the economic downturn, few commuters had changed the way they go to work with 84 percent saying the financial crisis had not stopped them driving to work.

"Even though commuters say the traffic is getting worse, for some reason people seem fond of their cars," said Lamba who hoped the information from the survey could be used by transport officials to better understand and manage traffic flow.

So basically, long-drive commuters hate their trip so much, they aren't changing a thing. And that would be fine, except we're constantly being told by elected officials how we have to spend more tax dollars to ease the drives of people who are doing nothing to ease their own commuting pain.

Should we help people who won't help themselves? I know there are few transit options in the far-out suburbs, but if there was public outcry, the options would be there. This survey seems to indicate people would rather sit in their cars and complain than carpool or lobby for new a bus route.

Moran Slams Brakes on Approaching Traffic Nightmare

Press release from Rep. Moran's office, this truly is a "nightmare."
Moran Slams Brakes on Approaching Traffic Nightmare
Caps parking at 1,000 spaces at BRAC facility to mitigate gridlock

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jim Moran, Virginia Democrat and senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, included language in the FY '11 Defense Authorization bill which would cap the amount of available parking at the Washington Headquarters Service facility currently being constructed at the Mark Center in Alexandria (map) at 1,000 spaces. VDOT has projected that even with the current transportation management plan, I-395 and local roadways and intersections will experience failing levels of service that will heavily increase traffic during morning and evening rush hour.

"If nothing is done and the relocation continues as scheduled, VDOT has stated there will be 'complete gridlock' on Seminary Road and Beauregard Street and 'severe' congestion between the King Street and Duke Street exits on I-395," said Moran.