Responding to Bryan Gray at the Davis County Clipper
We thought we had heard all of the arguments against congestion pricing, but along comes Bryan Gray of the Davis Clipper to offer some really bizarre arguments.
Interest groups frequently use newspaper editorials as part of their PR campaign to give legitimacy to their cause. Gray’s arguments against congestion pricing are so strange that we doubt our opponents will embarrass themselves by using them, but we can always hope.
Gray’s argument against congestion pricing boils down to this: congestion pricing is bad because we don’t charge people extra to hike on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail at certain times of the day nor do we charge people extra to use the library at certain times of the day.
Here’s why Gray’s comparison is bad.
- Providing incentives to commuters to use highways more efficiently by car pooling, telecommuting, living closer to work, and leaving earlier/later for work will save tax dollars by allowing the state to slow the growth in highway expenditures. Charging higher rates at certain times of the day to use trails will not reduce taxpayer expenditures for trails.
- No one is talking about raising taxes by $500 million or more per year to handle trail and library infrastructure.
- The state is not diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in general fund revenues from higher education in order to address safety and congestion problems with libraries and trails. In Gov. Huntsman's FY2008 budget proposal, $700 million in general fund revenues are being appropriated for roads.
Gray obviously hasn’t noticed that we have a serious transportation problem in Utah, and the seriousness of the transportation problem impacts Utah’s economy much more than any of the problems associated with libraries and trails.
Gray also tries to compare congestion pricing to a proposal that would allow parents to place children in smaller classes if they would pay extra. Of course, this analogy has several problems.
- Education is an entitlement enshrined in the state constitution. Driving on a freeway is not.
- Congestion pricing is a means to get people to change driving habits in order to reduce taxpayer costs whereas charging parents extra so their children can attend smaller classes does not change behavior and therefore does not reduce taxpayer costs.
Gray shares one thing with nearly all opponents of congestion pricing: he won’t tell the public how he plans on funding highway construction. Opponents use illogical arguments (click here and here) when criticizing congestion pricing, but they are reticent on how they would cover the costs of building new roads. By creating incentives for commuters to carpool, telecommute, leave for work earlier or later, and live closer to work, congestion pricing will allow us to address transportation problems while spending less than if the state were to rely on increasing general taxes.