Transportation Commission chairman says traffic jams would be solved if more people drove at night
Washington State Transportation Commission (WTC) Chair Dan O’Neal wants to make it more expensive for you to drive your car, and said there’d be less bad traffic if more people drove at night.
On TVW’s Inside Olympia, host Austin Jenkins asked O’Neal, “Does the state have an interest in engineering people to change their behavior?” O’Neal’s response:
“Wouldn’t you think so? I mean, we talk about how congested the highways are, but if you’re driving on the highway at eleven o’clock at night, it’s not congested. It’s not that the highways are inadequate; it’s that we all want to drive at the same period of time. So if you can change that behavior, you can open up a lot more capacity, capacity that’s available but is being unused at certain periods of time.”
O’Neal says one way to alter people’s behavior is to impose a Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) tax. VMT taxes would be based on the amount people drive. State officials would charge drivers for each mile they travel. Taxes would be collected electronically through GPS-related devices, reported when drivers renew their car tabs, or get their emissions checked.
Understandably, many people don’t want the government tracking their travel, just as the Chancellor of Germany doesn’t want the government listening in on her phone calls. The public is already wary of NSA tracking cell phone calls and secretly collecting contact lists. A new tax based on mileage would likely raise similar privacy concerns.
O’Neal also wants to impose a larger tolling scheme based on congestion. In his view, state officials would impose tolls in an effort to manage driver behavior. Tolls would fluctuate based on congestion levels or time of day. This would divert some drivers to use certain roads at a time when tolls are reduced or divert drivers to an alternate route.
O’Neal says we don’t need to add more lane miles because congestion only occurs during the day, but disappears at 11:00 pm. If only more people drove to work at night, instead of in the morning and late afternoon there would be no congestion. According to O’Neal’s logic, the way to solve a parking problem is to get rid of all the cars. He sees drivers as the problem, not state officials' failure to provide enough road capacity.