Mary Peters: Woman with a Vision

Seems I just can’t get enough of the US Secretary of Transportation. On Monday (2008-04-28) Secretary Peters spoke at the Brookings Institution. You can watch or read. While she spoke about a lot of things and fielded a bunch of questions, I cherry-pick two things for you:

Mary Peters is NOT seeing market pricing as a way to maximize revenue, rather as a way to maximize network performance – i.e. reduce congestion, reduce emissions and funding will come with it.

“Congestion is at its worst ever in the United States today and only predicted to grow worse if we don’t do something about it. Americans are no longer willing to pay an unresponsive, unsustainable, unpopular gas tax, or certainly not to increase that gas tax. That is the gold ring opportunity that we have before us, to substantially change that system and move it forward in the future to something that is more user responsive and more market-based.”
Q: “Are [HOT] lanes the final step or an interim step?”
A: “…a stepping stone. …[it] gets people acclimated to paying a fee for use of a section of roadway at a peak period of time. I believe that eventually here in America we will go to a vehicle miles traveled form of pricing. Some sections will be congestion pricing or convenience pricing,* I should say, convenience priced for the time of day that you’re using them. Others may be a flat fee, particularly in rural areas. But I see us moving away from the gas tax at some future point, probably almost entirely. In the near term, it’s a transitional strategy. Let me take the opportunity, if I may, at your question to talk about why not a gas tax. I talked about the fact that Americans are less trusting of the gas tax, less trusting that it will be invested in a way that makes a positive difference in the way they use the transportation solution.

*Newt Gingrich proposed this term!

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