Market-based transportation reforms urged

New Urban Network

A coalition of “fiscal conservatives,” and national security experts called Mobility Choice released a report Tuesday calling for measures to reduce oil dependence and liquid fuels consumption in the transportation sector.

The report, Taking The Wheel: Achieving a Competitive Transportation Sector Through Mobility Choice, recommends market-based approaches such as an “oil security fee,” congestion pricing, pay-as-you-drive insurance, liberalized land-use development rules, measures to boost telecommuting, and better allocation of public transit dollars.

Members include Deron Lovaas of the Natural Resources Defense Council and John Norquist of the Congress for the New Urbanism, in addition of representatives of the Analysis for Global Security and the American Enterprise Institute, former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, former CIA director R. James Woolsey, and others.

Lovaas described the recommendations as “inexpensive” and offering a “big bang for the buck.” In a more fiscally conservative political climate, “we think they will be pretty broadly popular on Capitol Hill and around the country” as Congress works on the transportation reauthorization bill in 2011, he said.

The two primary approaches recommended with regard to land use are relaxing of local regulations that prevent mixed-use development and increased density in neighborhoods near transit as a condition of receipt of federal taxpayer dollars for transit, and reformed regional planning that combines land-use and transportation planning in a single document and ties transportation tax dollar funding to plan performance.

The report states:

“By opening the market to a variety of land-use patterns, some of which will enable better economics for various mobility options due to their density, people can choose modes other than driving for some trips, thus reducing the number of car trips they need to make, the miles they need to drive, and the oil they consume. Studies have shown that residents of compact, mixed-use communities with convenient transit options have a 20 to 40 percent lower annual per household VMT than residents of typical American development.

“Federal policies need to be revamped so that they do not subsidize inflexible development patterns and municipalities’ eligibility for certain federal transportation funds should be conditioned on liberalization of rules to meet market demand: for example, if a development pattern in a given area does not enable transit to be high load, and thus economical and oil-saving, then taxpayer dollars should not be going toward developing transit in that area. There is evidence of pent-up demand for development alternatives.

The biggest potential reductions in oil consumption, according to Mobility Choice, would be realized by an “oil security fee.” A fee representing the equivalent of 25 cents per gallon at the oil pump could save 238 million barrels of oil a year in 2020 and 467 million barrels per year in 2030, the report says. The money from such a fee could be used to fund a decrease in payroll taxes, thus making it revenue neutral, or it could be used to reduce the federal deficit or pay for programs recommended in this report.

Significant savings in oil also could come from congestion pricing and “high-occupancy toll” lanes, telecommuting, and better allocated transit dollars, and pay-as-you-drive insurance, the report states. By clicking on the link below, you can download a pdf of the report.

To download a pdf document of the report, click here.