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Votes

Letter: Paid by All For Wealthy Few

To the Editor:

Re: your editorial, "Transparency, Technology and Tolls" May 9 - 15 edition.

Agree E-Zpass should have two LED or LCD displays that illuminates for 5 to 7 seconds after passing by a toll station displaying toll rate and cost incurred. Present E-Zpass transponder along with VDOT charging for monthly statements guarantees that the fares with always rise without taxpayer input or awareness of the increases.

However I have a larger issue that no one addresses — HOV and E-Zpass express lanes are a huge waste of money.

For HOV and E-Zpass lanes, take total construction costs (exclude annual operations and maintenance costs) divide by maximum traffic capacity. The result is the lowest cost of providing the road per vehicle.

This is equivalent to an oil company, natural gas company, or water utility calculating the maximum flow rate through a pipeline.

Obviously, the company wants as much product as possible flowing through the pipeline at all times to minimize cost and maximize profit. Also, the company favors a continuous flow of product rather than the product flowing in distinct packets — which is what automobiles are: distinct packets carrying one person.

Now perform the same HOV and E-Zpass express lanes calculation based on actual traffic capacity. The difference between the first and the second calculations represents funds lost (wasted), as well as the magnitude of error as to the estimated benefit the lanes provide in alleviating commute time and commuter anguish.

Since all taxpayers pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of HOV and E-Zpass express lanes, the lanes need to be integrated into the regular traffic lanes, so that all taxpayers can benefit from the expanded traffic handling capacity and to minimize losses.

Virginia is setting a dangerous precedent where one small group of individuals receive special rights that no other taxpayer receives. But the providing these special rights is not based on race, color, gender, or orientation, but solely on ability to pay. Such a "solution" further stratifies the commonwealth's population into the "haves" and the "haves not." And the current high cost of being elected and re-elected guarantees which constituency will receive the greatest amount of attention and services from politicians.

More cars, more traffic lanes, and more gasoline is not the answer — and everyone knows it is not the answer. The answer is a robust, vibrant mass transit system. Not a Metrorail system that runs alongside the beltway (how is that any better or different than what already exists). But rather a spoke and hub system that extends to edge cities (like Manassas or Woodbridge) and transports citizens to the central city or to other major edge cities.

Instead of an objective, analytical, empirical, data-based report evaluating the HOV or E-Zpass express lanes after they are placed into production, VDOT will issue a statement claiming that the HOV and E-Zpass express lanes are resounding, unqualified successes justifying the huge expenditure. Which also means expect more HOV lanes and E-Zpass express lanes everywhere. Meanwhile, taxpayers will be left to wonder why with all the "solutions" the problem only gets worse.

Don Alberstadt

Arlington