Category Archives: Transit and Transportation

Sacramento to Cities: “Give us your revenues, AND we’ll tear down your buildings!”

The headline reads, “State budget deal depends on borrowing, accounting tricks, and gimmickry.”

Which state is it?

In this case, California; the headline is from the Contra Costa Times. On Monday night the state made a deal to close its $26.3 billion deficit; the package includes $15 billion in spending cuts, and $11 million in accounting gimmicks, borrowing, and overly optimistic assumptions. These include:

  • $2 billion borrowed from local governments’ property tax revenues (to be repaid with interest in 3 years),
  • $2 billion in cuts to local transportation and redevelopment funds,
  • $9 billion in payment deferrals to education, and
  • Deferring state employee’s paychecks by one day – essentially putting $1 billion in salaries on next year’s ledger.

Here’s a rundown. Continue reading

The Speed Camera Wars

The Washington Examiner reports that D.C. police are frustrated by new technology that allows drivers to pinpoint and avoid speed and red-light cameras. The technology, called PhatomAlert, streams to iPhones and GPS devices, sounding an alarm as drivers get close to cameras. Radar detection devices are illegal in D.C. and Virginia, but outlawing these devices may prove impossible.

D.C. police say their 290 cameras, first installed in 1999, have saved lives. Studies of the effectiveness of cameras on road safety offer conflicting data. The Governors Highway Safety Association says they’ve reduced violations and crashes.  The Virginia Transportation Research Council says they increase rear-end crashes.

Others argue cameras are more of a revenue trap for government, and they are used in bad faith; for example, citizens in Denver contend yellow lights were shortened to increase fines.

Photo radar tickets generated $1 billion in revenue between 2005 and 2008 for the District. In Maryland, Montgomery County’s cameras are expected to generate $29 million this fiscal year.

Anti-camera sentiment has led to lawsuits — motorists in Washington state are suing for being fined excessively for violations caught on traffic camera. And worse: a man in Glendale, Arizona took a pick axe to a speeding camera. He was fined $3,500.