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Freeway-User Fee Not the Remedy

August 29, 1993

* The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority wishes to thank Prof. Robert Krol for his Aug. 15 article (Valley Commentary) suggesting ways to eliminate MTA's budget deficit. We are always open to sound ideas, and Prof. Krol's proposed freeway-user fee has merit.

However, we believe the plan stops short of solving the problem of traffic congestion.

Imposing a user fee for each freeway use, with higher "peak load pricing" for those using freeways during rush hours, would appear to be a good incentive to change people's driving habits. It's probably true, as Prof. Krol suggests, that more people would share rides as a result.

But what about those who chose not to pay the fee? Their only apparent alternative under Prof. Krol's plan would be to use surface streets. Thus the problem is not resolved, it is simply relocated.

Prof. Krol cites Singapore as an example of a city where "peak load pricing" on freeways has been used effectively. He fails to note that Singapore also is supported by one of the world's most utilized public transportation systems, including a bus fleet that carries 900 million passengers a year and a 40-mile system of light and heavy rail used by more than 200 million people annually.

If you give the public a reason not to use some form of transportation, such as imposing a freeway-user fee, you must provide attractive alternatives. The MTA is doing so by building an integrated network of rail and bus lines throughout Los Angeles County. We will also be exploring demand management concepts once our Metro system is more fully developed.

L.A. KIMBALL

Los Angeles

Kimball is acting deputy chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. * Robert Krol makes a few good points and then blows it.

He is absolutely correct that the idea of building a subway or monorail in the Valley is a waste of time and money. He is also correct that car pool lanes are nice from a standpoint of social engineering, but make it a pain for most drivers who are left with narrow, constantly shifting lanes.

Where I object to is his call for "user fees" to drive on our freeways.

We paid to build these freeways. We pay the highest vehicle registration in the country and one of the highest fuel taxes in the country. We pay enough. We do not need a new army of bean counters in Sacramento looking at everywhere we drive and then sending us a bill for the privilege of using "their" freeways. Nice try.

What Krol should be looking at is a government system that allows special interest groups and homeowner groups to tie up freeway construction and improvements for decades (such as the Century Freeway and the Long Beach Freeway). He should also be asking why the state government in Sacramento is requiring contractors to pay freeway workers, some of whom only rake gravel, $26 per hour with our tax money.

As for the Ventura Freeway widening not improving traffic, he obviously doesn't use the freeway very often. The widening has virtually eliminated the 10 miles or so of traffic congestion west of the San Diego Freeway. The reason it worked was that the social engineers didn't get to put their stamp on it, as in car pool lanes.

Sometimes something as obvious as adding a lane or two to a freeway is actually the best solution to the problem. Too bad it's now the exception rather than the rule.

ROBERT K. LEVY

Tarzana

* Robert Krol opines that "User Fees promote the efficient use of resources . . . while other forms of taxation do not."

What Krol and many others seem to forget is that each of us is already paying a user fee, in the form of a gasoline tax. This gasoline tax is supposed to be used for improvements to the federal and state roadways.

Whenever I, or anyone, sits in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we pay a higher user fee by the use of more gasoline that we must replace and hence more taxes to the government. Furthermore, in our annual property tax bill is a fee that is used by the city or county in which we live, that is supposed to be used for fixing the roadways in our neighborhood.

The user fees that are in place should be sufficient to do the job. Clearly it is the bureaucrats that are not functioning as they should.

STEVEN A. SIMONS

Granada Hills

* I have been fighting for freeway user fees for a few years now.

On each on ramp we have a toll basket, and you pitch your quarter in, get the green light and proceed.

I believe an access charge would discourage those who use the freeway for a couple of miles for each trip. If not, we can always raise the charge.

JOHN K. BEACH

La Crescenta

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