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City of Rochester, Communications Bureau

City of Rochester, Communications Bureau

A special interest group came to town last week to decry the state of our roads and bridges and horrible traffic.

TRIP, a Washington lobbying firm, says it is funded by insurance companies, labor unions, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, and businesses involved in highway and transit engineering. Despite talk of making driving more efficient, TRIP is funded by organizations and companies dedicated to making us drive more – so they can make money selling us cars, insurance, traffic studies and road repairs.

I think we can all agree that repairing aging road infrastructure is important, especially when it comes to bridge safety. But TRIP makes some curious claims about congestion and safety. It also suggests improvements that many experts call into question.

The following is based on the report TRIP issued to get more road funding.

On Congestion (in Rochester?!):

TRIP points to a Texas Transportation Institute Study saying Rochesterians spend 28 hours a year stuck in traffic. What they don’t say is Rochester does very well compared to the rest of the country. We also have one of the shortest commute times in the country – 20 minutes. If you have a long commute by car, that’s likely a lifestyle choice. If you don’t want a 40-minute commute, you don’t have to live in Wayne County. If you live close to a bus line, you don’t have to drive at all. (TRIP, which is so concerned about wear and tear on our roads, doesn’t talk about improving public transit.)

Are we really driving more?

TRIP claims between 1990 and 2012, vehicle miles traveled in New York State increased 20 percent and are expected to increase another 15 percent by 2030. TRIP bases this on “population and lifestyle trends.” But there’s data to suggest we have been driving less. U.S. PIRG found a found a 7.5 percent decline in vehicle miles driven by Rochesterians between 2006 and 2011. There was a 1 percent decline in the number of people who got to work by car. There was a three percent drop in households with two or more cars. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of licensed drivers in Monroe County dropped by 10,000.

There are experts around the country predicting a continued overall downward trend in driving, for a number of reasons.

There are good reasons to discourage driving, such as the cost to the environment, consumers and taxpayers. But TRIP doesn’t want you to drive less.

About Adding Road Capacity…

TRIP suggests widening roads from two to four lanes to “reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion.” 

Safety experts suggest doing the exact opposite. Wide roads encourage speeding. That’s why you’re seeing the city put roads on “diets” to slow cars down, reduce crashes, install bike lanes, and make life easier for pedestrians. (The city killed the Lake Avenue road diet. Sunday, Lake Avenue was called out as one of the more dangerous roads in Rochester in a Democrat and Chronicle report.)

As for congestion, there’s a well-studied phenomenon called “induced demand.” The extra road capacity will be quickly filled up by people who had been going alternate routes or were not driving at all. Congestion itself is a great way to reduce driving and stress on roads. But remember, TRIP doesn’t want to relieve the road stress it complains costs taxpayers and drivers money. TRIP wants us all driving more, more, more so the driving industry can continue to profit.


Links of the Day:


– Another local CEO thinks he knows how to run city schools. But even Dutch Summers would have to admit that successful CEOs need followers. If virtually all of your principals don’t like you, shouldn’t you look inward?

– Rochester is paying storage fees for fast ferry liquor it says it doesn’t even own.

– This is why the state banned retail tax breaks. Onondaga County’s sales tax receipts came in about average, despite the tax breaks heaped onto Destiny USA. (Destiny was awarded these breaks before the state ban, but IDAs have been approving them anyway citing exceptions such as tourism.)

– Let’s say a company locates in one of New York’s tax-free zones, where employees pay no state income taxes for 10 years. But the company also has a plant out of the tax-free zone. Could it pay the tax-free workers less to be equitable? The mere suggestion shows this program plays favorites.

– Fascinating story of the Mormon Church reevaluating the role of women.

– “What’ll Become of Me?” Finding the real Patsey of “12 Years a Slave.”

The Best Picture Nominees shot on Kodak film.

– When the gays come to townso does the money.

9 Responses to The Truth About TRIP

  1. March 3, 2014 at 7:28 am Ginny Maier responds:

    Nice work pulling this together, Rachel! Just another example of why you deserved your “most influential” honor.

    In a similar vein, we should be looking at funding for ALL similar reports and studies and looking for independent confirmation of their data and keeping in mind the “spin.” My personal favorite is the “highest taxes” ones we get regularly that don’t account for the value of benefits we gain from the tax (and tend to lead to tax exemption deals for business, shifting the burden even more).

  2. March 3, 2014 at 8:28 am Animule responds:

    Rachel, how about a little research on how much money the principals of Hart’s Local Grocers are spending on their new store? The $1.15 million Small Business Administration loan secured for the store plus the $3 million local bank loan indicate that virtually the entire project is being financed with “other (taxpayers) people’s money.” This is very similar to the financial situation for the Fast Ferry and we all know how that panned out. Nobody was ever able to verify just how much money came from the principals behind the fast ferry, which suggests that almost none did come from them. This just sounds way too familiar.

  3. March 3, 2014 at 10:26 am Urban Explorer responds:

    How does a local bank loan qualify as taxpayer money? My mortgage is a “local bank loan;” that doesn’t involve taxpayer money.

    • March 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm Animule responds:

      The “local bank loan” qualifies as taxpayer money when it is backed by (at a minimum) “tax credits to financial intermediaries in order to attract private capital” as part of the government’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The key phrase in the Hart’s project is that it is “in an area certified by the US Department of Agriculture as a food dessert” which means the government (as in ordinary people) are hip deep in this “investment.” Add the $1.15 million SBA loan that is totally paid for by taxpayers in the event of default and the $145k “incentive package” that COMIDA approved for this $3.6 million project, and it is likely that taxpayers have considerably more at stake (and at risk) here than the actual principals of the store who (at least from this analysis) have little or nothing at stake here.

  4. March 3, 2014 at 11:15 am JustMe responds:

    28 hours a year is about 6 minutes per work day of traffic delay. I’m laughing at how people from New York, LA, DC, Seattle, Boston would envy that!

    And isn’t it interesting that the Texas measures of delays go up drastically right at the time that we rebuilt the Can of Worms and removed the largest source of highway delays in Rochester? Can’t help but wonder how the measuring was done.

  5. March 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    Same thing with the resurfacing of roads such as I-390 south of the Thruway with the Stimulus funds over the last few years, when there was nothing wrong with that road or many others before. The money should have been spent on building a few more new roads and/or making more public transportation.

    • I-390 resurfacing is a necessary maintainance. The ride on there was not that great also. So you would rather see existing infrastructure deteriorate to the point of a more expensive replacement option and use the money to build new unnecessary additional state highways (which would cost 10X the resurfacing)? This plays into Rachels last point. We pay taxes for these highways to be maintained.

      • March 9, 2014 at 11:28 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

        This isn’t about not resurfacing roads and ignoring necessary maintenance. This is about road EXPANSION.

      • March 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm Kevin Yost responds:

        Why can’t I-390 south of the Thruway just be asphalt just like north of the Thruway, so it does not have to be resurfaced so often, as is currently the case down there with the concrete surface?

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