Do roads pay for themselves?

 

Recently, the Texas Department of Transportation, a.k.a. "TXDOT," republished a three year old study which confirms what most of us have known all along: our system of roadways costs us plenty!

These highways and byways not only cost us in the form of lost time due to traffic congestion and personal injury. They're not only costly because of  increased dependence on foreign oil and inefficient land use patterns.  It's not just the fact that auto-centrism is the largest single cause of environmental pollution and decreased productivity.

No; we've finally had an avidly pro-pavement D.O.T. publicly admit that the most basic form of societal cost - the capital requirements for design, construction and maintenance of these facilities - far exceeds the total tax receipts allocated toward these highway systems!

In fact, the subsidy ratio (or, in the case of roads, the "Asset Value Index") for TXDOT's infrastructure makes Amtrak's taxpayer-supported needs absolutely pale in comparison! It is estimated that gasoline taxes would need to be six times higher than they are today just to bring revenue in line with expenditures.

In other words, the average cost of one gallon of gasoline in Dallas would instantly jump from today's approximate of $2.50 (for regular grade) to an outrageous $4.35!

Even then, there are several assumptions being made, chief among them the idea that folks would be willing to pay any amount just to get another fix of petrol. But, that assumption was blown to bits the last time gas hit four dollars! It's as if our transportation "leaders" had never heard of the price elasticity of demand!

Still worse economically is the concept of "green" automobiles. Lower the need for petroleum products through hybrid technology (or eliminate it with all-electric cars) and see what happens to our highway budgets! Yet, many in Austin and Washington continue to pretend that, since people "love" to drive, everything in our power needs to be done to maintain the rubber-and-concrete status quo.

So, what else can be done?

Are our elected officials correct when they intimate that nothing else can be done?

Conversely, is it possible to develop a completely different approach to the game whilst maintaining public support?

I sincerely believe I know the answer! Unfortunately, things will need to get a lot worse before they begin to get any better, 'cause governments tend to address symptoms over root causes.

In the meantime, read it and weep!

So far, the current study hasn't been posted to the internet; however, the original blurb can be accessed at this U.R.L.:

http://www.keeptexasmoving.com/index.php/enews/57?theme=print

...and a Houston article regarding TXDOT's work can be found at:

http://www.houstontomorrow.org/livability/story/txdot-no-road-pays-for-itself/

 

I transcribed the following from the "Keep Texas Moving 'e-Newsletter'." No attempts were made to correct grammatical errors.

 

Published by the Government and Business Enterprises Division at the Texas Department of Transportation 
 
20 November 2009 issue 
 
Article title: "Do Roads Pay for Themselves?" 
 


A major feature in the public debate about toll roads has been the issue of when or whether a road has been "paid for." To better understand this discussion, it is helpful to ask two questions: 
 
1. What is a traveler paying for when he or she pays state gas tax at the pump? 
 
State motor fuel tax is collected from all over the state and goes into a single pool of revenue - about one quarter of which goes to fund education, and about three-quarters of which goes to the state’s highway fund, where it is spent on transportation uses and some non-transportation functions of government. 
 
Then the state receives federal funds as the state’s share of the federal fuel tax; about 70 cents of every gas tax dollar Texans send to Washington comes back for road use. 
 
The significant point here is that historically the fuel tax paid in any locality of the state is unrelated to the road projects in that locality. Every fuel taxpayer in the state paid something for any given road - which leads to the next issue. 
 
2. When is a given road actually "paid for?" 
 
Just like your car, it never is. You may have paid the note, but maintenance and fuel costs go on as long as you own the vehicle. Once a road is built, maintenance and rehabilitation costs last its entire life, generally about 40 years. 
 
The decision to build a road is a permanent commitment to the traveling public. Not only will a road be built, but it must also be routinely maintained and reconstructed when necessary, meaning no road is ever truly "paid for." 
 
Until recently, when TxDOT built or expanded a road, no methodology existed to determine the extent to which this work would be paid off through revenues. 
 
The Asset Value Index, was developed to compare the full 40-year life-cycle costs to the revenues attributable to a given road corridor or section. The shorthand version calculates how much gasoline is consumed on a roadway and how much gas tax revenue that generates. 
 
The Asset Value Index is the ratio of the total expected revenues divided by the total expected costs. If the ratio is 0.60, the road will produce revenues to meet 60 percent of its costs; it would be "paid for" only if the ratio were 1.00, when the revenues met 100 percent of costs. Another way of describing this is to do a "tax gap" analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs. 
 
Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon. 
 
This is just one example, but there is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today. Some roads pay for about half their true cost, but most roads we have analyzed pay for considerably less. 
 
To conclude, in the SH 99 example, since the traffic volume for that road doesn't generate enough fuel tax revenue to pay for it, revenues from other parts of the state must be used to build and maintain this corridor segment. The same is true across the state, meaning that, as revealed by the tax gap analysis, overall revenues are not sufficient to meet the state's transportation needs. 
 

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  • Garl:  I agree with you - hell, I've been haranguing the last several SecDots on the subject - that the U.S. needs a national transportation policy.  You have expanded the call to includ energy and environment, and you're probably right about that.  

    I agree with your position that roads don't pay for themselves.  But neither does transit, or really any other form of transportation that relies on public investment for right of way and operations.  As has been said before, figures don't lie, but liars can figure.  The comparison of under-recovery of highways vs. transit requires an understanding of rates of taxation dedicated to each, total actual costs of each.  As used to be said in Washington, "I've never seen a Greyhound snowplow out on the highway during a storm."  Do we include in highway costs the cost of snow removal, the cost of state and local police, both for traffic control and enforcement and for cleaning up the mess of colliding trucks and other motorists?  All of these factors and more have to known and considered before any comparison of costs and benefits can be valid.

  • Larry,

    Thank you so much for your comments.

    When you mentioned how "figures don't lie, but liars can figure," I was reminded of something my father used to say: "A man can prove anything he wants to by statistics!"

    I _especially_ appreciated your statement how highway budgets could (should?) "include...the cost of state and local police, both for traffic control and enforcement and for cleaning up the mess of colliding trucks and other motorists". Right now, that's a major debate here in Texas. The pro-road folks are using the highway account's underwriting of our Department of Public Safety ("Highway Patrol") as an example of the way those dedicated funds are being wrongfully depleted. In my opinion, the D.P.S. _should_ be included in our overall roadway bill!

    I tried sifting through the D.P.S. budget one weekend to see if it was possible to ascertain what percentage of the Department's work might specifically relate to traffic control, law enforcement and the cleaning up of collisions. Unfortunately, the document is almost an inch thick. When the headaches began, I bailed on the project!

    Best,

    GBL

  • I've received a very nice note from Ben Ross, the ultimate source of the innovative WMATA information I posted as a comment (above).

    In the interest of accuracy, I'm offering (with permission) a portion of his e-mail for review:

    "A little bit of correction - the transit numbers are for all of WMATA, both rail and bus, and for all 3 jurisdictions, not just Maryland. If you looked only at rail, the cost recovery would be higher.

    "There are of course comparability issues. In the Washington suburbs, WMATA runs mostly trunk-line bus service; if you included the county bus systems you'd get a somewhat lower cost recovery. But then again, the state runs only arterial highways and not local roads, so I think what I did is essentially an apples-to-apples comparison of trunk line service on both transit and highways. Perfect comparability is impossible."

    Thanks, Ben!

    GBL

  • And now for the latest update:

    A group called Subsidy Scope (a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts) recently created an interesting review of U.S. highway funding.

    According to their work, in fiscal 2007, user fees covered 51% of the highway construction and maintenance budget. [In 1997 it was 87% and in 1967 it was 77%.] Of course, these figures don't include feeder roads or any of the other costs associated with our auto-centric culture, such as environmental pollution, the loss of property tax revenue, health care issues and funding for law enforcement agencies.

    Here's the link:

    www.subsidyscope.com/.../funding

    In anticipation of the oft' cited claim that it's the diversion of highway funds (especially to rail-based passenger projects) which ultimately causes the shortfall, Subsidy Scope's work included the following caveat:

    "Not all user fees collected are made available for highway purposes. Of the 18.4 cent per gallon federal tax on gasoline, 2.86 cents are allocated specifically for mass transit projects. Another 0.1 cent per gallon is used to pay for environmental cleanup resulting from leaking fuel storage tanks. From 1990 to 1997, the federal government also set aside a portion of taxes on gasoline, diesel and other fuels to reduce budget deficits.

    "However, even if those funds were fully devoted to highways, total user fee revenue accounted for only 65 percent of all funds set aside for highways in 2007, according to Subsidyscope [sic] calculations. This is down from 84 percent in 1997 and 77 percent in 1967."

    Interesting stuff! I only hope some of it eventually begins to sink in.

    Garl

  • There you go again, Garl, letting the facts get in the way of perfectly good preconceived notions.  Actually, these numbers are a politician's dream.  It's a reminder of the old saw: there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.  No mention or recognition that the vast majority of highway miles in this country are not supported at all by the federal gasoline or excise taxes.  Those are the several million lane-miles of municipal streets, county roads, and many state highways.  All taxpayers pay for their construction and maintenance, usually through property taxes.  One does not have to be statistics guru to reach the conclusion that roads do not pay for themselves.  Most of the blather we see here on this subject ultimately comes down to the anti-tax mantra of the libertarians among us.

  • I was fortunate to be among those who were able to partake in the grand opening of the new -'SPHINX'- Gazzoline station in Warren, Michigan. The 'SPHINX' sign is mounted upon a pole within the frame of the 'Greatest Pyramid of the known universe-filled to capacity with creamy black crude oil---the elixir of the PHAROILS.

  • While doing some research, I ran across another bit of fascinating data which helps shed light on the true cost of unbridled auto-centrism:

    Approximately two years ago, the American Automobile Association issued a report on U.S. motor vehicle collisions, attempting to quantify their cost to society. The study, conducted by Cambridge Systematics, considered expenditures for primary, secondary and tertiary property damage, emergency response teams (including police, fire and medical), doctor, hospital and rehabilitation fees, and so on. Even more nebulous items such as lost productivity and quality of life were reviewed.

    AAA, a self-described "motorist advocacy" group, concluded these incidents cost the nation approximately $164.2 billion annually, based upon the study's methodology.

    Interestingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has figures dating from 2000 (the most recent I've been able to find) which indicate an even _greater_ monetary penalty. They estimate that highway crashes cost the U.S. at least $230.6 billion every year. [For the record, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has officially agreed with that estimate.]

    Item: as of March 11th, the projected U.S. highway death count for 2009 stands at 33,963 human beings.

    Garl

  • In honour of this column's six-month anniversary, I'd like to add a few distantly related items to the mix:

    According to the Associated Press, 617,407 members of the U.S. armed forces lost their lives in the line of duty from World War I through the Persian Gulf War, inclusive. As horrific as that sounds (and is), we kill more people than that every FIFTEEN YEARS along our nation's highways. Every fifteen MONTHS, domestic traffic fatalities equal the number of U.S. servicemen killed in Vietnam. [ref: www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/.../index.aspx]

    "In the United States, ...the definition [of a traffic fatality] used in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) run by the N.H.T.S.A. is a person who dies within 30 days of a crash on a U.S. public road involving a vehicle with an engine, the death being the result of the crash." - en.wikipedia.org/.../Traffic_collision

    "E.P.A. seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills that occur in and around inland waters of the United States. E.P.A. is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead response agency for spills in coastal waters and deepwater ports." - http://www.epa.gov/oilspill/

    "The Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons killed as many as 700,000 sea birds and 5,000 sea otters initially, but even 21 years later, populations of sea otters in areas of Prince William Sound haven't recovered. The Pacific herring population collapsed after the spill for reasons that remain in dispute among scientists. Two intensely studied pods of killer whales in the sound suffered heavy losses in the spill and have struggled since. One of the two pods has no more reproductive females. It is doomed to extinction." - The Washington Post / "Gulf damage will last 'for years of not decades'; Oil spill will have ripple effects far into the future, scientists warn" (June 6th)

    "The degradation of oil slows over the years. The microbes move on, as the large and complex compounds that remain, known as the asphaltenes, are too hard to digest. What's left tends to be dense, tar-like, largely inert and attractive only to people who like to pave roads." - ibid.

    "Autocentrism is a style of living characterized by dependency on the automobile for transportation. Autocentric communities are found throughout the suburban United States and are one characteristic of urban sprawl. In such communities, public transportation is either enormously unpractical due to time concerns, or wholly unavailable. Smart growth and New Urbanism advocates view autocentrism as an undesired state, arguing that it results in a weakened sense of community in the affected neighborhoods, as well as having negative impact on the environment. Detractors do not view autocentrism as anything manifestly negative, merely a choice made by consumers out of preferences." - wikidumper.blogspot.com/.../autocentrism.html

    "You'll get my car when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel!" - a 'detractor'

    Our problem is not the automobile, per se; rather, it is our continued _overuse_ of the automobile. - GBL

    With my best wishes - and the sincere hope that my life will last long enough for me to see a comprehensive national Transportation/Energy/Environmental policy enacted and in place,

    Garl

  • With all due respects, Garl, I don't think it is necessary to equate motor vehicle fatalities with combat casualties.  Those who die in service to the country deserve all the respect we can give them and do not need to have their deaths trivialized.  I know you didn't mean to trivialize, but a curmudgeon like me just might read it that way.  

    I also have a major problem with the inclusion of many rail-highway grade crossing fatalities as "railroad" fatalities.  They are and should be logged as motor vehicle fatalities.  Fully one in seven involves a motorist, usually drunk, driving his vehicle into a train that already occupies the crossing.  Most of the rest result from a motorist making the fatal decision that he can beat the train.  When I have had people tell me that one of "my" trains killed so-and-sop, I ask how far the train chased him, pointing out that they put flanges on the wheels to prevent irresponsible engineers from taking off cross country to chase down innocent motorists.

    As I have futiley tried to reason with RAILWAYIST, this is not a highway-railroad either-or issue.  Our nation needs a certain amount of transportation capacity if it is to move freight and passengers efficiently and safely.  Each mode has its own unique characteristics and we don't need to denigrate one to support the other.  Perhaps if this country ever got the national transportation policy it has been waiting for the last 44 years, we could allocate public resources more efficiently and wisely.  We sure don't do that now.

  • Larry,

    If you want to get together sometime for a curmudgeon contest, I'm game!

    Seriously, far be it from me to EVER trivialise the ultimate sacrifice [ref: John 15:13]; rather, I become distressed when the thousands of lives lost every year on our nation's roadways seemingly amount to little more than the cost of doing business.

    If you'd like, we can make this into a transportation-related analogy. Imagine the public reaction if a fully-loaded Boeing 737 was to crash, killing every occupant on board. Now, what if it happened the next day, too? Then the _next_? How many days in a row would it take before panic set in? For a special government panel to "study" the matter? For people to begin abandoning commercial airline service in droves?

    The average number of annual U.S. deaths directly attributable to roadway collisions is approximately equal to the number of people who'd lose their lives if a fully-loaded Boeing 737 crashed and burned every single day for an entire year.

    Think about it!

    You mentioned your "major problem with the inclusion of many rail-highway grade crossing fatalities as 'railroad' fatalities."

    You and me both, brother! What makes it even worse is, most years, actual railroad _passenger_ fatalities account for less than ONE PERCENT of the total!

    Finally, I appreciate your reminder that, ultimately, "this is not a highway-railroad either-or issue." The truth behind that statement is one reason I reiterated a common refrain: "Our [nation's] problem is not the automobile, per se; rather, it is our continued _overuse_ of the automobile."

    Interestingly, I have never ONCE claimed that "trains are the answer"...since there IS no "the answer"! There's no panacea; there's no single solution. It's not that automobiles and airplanes (and bicycles and canoes) exist; it's that, to many, trains are practically _invisible_!

    The POLICY you and I are consistently advocating MUST include trains, of all types, as part of the mix!

    Is that too much to ask? IS it?!

    [sigh]

    Take care,

    Garl

  • Great!  Now see if you can drive the logic of your comment into the skull of RAILWAYIST, who still is on his paranoid rant about oil, as I'm sure you've seen.  I'm choosing to ignore him, but will cheer on others who choose to engage.

    And for the record and in the category of some people never learn, the governor of Florida has signed legislation allowing truckers to operate bigger/heavier trucks on Florida highways.  The legislation did not increase the taxes and fees that truck operators pay for the use of the public's highways.  I'm sure the governor of Florida will be among the first to whine and throw a tantrum when the handful of railroads still serving his state determine that more lines must be abandoned as non-viable.  I'd wager that the Florida Motor Truck Association , or whatever it is called, has contributed amply to the governor's campaign fund for his run for the Senate.  Cynical of me?  You bet.

  • Larry Kaufman wrote:  "[T]his is not a highway-railroad either-or issue."

    My response:

    Insofar as mass transit -- as opposed to freight hauling -- is concerned, I must (very respectfully, of course) disagree with you.  The following assumes (I know, I know; when one ASSUMES, one makes an ass out of you and me.) that you were also referencing mass transit in addition to freight hauling -- the later of which I know relatively little.

    When it comes to modal choices of transportation, I am firmly of the mindset that the choice is an either/or proposition.  I believe this because "the Suburban Sprawl Lobby" -- a term of my own making -- has consciously sought to create a car-centric culture.  For a definitive in-depth discussion of what I am going to -- very briefly -- discuss, please read, then re-read, and then READ AGAIN, followed by yet ANOTHER re-reading of Robert Caro's classic _The_Power_Broker:__Robert_Moses_&_the_Fall_of_New_York_.  Every time that I have read this work from cover to cover, I have come away from it with something new.  It is that kind of book.  

    It is possible that the physical -- along with its corresponding community -- destruction of the urban areas of the various metropolis's in the U.S. was, perhaps, inevitable.  With the advent of the automobile -- particularly after the innovation of the internal combustion engine -- the railroads (both passenger and freight) went into a steady decline that culminated in the federal government forming both AMTRAK and CONRAIL.  I realize that I am regurgitating information that you already know; but unless you have gone through multiple readings of Caro's work, it is quite possible (indeed, highly probable) that you are unaware of all of Robert -- he would hardly ever tolerate a stranger to call him "Bob" -- Moses machinations that created the car-centric culture that we are burdened with today.

    Moses was a genius -- the genuine article; and for reasons that are not germane to this discussion he wanted to -- among other things -- build roads.  In New York City, however, he was confronted by the Tammany Hall political machine.  At that time -- this was the 1920s -- Tammany Hall operated like virtually all of the other political machines in the country operated:  They had their base located throughout the local neighborhoods that were -- largely -- organized along ethnic lines and cultural ties.  It -- of course -- goes without saying that Tammany Hall was (for the most part, anyway) hopelessly corrupt.  How a young man named Al Smith rose from the ranks to become New York State's premier advocate for progressive reform (and New York State politics in Albany were as hopelessly corrupted as they were in New York City and Tammany Hall) is a story for another day that can only be told by someone more knowledgeable than myself on the topic; but this much has to be said:  It was around this time -- and it was PARTLY through his acquaintance with Smith -- that Moses learned how to be a political operator.  Learned, in fact, how Tammany Hall operated; and he would put that knowledge to use (but not, it should be noted, to GOOD use) when he set about the neutralization of Tammany Hall -- an organization that ultimately changed and evolved just as much as Robert Moses did.

    The U.S. is not a democracy; it is a republic.  One of the characteristics of a republic is that voters are not DIRECTLY represented; they are, instead, INdirectly represented.  Moses used this fact -- and its corresponding corollaries -- to develop a strategy that would neutralize Tammany Hall and allow him to build the roads that he wanted to build; and, in the process, he would literally revolutionize the political system in the U.S.  It must be told by someone else with a far better grasp of the facts than myself exactly how Tammany Hall came to be heeled (for a time, anyway) by the actions of both Fiorello  La Guardia and F.D.R.  This much, however, I can say for certain:  By the end of La Guardia's administration, Moses had both created and demonstrated the efficacy of a new political model:  A model based upon money.  Lots and lots of money.  Tammany Hall's ward style of politics depended upon a quid pro quo with the communities with which it organized:  In return for their vote, voters would get a limited social safety net to help them in times of need.  Moses figured out how to nullify this social contract.  He had road builders donate money -- and lots of it -- to political candidates.  It was now the age of Madison Avenue, after all, and Madison Avenue prided itself on its ability to sell ANYTHING.  Including politicians.  With the necessary money in hand that was necessary to purchase the services of Madison Avenue public relations agencies (and their attendant manipulation of public opinion), there were all of a sudden a slew of elected politicians that were in debt to Moses for having arranged the donations of the necessary monies to their political campaigns.  

    Moses had become the Power Broker; by arranging the political alliances between ambitious politicians and road builders (and then developers), Moses accrued political capital.  Lots of political capital.  Previously, in the ward-style politics practiced by Tammany Hall and other political machines throughout the country, there would be a semi-direct connection between the voter in an organized community and an elected politician.  No longer.  Instead, a new phrase entered the zeitgeist:  You can't fight city hall.  There no longer was any meaningful connection between a politician -- elected or otherwise -- and the average voter.  Instead, what would become important would be access to money from the evolving lobbies that had a direct stake in the business and regulatory affairs of the major arms of government.  Moses was directly responsible for that transformation.  

    Moses, of course,  used his political capital to get his desired roads built.  Moses, however, has one final innovation.  He created a coalition of seemingly disparate industries.  Developers, road builders, car dealerships, gas stations, auto repair shops, automotive manufacturers, and the labor unions in the automotive manufacturing, truck transportation, and construction industries were all brought to the same table by him.  Together, they would lobby the various branches of government to create a culture whereby people would live separately from their work AND their retail shopping.  We take this separation for granted now, but at the time it was positively revolutionary.  Politically, the business parts of the coalition would lobby the Republicans while the unions would lobby the Democrats.  The individual industries also agreed to look after each others interests; so this coalition achieved that most sought-after goal in the realm of business:  Synergy.  The whole literally was greater than the sum of the individual parts.  

    And this coalition was organized nationwide and viciously destroyed whole cities and neighborhoods in the pursuit of profits.  That is my reasoning for disagreeing with the sentiment that  "this is not a highway-railroad either-or issue."  it IS an either/or issue in a zero-sum game because the business model upon which the Suburban Sprawl Lobby is predicated upon is fundamentally at odds with a human-scaled, walkable neighborhood.  It is adamantly opposed to dense and mixed-use development because that would mean that fewer cars would be sold (never mind that dense and mixed developments are -- for a variety of reasons -- less profitable for developers).  Yet the more foot traffic there is, the more retail business is generated; so developers compromised by creating the enclosed mall.  And since people would still have to drive to the mall, there would still be the resulting wear-and-tear on the automobile; thus, still generating business for the various automotive industries as well as the United Auto Workers union.

    IF -- and ONLY if -- you are interested in creating a human-scaled, multi-purpose neighborhood that has the density required to support mass transit, then you have to be willing to take on the Suburban Sprawl Lobby.  And because of its attendant synergy, it will successfully defeat any attacks on its individual industries.  Therefore, the weakest and ONLY the weakest link in the coalition must be attacked first:  The relationship between the Republicans, the Democrats, and the rest of the coalition.  

    I submit that this relationship can be successfully terminated IF and ONLY IF the republican -- note the small "r" -- form of government in use in virtually all of the U.S. is replaced with a democratic -- note the small "d" -- form of government.  How would a democracy -- as opposed to a republic -- work?  Through the use of two different tools:  Proportional representation (P.R.) and instant runoff voting (I.R.V.).  See http://www.fairvote.org for details.

    I.R.V. involves ranking candidates from 1 to X; X being the number of candidates on the ballot.  I.R.V. conducts instant runoffs until the desired number of candidates are left.  Voters would be given a two-part ballot.  The first part would be an either/or question:  Would the voter like for I.R.V. to stop until:

    (A.) All candidates with fewer than 1% of the vote are eliminated (this eliminates statistically insignificantly candidates while at the same time maintaining a good chance that one of the candidates that the voter gave a high rank for is still on the ballot; or

    (B.)One candidate gets a majority of the vote.  This would eliminate the need for a coalition government.

    The pro of the "A" option is that the vast majority of voters would have one of their high-ranking candidates elected.  The con of the "A" option (as some might see it, anyway) is that a coalition government would be the likely result.  The pro of the "B" option would be (as some might see it, anyway) is that there would be one person with a majority of the votes.  The con of the "B" option is that many voters would have a greater chance of seeing ALL of their high-ranked candidates eliminated from the ballot.

    P.R.:  Proportional Representation

    After the runoffs have been conducted, each -- now elected -- official will be permitted to cast Y votes, Y being the number of votes said official/candidate had when the runoff ended.  The ballots will be kept so that in the event that an elected official is unable to continue serving, his/her ballots will be redistributed.  I.R.V./P.R. eliminates gerrymandering issues because there are no single-member districts.  It discourages negative campaigning.  It encourages voters to educate themselves as much as possible about each candidate.

    I realize that I have presented a lot of information, but I am trying to figure out exactly how to present the information here ( www.slate.com/.../hiveList ).  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    With I.R.V./P.R. enacted, it will then be possible to attack the 2nd-most weakest link.

  • More there than I choose to deal with; sorry, nbahn.  I will lecture you just a bit on history.  At the end of World War II, this nation had gone about 15 years with little or no new housing, thanks to the Depression and the war.  Some 12 million veterans were being mustered out of the services and a greatful nation had passed the GI Bill of Rights covering housing and education.  These vets took full advantage of their new benefits and bought houses rather than return to the tenements of their parents (excuse the generalization).  This encouraged real estate developers like Mr. Levitt to build vast subdivisions on former farm lands.  That effectively destroyed the fixed guideway transit systems that most urban areas had.  One couldn't just stay in his new house; he had to get out and about, so pressure developed to produce automobiles for the returning vets, with easy financing to aid them.  Automakers needed new plants for the huge pent up demand, and being reasonably intelligent, they built their new plants near the markets rather than in Detroit.  Net-net, we really are discussing a fundamental change in American society.  I reject the idea that there were plots and schemes to do horrible things.  That you apparently believe this blather suggests a level of credulity that I simply cannot deal with.  Sorry, nbahn, but I don't believe I'll sign up for the fundamental change in American government that you seem to be advocating.  I still am idealistic enough to believe we can elect decent people to represent us in federal, state, and local governments.

  • Nbahn:

    Real as Moses' effect on NYC was, it had very little direct effect elsewhere, yet the same development patterns were seen in areas that were clearly not directly effected.

    As for PR -proportional representation, not Progressive Railroading - one of the reasons why it has not gained a foothold is that it is often -more- vulnerable to machine politics.

  • Larry Kaufman & anmccaff--

    Thank you both for the courtesies of your replies.