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 Response Page - Craig Westover  Interview - Travel Choice & Level of Government    

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Craig Westover Interview of  05/16/08.

The questions:

1. _5.2 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, what is your view on Westover's contention that public bodies in transportation ought to be responding to travel choices of individuals, rather than trying to change those choices?

2. _4.2 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, what is your view on Westover's contention that decisions on highways and transit should be kept as local as possible, rather than turning to levels of government with broader geographical areas like the Metro Council?

Don Fraser
The conceptual framework within which these two questions are posed is inadequate. The questions represent simplistic, even beguiling nostroms that don't reflect reality.

Dennis Johnson (10) (10)
Westover sounds like a person after my own heart! He no doubt also believes in my "city of a million planners". (By the way, did my essay on this subject ever get circulated?) His kind of thinking is refreshing as a spring breeze, but probably cannot budge the existing establishment" for transportation funding and planning unless groups like the civic caucus get behind this approach. Westover is no doubt a Ron Paul supporter, as well!

John Hottinger (0) (0)
His are purely philosophical constructs from an atrophied philosophy that match poorly with the reality of growing transportation and societal goals. These goals are demanded by a wide variety of supporters, including many in business. His approach fails to take into effect the externalities of our individual decisions which can lead to pollution, the cost of wasted time, and the excessive demands/needs on society where job location is distant from housing location either due to poverty (no choice) or wealth (choice).

Tim R. McDonald
(10) (10)
This is a wildly helpful articulation of the free market perspective. It has enlightened me, and affected my views of transit funding significantly. Great.

Chuck Slocum (5) (5)
As a society, we delegate large and important decision making on issues like national defense, a legal system, the post office, the environment and transportation to our governments to oversee, placing more emphasis on the public good than individual rights. The notion of the public funding of individual transportation needs through the welfare system is already practiced; this will not solve all our problems. Transportation systems do drive other infrastructure developments affecting housing, jobs, etc. We should, however, be mindful of the free market system that pays for it all as well as the rights of local communities and individuals to have their proper say on things.

Ray Schmitz
Strongly disagree with both.

His suggestion that we allow the flow to determine needs reverts back to the days of following the game trails, or cow paths to locate roads. Did work for the time but ignores some of the economic reality of the 21st century. The problem is that the development trends are just that trends and can reverse in an instant, as we are seeing now. Comments recently about the housing market are that the outer suburban homes, built largely on easy cheep motor vehicle access are among the greatest problems. I remember the story of redevelopment in Barcelona, obviously helps to have a dictator in place, where the state razed major areas and built the infrastructure first followed by subsidized development. Here we seem to allow all development to proceed as if it is equally important and equally supportable by services. That is simply unrealistic.

The idea of transit in a highway corridor seems good at first glance but, as is seen in the Chicago transit line running from O'Hare downtown in the I90/94 median just duplicates service. That is, if we have a road why add transit to serve the same areas, put the transit in a different location so it can compete without duplication. The bus transit between the "U" campuses is a good example. We have got to limit sprawl, and serve existing areas perhaps a ring of transit would help cut down on the current traffic issues moving between the new business/ shopping areas.

Also on the congestion pricing and other limits on usage, perhaps we need to move some of the truck traffic to off peak times.

Curt Johnson

Roads get approved and funded every year based on their potential to spur economic development. You cannot justify them to the FHA without showing this. But transit proposals get evaluated by the FTA strictly on "ridership," and from surveys of the market of riders that already exists, not what having a transit corridor might produce. The language is all different. The criteria are not consistent. This blind spot extends to user payments. If we road users had to pay the fully-accounted cost for each trip, it would cause more shock than the current run-up in fuel prices. I always suspect that these guys are essentially not comfortable with the idea of a place becoming more urban, don't like the notion of "riding" with others (whom they do not know and haven't approved), and totally reject the linkage between land-use policy and transportation investments.

Wayne Jennings (8) (2)
I think his arguments are circular and don't contribute much to solving problems.

Dave Durenberger (5) (4)
The first step in transportation systems accountability is to distinguish national from state responsibility. e.g. air and rail and interstate trucking/busing investment/regulatory might well be national. Roadways and shared ride systems would be state, and individual states determine the role of the local governments or collaboratives like Met Council. On an accountability scale states that operate "locally" with antiquated local government structures and 60/40 outstate/metro road investment "strategies" like ours, aren't ready for "local" decision making. National govt is an efficient tax-collector and should collect fuel taxes, withhold a % necessary for national purposes like infrastructure R and D, safety etc, and remit the balance to the states in proportion to the % determined by each state to meet its needs and levied on fuel sold intrastate. The enemy of state/regional/local decision-making today is the federal tax and the Congressional appropriations committees.

Malcolm McLean
(6) (4)
I read Westover regularly in the Pioneer Press but this interview helped me understand him and the Free Market Institute better. He has clearly thought a lot about public issues and makes his points, mostly, understandable. I thought his distinction between roads (public good) and transit (private good) was mostly hair-splitting. Both help people get to where they want to go. My basic quarrel with Westover is that he concentrates on part of society, not all of it. Small government, attention to personal responsibility - these are good. But there are systemic problems that go beyond private responsibility. Is poverty affecting many people not something as citizens we should be concerned about? Why is small government such a wonderful goal? Elmer Andersen said we should decide what we want government to do and then do it. That may end up with small government but it also may include many programs (with corresponding taxes) that help those who cannot help themselves so easily. As usual, Abraham Lincoln said it best when he noted that government should do those things that the people cannot do for themselves (defense, police), and those things which the people cannot do so well for themselves (regulated utilities, pre-school) and leave everything else to the people.

David Broden (3) (0)
The transportation plans, decisions, and operations must and can only be the result of looking at the broad overall picture and avoiding narrow individual interests and views. While all opinions must be heard, the focus of how the input is used must be to shape the overall transportation approach. As we have addressed in other responses this includes congestion, people movement, development, cost, etc. Some of the decisions simply must provide the "incentive" for people to change the mode of transportation or to help shift some of the burden from one mode or areas to another. Emphasis on the individual will only increase the activity in random events and the probability of a failure, congestion or disorganized plans. Lack of a "clean" zoning approach to land use and development will be clearly evident. A good way to express this may be that transportation is clearly a common good issue. Topics such as things related to intra and interstate commerce are appropriate and we need these to be well coordinated. Bottom line, individual input must be heard but the decision must look at the aggregate and total common good etc.

Local decisions must be avoided in all transportation decisions with perhaps some consideration as most would agree regarding land use and protection of property rights. Since transportation links communities and provides for movement of people, items, and equipment, the decisions on all transportation must be over broader geographic areas. Where possible they should be based not on just today--short term vision--but a long term look at how the decision will impact transportation, development, commerce, public safety etc. The decision process must capture the input of individuals and reflect that in the considerations but the decisions must be at the larger geographical areas etc.

Carolyn Ring (5) (3)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (5) (6)

Clarence Shallbetter
(6) (6)
There is a lot of confusion about which levels of government should be responsible for various types of roads and various kinds of transit. Westover's suggestion that the federal government get out of providing capital for all but a national set of highways is a good beginning point in clarifying the issue. Making counties responsible for funding the transportation of low income residents just as they are responsible for health and welfare would also add much to the discussion.

Keith Swenson (10) (10)
We recreated North America with Eisenhower's Interstate System. Now that we have created an infrastructure based on Individual Transportation it's too late to try to switch to a mass transit focus without abandoning rural America and the outer tier suburbs that were the result of our existing transportation system.

Robert A. Freeman (8) (4)
I generally agreed with most of what Westover said about cost-benefit analysis especially on the subject of the tradeoff between mobility and congestion.

I'm a little torn on whether the decisions should be made by a larger body like the Met Council or locally - I think Westover's opinion is colored by his disdain for the Met Council and would note that communities do a poor job of talking to each other and seeing a larger picture.

However he is right that communities should have more say in how transportation decisions are made and that there are too many levels of government involved which reduces accountability and transparency.

Glenn S. Dorfman (0) (0)
Mr. Westover needs to visit the major cities of this world to see that most people do make decisions based on the transportation "choices" they have available. Personally, my sisters and I used the subway, trains, and bus system of NYC through High School before any of us even owned an automobile. "Persons don't make a decision on the mode of transportation for a trip absent the purpose of a trip." Oftentimes, "enhancing freedom" is based upon an individual's available choices. More choice equals more, not less freedom. Mr. Westover should also visit Russia!

Would roads have been an economic public good absent the Nationalization of them
by Eisenhower? Had it not been for the National Defense Act, this country might have developed more Mag Lev trains like Europe and Japan. How does Mr. Westover think goods get to market, only by trucks? While I have not looked at the data on container shipping by train, it was quite substantial, at least to major population centers.

Charles Lutz (2) (3)
I have distinct ideological differences with Westover (and MN Free Market Institute), emerging from their commitment to radical individualism always trumping the common good. But I’m pleased that Civic Caucus includes even such, in my view, distressing perspectives; they’re part of the real world and need to be heard.

Scott Halstead (0) (0)
Our lack of planning and poor planning of transportation and transit is literally dooming our downtowns. Our first 2 LRT lines do nothing to get suburban people and materials into the inner city. Firms will continue to build outside the urban core with little regard for transit. We need to deal with governance, responsibility and authority issues first.

There needs to be a system for highways and transit on the large scale. There needs to be coordinated highway and transit systems. Local control would be a disaster.

We need a strong metropolitan government responsible to the metropolitan citizens with the financial tools to design coordinated transportation and transit in the metro area. We need well defined transit performance standards. We shouldn't even seek federal funding for projects of less than $200,000,000.

Shirley Heaton
I strongly agree with both positions. Just wish there were people willing to bite the bullet and make the plunge in order to move forward in resolving the situation.



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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