Friday, November 30, 2007

’Tis the season

An effort in Washington state expected to draw consideration during the 2008 regular legislative session could lead to truckers and other drivers reaching into their wallets more often while traveling in the state.

Key legislators at the statehouse say charging a fee to highway users isn’t too far down the road. They want to advance legislation to the governor that would create a framework for collecting tolls.

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridge already is tolled. A new Highway 520 floating bridge between Seattle and Bellevue would also be tolled.

Transportation leaders at the capitol predict tolling to be more widespread in the state’s not-to-distant future. They cite Puget Sound voters’ rejection on Election Day for a massive roads and transit funding measure.

Senate Transportation chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen and House Transportation chairwoman Judy Clibborn are drafting legislation for consideration during the session that begins Jan. 14 that would give the state Legislature authority to impose tolls on unspecified roads and bridges. An appointed panel would set the rates that could continue to be collected after a project is paid off.

This should be a reminder for voters everywhere that it is never a bad time to pick up a phone, pen a letter, or type on your keyboard a message to your elected officials about your thoughts on issues of importance to you.

It is a good idea to spend a few moments now chatting with your lawmakers before the hustle and bustle that accompanies the new legislative year when legislators have different things thrown their way all day every day. Give them something to think about now so they can remember it when discussion at the capitol turns to the topic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What happens in your Vega …

Because we are a car-oriented culture, the line between home and car continues to blur.

We’re already seeing cars wired up for Web surfing and plumbed for portable toilets; our mobile sound systems are often better than what we have at home; and, with vans and SUV models whose rear seats fold down, it’s not inconceivable that some Los Angelinos may soon be power napping while stuck in cross-state traffic. (Which proves everything old is new again – The 1946 Nash Rambler offered newly demobilized soldiers a mobile bunk on wheels.

Of course, many parents will tell you that the advent of DVD players in automobiles has been a godsend for those traveling with children. This week, though, an Irving, TX, man allegedly was using his car’s DVD for a less than godly purpose.

Police say he was watching porn, had a beer in his car, and carried no driver’s license. Although he did pull over for at least part of the film, when he started up again, an alert officer whose suspicions were aroused by the driver’s behavior pulled him over. The details are here.

I don’t have to tell you that this was just a lucky collar. You see this kind of behavior and far more bizarre stuff every day. It’s not even new; authorities have been worried about it since at least 2004, as another in the growing list of ABD (Anything But Drive) activities that distract drivers and put us all in peril. Instead of bumper stickers that say “Shut Up and Drive,” maybe our bumper stickers should just say … “Zip It.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A double standard?

By now, you may have heard about the journalists in Quebec, Canada, who witnessed provincial Transportation Minister Julie Boulet’s limo driver breaking various speed laws following their departure from a press conference concerning speed.

If Boulet is going to target speeders – you gotta love the irony – the transportation minister needs to be held to a high standard.

She has apologized and has “reassigned” her driver to other duties, and I am pretty sure the people will accept her apology. After all, she claims to have slept through the one-hour ride.

Bravo to the Journal de Montreal for some gutsy frontline work in reporting the story.

I believe the media have a right to be skeptical of Boulet’s proposed legislation to crack down on speeding, which includes a proposal for mandatory speed limiters on heavy trucks.

Is her speed proposal well-advised? We have our doubts. Will it cut down on speeders? It might, but journalists have a free pass to question it at this point.

The French media have Boulet on the run, and we are anxious to see what happens next.