Saturday, October 27, 2018

Opinion: Motorists Should Re-Elect Governor Hogan

Maryland's upcoming election could have huge implications for transportation policy for years to come.  Motorists, who represent the vast majority of commuters, unfortunately often allow their voices to go unheard and unrepresented.

One of Governor Larry Hogan's first acts upon taking office was to lower tolls on numerous facilities which had been raised substantially under his predecessor.  Hogan also cut fees on motorists including registration fees, vehicle title fees, and vehicle emissions inspection fees, and eliminated the monthly fee on Maryland EZPass.   In addition, road projects which had been put on the back burner under the previous administration have been re-prioritized, including allocating $2billion in funding to rehabilitate 69 failing bridges.  Hogan has pushed for a balanced transportation funding policy which has restored funding for many road projects without ignoring transit projects where they make sense.

If Hogan is not re-elected we believe Maryland could return to the days when the interests of motorists are completely de-prioritized.  Under the previous administration, the Maryland DOT actively promoted speed cameras and we saw a vast expansion of photo enforcement throughout the state.  Now at least motorists have a chance to be heard.  For example, earlier this year Hogan signed legislation (Sponsored by Delegate Marc Korman and supported by the Maryland Drivers Alliance) that would prevent red light camera tickets from being issued at locations where yellow lights are shorter than SHA requirements.  The previous administration appears to have allowed agencies to get away with violating yellow light timing regulations and guidelines with impunity, including at one location where a more than 50% drop in violations occurred after a small increase in yellow light times was implemented to comply with SHA standards which had been on the books for 13 years but which were completely ignored by the SHA and county governments under the previous administration.

This is not to say we should not push the Hogan administration to do more to keep the needs and rights of ordinary people who drive to work every day at the top of the priority list.  There are concerns that plans to widen I-270 and the beltway with express toll lanes could result in ridiculously high tolls like those which have recently been charged in Virginia on I-66.  If road expansion must involve new toll facilities, then motorists should insist that drivers and commuters be given a larger say in the setting of toll rates and that any tolls be strictly capped at a level which ordinary commuters can afford and at a level which maximizes overall traffic flow, not just traffic flow for the very wealthy.

We also should insist that Hogan do more to curb abuses in photo enforcement programs.  When he ran in 2014, Hogan listed "Speed Cameras" among 40 taxes and fees which his predecessor had raised.  We are no longer seeing the rapid expansion of speed cameras which might have continued had he not been in office, but we think it is time to for the administration do more.  The Hogan administration should advocate for the repeal of speed cameras, or at least support legislation which we have advocated to protect the legal rights of motorists by requiring that citation images contain sufficient information to dispute inaccurate speed readings in court and requiring that all equipment comply with national standards set by the NHTSA and IACP.

Drivers should not allow a return to that indifference to the rights of motorists or the needs of everyday commuters, nor should we want to see a return to the days when drivers were simply considered revenue sources. Governor Larry Hogan has done well by motorists and deserves a second term.