Add-on Fee-ver

You remember Fran Inman. From her position as Vice Chair of the Transportation and Goods Movement, she was the first to caution West Coast port officials and politicians about a threatened “tipping point”. Fee after fee had been proposed by various headline seekers in response to concerns about traffic congestion and air pollution, and as these add-on fees were being selectively attached, it became apparent to Ms. Inman, and others, that the camel’s back could support only so much.

On the table at the present time are proposals for programs and supporting container fees that, if approved, would greatly exceed what studies have shown to be the “tipping point”, so something’s gotta give. The programs intended to reduce some of the area’s congestion and pollution problems are receiving widespread support, however, and because of the general feeling that container fees are the only logical means of raising the needed funds, some are determined to impose those fees.

A Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner has assigned the commission port staff the task of determining whether the PierPass OffPeak program is still necessary. Although initial reports attested to the success of the program, the organization has not issued program updates in almost a year, and the failure to do so has caught the attention of the above-mentioned commissioner as well as others. The pros and cons of the program have been discussed ad nauseam, but the underlying reason for the commissioner’s concern is not whether or not the PierPass program is of any value, his real concern is that the $ 50 per TEU PierPass add-on fee is now an obstacle to the funding of those programs which address the health and well-being of residents in port communities.

Aware that his Port of Los Angeles’ TEU volume last month was 6.1 percent lower than the corresponding month in 2007, the commissioner is seeking to determine what effect this reduction in cargo volume and the proposed container fees will have on the future of the OffPeak program. Translated, this all means that PierPass hasn’t just become an obstacle … it has become expendable. The commissioner needs that $ 50 fee, and now we have the makings of another backyard brawl.

And it’s all unnecessary. Traffic problems and pollution can be reduced, and almost eliminated, if port officials and elected politicians would put the common good ahead of their personal ambition. There’s no logical reason for jamming so many containers through those congested SoCal ports. Greed is the driving force behind this insanity, and as far as the greedy ones are concerned, if the health and well-being of the community is to be considered, then let the people themselves … the consumers and taxpayers … foot the bill by eating the cost of add-on container fees and taxes.

Instead of spending billions in stupid attempts to maintain the status quo, if officials would retrofit West Coast ports with our patented container handling system, congestion and pollution would be a thing of the past. Mr. Mineta foresaw the need for additional container handling ports, you recall, and the longer his advice is ignored the more costly it will be for consumers and the unemployed.

[Our West Coast Canadian and Mexican neighbors didn’t ignore his words, you’ll notice. They’re building new ports, expanding old ones and attracting more and more cargo. Dumb foreigners.]