Friday, December 16, 2011

HOT Lane Transponders, Congestion as an Advantage, Congestion Pricing, Roadbuilding Costs

A potpourri of interrelated recent articles ...

HOT Lanes are supposed to be free for large carpools, discounted for small carpools and full price for solo drivers. Recall that the purpose of HOT Lanes is twofold: (1) Incentivize Transit and Carpooling and, (2) Have low occupancy vehicles pay congestion insurance (toll). The correct term is not toll but Congestion Insurance because HOT Lanes guarantee over 45 mph speed, whereas common tollways charge a toll and may serve abundant bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The problem is this: HOT Lanes use electronic non-stop no-toll-booth tolling at freeway speeds. So how do large carpools go free, low carpools pay a discounted toll and solo drivers pay the full toll? This article from Orange County shows the electronic solution.

Yogi Berra once said, "nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded." In the article The Case for Congestion, John Norquist who served as mayor of Milwaukee from 1988-2004 proposes that congestion is a positive attribute for a city. It shows that a city is vibrant, dynamic and bustling, as opposed to decaying and lethargic.

However, too much congestion puts a lid on the economic growth and long term sustainability of a city, so congestion reduction techniques are always in demand, particularly when they tend to be popular and relatively inexpensive. In A Blueprint for Beating Traffic, Eric Jaffe summarizes the success of Road Pricing in Stockholm, Sweden. Interestingly, some of the road pricing collections are being used by the Swedeish government to build one of the modern under-city roadway tunnels, Södra Länken, to relieve bottlenecks and to facilitate traffic and the economy of the city.

And when it comes to costs, new U.S. roadways cost much much less that new U.S. rail lines, as Randal O'Toole explains in Highway Cost Overruns.