Some Like It HOT: Metro Studying More Roads for Congestion Pricing

Metro will look at five corridors to convert HOV lanes to HOT lanes.  For a better look, visit our ##http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=34.086787,-118.042603&spn=0.491332,1.091766&t=h&z=10&msid=101639407016372706927.000494fe23c1718325ab4##Google Map##
Metro will look at five corridors to convert HOV lanes to HOT lanes. For a better look, visit our ##http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=34.086787,-118.042603&spn=0.491332,1.091766&t=h&z=10&msid=101639407016372706927.000494fe23c1718325ab4##Google Map##

Drivers willing to pay an extra fee for a congestion free commute could get some good news in the coming months.

Buried in a Metro Board Subcommittee report is an interesting update on Metro’s congestion pricing plans.  In addition to turning standard HOV Lanes on the I-10 and I-110 into HOV and toll lanes during non peak hour periods, a move that seems more about capacity expansion plan than congestion reduction; the MTA is also planning to study whether to bring congestion pricing in some form or another to five more stretches of Los Angeles County Highways.

Staff is proposing to study five stretches of highway to assess the feasibility of expanding their Congestion Pricing program.  If you can’t read the map above, the report recommends studying:

  • 1-1 05, from 1-405 to 1-605
  • 1-405, from 1-105 to 1-5 north of LAX
  • SR91, from 1-1 10 to the Orange County Line
  • SR57, from SR60 to the Orange County Line
  • Additional consideration may also be warranted for the 1-10 between 1-605 and the San Bernardino County Line.

These corridors were selected based on a criteria created by the federal government.  Every corridor was rated on connectivity, constructability, transit benefits and revenue potential.  This last category is a tricky issue for Metro who stated over and over again, in the face of harsh media criticism, that their congestion pricing plans are about reducing congestion and protecting investment in HOV lanes.  The “revenue potential” of these tolls was just a bonus.

At this point, Metro isn’t using the term “Express Lanes” to discuss the study.  “Express Lanes” is the term they created for their almost-congestion-pricing pilot plans for the I-10 and I-110 that will begin construction sometime in 2011.  As we discussed earlier, the Express Lanes concept, which doesn’t change any part of the road pattern during rush hour, would allow drivers of single passenger vehicles to buy a congestion free ride during non-peak hours by buying their way into the carpool lane.

Instead, Express Lanes’ impact on peak hour travel time is limited to the transit expansion projects that the federal government paid for to entice Metro to experiment with HOV/Express Lanes conversion.

As for these five corridors, Metro staff says its way to soon to know what form, if any, congestion pricing might take.  But one thing is for certain, Metro’s plans for congestion pricing in existing HOV lanes go way beyond a one year pilot study on the I-10 and I-110.

  • Carter R

    There’s an important feature of congestion pricing or HOT lanes that often gets overlooked.

    Right now, when you’re driving on a traffic choked freeway, you are paying for that trip in time. Econ 101 says time=money, i.e. extra time spent on the freeway in traffic is time commuters could be making money at their job or spending time with their family.

    Right now, our system forces drivers to spend time in order to save money. More money can always be earned, but time is quite literally a resource that cannot be renewed.

    What congestion pricing and HOT lanes do is give drivers the option and choice to spend money to save time. This benefits all highway users, not just high income earners.

    This is an important clarification to keep in mind when people invariably start howling that congestion pricing is a communist plot by the…oh wait it was the Bush Administration…to force people out of their cars.

  • This is the most exciting thing I’ve heard all day.

  • OMG THIS IS SO EXCITE! Score one for the efficient use of public resources!

  • Carter R

    I think the key to make the financial aspect of this palatable is a guarantee that the revenue generated will be put in a Gore-ian lockbox set aside exclusively for:

    a) transit service improvements
    b) transit infrastructure improvements
    c) highway repairs, maintenance, bridge replacement
    d) a pool for local road projects via Metro’s “call for projects”
    e) worst case scenario – highway expansion

    My preference would be a balance of a-d, but I suspect to make this palatable politically, the bulk is going to have to go to c) highway maintenance, which in the scheme of things is a legitimate goal.

    Any idea how much revenue this could generate?

    Cocktail napkin calculation.

    300,000 cars go through the sepulveda pass every day, say 15% of capacity is converted to HOT lanes, that’s 45,000 cars, each paying (pulls number out of thin air) $2/trip. That’s $90,000/day or about $32,000,000 per year just coming from the Sepulveda pass.

    That’s a nice chunk of change for one stretch using probably a low-ball $2 estimate.

  • Joseph E

    “That’s $90,000/day or about $32,000,000 per year just coming from the Sepulveda pass.”

    Not much, however, compared to the $1 billion dollar cost of adding the north-bound carpool/HOT lane. At that price, it would take over 60 years to pay back the investment (ignoring inflation and opportunity costs). However, a higher toll, say $5, could pay off the construction costs in reasonable time-frame, and provide a fair return on investment.

    If we consider the toll lanes in Orange County as an example, it would be difficult to set the price high enough to actually pay for the lanes, without taking away existing “free”way capacity.

  • One fact perhaps lost in the coverage of this topic: Metro staff will get pizz-aid whether the HOT/HOV/Whatever gets completed or not.

    Score one for Team Taj Mahal, suckers!

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