What a Difference Two Years Makes. Warm Reception for Congestion pricing in San Gabriel Valley

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##

Throughout 2008, local politicians and the media seemed to be in a race to see who could say more substance-free attacks on converting HOV Lanes on two Los Angeles freeeways.  In particular, politicians of both parties representing the San Gabriel Valley, including Member of Congress, State Senators and County Supervisors on the Metro Board, threw such a fit they managed to get one freeway, the I-210, removed from the proposal.

Along with those nasty off-peak toll lanes, these leaders managed to chase off hundreds of millions of federal dollars for transit improvements that the federal government was offering as a carrot to agencies for a one-year pilot program.  If you consider that Metro’s final plan for the pilot project won’t remove any cars from the HOV lanes that are being converted, those “leaders” have to be smarting that they basically gave away a hundred million dollars.  Yet, outside of Streetsblog, nobody has seemed to call them on it.

Which is why it is somewhat surprising to see the San Gabriel Valley Tribune publish an editorial that’s basically a lukewarm embrace of Metro’s plans to study converting HOV to variable toll lanes on five more stretches of L.A. County freeways…especially since this time there’s no promise of transit improvements to go with the toll lanes.  The editorial recognizes that someone has to pay to maintain our highway system, and it might as well be the people that use it.

We know deep down in our fuel injectors that we pay for the roadways one way or another, even if we never drive on a particular one, and that doing so directly – throwing bills into the gaping maw of a booth, or having a FastTrak device attached to our windshields – may make some economic sense.
Such a measured response would have benefited residents of the San Gabriel Valley in 2008 when Supervisor Michael Antonovich pushed the Metro Board to remove the 210 from Metro’s original congestion pricing plan.  The hundreds in millions in transit improvements for the corridor would already have been spent to relieve thousands of residents of their car-dependency.  Meanwhile, Metro hasn’t even begun construction of the much-feared toll booths on its replacement freeway, the I-110.
But this time around, Antonovich’s office is also taking a wait and see approach.  They tell the Tribune:

“It’s an interesting study,” said Antonovich’s transportation deputy, Michael Cano. “In our mind set its more theoretical at this point. We’re not opposed to the idea of toll lanes. But we’d like to see how the 10 corridor plays out first.”

Congestion pricing supporters welcome this change-of-heart from leaders in the San Garbiel Valley.  Hopefully it leads to a more balanced and sustainable highway system in San Gabriel and beyond.
  • Erik G.

    Remember: ALL vehicles using these lanes in LA County, post-HOT conversion, will need to have a FasTrak. Even the the 3-plus vehicles that use the lanes today for free, and will be free after conversion to HOT WILL NEED A TRANSPONDER!

    This is not the practice in other jurisdictions, such as Washington State DOT’s SR-167 HOT lanes:

    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/SR167HotLanes/default.htm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157604901791163/with/4986563115/

  • @Erik G.

    This will serve to increase both the speed of adoption, and also the total number of vehicles with transponders. High penetration is critical to rolling out HOT onto other roadways.

    Congestion-based tolling of selected lanes is one of the most viable methods of transportation finance. It creates additional value (less travel time for individuals, more individuals served as a result of maintaining lane throughput), and users can opt in to purchase some of that created value.

    I’m not aware of any other form of transportation finance that is so good at creating value, and capturing a portion of that value while giving users an option of whether or not they wish to opt-in.

    Once implemented, it’s a win-win, and LA County will be a more livable place with a comprehensive HOT system and the roadway maintenance and transit projects the revenue can fund.

  • Erik G. my biggest concern, as someone who travels a lot, is that every city is doing it differently, and when driving at 70mph, those signs aren’t enough of an explanation.

    Off the top of my head, to gain free access as a carpool

    -LA requires you to have a transponder and set it to 2 or 3+
    -Bay area requires nothing, they post a cop to see if you have enough people in the car. A light tells them you didnt pay.
    -Miami requires car pools to register their license plates in advance with the county. You must be a daily carpool commuter, having 6 kids in the minivan is not enough.

    It’s a mess.

  • Erik G.

    Precisely Jass!

    There is NO national standard.

    And Juan, I thought the reason these lanes were added was to incentivize (using time savings) the full utilization of the capacity of a vehicle; filling two or three of the 4 or 5 seats that an automobile offers. But now we are telling the driver who has taken the time to round up one or two passengers to then take another step to be able to buy into a lane that used to be free and exclusive.

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