Metro Moves Forward with Confused “Congestion Pricing”

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Yesterday, the Metro, aka LACMTA, announced the details of it’s HOT Lanes FAST Lanes Express Lanes proposal to take existing carpool lanes on the I-10 and I-110 freeways into and out of Downtown Los Angeles.  While the new plan has been tweaked from the one outlined last August in one aspect, it is still missing one of the basic precepts of congestion pricing: congestion pricing should reduce the demand for car travel.

First, let’s outline the basics of the plan.  Toll Lanes on the I-10 and I-110 will be converted to toll lanes for non HOV and transit vehicles.  Using variable toll technology, commuters of any type of will be able to use the new toll lane for a price ranging from between twenty five cents and $1.40.  However, the toll lanes will close to non-HOV and Transit vehicles if average speed in the toll lanes falls to below forty-five miles per hour.

The variable toll lanes are part of Metro’s pilot program to experiment with congestion pricing that will begin in December of 2010.  The rest of the plan involves using hundreds of millions of federal dollars to increase transit options, widen on ramps and Adams Ave where much of the 110 traffic will funnel into City streets.

So here’s the rub, there is nothing in the congestion pricing plan that encourages people to drive less.  The plan removes no current drivers from the current car pool lane, even "HOV-2" vehicles at any point.  Then taking the "congestion" out of congestion pricing, the lane will actually be closed to paying vehicles during the most congested periods.  In other words, this plan will not effect traffic during the most congested periods.

The difference between this plan and the one outlined in August of 2008 is that this plan closes the Express Lanes based on traffic volume instead of on whether or not it’s rush hour.  I guess you could call this plan anti-Congestion Pricing.  If it’s congested, it’s not priced.

But, the plan isn’t finalized yet.  In fact, starting Saturday, there will be a series of hearings on the proposal.  For a full list, read on after the jump.  I’ll be going to one next Monday, if you want me to carry your thoughts with me to enter into public comment, leave them in the Streetsblog comment section below.

Saturday, June 13, 2009
10 a.m. – Noon
Metro Board Room 3rd Fl.
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles

Monday, June 15, 2009
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Carson Community Center
Adult Activity Room
801 E. Carson St.
Carson

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Sector
Council Chambers
3449 Santa Anita Ave. 3rd Fl.
El Monte

Saturday, June 20, 2009
10 a.m. – Noon
West Covina Civic Center
Community Room
1444 W. Garvey Ave.
West Covina

Monday, June 22, 2009
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Civic Center Library
Meeting Room
3301 Torrance Blvd.
Torrance

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