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.
"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.