Monday, May 5, 2008

Some thoughts on the LA Congestion charging plan

Here are my thoughts on the congestion charging plan for certain LA “free”ways: I posted this response on LA Times’ LA Now blog.

1) The "Taxes already paid to build it argument" ignores the fact that gas tax is NOT indexed to inflation, so even if you (actually you 20-50 years ago) paid to build it, you are not paying enough to maintain it, and improve it.

2) It is a great irony of transportation planning that the carpool lanes are full at peak hours, but carpooling is declining as a portion of work trips in the LA area. This is because more people are traveling. So while it seems that backups in the carpool lane is a sign that they are working that also leads more people to abandon carpooling.

3) Also keep in mind that congestion charging increases real carpooling (taking your kids to school doesn't really reduce traffic, because you would have been taking that trip anyways). Even though you have to pay a toll if you can share that toll it is in effect reduced for each passenger and the driver.

4) One of the reasons the carpool lanes break down is that one slow person can ruin the flow of traffic. For that reason the pilot project has to be in specific carpool lanes where there are two lanes in each direction, and the lanes are easily separated from normal traffic.

5) The principle idea behind congestion pricing is that the price will keep traffic moving. Ironically this will mean that the free flowing lanes will carry more people then the jam packed normal lanes.

6) Finally, this is a pilot project. If it doesn't work then raise a fuss then, but at least give it a shot. Newspaper writers and blog commenters are always complaining that nobody does anything, and then when an agency tries something, they keep complaining!!! And no, I don't work at the MTA, but I am a transportation planner, and I want to see public agencies at least get the chance to try these ideas out.

Read the facts and figures on the 91 toll lanes. I was opposed to the ideas behind toll lanes until I started reading about them. The "Lexus lanes" criticism has proven not to be true.