Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DC proposal for HOT lanes doesn't seem to make sense

The point of HOT or High Occupancy Toll lanes is (1) adding lanes (2) accessible only by paying tolls (3) financed through private ventures expecting toll revenues to be high (4) but allowing vehicles with multiple passengers ("high occupancy") free or reduced pricing.

Basically they are HOT or "High Occupancy" or pay "Tolls" lanes -- HO/T lanes.

The lanes can be controversial because much of the momentum for creating them is ideological (such as in Virginia and Maryland, where projects were pushed forward by Republican Governors) and desperation to come up with money for freeway expansion, because they are more about generating new revenues and could be seen as inducing more driving, just for people who are willing to pay a premium price.  See "For Virginia commuters, new era begins with HOT lanes" and "Highway historian looks at HOT lanes projects" from the Washington Post.

Arlington County did not allow HOT lanes to be installed on freeways in their jurisdiction, because they believed that such lanes would be contradictory to their Master Transportation Goals that de-emphasize "single occupancy vehicle" trips ("Arlington Will Withdraw HOT Lanes Suit," Arlington Now).

Washington Post graphic showing where proposed HOT lanes in DC would be placed.

Yesterday's Post has an article "DC considers adding carpool, toll lanes to part of the 14th Street bridge," stating that DC's Dept. of Transportation is proposing some high occupancy toll lanes on the city's freeways "to reduce congestion."

HOT lanes in DC wouldn't be new lanes, but repositioning of current lanes.

But I don't think they'll have much impact on reducing congestion because driving in DC on these roads is a function of moving "between other places" and if the origin and destination points don't have comparable congestion reduction measures in place, HOT lanes in DC won't make much difference.  Also see "DC HOT lanes plan will bump into reality" from the Washington Post.

They might raise some revenue though.  And since they wouldn't involve the construction of new lanes, the costs to impose the tolls wouldn't be that great.

Still, I would argue that this is yet another proposal in need of guidance from a Master Transportation Plan.

But I could be swayed if the city would commit all the revenues to other transportation improvements elsewhere in the city.

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