September 20, 2010

Debut of East Bay HOT Lanes

From the SF Chronicle: New express lanes create confusion, congestion

Image stolen from Transbay blog

Interstate 680 has unveiled its new market-priced toll lane: instead of a free carpool lane, anyone who wants to pay the toll can drive in the lane. First catch: you need to have a Fastrak transponder. Second catch: from the looks of the article, there's gonna be a learning curve. In this case, an extra 3 miles of traffic. Officials seemed confident that by the end of the week, improvements would manifest themselves.

The toll ranges from 30 cents in off peak hours to a maximum of $4-6 dollars. In other words, whatever it takes to keep the flow moving. I'd love to hear more about how they shift the price: do they have some chap watching the live video feed? Are electronic sensors good enough to compute changes in the speed of traffic and increase the toll electronically, instantly, and deduct corresponding amounts from computer chips whizzing underneath them at 60mph? And what are the ratios--does a 5mph drop in speed = a 50 cent rise in price? An interesting economics case study on what people will pay ... and in social equity and in reinforcing divides between haves and have nots. High-Occupancy Tolls may boost efficiency, but the inequality counterargument is an interesting one. Do all citizens have the right to automobile convenience? No, but all citizens have the right to mobility. 

Sans effective public transit (and land use that supports transit) we have Impasse.

A little more detail over at Transbay.

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