Surface Transportation Innovations #7

Topics include: Reason's new HOT networks study, the HOT networks news conference in Washington, DC, and media coverage of Reason's HOT networks report.
In this issue:

HOT Networks Overview

Earlier this week, Reason Foundation released a new policy study, "HOT Networks: A New Plan for Congestion Relief and Better Transit." Researched and written by Ken Orski and Robert Poole, it suggests re-using the nation's investment in HOV lanes. Specifically, it proposes converting them to "super-HOT" lanes linked together into a seamless network overlaid on a metro area's freeway system. Our proposal would marry two policy innovations of the past decade: HOT Lanes and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), by creating uncongested networks on which high-quality express bus service could operate, along with vanpools and paying vehicles.

By "super-HOT" we mean that only very high-occupancy vehicles would use the network at no charge: van-pools and buses. All others would pay a market price, which would be varied in real time (as on San Diego's I-15 HOT lanes) to keep the lanes flowing at free-flow conditions. Each metro area's HOT Network would incorporate the existing HOV lanes, converted to the super-HOT operating concept. Toll revenues from those lanes and those added to fill in missing links would be used to support toll revenue bonds to pay for adding the missing links and interchange flyover connections to create a truly seamless network, as well as the electronics and video equipment needed for electronic tolling.

The quantitative portion of the study involved defining hypothetical HOT Networks for eight of America's most-congested metro areas (based on TTI's congestion rankings): Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Washington, DC, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. We estimated the costs of completing each network and used a revenue-estimating procedure to come up with a baseline toll revenue figure for each, on which we based a proposed bond issue for each. Overall, we estimated that two-thirds of the capital costs could be covered by the revenue bonds. (For individual networks, the amount covered ranged from a low of 43% in Miami and 93% in the San Francisco Bay Area.) All eight networks-based largely on the long-range HOV plans of the MPO in each locale-would total $43 billion, of which $29 billion would come from toll revenue bonds. That represents $29 billion of net new investment, beyond that available from traditional transportation funding sources.

We summarized the benefits of adopting the HOT Network approach as follows. They would provide:

  • "Congestion insurance" for all drivers, when they really need to make on-time trips;

  • Greater person-throughput than nearly all real-world HOV lanes, thanks to both the express bus service and to use of all of the lanes' vehicular capacity;

  • A significant degree of self-support, from toll revenues; and

  • Ease of enforcement, thanks to all vehicles having transponders (and not having to count heads, as on traditional HOV or HOT lanes).

You can download either the 8-page summary or the full 46-page report from the Reason website. The short version is at www.reason.org/ps305polsum.pdf. And the full-length version is at www.reason.org/ps305.pdf.


News Conference Illustrates Broad Support

In the process of putting the draft of this study through the peer review process, we were pleased to get both useful feedback and considerable support for the concept. So we decided to include in our Washington, DC news conference a panel of experts-in addition to co-author Ken and me-that reflects the breadth of this support. Thus, our panel consisted of:

  • Shane Ham, senior analyst at Progressive Policy Institue/DLC;

  • Dr. Ron Kirby, transportation director, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments;

  • Michael Replogle, transportation director, Environmental Defense;

  • Lon Anderson, director of public affairs, AAA-Mid-Atlantic.

Lon was unable to appear in person, but gave us a strong statement in support of HOT Networks. Michael stressed the importance of the transit elements and offered several suggested modifications in that direction. Shane noted that PPI/DLC has already endorsed HOT Networks in its recommendations to Congress for TEA-21 reauthorization. And Ron talked about planned studies of adding HOT Lanes to the Beltway and other DC-area freeways.

We had a good turnout, and lots of good questions from the media, government, and industry people attending.


Media Coverage Thus Far

We've had media coverage in all eight metro areas addressed in the study, plus a comprehensive piece in the New York Times by John Tierney, which I'm attaching. Other coverage thus far includes the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Orange County Register, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Based on who else we've spoken with, I expect a number of other print media stories in coming days, and we continue to do radio (and an occasional TV) interview, as well. All in all, we're very pleased with the initial response.

Robert Poole is Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy





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