Letter to the Editor at the Houston Chronicle
In its critique of the Commissioners Court decision to rescind the toll increase on the Westpark Tollway ("Don't take a hike!," June 22), the Chronicle chooses to perpetuate the myth that rail transit is a realistic solution to Houston's congestion woes. At best, light and commuter rail will only be able to serve a limited, niche market in a decentralized metro area like Houston, with its multiple employment centers and a dispersed population.
The Chronicle also presents a false choice between tolling and mass transit, instead of looking in its own backyard to see how the two can work together in tandem. The toll lanes being developed on the Katy Freeway offer a cutting-edge congestion management strategy that will benefit both drivers and transit riders.
The existing HOV lanes will be replaced with four high-occupancy toll lanes, where carpoolers and transit riders still ride for free, but single and double-occupancy vehicles would pay a toll that rises and falls with congestion. METRO is guaranteed a significant portion of the lanes' capacity, with variable pricing ensuring reliable, free-flow conditions for up to 65 high-speed, express buses per hour.
This form of congestion pricing is a proven demand management strategy that will offer sustainable congestion relief to commuters, and the same model should be explored for the Westpark.