Just as transportation policy screams out for pricing to combat gridlock and parking woes, some are piping up with proposals that would reverse the kind of pricing successes we’ve seen in London and in California’s HOT lanes. The trend (as reflected in current proposals on the federal level and in California) is to reserve precious road space for carpoolers and low-emission hybrids. Here’s Ken Orski: The original rationale for giving priority to carpoolers was to conserve fuel. But today, with the number of carpoolers dwindling and with the remaining carpools largely among family members (who would share a ride with or without an HOV incentive), reserving this valuable space for such a relatively small band of commuters simply makes no sense. Evidence from California’s express toll lanes shows that drivers are willing to pay 50-60 cents per mile for the privilege of traveling in congestion-free lanes. Express Toll Lanes thus offer a potential to generate millions of dollars in toll revenue — money that could be used to supplement the gas tax and improve our highways and transit service. As for letting low-emission vehicles to use HOV lanes for free, “it’s crazy to give away this valuable space to people who would be buying hybrids anyway,” says [Reason’s Bob] Poole. Hybrids are already selling very well, with long waiting lists and in some case at premium prices. The California Air Resources Board estimates that 55,000 hybrid vehicles will be on California highways by 2007 — with or without the HOV incentive. Letting 55,000 hybrids into Express Toll Lanes for free would quickly fill up those lanes, deprive motorists of a congestion-free alternative and foreclose the opportunity to provide regional express bus service. And here Peter Gordon criticizes a plan that would give free parking to hybrids.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.