In this issue:
- Toll Truckways Launch a Rousing Success
- HOT Networks Effort Moving Forward
- What Happened to the 91 Express Lanes?
June 6 was a big day for us in Washington. We held a standing-room-only news conference in the Rayburn House Office Building to unveil, officially, our Toll Truckways proposal. Endorsing the concept was Chairman Don Young of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, whose comments were picked up far and wide in the news media. Appearing in support along with Young and me were former DOT Secretary Jim Burnley and National Safety Council vice president Chuck Hurley. An hour later, in his luncheon talk at the Road Gang meeting, ARTBA president Pete Ruane praised the report. Later in the day, the American Trucking Associations issued a very positive statement about our proposal. And even the Association of American Railroads endorsed aspects of the plan.
Media coverage was more than we’d expected. In addition to the predictable trade journal coverage (Traffic World, Engineering News-Record, etc.), the Los Angeles Times did a feature story the day of our event, complete with illustration, that was picked up in dozens of other papers around the country. A number of other papers did their own stories and/or wrote editorials, mostly positive. I was interviewed on a number of radio talk shows, too. Amazingly, what we’d conceived as a largely within-the-transportation-community issue struck a chord in the larger society, primarily on the issue of separating cars from heavy trucks. Hopefully, that interest will continue as Young and his colleagues address the issue in reauthorization hearings.
My colleague Ken Orski and I are hard at work on a new policy study that will define and make the case for a successor to America’s not-too-successful experiment with HOV lanes. In briefest summary, we argue that, as shown by the new 2000 journey-to-work census data, carpooling has lost mode share in 36 of the largest 40 metro areas since 1990—despite massive expenditures on building HOV lanes and promoting the concept. This investment can be salvaged, we argue, by doing three things. First, convert the concept from HOV to HOT—i.e., let ordinary single-occupant cars use the lanes for a market price. Second, use the revenues (plus FHWA and FTA funds) to build out the system of limited-access lanes into a usable network on the congested freeway system. And third, take advantage of this relatively congestion-free network to make far greater use of express bus/BRT than is typical of urban transit operations (except in Houston).
Ken has already had two opportunities to brief members of Congress on this concept. On March 19 he was one of six distinguished transportation experts invited to address the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on “Mobility, Congestion, and Intermodalism.” His testimony included an introduction of HOT Networks, as one of eight key ideas for reauthorization. Sen. Bob Smith followed up after the hearing with a request for more details on HOT Networks, which Ken provided. He also addressed the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, on reauthorization ideas, on May 21, again introducing the concept of HOT Networks. You can find both testimonies at www.innobriefs.com/editor.html. And while I’m at it, let me recommend that you subscribe to Ken—s outstanding transportation newsletter, Innovation Briefs. You can find a summary of the current issue at www.innobriefs.com.
If you’re not in California, you may be only vaguely aware that the world’s first successful example of privately financed HOT lanes is in the process of being “nationalized”-or perhaps I should say “county-ized.” For a variety of local political reasons, the Orange County Transportation Authority has reached an agreement to buy out the franchise of California Private Transportation Company, the company that conceived, designed, financed, built, and operates the 91 Express Lanes. It’s a complicated story, which I examined at some length in my column last month in Public Works Financing. I’m attaching that piece to this newsletter, if you want all the details.