Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter

Surface Transportation News #130

Tolls beat taxes in recent surveys

In this issue:

Surveys Show Americans Prefer Tolls Over Tax Increases

The latest Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey asked six questions about transportation policy. The most newsworthy results came from the question about Interstate modernization. The question read as follows: “To pay for repairing and expanding Interstate highways, would you rather raise the gas tax or pay tolls when you drive on them?” Some 58% selected “pay tolls,” compared with 32% choosing “raise gas tax,” with the rest undecided or refused.

Because the Reason Foundation’s transportation policy research favors toll financing, a few critics implied that the result must reflect some sort of bias. But like all the previous public opinion surveys carried out by Reason-Rupe (funded by the Rupe Foundation), the survey was conducted by a respected polling firm, in this case Princeton Survey Research Associates. They interviewed 1,000 adults, 500 by cell phone and 500 by landlines August 6-10, 2014. The poll’s margin of sampling error is +/-3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The full poll results are online at http://reason.com/poll/2014/08/15/poll-73-percent-of-americans-say-transpo.

Other transportation results were that 46% of respondents favor greater infrastructure investment (vs. 21% saying less and 30% saying about the same), 73% think the government spends existing transportation money inefficiently, and 58% think the top priority should be highways (vs. 38% mass transit and 5% bicycle lanes and trails).

The tolling results are consistent with the findings of a series of “America THINKS” surveys on transportation carried out on behalf of HNTB Corporation in recent years. In the latest of these, released last month, on the question of paying for new roads, 46% of respondents preferred tolling compared with 25% for a gas tax increase and 28% saying don’t build new roads. Tolling was also the most popular option when people were asked about spending more for long-term transportation improvements. And 74% of respondents said they would choose to use priced managed lanes for certain trips, if such lanes were available to them.

These recent results are broadly in line with the findings of a 2008 Transportation Research Board synthesis report, on whose oversight panel I sat. It reviewed 10 years of survey research data on transportation funding related to tolling and road pricing. Its broad conclusion was that “the public favors tolls if the alternative is taxes,” as lead researcher Johanna Zmud summarized the report, Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing (NCHRP Synthesis 377, Transportation Research Board, 2008).

My explanation for these findings is as follows. Given general public opinion that government spends existing transportation money inefficiently, when people are asked to pay higher taxes (especially to the federal government), the only thing they can be sure of is that they will pay more; they are very skeptical that any of the new money will be spent on something that makes their own travel better. But if they support toll financing of new projects, they understand that they will only pay more if (1) a project is built that they could actually use, and (2) the toll represents a good value.

The trucking industry’s anti-tolls group-Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates-tried to cast doubt on the validity of the Reason-Rupe toll findings by pointing out that the same respondents opposed the option of replacing the gas tax with a mileage-based user fee. The implication was that respondents should not be taken seriously, since they did not understand that a per-mile charge is essentially a toll. But that is risible, because the national media have equated mileage-based user fees with Big Brother tracking where and when everyone drives, via a mandated GPS box in every vehicle. Until the transportation community dispels that very misleading idea, survey respondents will continue to oppose MBUFs while supporting tolling over tax increases.

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Hybrids in HOT Lanes

HOV lanes and HOT lanes were created in order to reduce congestion on urban expressways. But politicians love to get credit for promoting “good things,” so there has been a small boom in recent decades to allow other categories of vehicles to use these lanes-in particular hybrids and other inherently low-emission vehicles. In locations where HOV lanes are congested, growing numbers of alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) in coming years will make those lanes even more congested. And where such lanes have been converted to HOT lanes, growing numbers of non-paying vehicles will have two negative effects: (1) reducing the power of variable pricing to eliminate congestion in those lanes, and (2) reducing the revenue needed to expand from just individual priced lanes to whole networks of such lanes.

But these concerns are being recognized by state DOTs and by members of Congress. First, only 13 states have actually chosen to exempt AFVs from the ordinary HOV or HOT lane rules. (You can find details on the 13 state programs in “Impact of Exempt Vehicles on Managed Lanes,” FHWA document FHWA-HOP-14-006, Jan. 15, 2014.) Second, Congress wisely included a sunset date on this exemption: Sept. 30, 2017. Third, in 2012’s MAP-21reauthorization legislation, Congress toughened the requirement that states must achieve at least 45 mph in HOV and HOT lanes during peak periods-or take meaningful corrective action (such as increasing occupancy levels or kicking out non-paying AFVs).

So far, only one state has decided to sunset its own AFV exemption when the federal permission expires in 2017. Florida has only one HOV facility, on I-95 in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. By next year, it will have been converted to HOT between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, with plans to do likewise all the way to West Palm Beach in future years. The I-95 Express Lanes will be a key component in the Southeast Florida Managed Lanes Network that I wrote about in last month’s issue. All the rest of that extensive network will be new capacity (since there are no other HOV lanes to convert). Consequently, revenue will be critically important, as will getting the maximum congestion control from variable pricing by applying it to nearly all the vehicles using the express lanes.

Data from the existing I-95 Express phase 1 shows that hybrids and other AFVs make up 63% of all toll-exempt trips, dwarfing registered carpools (13%) and buses, vanpools, and motorcycles (24%). Had all those vehicles paid the variable tolls in effect at their time of use the AFVs would have paid $752,000, carpools $221,000, and buses, etc. just $46,000. To be sure, tolled vehicles have paid over $81 million in tolls since 95 Express first opened. But the proper time period to look at is not the last five years but the next 25 years. Auto companies, under current federal CAFE standards, must achieve a fleet-wide 54.5 mpg average for new cars by 2025. It’s anyone’s guess what fraction of their production will be hybrids and other forms of AFVs, but it’s likely to be far higher than today’s. So in planning for networks of Managed Lanes, state DOTs would be wise to follow FDOT’s lead and phase out the AFV exemption no later than the federal sunset date.

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The Case for Higher Transit Fares

Citylab.com, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and hosted by The Atlantic, continues to inject fresh thinking into discussions about the future of urban transit. On July 14th Rohit Aggarwala of Columbia University, whose work I’ve cited previously, had a provocative piece on Citylab called “Why Higher Fares Would Be Good for Public Transit.” While acknowledging the very long history of subsidized transit fares, he points out how this well-intended policy seriously short-changes transit investment.

To dramatize his case, he begins with the New York subway and bus system, operated by the MTA. In 2012, $7.7 billion in state and local tax dollars went into this system-about $1,000 for every resident of New York City. But despite the huge need for investment to catch up on deferred maintenance, add several new lines, refurbish dilapidated stations, etc., nearly 60% of that money was used to subsidize operating costs, to keep the fare down to $2.50. That left only $3.2 billion for all capital spending-a proverbial drop in the bucket. As a thought experiment, Aggarwala asks what could be done if the farebox covered operating costs, leaving the entire $7.7 billion for capital improvements. The sensible thing to do would be to use that annual sum as debt service on bonds, which he estimates would finance an $85 billion capital plan. To cover operating costs out of fares, the average fare would need to be $5.81 instead of $2.50. He repeats the same calculations for five other major-city transit systems and three commuter rail systems.

Turning next to the obvious question of how to change to cost-recovery fares, he first challenges two traditional assumptions that were made to justify such low transit fares: that higher fares would drive away passengers (to cars), and that the large majority of transit riders are poor and deserve subsidized rides. At least in major cities for commutes to traditional central business districts, driving is simply not an option for many people, given the high costs of commuting and parking. And large fractions of transit riders-especially on commuter rail-are middle class and above in income level.

In a July 23rd article for NewGeorgraphy.com, Wendell Cox amplified this point. Defining transit subsidies as capital plus operating costs minus fares, he finds that commuter rail and light rail passengers, who are mostly middle income, receive per-trip subsidies three times that of bus and subway riders. As an example, he calculates that a commuter rail passenger to Manhattan from Fairfield County, CT (median family income $102,000) would be subsidized about $4,500 per year for those trips. By contrast, a worker from the Bronx (median family income of $18,500) would get a bus/subway subsidy of just $1,500 per year.

So Aggarwala calls for a lot of creative thinking about how fare structures could be changed, based in part on charging more for higher-quality services and less for lower-demand services. He does not mention a relevant new study from TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program, Characteristics of Premium Transit Services that Affect Choice of Mode, which identifies various premium transit features that many riders would pay more to use. (It’s TCRP Report 166, available at www.trb.org.) And he endorses continued subsidies for those who are clearly low-income and eligible for other forms of public assistance.

This kind of creative thinking is in the same vein as the report I wrote about in the June issue by David Levinson of the University of Minnesota, “How to Make Mass Transit Financially Sustainable Once and for All,” which calls for re-conceptualizing transit as a public utility. That paper was also featured on CityLab.com. I’m glad to see such fresh thinking about urban transit.

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Intercity Bus Services Keep On Expanding

As has been true of the last several years, the new breed of discount intercity bus carriers (such as Megabus and Bolt Bus) grew faster than other intercity modes in 2013. Daily operations by discount carriers increased 4% last year, versus 1% for commercial airlines and 0.6% for intercity rail service. These are among the findings of “Motoring into the Mainstream,” the latest annual report on intercity bus service from the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Developent at DePaul University.

Among the important expansions of were Bolt Bus’s introducing service in California and Nevada, Megabus expansion in Florida, Texas, and the Midwest, Go Bus adding service between Boston and New York, and Greyhound introducing its new Yo! Bus service in the Northeast Corridor. Total daily operations by discount bus carriers (excluding small “Chinatown” buses) nearly doubled from 2010 (when there were 589) to 2013 (with 1,014). Traditional carriers like Greyhound continued to expand premium services to compete with the discount carriers. Greyhound Lines remains the largest intercity carrier by a wide margin, with nearly double the daily operations of second-place Megabus, the largest of the discount carriers.

New in this year’s Chaddick report is a detailed comparison of fares for the alternative modes of intercity travel: bus, train, and airline (as well as driving). While the report goes into many details, the data from its Figure 5 are representative of the findings. It presents the weighted average fare for each mode, based on 54 city-pairs ranging in distance from 80 miles to 500 miles. The results were as follows:

Airline $145.23
Passenger rail 64.19
Driving (variable cost only) 49.44
Intercity bus 30.53

Not included in the Chaddick report is information on the relative “green”-ness of alternative inter-city modes. A report commissioned by the American Bus Association Foundation, released in April 2014, compared the fuel efficiency and carbon emissions of 12 modes of passenger travel. The results from the inter-city modes were as follows:

Mode Passenger miles/gallon CO2 grams/passenger-mile
Car (one occupant) 27.9 368
Airline (domestic) 54.8 188
Amtrak 85.2 147
Motorcoach 239.8 43

One other point not in either report is that according to the U.S. DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, inter-city highway travel by car or bus receives no federal subsidy, and domestic air travel is very close to being self-supporting (with aviation user taxes and airport fees paying for aviation infrastructure). Only Amtrak receives major taxpayer subsidy.

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Update on Florida Passenger Rail

Since last month’s article on the opposition to All Aboard Florida (AAF), which aims to be the first U.S. private sector passenger rail service of the 21st century, there have been several important developments. The company announced that it will proceed with phase 1 of the project, from Miami to West Palm Beach, prior to finalization of the Environmental Impact Statement on phase 2 (from West Palm to Orlando). Agreements have been reached under which AAF and the three county governments involved will upgrade more than 200 railroad crossings to safety standards that will permit the entire phase 1 route to operate as a quiet zone, without the requirement to sound the locomotive’s horn when approaching each crossing. Since such crossing upgrades are a joint responsibility between railroads and road owners, AAF will put in $60 million and the counties about $5 million, which they hope to offset via federal grants available for such purposes.

On the question of whether the Florida DOT’s $214 million loan and grant to Orlando International Airport is a subsidy to AAF, both FDOT and the airport have repeatedly said that the funding is for a long-planned intermodal center that is part of the airport’s master plan that will include a large second terminal. AAF will lease space in the intermodal center at $2.8 million per year, plus pay the airport between $1 and $1.50 per AAF passenger using the facility. Total annual AAF payments to the airport are estimated at $4.5 million per year.

To the best of my knowledge, AAF and Florida East Coast Railway have not yet announced specific fixes for the rail drawbridges that will have to be lowered more frequently across a number of waterways due to significantly increased train operations, thereby delaying the region’s plentiful boating traffic, although they have acknowledged the problem and promised changes.

Finally, due to concerns over the requested RRIF loans for the project, Rep. Bill Posey has asked the Government Accountability Office to assess AAF’s ability to repay the RRIF loans it has requested.

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Autonomous Vehicles Conference Deals with Policy and Regulation

Note: My Reason colleague Baruch Feigenbaum attended last month’s 3rd annual Automated Vehicles Symposium, sponsored by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in conjunction with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (AUVSI). At my request, he provided this report.

The biggest difference from previous AUVSI conferences was a greater focus on policy issues, starting with several interesting plenary sessions. Societal and Non-Technical Challenges included three interesting presentations. Ginger Goodin of Texas A&M Transportation Institute detailed the traditional transportation agencies involved with autonomous vehicle legislation including state DOTs, state legislators, state police, MPOs and transit agencies plus non-traditional transportation agencies such as DMVs and insurance companies. Goodin explained that including all these agencies up-front is critical to developing quality legislation and should lead to quicker acceptance of automated vehicles.

Stanford PhD student Michael Guchwa’s presentation on the local and global environmental impacts of automation was disappointing. Guchwa assumed the generally accepted estimate of a 4-8% increase in vehicle miles of travel (VMT) as a result of reduced congestion. He then used modeling to predict an increase in greenhouse gases and fuel use. Unfortunately he failed to consider that cars 20 years from now will likely produce 50% less greenhouse gases, due to reduced petroleum usage thanks to increased CAFE standards and greater use of hybrid vehicles.

Dr. Ken Laberteaux of Toyota looked at possible impacts on land use from automated driving. Laberteaux found that people are comfortable driving about 45-60 minutes day and prefer to live some distance from where they work. Further, suburbs continue to grow at a faster rate than central cities. Commute time is a factor in where people buy houses, but housing prices and school quality are just as important. Autonomous vehicles are unlikely to lead to increased density and more planned communities, since market forces are moving in the opposite direction.

The California DMV plenary session was also interesting. The statement from presenter Bernard Soriano, “I am a regulator and my job is to regulate,” was not the ideal opening statement. In fact, California has many different agencies writing draft regulations including Caltrans, the Department of Insurance, the Highway Patrol, and the Office of Traffic Safety; NHTSA is assisting at the federal level. While California is not requiring any specific technologies, those testing autonomous vehicles on public roads will need:

  • $5 million in insurance for each driverless vehicle;
  • A special driver’s license;
  • A human being in the driver’s seat at all times;
  • Accidents and incidents to be reported within 10 days; and,
  • An application to the state to test automated vehicles.

The state is still working on regulations for the driving public. Those regulations are due in December and are expected to include provisions that restrict autonomous vehicles to the best drivers. While the state is trying to encourage good driving behavior, preventing the worst drivers from using automated vehicles may be counter-productive. Also troubling, the state is not considering truck automation at this time. Truck convoys could save shippers and thus consumers real money.

There were also several interesting breakout groups. The one on Planning and Modeling Implications of Driverless Cars had the laudable goal of providing advice to MPOs on how to model the effects of driverless vehicles, including travel behavior. One of the challenges here is determining the rate of technology acceptance. It took 17 years for anti-lock brakes to become standard equipment in most cars. Driverless technology is a much greater change.

While the conventional view is that driverless cars will increase VMT by 4-8%, several MPO modelers provided a different perspective. These modelers expect overall VMT growth of 5-20% with a freeway increase of 30%. Some of this increase is related to the reduced opportunity costs of car travel. So they also expect a 10% reduction in drivers and a 20% reduction in biking and walking.

Participants also detailed ways in which MPOs’ long-term modeling is inaccurate. Further, disruptive technologies such as automated vehicles are more challenging to model, because nobody knows how travel behavior will actually change. As a result any projections would include a very large range. In the end the group could not develop much consensus.

The Pathways to Automated Transit group focused on first mile/last mile service. Automated vehicles are expected to work best in the line-haul segments with automated trains and buses replacing human-operated vehicles over time. But this group did not expect transit usage to decline. Some of their findings seem counterintuitive. If elderly people who don’t currently drive use automated vehicles, this will reduce the need for demand-response transit service. If automated cars park themselves, this reduces some of the hassles of driving. If folks can work in their cars while commuting to their jobs, this reduces the productivity advantages of taking the train. Therefore, it seems likely that transit will have a smaller role in an automated vehicle world.

The legal group discussed the challenges of mandating insurance coverage and assigning fault for an automated vehicle accident. The group highlighted how most states still have no autonomous vehicle legislation and that system security (preventing the automated driving computer system from getting hacked) is the other most pressing legal issue.

The near-term deployment group focused on operational benefits from near-term deployment. This group raised more questions than answers, including whether states should set different legal guidelines for level 2 (partially automated) vehicles as opposed to level 4 vehicles (completely automated) and whether there is even a business case for level 2 vehicles. While nobody knows the answers, the group seems to be asking the right questions.

Overall the conference included a wealth of information and valuable networking time. TRB and AUVSI are planning on holding a 4th annual conference in July 2015.

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Upcoming Conferences

Note: I don’t have space to list all transportation conferences that might be of interest. Below are those that I or a Reason Foundation colleague are taking part in.

ITS World Congress, Sept. 7-11, Cobo Center, Detroit, MI (Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at www.itsworldcongress.org

IBTTA 82nd Annual Meeting, Sept. 14-17, Hilton Austin, Austin, TX (Robert Poole speaking). Details at www.ibtta.org/austin

Future of Atlanta [Cobb County] Transportation, Sept. 18, Kennesaw, GA, Kennesaw State University Center (Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at http://sbdc.kennesaw.edu/TransportationTownHall.htm

2014 Preserving the American Dream Conference, Sept. 19-21, Embassy Suites-Stapleton, Denver, CO (Robert Poole and Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at http://americandreamcoalition.org/?page_id=3515

Southern California Transportation Challenges and Opportunities, VICA 26th Annual Business Forecast Conference, Oct. 3, Burbank, CA (Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at www.vica.com/pages/BusinessForecastConference

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News Notes

Express Toll Lanes Help Transit . Converting HOV lanes to HOT or Express Toll Lanes has led to increased express bus ridership in Atlanta, Miami, and Minneapolis. All three cities were winners in the U.S. DOT’s Urban Partnership Agreement competition and received federal funding help to bring about their conversions. This DOT-funded evaluation found that express bus ridership increased 57% in Miami, 13% in Minneapolis, and 11% in Atlanta, as of the time period of the evaluation. The results are available in “Impacts to Transit from Variably Priced Toll Lanes,” by Brian Pessaro, Katie Turnbull, and Carol Zimmerman, published in Transportation Research Record No. 2396, 2013, pp. 117-123.

Inter-City Shared-Ride Service in France. BlaBlaCar is a start-up firm offering shared-ride service between European cities, a la Uber and Lyft’s local services in the United States. The Economist reports that BlaBlaCar has raised $100 million in venture capital, based on the start-up’s initial track record. Someone using the service between Paris and Brussels would pay $27, far less than the train fare. The company has 8 million members in 12 European countries thus far.

Overview of Oregon’s Mileage-Based User Fee Program. The Center for Transportation Research at UT Austin and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the same university have released “Oregon’s Voluntary Road User Charge Program,” an excellent overview of the most advanced mileage-based user fee effort in the country. It is report number TxDOT 0-6581 Task 19-4.

Port of Miami Tunnel Open to Traffic. On August 3rd the new deep-bore tunnel connecting Miami’s port on Watson Island to the MacArthur Causeway and hence to the Miami freeway system opened to traffic. Though basically completed in May, the opening was delayed by minor repairs and fine-tuning to ensure that all systems were working properly, costs that were absorbed by the contractors rather than being passed along to taxpayers, under the long-term concession under which the tunnel was financed, built, and will be operated and maintained for 35 years. The new route to and from the port is intended to shift numerous daily container-truck trips from downtown Miami surface streets to the freeway system.

Autobahn Freeloaders May Be Charged for Use. Germans have to pay tolls to use the motorways in most nearby European countries, including France, Spain, and Italy. But foreign drivers using Germany’s autobahns have traditionally paid nothing, since they are not liable to pay Germany’s annual vehicle tax. To comply with E.U. nondiscrimination rules, Germany must now charge all highway users, but the proposed new law will permit Germans to have this charge netted against their vehicle tax. Austria and the Netherlands (which have no tolls) are threatening legal action against Germany if the measure is enacted as planned.

Weak Case for Detroit Light Rail Line Challenged. Reason TV’s Jim Epstein has written a strong critique of the $137 million, 3.3-mile light rail line that broke ground last month in an effort to revitalize decrepit Woodward Avenue. “Is Detroit’s New Light Rail Line America’s Greatest Boondoggle?” asks Epstein. Read it yourself and see what you think. (http://reason.com/archives/2014/07/24/detroit-light-rail)

Transponders Mandatory for Carpoolers in Express Lanes. New legislation approved last month will require San Francisco Bay Area carpool vehicles that want free passage in express toll lanes to have a FasTrak transponder. The initial bill was for Alameda County, where HOT lanes are in operation on I-680 and under way for I-580. But local officials in other Bay Area counties-Contra Costa and Alameda-are pushing for similar policy to be adopted there for their existing and planned HOT lanes. That policy already exists for the carpool lane approaches to the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge. It has also been adopted for HOT lanes in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Northern Virginia, and elsewhere around the country.

SR 91 Express Lanes Bonds Now Investment Grade. Standard & Poor’s has upgraded the 91 Express Lanes toll revenue bonds issued by the Orange County Transportation Authority to AA-. That is the highest rating of any managed lanes project in the world, according to Nossaman’s Infra Insight Blog (Aug. 7, 2014).

New Study Compares Light Rail and Rapid Bus for Urban Areas. In a new study for the Cato Institute, transportation analyst Randal O’Toole has created a generalizable model of two transit systems aimed at serving the central business district of a generic urban area. The purpose is to compare the cost-effectiveness of light rail with a rapid bus system aimed at achieving the same or better transportation benefits. O’Toole’s “Rapid Bus” paper is Cato Policy Analysis No. 752, released July 30, 2014. (www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/rapid-bus-low-cost-high-capacity-transit-system-for-major-urban-areas)

Beltway Express Lanes Increase Traffic, Double Revenue. Compared with their first-year traffic and revenue, the express toll lanes on the Capital Beltway (I-495) outside of Washington, DC are having a much better second year. Public Works Financing reports that traffic in the quarter ended in June was 20% higher than in the corresponding quarter in 2013, and that average daily toll revenue was double that of the previous year. Evidently, as more people try the express lanes during peak periods, they find that the reliability and time savings are worth paying for.

New Study on Cost of Energy Alternatives. The Economist‘s “Free Exchange” column for July 26th summarized a major new cost-benefit study of low-carbon and zero-carbon energy alternatives, by Charles Frank of Brookings Institution. It takes into account not only the availability of wind, solar, nuclear, etc. but also the cost of replacement and back-up power when those alternatives are incapable of operating. Among the conclusions is that “solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions,” with wind not too far behind. Frank’s and several other studies are available for review at www.economist.com/renewables14.

Update on Managed Lane Network Concept of Operations. Reader David Ungemah responded to last month’s article about Florida DOT’s detailed concept of operations document for Southeast Florida’s emerging managed lanes network with the news that it was not actually the first such document. The first version of the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional Express Lanes Network con-ops was released in 2013, and version 2 is now online at: www.mtcexpresslanes.org/projects/express_lanes/pdfs/bay_area_express_lanes_conops_20130523.pdf.

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Quotable Quotes

“This study once again rejects the concept of “Lexus Lane” by illustrating the significant number of low-income users [that] are still using the HOT lane; however, very high-income travelers are using the HOT lane twice as often as low-income travelers. Moreover, HOT lanes are Accord, Civic, and F150 lanes, just like the GP lanes.”
-Sara Khoeini and Randall Guensler, “Using Vehicle Value as a Proxy for Income: A Case Study on Atlanta’s I-85 HOT Lane,” Research in Transportation Economics, Vol. 44, 2014, pp. 33-42

“The federal government should not fund projects that have no net benefits. It also should not fund projects where there are net positive benefits that are limited to particular localized geographic areas. The jurisdictions benefiting, if there are only a few of them, should be called on to coordinate the funding to bear the costs, since they will benefit.”
-Howard J. Shatz, Karin E. Kitchens, Sandra Rosenbloom, and Martin Wachs, Highway Infrastructure and the Economy: Implications for Federal Policy, RAND Corporation, 2014, p. 60

“Despite occasional bond issues and other spurts of investment, there is nothing in the record of the last half-century of subsidized U.S. transit that suggests long-term investments will ever be a priority. If riders want quality service-and if our cities and metropolitan economies really need high-quality transit to be competitive-riders may need to act in their own self-interest and develop the willingness to move towards fares that match the cost of providing the service.”
-Rohit T. Aggarwala, “Why Higher Fares Would Be Good for Public Transit,” Citylab, July 14, 2014 (www.citylab.com/commute/2014/07/why-higher-fares-would-be-good-for-public-transit/374314)

“Politics rears its ugly head in at least two ways. First, transportation funds are allocated to the states through a politically devised formula and then within states to satisfy metropolitan planning organizations’ wish lists. Thus, ‘bridges to nowhere’ get built, and roads and airports with little traffic get a large share of federal transportation dollars. Second, so-called demonstration projects really only demonstrate the ability of elected officials to garner pork-barrel spending for their home districts. Moreover, infrastructure costs are inflated by inefficient investments and burdensome investments. . . . As my own peer-reviewed research shows, this myriad of policy inefficiencies is reflected in returns to highway investment during the past decade of a mere one percent. And for every dollar of government highway spending, motorists have saved a measly three cents in travel time and operating costs. ”
-Clifford Winston, Brookings Institution, “We Don’t Need Another ‘Bridge to Nowhere,'” The Boston Globe, April 13, 2014

“The problem with the [Highway] Trust Fund is that it’s not funded and you can’t trust it.”
-David Walker, former Comptroller General (GAO), quoted in “Bridging the Gap,” The Economist, June 28, 2014

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