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Reason Foundation

Give Managed Lane Conversions Time

Baruch Feigenbaum
May 16, 2013, 9:34am

Los Angeles’ new I-10 and I-110 HOT lanes have been a source of controversy. I wrote in a Los Angeles Daily News Op-Ed that there is a learning curve to any change and it may take up to a year for highway and transit users to receive all of the benefits of the conversion. After 12 months, the HOT lanes in L.A. are likely to significantly benefit highway users and bus riders. 

To reduce provide more reliable travel times and improve transit services, many state DOT’s are converting High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Northern Virginia, San Francisco and Seattle have all made these conversions. 

Unfortunately, these conversions are rocky. Single occupant drivers have to decide when the travel time-savings are worth paying a small toll to use the lane. All motorists need to understand the new traffic patterns. Transit users have to acquaint themselves with the new more dependable transit services. These conversions are challenging; it typically takes up to one year for everyone to receive the maximum benefit from the lane. The roughest opening of a HOT lane was the I-85 conversion in metro Atlanta. However, since opening 18 months ago trips in the lane have almost tripled. 

The complete Op-ed is available here.

The new toll lanes on Interstate 10 and the 110 Freeway have opened to a lot of complaints, particularly from drivers not using them. While some have shaved 30 minutes or more off of their commutes by using the toll lanes during rush hour, many other drivers are understandably upset that traffic has gotten worse in the non-toll lanes. 

Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Northern Virginia, San Diego and Seattle have all converted car-pool lanes to toll lanes in recent years. And as drivers learned how to get the most value out of the lanes and save the most time, the lanes grew in popularity.

Atlanta converted car-pool lanes to toll lanes last year and had a rough start. But since October 2011, the number of toll lane trips has grown 270 percent, from 160,000 to 440,000 trips as of March 2013.

In Minneapolis, where car-pool lanes were converted to toll lanes in 2005, 76 percent of the public is satisfied with the toll lanes and 85 percent are satisfied with the traffic speed. 

The rest of the Op-ed is available here.


Baruch Feigenbaum is Transportation Policy Analyst


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