Currently viewing the tag: "Congestion Pricing"

The FDOT (The Department of Streets and Highways) is seeking approval of transportation planners in Broward and Palm Beach Counties to approve five-year plans for road and “transit” projects. The Sun-Sentinel reports:

“A total of $2.37 billion will be spent in Broward County and $916 million in Palm Beach Countyfrom 2012 through 2016.”

Wow, pretty cool, eh? With over $3 Billion in spending we’ll surely be zipping along the FEC corridor from Miami to Jupiter in no time. Perhaps we’ll be able to ride the Ft. Lauderdale Wave Streetcar from my downtown office to the Broward General Medical Center. Heck, maybe we’ll be commuting on some new flashy BRT routes throughout both counties. Nope. This is FDOT we’re talking about - there is only one right way to blow $3.3 Billion.

“Major highway projects in Broward and Palm Beach counties are moving from the top of wish lists to reality.”

Oh Joy! Christmas has come early!

“State officials are including money in the latest plan to build an interchange for FAU’s new stadium in Boca Raton, widen State Road 7 in southern Broward County and expand the last two-lane section of Andrews Avenue in Pompano Beach.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from two years ago when the state had to delay numerous projects because of a decline in gas tax revenues and other resources. The state couldn’t keep up with the rising cost of land and materials to build roads.”

That’s right, we need more interchanges and lanes. Silly me. How could I forget how effective incessantly widening highways to meet ever growing congestion needs has been? For all their faults, the FDOT will be investing some money in Transit. Just what exactly? I’m so glad you asked:

“The county will study improving mass transit on its busiest routes — Broward Boulevard, Oakland Park Boulevard, State Road 7 and U.S. 1. The improvements could range from pull-outs so buses don’t hold up traffic to special equipment that allows buses to pre-empt traffic signals so they stay green longer so they can get through intersections.

Another study will look at improving State Road 7 from northern Broward into southern Palm Beach County, by improving mass transit and adding lanes.”

Wouldn’t want those buses to get in the way of all those cars now would we? Now, let’s get this straight. FDOT suddenly has $3.3B more to spend between 2012 and 2016 in Broward and Palm Beach. So the logical solution is to pump the money into projects already underway? And, for safe measure, to cover their asses and pretend to be serving the best interest of all transit modes, they decided to invest a pittance into transit studies?

“The new projects are in addition to work that already is started or will begin next year, such as the extension of the I-95 express lanes to Fort Lauderdale that will begin next year, the I-595 construction and I-95 widening in northern Palm Beach Countyunderway and construction of a new Eller Drive overpass connecting I-595 to Port Everglades that will start in 2011.”

I know what you’re all thinking. C’mon, 95 Express - dude its a transit project, kinda - we’re getting buses to use those routes and whisk passengers across highways to their destinations quickly and effectively. After all, one of the main selling points of the 95 Express HOT Lanes was the ability for transit buses to access the tolled lanes free of charge, providing transit riders with a cheap alternative to driving alone and simultaneously improving the commute time of “regional” service buses. In theory this plan works. In theory. But we lack the sufficient density to make BRT along our highways effective; and, congestion hasn’t reached the point to justify the time it would take users to park-and-ride.  Plus, BCT and MDT lack the funds to keep these buses operating:

“The Broward County Commission will hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December  14, 2010, at the Broward County Governmental Center, Room 422, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, for public input on proposed changes to the 95 Express Bus Service.  The proposed changes would become effective on Monday, January 10, 2011.”

The proposed service changes are:

  • Discontinued service to the Golden Glades Park & Ride stop
  • Discontinued reverse commute trips from Miami during the morning peak hours
  • Discontinued reverse commute trips from Pembroke Pines during the afternoon peak hours

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(video courtesy of the Miami Herald)

Reactions seem mixed, but mostly frustrated to date.

Might the frustration lead more to consider public transportation?

Let us know what you think, and if you have experienced the lights thus far.

The latest phase of the multimillion dollar attempts to mitigate congestion along I-95 goes into effect this week in the form of a ramp metering system.  Needless to say, I am curious to see the result: Will drivers obey the lights, knowing full well that the local FHP is understaffed and underfunded?  Will demand outpace supply and will cars back up into local roadways and intersections?  Will we experience a decrease in VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and see a worthy reduction in congestion?  Only time will tell…

Ramp metering is a form of restricting access to roadway.  Signals located at the entrances to freeways dictate when cars can proceed.  The timing for these signals, in a well designed ramp metering system, is based wholly on the existing congestion of the roadway.  Ramp Metering seeks to mitigate the “turbulence” caused by vehicles entering highways – a significant cause of congestion as motorists accelerate and merge with existing traffic.  Ramp meters regulate this access, creating a steady flow of vehicles rather than the platoons caused by signals leading into the current highway entrances – helping to avoid the dangerous shockwave phenomenon we discussed nearly a year ago.

While I generally speak favorably of ramp metering – I have a few concerns I feel the DOT should address.  Foremost, it seems a bit counterintuitive to me to implement a congestion pricing (HOT Lane) program simultaneously with a ramp metering system that does not allow motorists to buy themselves out of the on-ramp wait time to begin with.  The way I see it, if a motorist is willing to pay $X to drive in the HOT lanes to get from A to B faster, why would he want to wait to access the highway to begin with?  For the whole scheme to work seamlessly, a second access lane should be provided to allow motorists to buy instant access to the highway.  Call it Ramp Pricing.

Image Source: The Miami Herald

Secondly, the current ramp meter placement, similar to the HOT lanes, punishes drivers in Miami-Dade (see above) while giving Broward drivers (suburban drivers who presumably have higher VMT) unfettered access to the whole system.  At final build out, it seems theoretical that a driver from western Broward (who is willing to pay the congestion pricing fees, of course) could flow across I-595 and into I-95, guaranteed 55mph service the whole way (once the I-595 congestion pricing comes online as well).  This is an obvious concern: we are in a sense providing easiest access to our urban areas to those who live the furthest away…

To read more on Ramp Metering, click here.

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Now running on national TV. Thanks to Streetsblog for digging this one up.

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Last Wednesday, I had the chance to drive north along I-95 in Miami-Dade County where I snapped the pictures below of the then incomplete sections of 95 Express, the variable priced road pricing scheme program going into full effect by 2010.  Little did I know that just 2 days later, FDOT would be “completing” the first segment of 95 Express and opening the lanes up to the public.  Driving, I actually thought to myself “This should make for some interesting conversation on TM.”  In fact, had I known this, I likely would have driven north to Palm Beach instead of taking tri-rail this past Friday.

95 Express’ opening day was a disaster.  I will tell you why.  This is the sort of outcome you should expect when our government blindly throws hundreds of millions of dollars at an unproven concept.  Not congestion pricing.  We are generally in favor of road pricing policies because of their effectiveness in reducing urban congestion and smog.  I am concerned with the urban partnerships program.  Essentially, this program threw $1 Billion dollars at five cities to “relieve congestion” in existing rights of ways while combining public transportation with road pricing.  Or in the preferred government alliteration speak:

The Department sought applicants to aggressively use four complementary and synergistic strategies (referred to as the “4Ts”) to relieve urban congestion: Tolling, Transit, Telecommuting, and Technology.

Now, how a transportation project can go from conception to construction in just over 1-year’s time is beyond me, this process is sure to be riddled with problems.  Note: In August 2007, the Secretary announced five final urban partners: Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I predict that most Miami drivers will have no problem mowing down the delineated candlestick markers, just as they managed to do along Dolphin Mall Blvd (see below), or Kendall Dr. (Note: here they raised the delineated markers onto a concrete curb after they had been plowed a few times, encouraging most Hummer sedan drivers to stray away.)

This is likely an issue which we’ll be writing on frequently and is the subject of much controversy (especially now) in South Florida.  Before I get to the transit aspect of 95 Express, let’s open this up for some conversation…

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Major Breaking News – Contrary to our report last week regarding the increase of transit fares, a couple of Miami-Dade County Commissioners (Bruno Barriero and Barbara Jordan) are proposing an additional ½ penny sales tax hike which would eliminate all MDT fares for all riders. The sales tax hike would require a public vote in November.

The proposal, floated Tuesday morning by two county commissioners, would ask voters to choose between higher taxes and higher fares.

The commission is scheduled to vote next month to raise fares by 50 cents and automatically raise fares in the future as the system’s costs increase, but those hikes would be moot if fares are eliminated.

Well, the Miami-Dade County Commission did it again – they continued the mentality that rising fuel costs should amount to higher transit fares. As much as I would like to agree that transit fares were well below the point they should have been, I cannot justify anyone spending $100 for a monthly metropass.

Let us compare similar monthly passes across America:

Atlanta $52.50
Boston $59
Chicago $75
Dallas $50 or $80
LA $62 - $98
New York $81
Seattle $54-$108
Portland $76

Are we oblivious to what happens elsewhere around this country? Most cities have a zonal system of affixing prices to their tickets, charging more for longer distance trips. These long distance routes, service suburbia, places where transit really should not be servicing unless the area population density is well above 8 people/acre.

There is also the logical answer to the funding dilemma; charge drivers. Congestion pricing and parking pricing encourages greater transit ridership while reducing congestion (see London.) Those whose travel habits cost the greatest societal burden (drivers) pay the most for their services.

I could go on for hours on this subject (I assure you, I will) but the underlying message here is that we are continuing the flawed mentality regarding our automobile habits and transit funding.

Former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa, is internationally renowned for his progressive transit and bike-oriented urban planning policies that have helped transform the Colombia capital from a congested car-centric nightmare to a much more livable city in less than decade. Earlier this week, Penalosa came to New York to speak in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal that holds the power to make NYC an even more livable city by forcing cars to pay $8 to enter Manhattan anywhere below 60th St from 6am-6pm. Thanks to our friends over at Streetsblog, who created this video, we can see that from Copenhagen to New York, Vancouver to Bogota, the livable cities movement is in full gear.

To see the video above in its entirety, click here.

To see the video of Penalosa’s recent NYC speech supporting congestion pricing and transport equity, click here.

This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.


Via klm_md11’s Flickr

The Vatican has launched an airline of sorts offering passengers (on a chartered aircraft similar to the one above) seats to key pilgrimage sites. Initial plans call for flights to Spain, Poland, and the Middle East, however talks are in the works to fly to Mexico.

  • Beijing’s plan to limit driving in the capital city during the Olympics to curb air pollution, turned out be a big flop last week during the three day trial period. It goes to show that there is no “quick fix” to the detrimental effects of our oil addiction.

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Twice a week or so, I like to scan through the blogroll to see what is going on on the other transit/development blogs around the nation. Here are some articles worth reading:

Tropolism:
The Guggenheim is cracking, its 12 layers of paint are chipping off and a new computer simulated model is here to show us what the facade really looks like.CitySkip:
The new era of Reality TV? Voyeurism, of course. The new HBO Voyeur program can be found here
Streetsblog:
The effects of London’s Congestion pricing:
  • In 2006, around 70,000 fewer vehicles entered the same area each day.
  • Before charging began, some 334,000 vehicles entered the original zone each day.
  • An increase in cycling within the zone of 43 per cent.
  • Congestion Charge generated provisional net revenues of £123m in 2006/07, which will be spent on further improvements to transport across London, particularly bus services.
The Overhead Wire:
Transportation costs get personal as TOW finds that Quicken lacks inputs for non-vehicular dependent transit costs. TOW goes on to confront the absurd cost of car ownership (on average, 18% of Americans’ income) and our uncanny dependency on it…

Telstar Logistics:
The 787 Dreamliner was unveiled on July 8, 2007 on schedule…

Inhabitat:
“…the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to become carbon Neutral by the end of its current term. Legislation has also been introduced to make the entire Capitol complex- all 23 buildings- carbon neutral by the end of 2020.”

2020? So much for setting the example…

I’ve often defined the “Miami Mentality” on this site as the state of mind prevalent in our region which is generally for transit options, so long as other people use them. The Miami New Times quoted my “Miami Mentality” theory today when discussing the new MDT 7-day pass, which sadly means that my theory is becoming more of a commonly accepted belief. To clarify, through personal account and research, I’ve found that the Miami Mentality is generally against density, non-vehicular modes of transit, in favor of traffic relief measures, and in favor of wider highways and parking- plenty of it too. The Mentality also denounces good urban planning principles often by typically stating, or rather declaring: “That would never work in Miami.” Needless to say, it has taken me quite by surprise to see the latest coverage and reactions in the Sun-Sentinel with regards to the proposed managed lanes on I-95. Their news polls, obtained March 29 and April 4, show an overwhelmingly opposite trend to the Miami Mentality:

March 29 Some state legislators want to start charging tolls to use the car-pool (HOV) lanes on I-95 from I-595 in Broward County to State Road 112 in Miami-Dade County. What’s your opinion?

85.4%
Bad idea. These lanes should be available for free to anyone with 2 or more people in a vehicle. (5917 responses)

14.6%
Good idea. It would raise more funds for transportation and ensure the car-pool lanes don’t get too crowded. (1012 responses)
6929 total responses

April 4 State officials say I-595 could be widened much more quickly and less expensively by making it a privately operated road with tolls on its express lanes. Your opinion?

35.1%
Good idea. (1773 responses)

64.9%
Bad idea. (3278 responses)
5051 total responses

Or do they? Perhaps there are some valid reasons behind this shift in the frame of mind or perhaps the Miami Mentality is a little more convoluted than I originally perceived. I’ll choose the latter. Based on the data obtained through the unofficial polls taken by the Sun-Sentinel and in browsing through some of the comments left on the site, it appears that there is a new dimension to the Miami Mentality that I had not previously considered: Money.

“Forgive me for not being able to attend this oh-so important waste of time meeting, but here’s my vote by proxy- NO!!! What a $hitty idea- charge us for what we’ve already paid for? Screw these crooked politicians and their handouts to the contractors- enough is enough!”
-Count me Out, Hialeah, Fl

“The article is at least truthful. The public is invited to discuss the issue. The decision has already been made based soley upon financial reasons. Luxury car lanes have been discussed for years, now they will be a reality. Only in Florida. Guess the Republicans will call it no Lexus left behind.”
-Mike Woods, Boynton Beach, Fl

The views presented outline a general displeasure for paying for expanded highway service, it is expected that the government provide endless capacity and expansions to our already crowded highways. This belief stems from the precedent that the government set throughout the past decades, expanding and creating highway infrastructure “as needed.” The distrust in local policies and “leaders” further exacerbates the situation, casting shadows of doubt across any project where higher costs will be waged on motorists. Contrary to the logic behind congestion pricing, the opinions conveyed show that the new local mentality aims to provide highway and parking access to anyone (which falls in line with the reaction to rising gas prices.) (For more on Congestion Pricing, click here.)

I must also note that the subject matter does not pit public transit against highway capacity expansion. Surely, had that been the case, the results would have shown a desire for rail, provided that others use the system and now apparently that money allocated to the project did not come from highway funding sources (it’s ok folks, there are statutes against that anyway.)

Of course some classic Miami Mentality always finds its way into the picture:

“Maximum use of all lanes is the most efficient use of roads. Car pool lanes do not do that. The “Pay Pool” lanes are only a way for the politicians to get more money without representation. Another non-tax tax. On top of all this Interstate roads are supposed to be free. This is not a state road it is a federal road.”
-just say no, Miami, Fl

“Forget the tolls. Eliminate the HOV lane by opening it up to all drivers. That will increse the available road space by 20 - 25 percent. As an added benefit …no more slow downs caused by drivers gawking at the flashing lights while FHP writes tickets (they have better things to do). It’s a win win deal for both tax payers and drivers, costs nothing and can be put into effect at any time.”
-David, Pompano Beach, Fl

I’m so glad David took the time to do the math for us, he neglected to include how many minutes it would take for for traffic to fill up the additional lane and bring traffic back to a grinding halt (Induced Travel.) Miami Mentality obviously fails to take into account general highway planning principles, is shortsighted, does not recognize the limitations of an autocentric infrastructure, and never considers perhaps that the current method of personal travel and lifestyle are the true problems at hand.

Reassuringly, every so often, a voice of reason chimes in:

“the reason for the carpool lane is to encourage drivers to carpool and take cars off the roads. what they should be doing is expanding the number of car pool lanes to 2 or 3 each way and then maybe more people would carpool.”
-John, Santa Maria, Ca

But, then again, let the few voices of reason come from a city clear across the country

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While plans move forward to expand I-595 in Broward, Palm Beach and Martin County commissioners are working on a plan to bring east-west Tri-rail service along the beeline expressway. The commissioners hope to one day use the existing CSX rail tracks to link research and biomedical facilities in the works in both counties. Unlike their Broward counterparts, these commissioners see the financial advantage of not widening roads and instead using our money wisely:

“Koons estimated that widening the road to accommodate development could cost $1 billion…”

“Many of those developments are running into traffic concerns because parts of SR 710 are getting congested. Future development could be prohibited if the highway isn’t widened. Using commuter rail could reduce the need for widening, Koons said, and help solve affordable housing problems.

“You can afford more housing if you have to spend less on transit,” he said.”

Nice to know someone sees it…

Streetsblog covers the Bush Administrations new plan for congestion pricing

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