Currently viewing the tag: "Tolls"

Imagine a world where you can breeze down US1 during rush hour without a care in the world. No gridlock. No traffic. You bypass intersections and the suckers stuck in the slow lane because you are on one of Miami-Dade’s numerous newly implemented ‘Managed Lanes.’ From the Palmetto, to LeJeune, to the entire length of US1, transportation officials have rolled out toll lanes across South Florida, and more are to come.

Unfortunately this future is not in some fantasy world - it is the transportation plan being pursued by our Miami-Dade MPO - led by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Image Courtesy the Miami-Dade MPO. The MPO Transit /Managed Lanes Expansion plan conflates two very different mobility strategies and sets the stage for an incremental phase out of premium transit service.

What are managed lanes? The FHA defines managed lanes as, “Highway facilities or a set of lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions.”  In most cases this involves variable tolling on the managed lane based on surrounding levels of congestion.  Simply put, the lanes are toll roads that run parallel to ‘free’ roads, allowing users to pay a premium to bypass traffic.

As you can see from the map above from the Miami-Dade MPO Near Term Plan, the planners at the MPO have some serious confusion about the relationship between managed lanes and transit. MPO planners are conflating their need for more revenue with their responsibility to provide better mobility throughout Miami-Dade. What follows is what MPO planners have in mind for your transportation future (Disclaimer: I didn’t make this up - it came directly from the MPO Near Term Plan):

Once the SR 836/826 interchange reconstruction is complete the managed lane system can be expanded. A combination of tolling, express lanes and transit services, similar to the operation on I‐95 Express managed lanes represents a greener, cost effective strategy to meet the demand on the transportation system. At a relative minimal cost of implementation this strategy provides a feasible approach that has proven to yield the desired results of mobility improvements that will help transit become more sustainable.

Greenwashing at its worst. To claim that adding capacity to the road will lead to any sustainable benefit is disingenuous at best - and to further claim that this will yield some transit benefit is an insult to the people of Dade county.

The optimal strategy for managed lanes is to convert existing lanes and shoulders , as was done with the I‐95 Express project. Managed lanes in the 2035 LRTP comprise 99 center line miles of improvements. Approximately 27% of those improvements are identified as “Cost Feasible” in the LRTP, 61% are funded only for planning design and right‐of‐way. The remainder of the facilities are unfunded.

FDOT is undertaking a PD&E study for the development of managed lanes on the Palmetto Expressway.
This north‐south corridor is an important link between the Kendall area and the MIC completing a grid of
future managed lanes carrying express transit services.

MDX has initiated a PD&E study for the integration of a managed lane project along the South Dade Busway along US1. If the PD&E study finds that managed lanes are feasible and if the improvements are made to the Busway, it would be operated as a managed lane and the available capacity would be “sold” to auto drivers. The fees paid by private autos would be based upon the demand, in order to preserve free flow conditions. Buses that currently use the exclusive right‐of‐way would operate in mixed flow. Revenues from the tolls would first go to repay the bonds then secondly would go to pay for the operation of the facility. The level of revenues dedicated to transit would still need to be determined and the FTA, who paid for a portion of the Busway, will need to approve the planned project. FTA has stated that the approval of the project would be based upon the level of benefit provided to transit.

Thank goodness for the FTA. We have written extensively on the conversion of the busway to an expressway,  but this is the clearest indication yet that MDX is up to no good. They acknowledge that toll revenue would go to other needs before even being considered for transit, and that the FTA is not yet on-board with their plans because there is no benefit to transit riders. The citizens of Miami-Dade County are being fleeced of their right to convenient and easy mass transit so that county leaders can build ‘lexus lanes’ from one end of Miami to the other.

Different from progressive congestion management policies, like London’s now famous congestion pricing plan, managed lanes are not intended for urban, transit served areas.They provide a fast alternative to both non-tolled streets AND transit, and are described by the FHA as a ‘highway facility.’ While congestion pricing is meant to control/reduce car demand in urban and transit served areas, managed lanes are simply extra capacity and another revenue source for cash strapped transportation agencies.

Regarding London’s congestion pricing plan, Next American City had this to say,

London’s congestion charge system charges private car users who enter the zone £10 ($16) per day between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The scheme has been a huge success, resulting in a 20% drop in car use, £120 million ($197 million) annual net-revenues, and the fastest growth rate for the city’s bus system since the 1940s. …

As a result of the congestion charge, CO2 emissions fell by 16% within the charging zone, with nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions dropping too. Functional benefits also exist. Average traffic speeds have increased by 37%, with delays to private journeys decreasing by 30% and bus journeys by 50%. Speedier journeys have also reduced average taxi fares.

Congestion pricing is an important part of urban mobility management - but the managed lanes plan proposed by the Miami-Dade MPO is nothing more than a veiled ploy to undermine transit service, and expand highway capacity. There are plenty of ways to expand transit ridership, but managed lanes is not one of them. We need strong and vocal support of transit reform and expansion - NOT the slow dismantling of transit service to the benefit of Miami-Dade’s Mercedes driving population.

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toll-stoppaytoll, originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.

More tolls to come? What will they fund?

-Via TM reader Robertson

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A recent CBS4 “investigation” supports our claims that road expansion simply isn’t the solution to the traffic woes in our region. The report puts the new 836 west extension to the “test,” with two vehicles racing to a central meeting point on Bird Rd and SW 137th ave. The results were disappointing to those hoping that the extension would provide western suburbanites with a speedier alternative to the turnpike (you know, because of that exorbitant toll.) What the CBS4 report and many natives fail to understand is just how traffic, roadway expansions, and arterials interact with each other.

To simplify, think of traffic as a fluid (water) and roadways as pipes. The obvious is that when there is a clogged pipe (accident) no water can pass through. Easy enough, right? Now, many people assume that by creating a new path for the water (836 extension) water will be able to flow quickly along this new path. But, given the existing saturated nature of the current western routes (Tamiami Trail, Bird, Flagler, etc.) the new extension alleviates a certain amount of traffic from each corridor, providing no specific time difference impact to any single corridor. If too many cars choose to use the extension, then it too becomes saturated and proves to be just as ineffective as the alternate street routes. In then end, the whole system balances out and our overall personal gain is negligible. Plus don’t forget that any gains will be rendered useless once western expansion continues (you know, because of all that extra “capacity” we created) and more cars are found to fill in the gaps along each of the corridors… Good Luck!

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Sorry about the delay folks. I’ve been trying to catch up on all the news I missed last week, while replying to a week’s worth of e-mails, and recovering from some illness I contracted on the way back from Mexico City’s disaster of an airport. Never again will I fly through Mexico City unless it happens to be my final destination. It’s kind of screwy that with all the direct flights between Miami and Cancun that a 2 1/2 hour additional flight through Mexico City would somehow come out a couple of hundred dollars cheaper. Next time, I’ll splurge and save myself the hassle…

In an unprecedented move which will most likely anger most car-commuting suburbanites across the state, a new law aims to tie tolls prices to the cost of living:

The new law requires that all tolls on highways operated by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise must be linked to the Consumer Price Index. This means that tolls on the turnpike and Sawgrass, plus other toll roads in Central Florida and bridges in the Panhandle, will automatically increase with the cost of living.

The law signed by Governor Christ last month allows for changes to be made automatically every five years or once a year by the state.

It’s about time Floridian motorists started paying reasonable prices for their very unreasonable driving habits. We have to understand that our current growth model (sprawl) and dependence on the automobile simply isn’t part of a sustainable lifestyle. By increasing taxes on motorists, we can further discourage vehicular dependent growth and likewise begin to levy a reasonable fee on the destruction caused by our automobile dependency. We have subsidized this destructive uncanny way of life for far too long, it’s about time motorists began to pay their fair share…

See what the nuts have to say already on the Miami Herald’s Comment section

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