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Tolled Fast lanes. What do you think?

What do you think?  

11 members have voted

  1. 1. What do you think?

    • Good for business
      4
    • Waste of money
      4
    • A give away to the rich
      2
    • Don't know
      1


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This is a proposal for Miami. On the surface I'm against it, but looking to see what others think.

From: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/9082147.htm

Life in the fast lane may come to pass

A congestion-cutting concept for commuters would set higher-priced, sliding-scale tolls for free-flowing express lanes.

BY LARRY LEBOWITZ

[email protected]

Applying supply-and-demand concepts straight out of Economics 101, local road builders are promoting a novel idea to drastically change the face of rush-hour commuting in Miami-Dade by 2012: pay more to drive in a fast lane with less traffic.

''We're talking about congestion insurance,'' said Robert W. Poole Jr., director of transportation studies for the Reason Public Policy Institute. ``That's really what it's all about. [Motorists] might not be willing or able to pay for it every day, but it's there when they really need it.''

Admitting they will never be able to build their way out of gridlock, traffic planners with the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and Florida's Turnpike are promoting ''managed'' highways plan, which have achieved some success in Southern California.

They want to build two elevated, reversible express lanes on the turnpike from Killian Drive to the Dolphin Expressway (State Road 836) and four nonelevated lanes in the center median of the Dolphin from Florida's Turnpike to Miami International Airport.

Early cost projections: $725 million -- paid by tolls.

Critics fear the plan will create an exclusive class of ''Lexus lanes'' for the well-heeled.

''We have to make sure the lanes are priced for the average working person as well,'' said Miami-Dade Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler.

Traffic managers counter that commuters of all income brackets will use the express lanes, which will also be open, free of charge, to express buses, van pools, law enforcement and emergency vehicles.

Here's how it would work: Computer technicians would monitor the number of cars entering and leaving the premium-priced express lanes and alter the toll price based on the level of congestion.

Want to get from Killian Drive to the airport in 15 minutes via the express lanes, instead of 30 minutes? Pay a higher toll.

If vehicles aren't averaging 55 mph in the premium lanes, the price will rise until optimal flow returns to the system. If a truck jackknifes in the normal lanes and more vehicles cram onto the express area, the price, in theory, would continue to rise to maintain the free-flow.

On an eight-mile stretch of Interstate 15 outside San Diego, express lane tolls are adjusted every six minutes during rush hour. San Diegans are accustomed to fast-lane tolls ranging from 75 cents to $4, but in extreme emergencies they have reached $8.

Drivers would rather have the option of occasionally paying to use a free-flowing express lane than using the same funds to build more regular lanes that will immediately become gridlocked, said Florida's Turnpike executive director Jim Ely, who prefers to call them ``the People's Lanes.''

''Look, if we wanted to make the Dolphin a free-flowing, 55 mph road, we'd need to make it 18 lanes wide today. That isn't going to happen. So we need to look at realistic alternatives,'' said Sam E. Gonzalez, the longtime engineering director at MDX who resigned last week for the private sector.

Ed Regan, an MDX consultant who has worked on the Southern California toll roads, said extensive customer surveys there have turned up some surprising results. Drivers of both sexes and from across all race and income levels prefer the value-lane option.

Pickup trucks and service vans are just as prevalent in the premium lanes on State Road 91 in Orange County, Regan said. An electrician or a plumber who can make an additional $90 to $125 by adding an extra service call per day is more than willing to pay another $4 to $8 in tolls as the cost of doing business.

Poole, the Reason Institute expert who lives in Plantation, said the California value lanes provide a mental cushion for harried, time-pressed parents. He cites a focus-group example of a parent stuck in regular traffic and facing a considerable fee at the day-care center for every 15 minutes they are overdue.

A $4 rush-hour premium toll versus a $25 late fee and more time with the kids is easy to justify, Poole said.

The South Florida proposal is far from a done deal. The agencies are moving forward with initial planning, engineering and public-education campaigns despite receiving a tepid response from Miami-Dade commissioners.

Beyond the ''Lexus lane'' rhetoric, commissioners are zealously protecting the expansion of Metrorail and Metrobus that voters approved with the half-penny sales tax in 2002.

Any plan that could increase highway capacity, commissioners argue, would hamper their efforts to compete for billions of matching federal dollars to more than double the Metrorail system over the next 30 years.

Said Commissioner Bruno Barreiro: ``We can't build our way out of this with roads or new lanes. The only way to do it is to build our way out of it with mass transit.''

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Guest donaltopablo

I honeslty don't care for them much. I can understand the arguement, that often times the people with the money to pay to use them, pay more than the cost of building and maintaining that lane. However, I think in the long run, it does little to improve the overall problem, which is too much use of cars for commuting.

It's probably a great quick fix, something to help fund road improvements in a time of tight budgets and expensive road expansion in urban areas. But I think it's well said in the article:

We can't build our way out of this with roads or new lanes. The only way to do it is to build our way out of it with mass transit.

I'm wholeheartly against finding ways to "ease" peoples commutes, rich or poor, that involve cars but not car pooling or mass transit.

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I agree, it's a bad idea. I mean, think of what you could do with that $725 million instead. That can easily pay for a bus rapid transit route for example. Instead of adding lanes for more cars, how about adding more lanes for bus-only travel. I think in the long run it is a much better investment, as there will only continue to be more cars on the road, and public transit will continue to become a more viable option.

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The whole concept sounds kind of stupid. If they're charging more money based on congestion, it'll probably always be at a high price, since it's always congested. I think that Miami will never have good commutes until the MetroRail is extended in all directions.

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I basically echo what everyone else has said. If their going to spend all this money building new lanes, build them for buses.

The congestion is not the only evil of commuting. This proposal does nothing to reduce the number of cars adding pollution to Miami's skies (it would probably induce more cars). The best way to reduce congestion is to remove cars from the road, not to make it easier for the elite few who can afford it.

Miami has made great strides in the area of mass-transit, and could be a model for other cities. It would be a shame to see Miami take such a giant step backwards.

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The US should build tracks for trains.

In the NE there are already lots of toll roads. The tolls make travel slow with lots of pollution from idling.

The tolls never pay for the roads. After the original bonds are paid off, maintenance eats up the tolls forever.

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You're right tocoto. I only know of a couple roads that were un-tolled after they were paid off, and that's I-95 (I think) near Richmond, VA, and I-30 (used to be the Dallas-Fort Worth Tollway) in Texas.

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Guest donaltopablo

There is a toll bridge in GA that was "untolled" once the toll money paid off the bonds used to construct the bridge.

However, that means the tolls do nothing to cover future maintenance that is required on the roads.

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In Houston, the Harris County Toll Road Authority was created in the 1980s to build roads they claim they will pay for themselves, when the first segment of the Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) was finished in 1990. Extensions were built over the 90s, till completed in 1997 - the whole ring. With all the freeway reconstruction running around Houston, the toll roads may never pay for themselves for a very very long time - the toll money collected could end up transfered to pay for construction projects on the regular freeways runned by TXDOT.

The toll road project in Austin was recently approved. Right now two new tollways are built, current freeways will be modified to have a fast lane to pay toll and avert traffic. Others that are still being converted to freeways will have toll lanes already built into them - POSSIBLY AT THE LAST MINUTE.

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Just to clarify, while I'm anti-toll roadways, I'm not anti-toll reliever roadways.

I'm against tolls on interstates connecting different regions - such as going from Buffalo to Cleveland - that is a mistake to toll I-90 in NY.

I'm against tolling a few lanes of a select highway - you either toll them all, or don't toll them.

If you want to build a reliever route parallel or surrounding a city - then yea, there would be a good reason to build a toll roadway when you don't want to fund the highway completely on regular funds.

But this is the only circumstance I'd agree. Houston has a properly maintained tollway system - as does Toronto. But many cities I don't feel utilize tollways properly (such as the Buffalo region which tolls some necessary arteries).

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