June 22, 2007
We have congested streets? Why wasn't I told?

I didn't think there was anything else to say about the head-spinningly fast flipflop on Westpark Toll Road pricing, but then I saw this in today's updated story.

On Tuesday, [Commissioner Steve] Radack said of drivers who couldn't afford peak-hour fees, "Let them go down Richmond Road. Or they can use Westpark," a secondary road near the tollway. His comment especially angered commuters.

But [County Judge Ed] Emmett said Radack's comment may have been useful because many residents phoned or e-mailed to say that Richmond also is congested and is not a viable alternative.

Emmett said he and other court members reviewed alternatives to the tollway and decided that it is unwise to force some drivers onto backed-up secondary streets and highways where construction is under way, such as Interstate 10.

"The truth of the matter is, we and the consultants hadn't factored in the construction on the other highways," Emmett said. "You can't have congestion pricing if you don't have a place for people to go to avoid congestion."

Emphasis mine. It's a good thing that was followed by this, because I'm utterly speechless.

Chuck Wagner, via e-mail, wondered why the court didn't realize before Tuesday's vote that alternate roads were congested. "Apparently, it didn't occur to those incompetent boobs on the Commissioners Court that the reason the tollway is flooded with cars is that the Katy Freeway has become essentially unusable to people in Katy due to the ongoing construction fiasco," Wagner wrote.

Even without the Katy Freeway construction as a factor, have none of the Commissioners ever driven down Richmond or Westpark or Westheimer during rush hour? How can this have been a mystery?

At least maybe something good will come out of this farce:

Emmett said the county will look at other ways to reduce gridlock on the tollway. Some possible options include partnering with Metro to allow Metro buses to use the tollway without charge, encouraging carpooling and improving alternate routes.

These are good things in general, and should be explored as options everywhere. I don't know why it needed to take this particular incident to make some of this happen, but at least it's on the front burner now. I'll take what I can get.

UPDATE: When weathermen are taking potshots at you, you know you've screwed up.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 22, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Emmett has blown his cover as an experienced transportation consultant.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 22, 2007 2:07 PM