March 19, 2009
Stimulus? What stimulus?

I'm basically agnostic about the plan to convert HOV lanes to HOV-plus-toll lanes that Metro is floating. Like Christof, who was quoted in the story, I don't think it will make that much difference in terms of actual traffic flow, though I think that Texas Transportation Institute fellow is correct to note that it will help outside of the normal rush hour, when the roads are still pretty full. Mostly, I wanted to blog about this story because of this:

Metro President and CEO Frank J. Wilson estimated the cost at between $40 million and $50 million.

In its request for federal stimulus funds earlier this year, Metro estimated the project would cost $70 million.

Metro is slated to receive $92 million in stimulus funds.

Wilson said that he learned last week in discussions with Federal Transit Administration officials that the monies cannot be spent on the North and Southeast light rail lines, as Metro had planned, because those projects have not received the FTA's final funding approval.

Boy, remember when Metro thought it might get as much as $180 million of stimulus money for light rail construction? Those were the days. Sure hope all the funding they thought they were getting pre-stimulus is in place, because if they were counting on any of this - or worse, if they'd already budgeted for it - that would suck.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 19, 2009 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Yeah, aren't you glad that in an effort toward bipartisanship Obama and the Congressional Democrats agreed to cutting the amount of infrastructure spending in favor of tax cuts? I mean, look at how many Republican votes they gained by doing that! *grumble*

Posted by: Amy on March 19, 2009 6:30 AM

Three items on your article.

if traffic volume goes up by 18k and it is currently 36k that is a 50% increase. if each additional of them 18k pay $5 each (assuming these are one way traffic thus $2.5 each way), that means it can generate $90,000 per day for five days of the week. Lets say a week has 4 days times 50 weeks in a year (4 weeks of vacation). That is $4.5 million per year. Not bad about generating some badly needed revenue for highway maintenance.

Are HOV supposed to relief congestion? Houston's peak hour might be 8 hours during one day. Houston's peak hour for HOV lanes might be 4 hours. In normal conditions without the "HOT" lane factor the main lanes would have an additional 18,000 vehicles. What basis were used to indicate these HOT lanes may not "offer much relief from congestion"? As a traffic engineer I can use standard calculation to identify what will be the relief provided if the assumption is 18,000 vehicles using the HOT lanes.

Now the Chronicle article misrepresents the following quote: "Mark Burris, a researcher with the Texas Transportation Institute, agreed that some of the HOV lanes may not be able to accommodate many more vehicles." Appears the reporter has no clue of what Mr. Burris indicated. His reference is towards the capacity of HOT lanes and has nothing to do with providing relief to the main lanes.

Note that, HOT capacity is related to providing relief to main lanes but these are not the same. And the article fails to quantify or qualify "relief." In traffic engineering we quality this on LOS. And I will leave it at that for people to research what LOS means.

The stimulus pack is also a little comical considering what people have in mind vs. reality. HGAC staff indicated that transit agencies across the country are finding out the stimulus comes with limitations thus the most viable use of the stimulus funds for transit agencies is buying new buses. Also they got a very short window of time when to spend these funds. Similar restrictions on highway funds. The bad part of the stimulus program is that it is likely funding project of low priority, projects that have been in the books for years. It is not a good way to spend borrowed money.

By the way, I am of the opinion that HOV systems are one of them programs with good intentions but unintended consequences. Transportation agencies are building on HOV's erroneous expectations, me thinks.

Posted by: Gonzalo Camacho on March 22, 2009 3:13 AM
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