July 26, 2007
Get yer HOT lanes here

We know this is coming for I-10, and now Metro is talking about converting HOV lanes to HOT in other corridors.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority is proposing to convert its High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to High Occupancy-Toll lanes, where buses and carpools ride for free alongside toll-paying solo drivers.

Under a proposal from Metro to the Texas Department of Transportation, tolls would be collected electronically and increase with congestion to keep traffic moving, said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT director of traffic operations.

Metro spokesman George Smalley said agency officials were not available for comment Tuesday.

"The premise is to try to get every bit of capacity out of the HOV lanes," Lopez said. He said Metro proposed the idea to TxDOT several months ago "because they wanted to make sure that the HOV lanes kept their good travel time.

"When the two-plus lanes become crowded, you go to three-plus, and then you have this huge drop in volume, and the lane's capacity is not being used," he said.


Lopez said it would require public input, as well as approval by the Metro board, the Texas Transportation Commission, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, which helped fund the HOV system.

Should those approvals be granted, a changeover could come in 2009 or 2010, he said.

The item is on the agenda -- for discussion only -- of the transportation commission, which meets at 9 a.m. Thursday at Sugar Land City Council chambers, 2700 Town Center Blvd. North.

I don't have any particular problem with this (though Stace does). It does make sense to get the most out of the existing capacity. I'm not sure how this will work in practice, but in theory this sounds like a reasonable idea to me.

I'm a little puzzled by this, however:

Under legislation enacted this year, the Harris County Toll Road Authority gets the right of first refusal to operate any toll projects in Harris County, but county infrastructure director Art Storey said he would be wary of seeking to run the proposed HOT lanes.

"I have considerable scars on my back regarding variable pricing," Storey said, referring to an unpopular -- and short-lived -- proposal to reduce congestion on the Westpark Tollway through a sharp rush-hour toll increase.

Dude. This is totally different from the Westpark situation. There, you were screwing with something folks already had and were dependent on. Here, you're adding an option, which folks can choose to use, or they can stick with what they've already got. The proper analogy isn't the stoopid variable pricing scheme that y'all cooked up last month, it's the creation of the Westpark Tollway in the first place. It's adding something new, not taking something that already existed and making it less palatable. Big difference.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 26, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

What about implementing something like the "CleanPass" that New York state has. This allows low emissions vehicles like the Prius or Civic Hybrid to join the HOV lanes.

Posted by: WhosPlayin on July 26, 2007 7:40 AM