Bay Area HOT Lanes: Will They Work?

An 800-mile HOT lane 'network' proposed for the Bay Area is now a bill in the state legislature. The MPO estimates it will reduce congestion and emissions while raising funds for transit. U.C. Berkeley's Pravin Varaiya insists it will lose money.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission "estimates that turning the Bay Area's 500 miles of carpool lanes into toll lanes, along with adding 300 miles of new toll lanes, will generate $6.1 billion in profit over the next 25 years.

But one UC Berkeley engineering professor who has studied the effectiveness of carpool and toll lanes says the idea is wildly optimistic, and he predicts it will ultimately waste huge amounts of taxpayer money.

For years, professor Pravin Varaiya of UC Berkeley's electrical engineering and computer sciences department has pored over extensive amounts of CalTrans data. He concludes that the new toll lanes will lose money for two main reasons:

* In less-congested areas, not enough people will use them.

* On the Bay Area's more-congested freeways, heavy demand from carpoolers won't leave enough room for those single-occupancy vehicles that would pay the new toll.

"I'm willing to bet that the toll lanes won't be able recover operating costs, let alone the capital costs," he said.

Thanks to Justin Horner

Full Story: Bay Area Toll Lanes Could Lose Money

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Comments

Irvin Dawid's picture
Correspondent

To see Professor Pravin Varaiya's HOT lane research

Abstract from his 5-pg.(July 2008) paper showing why MTC's Express Lane Network is a money-loser:
(i) A 2+HOT facility will not recover
its operating cost, let alone its capital cost.
(ii) A two-lane 3+HOT facility can recover its operating cost, especially if the general-purpose lanes are allowed to become congested.

Read his earlier research appearing in this 8-pg. PDF in Fall, 2005 UC's Access on HOV lanes and a bill that allowed hybrid cars to use them.

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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