Will the HOT lanes work to speed up your commute?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The comments have been pouring in about HOT lanes. Bloggers want to know whether or not drivers will pay a toll to use them, if they will acutally work and basically how we plan to report our results. You asked, we listened. Soon you will be able to track the progress and results of the HOT lanes Pilot Project on the Web.

Noel Brady, WSDOT HOT lanes web master tells me he plans to post running tallies on toll-prices, average driver speeds, and the number of vehicles using the HOT lanes to the HOT Lanes site on a regular basis. Progress reports will begin as soon as the HOT lanes are open to drivers later this month.

The progress and results will be measured primarily with traffic data available through both the HOT lanes system and our existing roadway monitoring computer system.

We are particularly interested in finding out whether or not HOT lanes can maintain travel time reliability for buses and carpools while offering a reliable trip choice for toll-paying solo drivers. Traffic engineers will also collect collision data on SR 167 to see if shifting more traffic to HOT lanes reduces collisions in the general purpose lanes.

A few co-workers and I are already making bets about how much time drivers will save by cruising the SR 167 HOT lanes. I guess we’ll have to keep checking the Web site to find out.


Anonymous said...

I personally think it will help us a great deal providing people follow the rules and that there is law enforcement present.

The one problem I have is that unless people have done extensive research about the hot lanes project and rules, there will be allot of confusion.I travel that whole corridor twice daily and so far I have seen many people cross the double white lines even with the massive signage saying not to. I also have not seen one State Patrol car in weeks.

Anonymous said...

The double white lines make no sense at all. I am in the carpool lane with 2 people in the car and we need to exit to the hospital but the place to leave the HOV lane is not even close to the exit? And vice versa I enter the freeway want the car pool lane but I am forced to drive a mile or more before I can get in the lane because you are not supposed to cross the double white line? I think the DOT could have used our tax dollars more wisely than to spend all this money on a pilot that all it does is generate money and does nothing for traffic relief.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone pay an extra 9 dollars to go 9 miles to get to the 405 traffic jam quicker with the prices of gas at what it is today. This does nothing for traffic relief. I can't believe that the DOT spent our tax dollars on this. Where on earth do you get your ideas? It is clear it is all about money and not traffic congestion.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how your going to be able to enforce the fact that their is 2 people in the vehicle? I see it everyday where people think that their tinted windows hide the fact that their the only one in the car. Or, on the other hand they might have a baby seat (that's empty) and they use that for an excuse to say their is more than one person. So, unless the state troopers come out with thermal detection radar guns to see how many people are in the vehicle your going to have honest people paying and dishonest people not. Does that make since?

kickahaota said...

Anonymous #2, this seems to be an eternal debate: which is better -- carpool lanes that can be entered and exited at any point, like we have around here, or separate parallel carpool roads that can only be entered and exited every few miles, like they have in some other cities? (With the double-white striping, the carpool lanes along 167 have essentially been converted into parallel carpool roads.)

You've done a great job of summarizing the drawback of limited access points -- if you're entering or exiting the freeway at an exit that's some distance from the nearest access point, you get slowed down by having to use the regular lanes. You may wind up finding that it's faster to use a different exit (the exit closest to the access point) and use surface streets to cover the last mile or two.

But the folks who prefer separate carpool roads will tell you that traffic tends to run faster on them, precisely because drivers don't need to be worried about slow traffic unexpectedly darting into the carpool lane. So you may wind up making up the lost time after all.

Of course, the nature of the 167 experiment leads to a catch: since the HOT lanes will only be separated from the road by a double-white line rather than by a physical barrier, people can cross whenever they want -- and the traffic speedup in the HOT lane between the access points will only occur when the drivers become reasonably confident that people won't do that. So it seems to me that in order for the experiment to work, there's going to need to be a heavy focus on ticketing folks that cross illegally, especially early on in the program.

kickahaota said...

Anonymous #3, it seems to me like you've answered your own question. If they set the toll rate that high, and if it doesn't provide drivers with a significant reduction in commute times, then drivers just won't use the HOT option. The DOT won't want to see that happen, so they'll need to set the tolls low enough that people see the HOT option as providing a real value, but not so low that people flood the lane and traffic speeds fall below the target. That's likely to be a critical element of the trial: What's the right formula for pricing the HOT lane at any given moment?

Anonymous #4, I would be very surprised if there's not aggressive enforcement by the State Patrol, especially early on; the access points have apparently been designed to allow the State Patrol to just park on the left and pick off passing violators like shooting fish in a barrel -- and the DOT will undoubtedly be encouraging them to do just that. Yes, it's sometimes difficult to tell whether there's a second person in a car, but you can make the same argument for any carpool lane.

Anonymous said...

Stupid idea. Just like the HOV's that cities around the country tried and realized were a failure before it.

Here's some real relief:

16 lane highways with 4 lane dedicated on-ramps and off-ramps and concrete segregated express lanes.

The average residential arterial leading into a duplex in California can handle more traffic volume than many of our highways.

You know the lanes on I5 are so badly worn from all the traffic and over-weight commercial vehicles that you can't even drive straight down the road anymore without your car tracking god aweful.

It's like a non-stop fight to keep the car even going straight on WA roads.

Anonymous said...

I think DOT should do what California does, have carpool from 5am to 9am in the direction needed and 3pm to 7pm the other direction.

All other times, it's wide open for anyone.

I know Cali has alot more traffic problems, but up here, we don't have as many drivers as they do, so it should work alot better.

kickahaota said...

Interesting.... a network of 16-lane roads in King County... interesting. I'm sure all those land condemnation proceedings would be lots of fun to watch. But I think it might be wise to concentrate on ideas that would be slightly more likely to actually pass the King County voters, like "Everybody gets a pony."

The Geezer said...

Ummm, while I really like Ponys, I don't think they pass muster with King Ron and the social engineers, as the "poo problem" would require a solution, generating additional solid waste, as well as the global warming caused by thier flatulance.

No, the Geezer is not a pony, though anonymous commenters on here have put forth that conjecture.

Methinks what will pass in King County is some fully engineered dirt paths, suitable for birkenstock clad, pony tail wearing, leftover 60's hippies.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Geezer OUT!

Relevance to post for JB--comment on 16 lanes unsuitable to the literati in Kingco. This is my response on what a reasonable (or not) alternative would be that would be acceptable to the literati, and social engineers.

Anonymous said...

I am really upset about this. I am in a carpool and merge on 167 from 84th/Central and usually go right over to the carpool lane. The other person above's comment about the hospital is right on. I have to go all the way past 212th to get into the lane? What this does is punish the carpoolers and good people who are honestly trying to help the environment and do what they can to minimize cars on the freeway.

Why they would not have merge points doesn't make any sense to me, especially around the major downtown Kent onramps. Makes me want to move.


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