Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dollars and sense: Breaking down the first I-405 express toll lanes financial report

By Jennifer Rash

After four months, you’re probably used to our report-outs on I-405 express toll lanes performance, trends, challenges and adjustments. Today, we want to introduce a new and important category to the reporting mix – finance.

We publish financial statements every three months to help you understand exactly where your toll dollar goes. We do this to show how we are being accountable with toll-payers dollars and transparent about revenue and the cost to collect tolls.

And because not everyone is an accountant, here’s a quick guide to understanding the terms in the financial statement:

Now that you understand the statement, there’s bound to be questions. Here are a few initial questions and answers that come to mind – and feel free to please post/Tweet your additional questions to us anytime:

Q: What am I looking at?
A: This shows you all of the revenue earned, then takes the gross revenue earned and deducts all of the costs to collect a toll, and then you end up with what net revenue remains.

Q: What is this telling me?
A: Revenue from express toll lanes is saved in a dedicated account in the state treasury just for use on I-405. This statement shows that after the first three months of express toll lanes there is $4.7 million in that account.

Q: What makes up the $4.7 million?
A: We’ll try to summarize in a nutshell:
  • Drivers made 2.75 million paid trips in the express toll lanes, which generated $3.7 million in toll revenue. After including other revenues, which mostly include Good To Go! pass sales, revenue equals $5.2 million.
  • After deducting $2.5 million for expenses for customer service, credit card processing fees, costs for Good To Go! passes, Pay By Mail printing and postage, WSDOT and consultant salaries, that leaves $2.7 million.
  • Lastly, then you add in $2 million which was already in the I-405 fund through a loan from the gas tax intended to cover operating costs prior to the opening of express toll lanes and cover the costs of Good To Go! passes allocated to I-405, that leaves you with $4.7 million.
Q: How do I know that WSDOT isn’t going to spend this money on other things?
A: I-405 express toll lanes revenue is saved in a dedicated account for future reinvestment in the I-405 corridor, monitored by the Office of Financial Management.

Q: What projects will the revenue fund?
A:  The Legislature will decide what corridor projects need the revenue.

Q: Did 70 percent of I-405 toll collections go to that vendor in Texas?
A: No. This vendor is only paid to do the work they are contracted to do and not based on how much toll revenue is generated. 

Q: Will future financial statements reflect similar results?
A: No. We anticipate operating costs will be higher as the system moves beyond the ramp-up period and operations steady. We will have stronger data on operations spending and revenue after the end of the fiscal year (around October). 

Q: What does this all mean?
A: Drivers are showing us their time is valuable. Our original forecasts projected 1 million tolled trips in the first three months, when there were actually 2.75 million paid trips in the express toll lanes. Since the number of trips was almost three times higher, the amount of toll revenue was also higher, $3.7 million, vs. the projected $1 million.

120 comments:

Vince R said...

Q: What is the link to the financial report?

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 said...

Wow - Projected revenue $1M, Actual Revenue $3.7M.

Very successful project thus far - hopefully some of the funds can be used for additional lanes on 405.

On another different note - given the tremendous success of the 405 ETLs - is there consideration for making the new 520 bridge 3rd lane an ETL lane? I would like to see that - giving commuters the same choice on 520 would be much appreciated.

WSDOT said...

Vince R, we’ve posted our financial statements here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/library.htm

Jeff Gray said...

Lets recap some other points:

1) W$DOT has officially admitted that the Extortion Toll Lanes have made traffic worse.

2) Lynn Peterson has been fired from W$DOT, mainly as a direct result of the epic failure of the Extortion Toll Lanes.

3) The only 'success' W$DOT has crowed about in the last few weeks is the pile of money they have extorted from the general populous....though its not about the revenue, right W$DOT?

4) The petition to scrap the Extortion Toll Lanes is over 30K.

If you think Lynn Peterson is the last person who will lose her job over this debacle, you are wrong. The goal would be to see 'Toll booth' Judy Clibborn, Marko Liias and Patty Rubstello right next to Lynn in the unemployment line.

chokai2 said...

South of SR-522 the HOT lanes have been so helpful by the time the year is over they will have saved us around a thousand dollars, even paying tolls. Given the very justified teeth gnashing of those north of SR-522 I'm glad to see they are at least financially a success. I hope that the income can expedite work to improve the situation north where the bulk of the objections to things seem to be coming from cause it is definitely worse now.

I would be very curious on seeing clear data published for how the situation south of SR-522 is (or a link if it's already there) because anecdotally it's been a massive improvement.

Oh and keep working on that 70% of the money goes to some company in Texas thing that's been circulating...

WSDOT said...

1dc5aaf4, thank you! We do want to add capacity to the corridor in the future. In the near term, we’re considering widening the roadway in the north, enough to allow shoulder driving north of SR 522.

There aren’t any plans to put an express toll lane on the SR 520, since it’s already a toll bridge. The SR 520 tolls are set to help pay for the new floating bridge, so they can’t fluctuate to manage congestion like I-405 ETLs. However, the HOV lanes on SR 520 bridge are set at 3+ which immediately offers a quicker ride for transit, vanpools and carpools.

WSDOT said...

chokai2, glad to hear the ETLs are saving you time and money. On average, the double-lane ETLs are moving at 56.7 mph (NB) and 58.6 (SB) during peak hour – a huge improvement. You can see those figures here: http://data.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/nw/405ETL/Week14/

You're right, there's a lot of misinformation out there. The problem with the 70% figure, is that the actual amount is a flat fee – 20 cents per toll. That means the Texas company providing our customer service and billing operations receives 2 to 27% of each toll, depending on the toll rate.

WSDOT said...

Jeff Gray, it's true that drivers heading northbound on I-405 from Bellevue are seeing new bottlenecks at the SR 520 interchange. Capacity was added south of SR 522 and now five lanes reduce to three lanes between SR 522 and I-5. This bottleneck has resulted in 4 minute slower travel times during the peak evening commute in this northbound section. Weekend trips are also experiencing slowdowns.

I assure you that we are listening to drivers feedback to make adjustments to the system. We are currently considering whether to add an additional lane to that stretch of highway by allowing drivers to travel on the shoulder, lengthening the toll lane access point in the northbound lanes where SR 520 merges with I-405 and suspending tolls on weekends.

We have seen more demand on the lanes than we forecast, which has resulted in higher revenues. That money is saved in a dedicated account for future reinvestment in the I-405 corridor, monitored by the Office of Financial Management, and spent on corridor improvements by legislative direction. You can see our entire financial report, linked to this blog.

Vince R said...

I answered my question above on the link. At least in my browser, the link in the text doesn't show up as a hyperlink due to the CSS used on the page. However when I moved my mouse over it, the style changes and you can see its a hyperlink.

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/library.htm

Vince R said...

@wsdot - I am seeing inconsistent information with your posts:

In this post, you say:

"The problem with the 70% figure, is that the actual amount is a flat fee – 20 cents per toll."

In another post made the same day:

"If the toll is 75 cents, the 54 cents toward toll collection would represent about 72% of the total toll. The 54 cents is a flat cost, which means as the toll increases, the percentage toward toll collection decreases."

This kind of problem pops up all over the place when I try to look for real data. I see conflicting information.

Vince R said...

@wsdot - Seriously, you are considering adding capacity on i-405 north of 522...only now... wow... just wow

So let me see if I get this right... even at the revenues being higher than projected, the expansion project on I-405 north of 522 will be no less than $1.5 billion dollars. Let me whip out my calculator to see how long it will take all of the money in that account, if it were even legal to use for that project, to fund it....

click...click...click...wow, I better check that again....

187 years.

Now, according to RCW 47.56.884, and I could be misreading this:

RCW 47.56.884

Interstate 405 express toll lanes operations account.

"The Interstate 405 express toll lanes operations account is created in the motor vehicle fund. All revenues received by the department as toll charges collected from Interstate 405 express toll lane users must be deposited into the account. Moneys in the account may be spent only after appropriation. Consistent with RCW 47.56.820, expenditures from the account may be used for debt service, planning, administration, construction, maintenance, operation, repair, rebuilding, enforcement, and the expansion of express toll lanes on Interstate 405."

The toll money cannot be used for anything but work on the ETLs unless they end up back in the general funds account.

Vince R said...

@wsdot - "That means the Texas company providing our customer service and billing operations receives 2 to 27% of each toll, depending on the toll rate."

So do they receive any other sources of income from the "Good-to-Go" program?

Additionally, in another post, it was as much as 72% of the income. Which is it? 27% or 72%?

Click... click... click...

$0.54 / $0.75 = 72%
$0.54 / $10.00 = 5.4%

It would seem your numbers are a bit off.... now I wonder where the misinformation is coming from?


Vince R said...

@1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 -

So If I hear your 520 request right, you want to take a toll bridge that we are not even done building, where rates can already be as high as $5.55 and on top of that charge... lets just toss a number out there... $10.....

But wait, if your hitting the $5.55 rate, your paying by mail... so that would be $12... so the grand total might be around $17.50 max... each way...

Yea... I am sure that many people will be able to afford the extra $9100 a year... and then you can use the 405 ETL... that will only be another $5200 a year. I am sure most people have an additional $14,300 a year to spend on getting to work faster...

Oh wait... they don't. That would be the 'social injustice' thing that people keep complaining about where they are taxed for something but don't really get to use it.

I am being sarcastic for a reason. I do think some degree of tolling is OK, but we need to be fair about it. The reason we had car tabs based on vehicle value was it was a good way to tax those who could afford to pay more, more money, and those that couldn't less.

WSDOT said...

Vince R, the 20 cents to the Texas company is included in the 54 cents toward toll collection. Hopefully this clears things up:

Total toll rates range from 75 cents to $10. 54 cents of every toll goes toward toll collection. Since 54 cents is a flat cost, this can represent 5 - 72%, depending on the toll rate. Within that 54 cents, 20 cents goes to the company in Texas that provides customer service and billing operations. This represents between 2 - 27% of the total toll rate.

Per RCW 47.56.884, the revenue may be used toward the express toll lanes or 'for any other improvements to the eligible toll facilities', that means on I-405. Again, the legislature decides how this money is spent.

As previously mentioned, you can email us with specific questions at 405carpool@wsdot.wa.gov. We’re happy to provide accurate information.

Cu Bong said...

5 facts below made my family upset about ETL and glad to see Lynn Peterson is gone.
-North of SR-522 on I-405 bottle neck and messy now were predictable and WSDOT intentionally ignored this critical fact or lack of experiences to computer models to analyze all travel data given. 5 lanes reduce to 3. A kindergarten can predict its outcome as happing everyday .
-The designs of weaving lanes exit/entry points SR-520 in both directions made no senses, it creates bottle neck because the weaving lanes are useless and taking too much spaces , therefore put 3 GPLs in narrower lane, before this area was wide open now the 3 GPLs are squeezing and being cut off from those drives exit from ETLs , using simples dash-lines at exit/entry NE 85th make traffic moving smoother . Many comments were made to WSDOT about this exit/entry points but WSDOT stubbornly insisted they are perfect and no need to change./
- My wife and I were carpool for the last 15 years from Lynwood to Redmond on I-405 and now force to use GPLs , several days a months we have to drive alone and using ETL due to the mess of GBL, Plus my 2 children attend UW Bothell, both sometime must use ETL to get to the campus on time. last 4 months my family spent average about $186.00 / month. . This is how WSDOT taking away our family saving.
- At exit SR-527 Canyon Park, WSDOT proud to post a sign that says : 155 millions dollars project to WIDEN I-405 from I5 to Bellevue" The project is done, but now why WSDOT consider to ...wide it out again to add more capacity ? Is this consider that WSDOT was liar ? or consider that WSDOT failed to predict the pressure coming from 5 lanes to 3 ? if that the case.....then WSDOT should consider to re-evaluate all engineers skill levels
-From tax prayers perspective, why WSDOT is hiring a company in Texas to do all the works of billing/tolling services, These type of jobs and skill can not do in WA ?

Unknown said...

@WSDOT "We have seen more demand on the lanes than we forecast, which has resulted in higher revenues." This is BS! The higher toll rates is the main revenue generator. $10 toll should be seldom if at all. My Bothell to Seattle via Redmond commute has doubled in time as I am 2 person carpool so now I am forced to use the GP lanes because I can't afford to use the toll lanes. Thanks a lot!

Unknown said...

@WSDOT "We have seen more demand on the lanes than we forecast, which has resulted in higher revenues." This is BS! The higher toll rates is the main revenue generator. $10 toll should be seldom if at all. My Bothell to Seattle via Redmond commute has doubled in time as I am 2 person carpool so now I am forced to use the GP lanes because I can't afford to use the toll lanes. Thanks a lot

WSDOT said...

Cu Bong, we appreciate you sharing your 5 major frustrations with the ETLs. We are doing our best to take all driver feedback into consideration for improvements to be made along the corridor. Many of your concerns with striping and access points are common points of frustration and we are listening. We must make thoughtful decisions moving forward because the system is still new. As far as the Texas company goes, 120 of those employees are in the Seattle region, serving customers like you. If you have further questions you’d like to discuss with us, we encourage you to email us at 405carpool@wsdot.wa.gov.

amsungirl said...

Has the $2 million loan to the gas tax been repaid? If not, why not?

amsungirl said...

Has the $2 million loan to the gas tax been repaid? If not, why not?

Helena said...

These toll lanes have been the biggest mistake in transportation history. We would all be better off if the extortion toll lanes were suspended ASAP. The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane.

Helena said...

Judy Clibborn is so out of touch with the people of this state. Representative Harmsworth's bill would have fixed the extortion lanes, but Clibborn refused to give it a hearing, wow isn't democracy great. Even with 30,000 signatures and thousands of complaints and everyone's cummute a disaster, she refuses to listen as she is more concerned about special interests groups and getting kickbacks from the Texas company where 75% of the money goes. What a joke. These toll lanes are the biggest threat to our neighborhood and our region in recent memory. We will defeat these tolls, and those who support them will be out of a job soon.

Vince R said...

@Helena - I think there is a misrepresentation on the percentage of money going to Texas. Going through the blog comments, I see this several times.

What is true is that most of the time (when the fee is $0.75), the percentage of overhead for tolls collected is 72%. Of that, about half is going to the collection agency in Texas.

If you looked at the estimated budget published several months ago, the revenue produced (total income - total expense) was projected as 16% which means the overhead (operation expenses) were estimated to be 84% and in the estimated budget, about half of overhead would be going to the Texas company.

Without seeing the general ledger, the information needed for figuring out this stuff cannot really be done from the account balance sheet, so we are having to guess...

I am just as concerned about what is effectively a state sponsored monopoly and having people inside our state employed by a company outside our state helps but does really address the issue. That is like outsourcing the work to a company in a different country and having some of their employees here. The net effect is the money is going out of the state and there is no incentive to reduce the costs or overhead.

Have you contacted Mrs. Clibborn's office to express your concern about the bill not getting a hearing?

Again, for those that cannot or will not listen to their constituents, the best solution is to vote them out of office. Get very active in helping move the issue forward. I know this issue has impacted me enough to get me on the phone, writing email, reviewing bills and legislation... because I feel that WSDOT will not fix the issues without pressure to do so. The 405 GTG project has turned me from a supporter to an opposer of the project, and any further expansion of similar approaches. Now I want to see projects that really fix congestion for all commuters instead of giving a select few a way to buy their way out of the mess we have.



Vince R said...

Apparently, a log of 'moderation' is occuring. I am still waiting on several of my posts to get 'approved'.

Art said...

Helena, could you please stop repeating this nonsense over and over again?
1. The toll lanes are not the biggest mistake in transportation history. There were bridges that fell apart soon after being built and there were ships that sank on the maiden voyages. All of these are much bigger mistakes.
2. The toll lanes are not the biggest threat to our region. The Cascadia fault is a much bigger threat.
3. 75% of the money doesn't go to Texas company.
4. The Texas company doesn't conduct all business from Texas. In fact the majority of people supporting the toll lanes work in Seattle area.
5. Not everyone's commute is a disaster and not everyone hates the toll lanes. 30000 signatures is nothing compared to over 200 thousand cars that happily travel I-405 daily. It would be really sad if everyone who supports the toll lanes loses their job since that would mean huge unemployment numbers for Eastside.

Yes, there are is more work to be done to improve traffic on I-405: more capacity is needed north of Bothell, more entrance points are needed for HOT lanes, etc. but going back to 1 HOV lane is not a bright idea. We had it before and all carpools and buses were stuck in traffic all the time, there was no way to get anywhere reliably.

Vince R said...

I am interested in hearing why the estimated budget and the 2nd quarter numbers do not match.

Specifically, why is there more revenue than originally estimated?

ericn said...

Any chance you could move a merge area (gap in double white line) to closer to where people enter 405 when merging north on 405 from 520? Currently, folks have to drive for 2 miles in the peasant lanes before they can join the Lexus lanes. even van-pools. the peasant lanes are very pokey in the evening rush hour. This causes huge backups onto westbound 520 for those merging north onto 504. Unfortunately, it messes up 520 traffic wanting to merge onto 405 south as well since 520 does not have distinct lanes for those merging north vs south onto 405.

ericn said...

The link at this page shows "HOV 2+ Free W/Flex Pass"

http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/seattle/flowmaps/i-405toll.aspx

I like that better than the "3+ Free" posted on the signs for the area.

WSDOT said...

@Ericn, it's off-peak hours right now, meaning the carpool requirement is 2+. Carpool requirements change to 3+ only during peak hours (5-9 am and 3-7 pm Monday-Friday). Also, the merge area from SR 520 on to I-405 is a specific area we are looking at to make striping changes. You can learn more about striping adjustments and other improvements we are making in a previous blog post, found here: wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2016/01/you-want-it-you-got-it.html.

WSDOT said...

Vince R, we do moderate comments. Every comment that is not on topic or deemed to be harassing in any way will not be posted. Here is our comment policy for reference: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Policy/comments.htm

WSDOT said...

Vince R, as we outlined in the blog post above, more drivers are choosing to use the lanes. The number of trips is almost three times higher than we anticipated.

Vince R said...

That makes sense. More congestion equates to more revenue.

That seems kind of counter intuitive. Increased revenue kind of means a failure then...

For example, if too many people use the lane, the revenue will go up, but the speed will drop, forcing you to raise the price to say... $10. This will look good on the balance sheet but feel bad if your commuting.

I am wondering how my comments on the way tolls collected can be used on our roads qualifies as off topic, when others posting the same kinds of comments are not moderated away. I was clearly using the states RCW content to show how the bill and RCWs do not match, which accounts could recieve funding from the tolls and what the state considers tolling facilities.

If that is off topic, then all such comments on this should be removed, like 'Very successful project thus far - hopefully some of the funds can be used for additional lanes on 405.'

I didn't see anyone from WSDOT jump in, or any other commenter for that matter, question or clarify that comment. From the legislation, that doesn't appear to be correct, unless you redefine the GPLs on 405 as tolling facilities. But hey, we have a history of changing the names of things as we deem fit... a GPL can be called an auxillary lane apparently without the need for our representatives to approve such a change.



Anne Mallin said...

I drive 405 S. about 5 days/week.
I drive between 7 and 8:30AM usually. EVERY CAR is backed up in ALL lanes, however the HOV/Toll lane moves a bit faster.
Why not torture ALL the masses and get this over with. EVERY car/truck needs to pay like $00.25 (25 cents) PER EXIT to travel on 405 North and South.
Every state does that.
It does NOT matter whether you're rich or poor, there is no free lunch.
Ever try riding on a ferry free? Just because you own a broken down car, Motorcycle or Hybrid car or Mercedes............... NO person or car rides for free.

Use logic not emotion, folks.
Reduce the HOV lanes costs, hike the 'Poor Mans Lanes' and we all contribute.
Who gets out of paying for gas in a car? Nobody.
Who gets out of paying a registration fee for their car? Nobody.
Who gets out of paying for their license plates? Nobody.
Who gets out of paying for insurance for their car? Nobody.
It gets more clear here:
While all the 'Poor People Lanes' are fully loaded and we are waiting in long lines in standing traffic, the roads are STILL getting worn out and we are STILL polluting the air.

No one is winning this process by charging only for the HOV/Toll lanes.
Here is the real kicker.
The above comments bringing up "NO Enforcement" is very real.
What cop is gonna slow down the mad-crazy commuters by trying to enforce 3 people in a car.
Truth: There is NO enforcement, none at all.
I see hundreds of cars every morning rush by my left side with ONE DRIVER.
No cops, no justice, no money from almost everyone on that 405 stretch from Lynnwood to Bellevue!
A fifth grader could do better math.
NY State Thruway -- from NYCity to Buffalo charges PER exit.
It doesn't cost very much to go the entire way considering the roads are perfect,never , EVER congested and most people stopped always get stopped for speeding usually about 70 mph !!
So, let them keep their illogical process, let them figure out the 4 tires sitting and sitting and sitting in MOST of the lanes.
It justifies voting in a bunch of Republicans........... as you see the Democrats are barely winning these days.
They want to give everything away for free, yep, it's all FREE from us working hogs.
Write your Senators and go to Olympia, speak with the people, sign up to speak for 5 min. during the Legislature.
If you don't do it, you only have your own self to blame.
And remember, voting for Dems really has done all this.
Meanwhile , one half of our budget costs - NATIONALLY - during peacetime is going to the military , while we should be spending a large share of it on infrastructure...

Vince R said...

@helena - BTW I don't want to discourage you from posting. For me, I have been trying to keep up with the published data, news, bills, and existing legislation. It hasn't been 100% easy to do because not all of the data matches and how I am interpreting things in the legislation is probably a lot less liberal than WSDOT has... for example, I don't consider the 405 GPLs to be a tolling facility, where at least once, I have seen WSDOT state that they are. So for me, when I have been talking to my representatives, I have been focusing on these issues:

• Created more congestion for the majority of daily commuters
• Increased accidents and safety issues throughout the region
• Created weaving problems
• Increase travel times for anyone in the GPLs, including 2 person carpoolers
• Reduced GPL capacity
• Reduced family time
• Increased traffic outside of the 405 corridor
• Moved jobs out of our state
• Created a form of social injustice on our roads
• Impacted our local businesses

And with any luck, some of the recommended wording I have provided will get put in the next revision of the proposed bill changes. Specifically:

"(f) Toll charges may not be assessed and minimum vehicle occupancy requirements are not permitted in the corridor identified in this section: (i) Between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.; (ii) at any time on the weekend; and (iii) on all state and federal holidays. No registration, special tags, tracking devices or equipment shall be needed to use these lanes during this time period, and no tracking of vehicles shall be performed during this period, other that the minimal needed to manage traffic."

I would never have even given the GTG project a second had it not had such a substantial and direct impact the day it was turned on, which had not gotten better for me. For me, and I suspect many others, it has done more harm than good.

The horrible traffic flow that started the day it was turned on has not gone away and has spilled on to surface roads. Of course our new ETLs seem to be moving just fine ... most of the time and if you are one of the lucky folks that qualify for using them, or can afford to use them daily... I am happy for you. I am not one of those people and judging from all the cars I see around me during our rush hours, there are a lot of folks just like me. In fact, if there were a lot of folks that could afford to use those lanes, they would not work, so by they very method that they are managed, they are intentionally exclusive.

I cannot put my finger on why these seem to work better in the other places I have seen them used, but our 405 implementation is horrible by comparison. It could be that in the places it has been used successfully, they have higher GPL capacity than we do... who knows. I just know bad traffic problems when I have to drive in it daily and we have BAD traffic problems.

So Helena, please keep commenting. As someone that is dealing with the traffic problems, which got much worse when the day the 405 GTG project went live, I feel your pain too. I just ask that the posts highlight the issues and drive WSDOT to work on fixing them. Be specific instead of over statements of general opinions.

In my opinion, WSDOT doesn't seem to be proactively stepping up to the problems GTG caused without people voicing their concerns in large numbers and volumes, so your voice does matter.

amsungirl said...

I repeat: Has the $2 million loan to the gas tax been repaid? If not, why not?

Vince R--you bring a whole new perspective on the topic--I for one am feeling that your questions/concerns are being dodged.
WSDOT--you have been "well trained" in your rhetoric. If you really like/love your job--that leaves me really concerned. If you don't, maybe you should reconsider?

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - Here is an example of the type of planning that seems like it could impact traffic congestion... so I am wondering how WSDOT provides guidance ... if at all... to topics like this:

-----------------------------------------------------
<a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/seattle-density-doesnt-have-to-be-a-dirty-word/'> Seattle among top 10 most densely populated big cities in the U.S. for first time ever </a>

Seattle’s most densely-populated census tract is on Capitol Hill, while South Lake Union has seen the greatest increase in density since 2010.

...

That conflict came to a head in July, when Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee recommended increasing density in areas zoned for single-family homes. It didn’t go over well in some parts of town.

...

With 7,962 people per square mile in 2014, Seattle leapfrogged Baltimore into the No. 10 spot among the 50 most populous cities in the country. Seattle’s population density has increased by nearly 10 percent since the 2010 Census. And if current growth rates continue, we’ll bypass No. 9 Los Angeles within five years.

-----------------------------------------------------
My questions:

1. When proposals are made to increase population density in an area, what does WSDOT do to make sure the infrastructure is able to support the increase demand?

2. As this trend continues, it will impact 405, 99, and a bunch of other roads. What planning does one look at to see what WSDOT is doing to deal with the increase population density?

3. How do building and zoning codes address impact our needs for public transportation like 405?

4. What changes need to be made to zoning codes to help address issues like those we are facing on 405?

5. Is WSDOT planning on placing tolls on I-5 through Seattle, similar to those on I-405?

6. How has the traffic patterns in other parts of the Seattle area changed as a result of GTG on I-405?

7. What is the most recent 'master plan' that addresses some of the deficiencies in our road designs that cause traffic backups every day... like 520-to-405, 520-to-5, 405 north of 522, 405 south near exit 5, 5 under the convention center, the mercer street mess on and off of 5, ...?


Vince R said...

@Anne - Technically, we already tax (another word for toll) all vehicles to use our roads. It is done in several ways:
1. Federal excise tax
2. Motor vehicle / special fuel tax
3. Motor vehicle sales tax
4. Motor vehicle license / tabs
5. Washington State business and occupation tax (B&O)
6. A portion of the WA state sales tax

In addition, we have special fuel taxes with specific projects earmarked, like the nickle tax in 2003 to add a GPL to 405 (cough cough... somehow WSDOT reclassified it as auxiliary lane... but that is a different issue)...

A large portion of our roads funding comes from sales tax on fuel, which as more vehicles move to electric and/or become more fuel efficient, reduces the available funds. Washington already has plans to begin testing a 'per mile road tax' in 2017.

So adding more costs to our drivers, in my opinion, is not the answer to our traffic jams. You will take an already bad situation and make it worse.

From what I see each day, there are a few key spots on our roads that have a domino effect on our traffic jams. These key spots always contribute to backups. They were poorly designed, do not handle capacity and cause dangerous conditions.

I can bet that anyone that drives the roads daily can tell you where they are just as easily as I can. I don't think adding a nickle, dime, quarter, or any amount of money to our drivers use of the roads will fix those issues. It might push more people onto our surface roads, which are not intended to handle that level of traffic... so we would end up causing much more wear and tear on the surface roads too, which ultimately costs everyone more time, money, safety, and such.

As far as enforcement goes, we are funding several more state patrol officers as part of the GTG expenses. I would imagine that there is some requirement that the extra patrol have a quota... errr... that is a bad term we don't want to use... 'performance goal'... as to how many people they ticket... and like it or not, that is probably as good as you will get it.

Cu Bong said...

@ VINCE R, reading and following many well studied / knowledge posts from you. We need person like you to replace Lynn P. We need the person like you to fight for the bureaucracy, Thank You Vince for seriously paying attention on ETLs

WSDOT said...

Hi Anne, thanks for the feedback and your suggestions. ETLs are a traffic management tool, which more effectively manages the supply and demand of the roadway we have available to us. We appreciate you sharing your concerns about enforcement, but Washington State Patrol is responsible for that.

Since the ETLs opened in September, 24% of drivers are using Flex Passes to ride in the ETLs for free on weekdays, and 45% are getting free trips on weekends. But many drivers who don’t qualify as carpools are using the lanes as well, most often for $4 or less. As a reminder, the express toll lanes are open to all drivers who are willing to pay the toll for a faster trip, and carpools are always free with a Flex Pass.

WSDOT said...

Amsungirl, When the budget was submitted, tolling on I-405 had not yet begun so the Office of State Treasurer (OST) did not assume a specific repayment schedule. We currently have an I-405 decision package before the legislature and an expected update to the forecast in June. Once we have that information available, the OST will be able to recommend a repayment schedule. We will have to wait until legislature decides to add this transfer language in the budget; it may happen during next biennium budget cycle.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - a bit of clarification.

" As a reminder, the express toll lanes are open to all drivers who are willing to pay the toll for a faster trip"

From what I understand, that right to drive in the ETLs can be revoked at any time and restricted to just HOVs, as has already happened at least once that I have seen.

That means that for those people that rely on always being able to use the ETLs by just paying to use it, you might want to make sure you have back-up plans for when you can't.

Again, this is from what I understand, but I can't find it written down anywhere.

Vince R said...

@Amsungirl - to a cetain degree, you kind of want money in the account to allow for the mitigation of issues with the project. Imagine if there was a huge issue ... (attempting not to be sarcastic about 'if there was a big issue' but its really hard)... you would need some cash on hand to address it. Now since the project cost almost 1/2 billion dollars, 2 - 4 million dollars (less than 1% of the project cost) is not a lot of money for the mitigation of issues.

For example, using the cost estimates for expanding 405 south of I-90 says the project will run about 1.5 billion dollars for the widening of 405 as well as other costs. If you use that as a rough estimate for widening 405 north of 522, which is desperately needed, you would see that the 2 to 4 million might cover the impact study... maybe.

So to me, the issue with the 2 million dollar loan is no so much about paying it back as in how it was reported. On the balance sheet, it makes the project look more 'successful' to some eyes because it looks like the system has already made around 4 million dollars, when it is really more like under 2 million.

Along those lines, it is also unclear on what the actual overhead is. I have not yet heard if the toll income on the balance sheet is 'pre' or 'post' fees going to the processing company in Texas. If this is 'pre' then the overhead is much less than was originally estimated. If it is 'post', the overhead is still less, but I cannot compute it from the balance sheet. Either way, the overhead is not what the original estimate was, which was 84%. It will be somewhere between 65% and 44% and is probably on the lower side of that range.

Personally, I have an issue where success is being measured in dollars collected when WSDOT has all along stated that it was not about the revenue (cough cough... side step... dance dance dance). As I pointed out earlier, more revenue that was estimated is actually a bad sign. It means that the estimates on congestion were too low and we have more congestion than was anticipated. This was evident when we hit the $10 toll rate very early in the project. I find it much more comforting to know that the estimated demand and congestion matched what we are actually seeing. It would give more merit to the work done in justifying the project. Being off 3 fold makes me ask how long before this project needs to have further capacity.

Additionally, for those people that pay to use the ETLs, this should be a definite 'warning' sign that should make them ask "What happens when the estimated capacity needed in the ETLs is not enough to maintain 45MPH?" because the only answer that WSDOT can give as outlined in the legislation is that they will have to reduce traffic in the ETLs until the speed is above 45 MPH 90% or more of the time. When you read between the lines, what that means is that HOV traffic will be given priority over toll traffic. What do you want to bet that those people that praised having the choice to pay to drive around the traffic jams will complain when they have no options and must sit in the same traffic as everyone else... maybe then a light will come on about fixing the real issues instead of paying to drive around them.

WSDOT said...

Vince, good observation. In the case that an incident is blocking the express toll lanes, toll rate signs may display an HOV ONLY override. In the case that an incident is blocking the general purpose lanes, signs may display an OPEN TO ALL override. Otherwise, we’ve been clear that the express toll lanes can be used by anyone, even if the vehicle does not meet carpool requirements.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT a bit of clarification:

"ETLs are a traffic management tool, which more effectively manages the supply and demand of the roadway we have available to us."

This is not accurate.

First, our policy for ETLs is that it maintains a speed 45 MPH 90% of the time. It is this policy that drives just about everything we do in the ETLs, from the tolls to who is eligible to use them. This is management of flow. Not WSDOT tries to reduce demand to improve flow by raising the toll rates as velocity decreases but as we saw even at $10 there can be a high demand.

Supply is the capacity to carry traffic, demand is the desire to use the capacity, and flow is path and velocity the traffic is moving.

As our policy is velocity based, not congestion based, it is inaccurate to say it manages supply/demand or congestion or any other term that isn't based on velocity.

Second, GTG is not a policy for our roadway. Implicitly, on this discussion, when we are talking about our roadway, we are referring to the 405 corridor, between downtown Bellevue to the 405/5 interchange to the North. WSDOT should not forget that although the traffic flow in the ETLs is being managed under GTG, the GPLs are not. We do not limit access to 405 when the flow int he GPLs falls below a specific velocity. Except for construction, we do not open the ETLs to GPL traffic when the GPL is too slow.

Third, 'more effectively' than what? Than anything? Than AI based autonomous cars? Than traffic officers standing in traffic blowing whistles to direct vehicles? How is this efficiency measured? Is it in dollars collected in tolls? Is it in customer satisfaction scores? Is it in average vehicle hours spent in traffic across the entire piece of road? Does it include the roads around 405 where people now spend more time than before? It's pretty easy to read this blog and see how GTG will be reported as a success based on the wording that has been used from day 1.

ETLs help buses move faster along our roadway. True.
ETLs allow people to pay to bypass our traffic jams. Mostly true.
ETLs manage traffic flow in specific lanes. True.

ETLs manage our roadway. False
ETLs are more efficient. Not enough information, but probably really false in the big picture.
ETLs solve congestion problems. False.

I can envision a time when autonomous cars pile into a special lane where they are traveling at high speeds, bumper to bumper. Where the traffic flow is less based on demand than what computers consider safe driving conditions. Where ETLs are no needed because we are more efficiently using our roadways. Where there are less bus sized vehicles being used by commuters and more van sized vehicles used by commuters. Where the concept of vanpools and busses is antiquated and has been replaced with on-demand transit vans or shared personal transport vehicles. Where even the concept of owning a car for most people is foreign. I might be crazy or underestimating the challenges to making that vision a reality, but looking at the speed of innovation, those changes are without our 20 year reach. The last master plan I saw from WSDOT was for a 10 year period. Are we creating plans, policies, budgets and projects that will be as durable and flexible as we need for whats coming? I don't think we need to be investing in flying cars... but there are now at least 9 states that are embracing automated vehicles now... and I have seen them driving around...

From what I am reading and seeing, no. The statements I am seeing about GTG in this blog do not indicate a forward thinking mindset, but rather one that is more about selling and marketing old ideas or poorly conceived projects.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT -
What happened to the telephone poll?
Did it happen?
What where the questions asked?
What was the sample size?
What is gathered data?
What is the margin of error?
What is the demographics of the sample?
...

Vince R said...

@WSDOT

I haven't seen an answer to this, but it would be useful to know....

When traffic flow in the ETLs drops below 45 MPH and tolls are at $10 (or whatever we raise the maximum to be), then what?

Based on what I read in the RCWs, it would appear this is not covered. One could argue that we don't need to worry about it... but we have already hit the precursor to this condition... a max toll rate of $10.

It would be logical to assume that in this condition, further restrictions on the use of the ETLs would occur. Like shedding toll traffic, increasing the requirements to qualify as an HOV to 4, 5, 6 ... people...

Are there plans in place for if this conditions begins to happen more frequently?


WSDOT said...

Vince, The most comprehensive master plan for our region is PSRC’s Transportation 2040 plan: http://www.psrc.org/transportation/t2040/t2040-pubs/final-draft-transportation-2040/ which directs most of our federal funding.

Vince R said...

The PSRC’s Transportation 2040 plan is a huge amount of data... that will take a bit to read but it looks like the kind of stuff I was looking for... thanks. It that discussed in this blog as well or a different one?

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - So the answer to my question of if WSDOT is planning on using ETLs on I-5 is yes.


On I-5, HOV lanes would operate as HOT in the mid-term with the existing express lanes potentially converted to fully tolled operations to help fund reconfiguration of the express lanes, operational improvements at the Seattle interchanges, a new peak hour transit lane from Olive St. to SR 520, and eventual reconstruction of the Mercer and SR 520 interchanges to eliminate the left side exits by 2040. A two-lane HOT system would extend north through Shoreline in the mid-term to link to similar HOT operations in the West Snohomish portion of I-5. In the long term I-5 could be fully tolled. WSDOT is also studying a new northbound general purpose lane between Seneca and Olive streets.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct on SR 99 will be replaced between S Holgate and Lenora streets, potentially with a tunnel partly funded by full tolling between Atlantic and Denny in the mid term with more of the new facility tolled in the longer
term.



In essence, this little blurb "In the long term I-5 could be fully tolled." (Appendix b, page 38 of 118) says it all.

It also says that the verdict on if GTG is a success was made before GTG was even launched. It also points out that WSDOT is moving heavily towards tolling everything.

I sure hope that WSDOT looks at the impact this has on our businesses...several studies have pointed out that tolling vs federally funded systems create a disadvantage for local businesses when they have to compete with business in areas where there tolling is not done.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - looks like the code for figuring out if ETL travel is free or legal didn't pass the moderation bar... can you at least verify if that logic is correct or if its missing anything. I can post it on a different web site so people can read it if they want.

Vince R said...

As a side note, if you are color blind and need to read the maps in that document, good luck with that. They rely heavily on subtle color differences to delineate different things, like passenger only vs passenger/bike ferries.

PaulD said...

I would that anyone ergo wants to open the toll lanes realizes that I-405 is always going to be congested and that the only way to ensure any possibility of having assign option to travel quickly, when needed, is to restrict access for most vehicles. The current plan, no matter how agrieved driver feel, is the only logical plan. If prepare don't like it, they should move to some less congested place because traffic is NOT going to get better. Keep the toll lanes the way they are. Good job WSDOT!
PaulD

PaulD said...

Keep the lanes the way they are. That is the only logical and wise choice. If drivers don't agree, they should move to some city where there is no toll restriction.That way they can enjoy gridlock with NO option to go faster. I congratulate WSDOT for being logical.

WSDOT said...

Vince, which telephone poll are you referencing? The Puget Sound population is growing every day, and WSDOT worked to develop a forward-thinking plan to manage traffic given the roadway we have available to us. WSDOT does not have any plans to raise the max toll rate, and that decision will ultimately be made by the Transportation Commission.

WSDOT said...

@PaulD, appreciate the support. We agree that the option to choose a faster trip is a great addition to I-405!

Vince R said...

@PaulD - I am not sure it is the only option but it is the one that WSDOT chose to promote.

I just ran across this article, <a href="http://www.seattlepi.com/local/transportation/article/I-405-Seattle-traffic-tolls-6823728.php'>Report says I-405 tolls made traffic worse, WSDOT, other group disagree</a>

...

'The independent assessment, conducted by Kirkland-based INRIX, found that HOV lanes saw higher speeds after tolls began, but "speeds in the general-purpose lanes have generally gotten worse for the majority of drivers."'

...

Now that claim has not gone uncontested, but it should be noted that Inrix is a company that makes it living off of processing traffic data. They sample data in the vehicles. from WSDOT, and a number of other sources, and they have historical data for specific experiences/people (annonymous I am assuming).... so I suspect that they have a basis to make such a claim.

Here is a different arcticle, http://q13fox.com/2016/02/10/405-toll-lanes-have-made-traffic-worse-for-many-drivers-finds-new-report-by-traffic-data-company/ , "I-405 toll lanes ‘have made traffic worse’ for many drivers, finds new report by traffic data company" about the same statement:
...

“The data confirms that despite increasing capacity by 25 percent, the HOT lanes have made traffic worse for drivers in the general purpose lanes and only benefit drivers who use the HOT lanes,” reads an email from the company. “This is in line with what locals and commuters have been experiencing and expressing since the lanes opened last September.”

...

I would have to agree with that statement as it directly reflects what I have experienced and what others I know have stated to me when the topic of GTG on 405 has popped up, which has been on a regular basis since GTG went live.

Vince R said...

@wsdot - several weeks ago, wsdot, in this blog, stated that it was in the process of doing a poll to determine if people were happy with GTG. One blogger had started an on-line survey to see what people thought, which I pointed out might not give the best results.

I am interested in the results of that phone survey and the process by which it was done.... unless WSDOT decided not to do it... then I would be interested in why they didn't.

Vince R said...

@pauld - Sometimes the 'only logical plan' is one that no one has thought of. Here is an example:

In the US, bicycles have had a high rate of accidents related to intersections, specifically left turns. We of course are using the 'only logical approach' to how bicycles travel through intersections so we accept the rate of accident as unavoidable.

The Dutch, however, didn't find it acceptable. They changed how their bicycle lanes work on roads and at intersections, and as a result have MUCH lower accident rates for their bicyclists.

If we had Dutch-style intersections, we’d ride our bikes everywhere, too.

So when I hear words like 'always', 'never' and 'only', I usually associate that statement as limited, closed or over simplified. We can do better than what we have and I do not believe that our implementation of GTG is the only logical choice.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - My question about ETLs failing to maintain 45 MPH is not so much related to the toll being at whatever max we have set it at, but what will WSDOT do in the ETLs when that maximum is reached and the lane is still moving too slow.

Logically, we will hit that point. We should only hit maximum toll rate when velocity in the GTG lanes drops to an unacceptable level. We use tolling to try to shed traffic to increase velocity. Now, what happens when tolls, at their maximum, are not enough to raise velocity?

GTG/ETLs are a failure if they do not maintain 45 MPH 90% of the time (during each sample period). No cheating by using the daily average. Its the rush hours / peak travel times that count. So I am assuming that WSDOT cannot wiggle out of that condition.... so what is the plan to make sure GTG on 405 always meets the legal commitment to velicity... when tolls are not enough?

Vince R said...

So if you are concerned about our transportation future, the document given above "PSRC’s Transportation 2040" gives a lot of insight into the thoughts and plans for Puget Sound.

I have not finished reading it yet but have gone through a lot of it.

My personal opinion is that we need some new blood on that commission. It lacks 'out-of-the-box' thinking and is basically using 50 year old approaches to deal with technologies 30 years from now. I don't see 'vision' so much as slow response. Is the best we are going to do for our east/west commuters over the next 30 years really just to add two foot/bicycle ferry routes on Lake Washington? This runs counter to the opening statement where we are forecasting a 20+ percent growth in demand for commuters due to business growth. This might sound more sarcastic that concern, but trust me, it is concern... tell me we don't plan on moving 20% of our commuters across Lake Washington on foot ferries.

Maybe I haven't gotten to the point in the document that describes a super efficient light rail, a hypertube, additional bridges, a tunnel under the lake... or some other plan that will actually handle the demand... I might not have gotten there yet.... but WOW... some pretty big shortfalls seem to be apparent in what I have read so far.

Helena said...

We absolutely don't need 2 toll lanes in each direction. It has already been a proven failure. We would all be better off if we implemented Harmsworth Bill which would have reduced 1 extortion lane in each direction. This is a fair compromise that would benifit everyone.

WSDOT said...

Helena, the problem with just adding normal lanes, beyond cost, is that eventually they fill up, and the traffic congestion problem continues. Adding more cars to the roadway will create more gridlock where there are already chokepoints – especially in the north end where I-405 has just three lanes.

Vince R said...
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Vince R said...

@WSDOT - definitely on topic and as of yet unanswered...

On the balance sheet, are the incomes reported for tolls 'pre' or 'post' fees subtracted for:

* $0.20 per toll for the Customer Service Center from Richman, Texas
* $0.15 per toll for the Roadway Toll System from Rockville, Maryland?
* $0.19 per toll for the State operations and credit card processing (assuming in WA)

Again, I ask this because the balance sheet is a big ambiguous on this and it would be useful in understanding the actual overhead that this is costing our commuters.

Vince R said...
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Vince R said...
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Vince R said...

@wsdot - "@PaulD, appreciate the support. We agree that the option to choose a faster trip is a great addition to I-405!"

Can you explain how this is on topic for financial reporting and how it doesn't go against your published policy on moderating content?

Further, seriously, do you really need to make this kind of comment? We get that your job is to sell the Good-To-Go project. We have seen the marketing rhetoric repeated time and time again. In fact, how crazy would it be for WSDOT to have invested half a billion dollars of tax payer money if WSDOT didn't agree with the implementation that WSDOT promoted?

It would be great if you could answer some of the questions asked on the topic of fiances.

Or why the data for traffic flow that used to work prior to GTG stopped working after (for the Garmin Nuvi), but still works in other sections of the road...clearly the device is still working, the data feeds for other sections of the road still work.... just the new 405 'GTG' section seems to have stopped working... coincidentally the same time that GTG was launched

or stuff like that...

As a side note, the Puget Sound Regional 2030 plan is quite insightful. It really give insight into how WSDOT thinks our transportation dollars should be spent. For those that have the time, I would recommend giving it a read. Thanks for posting that link. I would have never known about it if you hadn't. WSDOT has gotten very good at project names... SMART... Good-to-Go... they sure do paint a picture.

Jeff Gray said...

"Adding more cars to the roadway will create more gridlock where there are already chokepoints – especially in the north end where I-405 has just three lanes."

You mean the area that did not have chokepoints before the Extortion Toll Lanes were put it place? Pre-ETL, when heading north it was smooth sailing once you were past Bothell.

Going by your logic, there will never be another lane of roadway built anywhere in the state. Ever. That is just as well since I will never vote for anything that gives a DIME to W$DOT while the Extortion Toll Lanes are in place.

After Inslee, Clibborn, Liias and the rest of the gang of thieves are voted out in the next election cycle W$DOT is in for a rude awakening.

Helena said...

The reason I405 is so congested north of Hwy 522 is because it only has 2 general purpose lanes. Same goes for I405 from Renton to Bellevue. I was just at a community meeting at Kennydale elementary where WSDOT came and told the group that the new lane that we were waiting years for would be a toll lane. I have never seen so many angry people as we were promised 2 general purpose lanes in each direction. Adding a toll lane to the southern half of I405 before the much needed general purpose lanes we were originally promised will be one of the dumbest decisions in recent memory. WSDOT is so out of touch with the people of this state. No one wants these tolls, all we want is congestion relief. This is why my neighbors and I will fight these tolls to the end and we will win. By the time the new lane is constructed in 2019, these extortion toll lanes will be a distant moment and those in charge will be fired. These toll lanes are the biggest threat to our community. We already have a huge neighborhood freeway traffic problem on lake Washington Blvd and the thought of adding a toll lane would send thousands of cars through our neighborhood. We will fight these tolls and vote out anyone that supports them. It is going to take years for the public to trust the WSDOT after all there lies and propaganda regarding the extortion lanes. It is frustrating that WSDOT does not listen to what the public wants and that they really don't care about people in the general purpose lanes. All one has to do is look at the terrible cummute from Bellevue to Renton and see that we need 2 general purpose lanes and not toll lanes.

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 said...

Given the tremendous success of the I-405 ETLs, I can see this as a sign of things to come.

I hope that ETLs will be added to I-5, all the way up and down I-405, and I-90 and SR-520 as well. It will be a great benefit to have choices on those highways too.

Thank you WSDOT for your perseverance in seeing the 405 project through! The project has already made a positive impact in the Puget Sound region, and is much appreciated.

Vince R said...
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Vince R said...

@1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 - I suspect you will get your 'dream' of tolls everywhere... but it might be more of a nightmare.

I am not quite sure how you qualify 'the tremendous success of the I-405 ETLs'. By several measures, it has not been beneficial to our daily commutes.

Vince R said...
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Vince R said...
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Vince R said...

@WSDOT – From your post on http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2015_10_01_archive.html

So if I understand your diagrams correctly, fees from our tolls get dispersed like this:

• $0.20 – Customer Service Center (out of Texas)
• $0.15 – Roadway Toll System (out of Maryland)
• $0.19 – State Operations and credit card processing (Out of WA?)
• Remaining – income to out toll income account

So to compute the operational overhead, we would need to know the cost of the first three things if they are not included on the account summary for the 405 GTG system.

Can you explain how these are accounted for and where they show up in the operational budget?

Thanks.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT – can you summarize how the feedback you have gotten from commuters, elected officials, employees, bus drivers, and concerned citizens has been used to change the 405 GTG project in the last 2 months?

Vince R said...
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Vince R said...
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Vince R said...

@WSDOT – The phone survey was originally mentioned under blog entry http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2016/01/405etl-update-by-numbers.html

It was in response to someone posting a survey for commuter satisfaction on the GTG project for 405. WSDOT wrote it on Jan 19, 2016 and stated that WSDOT was having a 3rd party perform a telephone survey. Several people responded to that posting, including myself.

“That is why, as WSDOT points out, getting an outside survey is the best way to get good data, where ideally a sample is polled from people randomly... who aren't predisposed to say something negative or positive... assuming the methodology for collecting the data is valid.”

So, it has been a while since WSDOT posted that remark (and a remark that has since apparently been removed with no sign of it being there except for all the comments made about it)… revisionist history… you have to love it.

So whats the scoop on the survey… do you care what people think about GTG?
Are we already declaring it a raging success… damn what everyone thinks?

Did we nix the survey?

What gives?

PS… the topic of traffic came up at a party I attended this weekend. Of about 20 people, here is what they said:
• 1 liked the ability to use ETL, everyone else said GTG is horrible…
• The person who liked being able to use ETL was surprised to learn it isn’t always guaranteed to be available
• Several people said it was something akin to a half-baked proposal ‘D***** T*****’ would propose

In general, there was not a lot of love for WSDOT… in other words, even though WSDOT does a lot of good stuff, the general opinion of a rather large group of diverse people from different races, religions, genders, countries, educational backgrounds, etc… was very much negative and the predominant reason was GTG.

So if you think most people are happy with it, you might want to get an independent view of our residents. It might not be quite what you think it is.

WSDOT said...

VinceR - you currently have 17 comments waiting moderation. In the spirit of making the most of our time and limited resources, maybe we could schedule some time to meet up and have a conversation about your concerns?

Vince R said...

@WSDOT

1 - How long does it take to moderate a post? The systems I have moderated before was usually minutes unless I had to research something. Just checking my posts, I haven't had any go through in several days.

2 - I would like my comments to be public so others don't have to ask the same questions. With good answers, your community can help you answer questions that others have.

3 - Is there an official public forum where you have these conversations? That might be a good idea. I know several people that might be interested if it doesn't require a slog through traffic and is at a time that doesn't interfere with work. (The beauty of the blogs is that it is supposed to be open to the public, doesn't require commuting to anywhere and can be done at a convenient time.)

4 - Several of those comments are repostings because I have no clue or feedback if they have been dropped, disappeared for technical reasons, are being ignored or are just queuing up. For example, there are posts asking about the quarterly account summary posting. Several times I have asked the same question... no posting... no status... no 'we are trying to figure that out'... nothing. So without feedback, I am just assuming technical glitch... and resending. Just today, the blog site was messed up several times.


My stance is that whatever it takes to get my commute back to normal... meetings, blogs, letters to representatives, petitions... I have not forgotten the impact this project has had and continues to have on my, and I am assuming others since I see cars around me on 405, commute. When I don't have to deal with the mess caused by GTG, then GTG is a success. Otherwise, for me, it isn't.

Would I prefer to be reading the 'SMART' (great marketing name btw) plans for Puget Sounds Regional transit plan for the next 20+ years... well under normal circumstances, I would rather be watching paint dry, grass grow or a number of other things more exciting, but after GTG, I feel like I can no longer trust WSDOT to do the right thing for our community.

Unless people watch, question and take action... we will end up with more of the same and I do not want to be one of 'those people' that likes to complain but don't actually get involved.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - there is a bug, or something strange happening. I am seeing postings in my email for this blog, but the comments are not showing up in the blog. For example, I see this in email, but not here:

========================================================================================

Jeff Gray has left a new comment on the post "Dollars and sense: Breaking down the first I-405 e...":

"Adding more cars to the roadway will create more gridlock where there are already chokepoints – especially in the north end where I-405 has just three lanes."

You mean the area that did not have chokepoints before the Extortion Toll Lanes were put it place? Pre-ETL, when heading north it was smooth sailing once you were past Bothell.

Going by your logic, there will never be another lane of roadway built anywhere in the state. Ever. That is just as well since I will never vote for anything that gives a DIME to W$DOT while the Extortion Toll Lanes are in place.

After Inslee, Clibborn, Liias and the rest of the gang of thieves are voted out in the next election cycle W$DOT is in for a rude awakening.

Helena said...

This must be a planted statement by WSDOT. This does not represent the majority who feel the opposite. Most people have felt the negative effects. If it weren't for Judy Clibborn not giving Harmsworth's Bill a hearing, the extortion lanes could have been modified. We don't need more toll lanes.

WSDOT said...

Helena, this blog provides everyone the opportunity to share feedback, regardless of their opinions on tolling.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT and still no comments have made it through moderation and I do not know which ones are there... so I end up reposting to make sure they are not lost.

Vince R said...

@helena Urge people to right to Clibborn and move the bill to a hearing. If they get enough feedback it will be clear that something needs to be done.

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1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 said...

@Helena - this is the second time you have incorrectly accused me of planting statements.

There are over 600,000 unique commuters that uses the ETLs when needed, and yes, I am one of those 600,000+.

I appreciate that the ETLs are available on 405 to give commuters a choice, and believe that having 2 lanes through Bellevue and Kirkland are a necessity to make the lanes work as intended.

Increasing ETLs to other highways build on the success of the 405 project, and would further increase the options for commuters.

Jeff Gray said...

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 (yeah, that seems legit):

How about you start your own petition to see if you can top the 31K + signatures that want this system scrapped? You obviously don't have to commute, daily, the entire stretch of this disaster as do I because I can guarantee you that your opinion would rapidly change.

What doesn't help in regards to you being accused of being a shill/plant is that you use the exact same verbiage (gives commuters and 'option' or 'choice) when trying to defend this disaster that W$DOT does. Its almost laughable. My 'choice' is simple...pay W$DOT 4k a year to drive on a road my taxes paid for, or fight to have it scrapped.

Vince R said...

@1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 - I suspect you didnt mean 600,000+ commuters using ETL, although it is easy to think that from what WSDOT posted....

They have said that there were 600,000 unique uses of the etl... and 500,000 daily commuters. When you see the 600,000 uses and spread it over the time period, it's not quite as impressive. But people do like large numbers.

No as far as ETLs are concerned, I was a supporter of the concept. I am not now that I have seen how poorly it was rolled out. In fact, reading the news and listening to what our representatives have said, I am not alone. To quote "This is the angriest I have seen our community in 6 years on any topic."

That doesn't mean some people won't like it.

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Helena said...

Everyone needs to keep calling there representatives and tell them to remove the failed extortion lanes. We will never stop fighting as this is the biggest threat to our community in resent memory. Our Kennydale neighborhood has joined forces with our neighbors to the north to fight the extortion lanes. If some how we fail, and the extortion lanes are able to be put on the southern section from Renton to Bellevue, it would create a traffic catastrophe and we would have thousands of cars diverted into our neighborhood. The new lane needs to be a general purpose lanes as we were originally promised. Also Judy Clibborn needs to go as she is more concerned about the Texas company where 75% of the toll money goes than the thousands of complaints, people suffering in congestion and the 31000 people who signed to remove the tolls. We will prevail!

Vince R said...

@Helena

Here is an example of an email I sent to Judy Clibborn:
------------------------------------------------------------
Judy,

While I appreciate the work you are doing, the mess caused by Good-to-Go is affecting me every day. From the traffic jam I see around me, I am not alone.

We have several issues that can be categorized as: traffic flow and traffic congestion. Although the two are often coupled, they are not one-and-the-same.

Good-to-Go (GTG) has impacted both and for most people, not in a positive way. This project will not be a success, in my eyes, and again, I suspect many others, until traffic flow is better for daily commuters than it was prior to GTG's launch.

The idea, which I was originally a supporter of, was that as congestion (demand VS capacity), GTG would address the traffic flow (velocity and movement) such that we could cope with the higher congestion. As it was implemented, this will not now, nor will it in the future be successful at that.

I have never in my entire life seen a project where I have lived or worked that has generated as much anger in the residents as this project. I hear about it from neighbors, job recruiters, party attendees, on the radio, in the news, in the local papers... folks are quite upset by this project and the outcome.

All I see from WSDOT when these concerns are raised is marketing double speak and claims of success.

From a financial standpoint, if the income generated from GTG were 10 times the projected income or 2 times the current income:
- It would take 25 years to recoup the cost of the project to date
- It would 75+ years to pay for the expansion of 405 north of 522.
- It would take 80+ years to pay for the expansion of the project south of I-90
- It is impacting infrastructure outside of the 405 corridor, with costs that will be hard to even identify
- It is impacting jobs in the region, which is a soft cost not included in the impact studies
- It is impacting safety in the region, which is a soft cost not included in the impact studies
- It is impacting the environment, which is a soft cost not included in the impact studies
- It is impacting families and their quality of life, which is a soft cost not included in the impact studies

I have used programs like GTG in other states and they have not been as painful as this.

I am now spending time each day I am impacted by GTG reviewing our state plans, asking questions on the blogs, communicating with voters and working to help fix this problem.

I will be watching our management of this issue and supporting those that make clear and measurable progress on fixing it.

I have begun reading our Puget Sound 2040 master plan. So far I am not impressed by it and see a huge voter backlash coming for all those elected and appointed. I do not believe that the same approaches we have been taking for the last 50 years will be what we can rely on in the next 30.

(part 1)

Vince R said...

@ Helena
(part 3)



This was in response to email I received from Mrs. Clibborn (below)
=====================================================================
Vince, I agree with you that the roll out has been a nightmare. In looking at what we could do and how fast I decided to do a letter directly to the Transportation Commission to make immediate changes and to change tolling. I also directed WSDOT to get the Legislature the cost and the projects that would most help with congestion and they have been put in the budget was passed last Friday. The good news is the Senate and the Governor also lined up with that letter so we are all working together. We are using the tolls to pay for these projects that were not included in the big transportation package last year.
It may seem like a project that is not worth saving, but this is a corridor with a history of massive congestion and no way to add capacity in the future through Bellevue. That means we will be getting bus rapid transit in the HOT Lanes along with the regular busses, van pools, and single occupant toll payers. I hope some of the changes make a difference in the short run. I know the new changes that will follow will help for the future.
Thanks for your opinion and input.
Judy

==================================================
As a side note, I find it disappointing that our representatives that are supposed to be working to help deal with congestion confusing the concept of congestion (demand and capacity) with traffic flow (velocity and direction).

Traffic congestion impacts traffic flow which is the thing we think of as traffic jams when the velocity of our traffic flow drops too low, but traffic flow is also impacted by other things, like the design of our highways, weather, accidents, etc. Obviously, even a well designed system will become inundated as congestion increases, so congestion impacts flow, but we have clear areas that impact flow every day and no plans to fix those.

GTG does not address congestion for most of our drivers. It actually is designed to make congestion worse for everyone not in the ETLs, which is over 80% of our daily commuters. At its heart, GTG manages traffic flow in the ETLs, to try to keep them moving at 45 MPH 90% of the time. Any representative that doesn't understand that, and is part of our transportation committee should be replaced.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - what happened to part 2

Vince R said...

repost of part 2:
===================================

We are expected to see a year-over-year increase in congestion that will outpace even our 30 year plan. We have to ask some tough questions both for our transportation needs like:

- Should we more seriously consider a 3rd bridge across Lake Washington in the area of Sand Point?

- Should we more seriously consider a bridge across Puget Sound (in one of several potential locations) to supplement our ferries?

- Should we more seriously consider a 3rd North/South bypass highway east of 405?

- How will we take advantage of autonomous vehicles? What will on-demand transportation service do to our bus service needs? What will happen to car ownership? If car ownership follows its projected path, how will that impact our transportation budget? What will the impact be on our 'crash economy'?

- Do we need to change local and regional building codes to allow to address more set-backs, traffic flow, disasters, over-population densities for existing and planned infrastructure, etc. How to we avoid future problems created by large concentrations of buildings along Mercer street where the underground parking lots exit onto Mercer (edited from original email) cause massive traffic jams daily, negating all the investment made to fix the traffic flow on Mercer Street.

- How do we fix the 'big problems' like widening of I-5 under the Seattle Convention center, the 405-520 interchange, the 520-5 interchange, etc?

- We are due to have a major earthquake on the subduction zone off of the coast. What will that do to our community? Do we have plans to get arterial roads functional? What could we do not to start addressing it?

When I look at GTG and the negative impact it has had, and continues to have, I look for my representatives to immediately fix the issue and work to make sure we do not repeat such mistakes moving forward. We are on the verge of changes in the transportation industry that are akin to when the automobile started to be mass produced. I want to make sure the representatives are driven by action and urgency, and that they listen to the people they represent.

I look forward to your response.

Vince

Helena said...

I want to see part 2. I guess more damaging facts on the extortion lanes that WSDOT doesn't want the public to know. No surprise there. Vince thanks for your information as we need more people like you. WSDOT has no credibility.

Vince R said...

@helena

I think that WSDOT has credibility in different areas, but unfortunately, what we feel everyday is that the traffic got worse as a direct result of GTG, which is not what was promised.

As I have pointed out before, we need to think about how our community will deal with a steady increase of people and how to address our grid lock.

GTG's intention was to help alleviate that, something I am a big fan of. Unfortunately, it has so far failed for me, and most likely many others. That doesn't mean it is a failure for everyone as you see the occasional person saying thanks... "they can pay to get around the traffic caused by all them other drivers that are so rudely clogging up my road..."

Whats worse is that there are a lot of hard working people that help keep our roads safe and their reputation is lumped into the same group as WSDOTs GTG program, which right now is pretty bad.

My approach was quite passive before. I just thought that we should let WSDOT do whatever it takes to fix our problems. Now, after at least 3 years of poorly managed projects like GTG, I feel compelled to question everything they present and do because they have lost that trust and credibility in my eyes, and probably in the eyes of a lot of others. So not only has GTG disrupted the daily lives of half a million commuters, it has done significant damage to the reputation of WSDOT because, for few exceptions, they have not proactively owned up the the problems they have created and instead keep saying wait 6 months.... knowing that most people will just passively roll over and take the new bad as normal.

My watch doesn't lie. It is consistently taking me longer to drive on 405 on almost all days at almost all times... and the congestion in the GPLs has increased.

I am still waiting on answers to why my GPS no longer routes me around slow traffic in the GTG area on 405, when it works correctly on other sections of road.

I am still waiting on clarification for if the toll income is 'pre' or 'post' fees to third parties.

I am still waiting on answers as to why some posts do not show up on this blog and appear to be omitted with no reason or follow-up so that the problems can be avoided in the future.

But I am not going away... and I will continue to ask those questions until answers can be provided.


AsepD said...

I just wanted to say I appreciate the time and effort you have made Vince in following, sorting, outlining, and decluttering this issue without bias or preconceived notions on the project. Your information and contributions are invaluable and I urge you to keep it up. Thanks!

Vince R said...

@WSDOT

Same question I have asked several different ways now...

While reading the Quarter December 31, 2015, found at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/9502B7FD-4CEF-4D58-A329-DEC53A00DA84/0/405FSSFY16Q2Final.pdf there seems to be some discrepancies.

Assuming that the expense of $322,895 for “Toll CSC operations vendors contract” is correct, and as has been stated several times that this is a fixed price per toll, no matter what time of the day the toll is incurred, that means that we can compute the uses of the tolls from this number like this:

$322,895 / $0.20 = 1,614,475 trips during that quarter.

(an average of 18,000 trips a day out of the roughly 900,000 trips , or about 2%)

Now we also have two more fixed prices that should be computed by the number of tolls incurred:
- $0.15 for Roadway Toll Systems
- $0.19 for Credit Card Processing

Now I don’t understand why the credit card processing is a fixed price when people may pay other ways, but let’s says that doesn’t matter.

We should see an itemized expense of ($0.15 * 1,614,475) $242,171 for Roadway Toll Systems, which I do not see anywhere on the report.

We should see an itemized expense of ($0.19 * 1,614,475) $206,750 for credit card processing, which I do not see anywhere on the report.

I see an entry for $196,896 which is close, but doesn’t match. Since it was listed as a fixed price per toll incurred I am wondering why it doesn’t show up that way on the report.

Since the numbers do not add up to what they should be, I am asking clarification as to why not.
I am sure they are accounted for somewhere, but it is kind of hard to tell from the published data where.

Additionally, if they are removed from the collected fees prior to the fees being accounted for, that throws a lot of stuff off, including how to compute the operational overhead.

Vince R said...

@AsepD

I have to say that unfortunately that I do have a prejudice and preconceived notion now and that is that GTG has not been a success when I measure it against what I had prior to GTG being turned on. I am hopeful that we can fix the problems created by GTG and get traffic flowing better than it was prior to GTG going live on 405.

Now I don't like the social injustice that the program fosters / sponsors, but that is not my measure of success... its just a deep seated disdain for people using tax payers money for the benefit of those that are already better off, instead of benefiting all those that have paid the taxes. Its a personal opinion, I value the base of the pyramid more than the tip. I am kind of surprised that more folks haven't been vocal on that point, which, in my opinion, after the longer commute times, is the next biggest issue with GTG.

So while I am trying to be unbiased and more data driven, it isn't easy.

Vince R said...

Another interesting few bits of information I have run across today:

(info from 2007 but still useful) HOV lanes move about 35 percent of the people who use this area's highways in only 19 percent of the vehicles.

At one point I found the data that broke down the vehicles in the HOV lanes, but I have not been able to relocate it, so I am going off of memory and so the numbers could be wrong, but the logic should be correct.

- The percentage of buses in the carpool lanes are basically a constant. The percentage in the lanes before GTG are the same as they are after.

- The percentage of 3+ person carpools/vanpools will be slightly more after GTG, but still roughly the same.

- There are roughly 18,000 tolls collected daily ( 1,614,475 per last quarter / 3 months / 30 days)

One conclusion that you might come to is that we have displaced roughly 18,000 daily 2 person/vehicle commuters in the HOV lanes with 9,000 paying daily commuters, with a net negative commuter efficiency of (9000 slower commuters / 500000 daily commuters) 1.8%


In fact, a study done in 2012 by Cambridge Systematics actually indicated that the proposed ETLs would negatively impact 2 person commuters and that the only benefit would be additional revenue, not improved commute times.

From this you might question WSDOT's "It's not about the revenue." stance. It is becoming harder and harder to believe that it is not about the revenue, when they are pointing to revenue as a metric of success and a source of budget.

Vince R said...

Side note, our future transportation needs are on the verge of huge changes. We are not talking 'flying car' changes, but none-the-less significant. We are innovating changes like these:

Spherical tires (low to medium chance of seeing real use)

Active Cruise Control (already available)

Autonomous trucks (testing on real roads today)

Autonomous cars (testing on real roads today)

On demand transportation (here today, even better coming soon)

These example have and will continue to rapidly change our needs for our roads. When you consider that in the time it took to move GTG onto 405, the autonomous vehicles went from concept to reality on roads around our country, you have to question if our investments today are flexible enough to meet our demands tomorrow. Is WSDOT planning for such tide-shifts in technology? And the point that is very specific to this topic, how will our transportation budgets be affected.

When you consider the very concept of car ownership in 20 years might be limited to much fewer people, and that a significant amount of our transportation budget is based car ownership, tabs, taxes, etc... our transportation budget could quickly altered with very little advanced warning... in terms of how quickly our WSDOT moves.

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 said...

@Vince R - regarding my assessment of the lanes being a tremendous success - I know that others may disagree - I just appreciate that they are there and give me and others the options to get to places sooner when needed.

I actually look forward to commuting to have the option there - it was a large endeavor to get them in place, and I am thankful for the WSDOT for their efforts to implement such a large project.

Cu Bong said...

@ 1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07
if you heading I-405 north at rush hours last night, here is the price break down,
if you exit @ 195th or to SR-522 , you will pay = $1.75
but, if you drive 2 more miles to get to SR-527 , you must pay $9.50
The different in price is why drivers ( most likely live in Bothell, Lynwood, Everest DISLIKE the ETLs,
They dislike the ETLs because WSDOT have had time /money/resources but FAILED to make it work properly or wasn't well studied/prepared/ designed.
as of today, WSDOT still insist exit/entry at SR-520 on both directions are NOT a problem. WELL, as you can see the weave lanes are poor designed and taking too much space , squeezing all GPLs to narrow space and causing the bottle neck right there.
MANY drivers at my company hate these designs but WSDOT insist it isn't a problem , well at 3:00 PM every day, all traffic is backing up from anywhere on SR-520 ram to 405 , every morning at exit/entry SR-520 south bound was heavy traffic but after drivers passed the weave lanes all lanes are wide open. This isn't a proof to prove , this exit/entry point a problem according to WSDOT. That is why my neighborhood ( Canyon park) was so happy to see the legislator fired the head of WSDOT
I sent the letter to Jay Inslee to nominee Vince R for head of WSDOT, he will bring a lot of changes.

WSDOT said...

Cu Bong, your breakdown of pricing in the toll lanes is circumstantial. Yes, toll rates can reach $10 when congestion on I-405 is at its peak (often during the morning commute, especially when weather is bad). The reality is that most toll-paying drivers are paying $4 or less on average for a faster trip in the express toll lanes.

WSDOT is prepared to make several changes based on driver feedback, including improvements to striping and signage, access points and the algorithm. For more information on what’s coming, check out our blog post WSDOT Blog: You want it? You got it. and stay tuned for more updates coming soon.

WSDOT said...

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 – Thank you for sharing your comments and support.

Vince R said...

@1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 - I don't deny that it can help people bypass the traffic jams that occur daily. But, as Cu Bong points out, this is like creating a system to bypass our failures in our traffic design.

Whats worse, is that this approach hurts those that have to use the highways daily because the documented criteria for success is to reduce the flow of traffic in the GPLs (and increase congestion)... and this is by design. We have a stated policy to use tolls and inefficient traffic flow to get people to pursue alternative transportation methods.

This is a huge issue. It means that we are intentionally pursuing 'solutions' that hurt our commuters.

When we have a transportation organization that weighs solutions by how much revenue they create and the negative reinforcement they produce, instead of how much time it reduces the commute time for all of our commuters we have a problem.

Helena said...

If you really wanted to help solve our traffic mess you would implement Harmsworths plan and give one of the toll lanes back to the public. We don't need 2 toll lanes in each direction. Even better, scrap the extortion lanes all together. The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane.

Vince R said...

As we drove down 405 this weekend (prior to the wind storm), we noticed how crowded the GPLs were, while the ETLs were empty. I wonder how long WSDOT will continue to avoid making the ETLs truely free, like they used to be, on the weekends. No need for tracking tags that cost money, no need to worry about where you enter the lanes... just free. A simple thing really.

Vince R said...

(part 1)

I read an article recently about the use of automated speeding and red light ticketing cameras and something there really struck a cord.

The articles where pretty good at pointing out how the companies that 'sell their services' often:
* 'bribe' officials to sign on the contracts dotted line
* actually require changes that go against those suggested by the National Transportation Safety Board, and reduce safety, instead of increase it, in the name of money
* fail to meet the bar for due process
* Are hard to cancel or change once in place

I found it hard to not notice what looks like a similarity to our tolling systems when compared.
For example:

1. There is no real benefit to charging residents to using our ETLs after hours. The only ones that benefit from this policy are the companies that get paid most of the toll fees during these periods.

2. WSDOT seems to be VERY reluctant to change this, even though it would improve traffic flow. In my opinion, there is no logical explanation for this other than a very poorly negotiated contract with the 3rd parties that gain revenue from this practice, at the cost of our commuters.

3. The weaving patterns that this system has created is definitely not in line with what the NSTB would suggest. Just this weekend, we were almost hit by a car doing the 'Good-to-Go Weave'... which if you are not familiar with it, is caused by those so eager to enter or exit the GTG lanes that they ignore most everyone else on the roads to get access to their god-given-right-to-drive-in-the-good-to-go-lanes.

Vince R said...

(part 2)

So after looking at the 'billing mistakes', lack of ability to make changes, high-percentages of overhead and contracts with out-of-state third parties, it is hard to believe that our elected officials would allow such funny business to occur. I think that if our elected officials cannot figure out that people are really peeved by these actions, its time to get them 'off the island'.

Some interesting links:
Central figure in Chicago's red-light camera bribery scandal goes on trial
6 Cities That Were Caught Shortening Yellow Light Times For Profit
Did Florida Shorten Its Yellow Lights to Rake in Traffic Camera Revenue?
How the red-light scandal unfolded
EX-CDOT OFFICIAL FOUND GUILTY IN RED-LIGHT CAMERA BRIBES TRIAL
King County Resorts to Bribery to Get Drivers Off I-405
(OK that is not really an example, but the title sure is catchy :) )
Former toll agency commissioner S**** B******** guilty on bribery charges
3/20/2013
Pennsylvania: Eight Charged In Toll Road Scandal

For whom the tollway tolls

So I continue to wonder why I get no answer on why the section of 405 with GTG no longer gives good GPS data to route drivers away from the area when traffic is flowing poorly, why WSDOT hasn't answered my questions about the accounting proceedures on this blog page, why WSDOT hasn't made progress in moving the ETL lanes towards free during periods of low or no demand and things like this. When you think about this behavior, it seems very similar to the kinds of things you read about in the articles above.

Is it possible that the 'dollars and sense' aspect of our system might driven by something a bit more nefarious. Maybe this is just WSDOT just being a bit lax in answering questions... I am sure that must be it. There is no way that we would sign contracts under questionable conditions.... right...

(still listening to the sound of crickets on my previous questions)

Vince R said...

More 'dollars and non-sense':

------------------------------------

Pay by mile: The new transportation tax

Here are some interesting blurbs from the article -

"Washington state drivers should prepare for a major shift over the next decade in how transportation projects are funded."

...

"In Washington, drivers pay the second highest gas tax in the country next to Pennsylvania, according to the American Petroleum Institute."

...

"However, Washington State Transportation Commission Executive Director Reema Griffith says a recent study shows the state's per gallon gas tax of 49.4 cents, as of July, is having diminishing returns because of an increase in fuel efficient cars, changes in driving habits and changing gas prices."

...

"In 2010, Washington was one of the early states already considering a road usage charge as an alternative to the gas tax. In other words, drivers would pay based on miles driven."

...

"Toll agencies and electronic toll service providers are especially interested in the topic and in insuring their roll in the future of transportation."

------------------------------

As a side note, these tolls will not be instead of tolls like those for going over the 520 bridge, or for the use of the ETL, they will be in addition to them. One of the lesser popular programs is to use vehicle tracking to charge. The GTG RFID tags are only one means to help do this.

Although it may seem like an odd quote, Benjamin Franklin once said:
"Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."

Any system we put in place to secure the funding for our roads must also protect our freedoms.. like those protected by the bill of rights article 6, that is meant to protect us from warrant-less collection of information.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It has been ruled multiple times that our vehicles are an extension of our homes. Information lives forever and can be used in ways you never approved. The location of your employer, children's schools, your church, your stores, your hobbies, your friends. This is just a glimpse of what data will be collected.

Vince R said...

If you do read some of those articles I listed above, you may run across this quote which is for a different stretch of road but which pretty elegantly identifies one of the issues with GTG:

"In addition, there's the issue of giving drivers who can afford the expensive tolls a break, while someone who can't pay outlandish prices for a 20-mile commute is stuck in traffic. Government shouldn't be part of setting up a new system that gives preference to those with more money. These are supposed to be public roads with equal access to all, not a two-tier system where ordinary citizens get a raw deal."

So while GTG like systems have been used elsewhere, at least the issue of inequality has been identified before and not addressed.

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