HOT Lanes on The 110

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 19 2012 3:02 PM

HOT Lanes on The 110

Subway construction is the most high-profile element of LA's ongoing transportation makeover, but given the structure of the city things like the High Occupancy Toll lane pilot project coming to the 110 will have more practical importance for some large set of Angelinos. The basic idea is to create a guaranteed non-congested space that will be "open to vanpools, carpools, truckpools as well as solo motorists, however the latter must pay a toll for using the express lanes, while parties of two or more can save their change."

It's a bit hard to know whether this will work out or not in the long run. If it were up to me, I would skip the exemption for vanpools and the like and say everyone has to pay the toll. That way you can guarantee that the toll is set high enough to avoid congestion. You're still in practice offering a huge discount to carpoolers and mass transit since, obviously, if you can split a toll three or seven ways then the per passenger cost is much lower. A huge problem in urban transportation right now is that there's basically no incentive to move along a roadway in a space-efficient manner.

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Congestion pricing takes care of that and thus becomes a boon to tire-based mass transit. This is particular important when you consider that the growth of computer-piloted vehicles will probably break down some of our existing ideas about what's a "car" what's a "taxi" and what's a "bus."

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.