The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Are HOT Lanes Equitable?

Are HOT lanes equitable? 3/8/05

With Minnesota's first high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane—MnPASS—opening May 16, one of the more popular concurrent sessions featured presentations about the new facility and related University research. Megan Mowday, a master's candidate in regional planning at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, presented her research into the equity concerns of HOT lanes.

One of her notable findings involved gender differences. In surveys of users of SR91 in southern California, women expressed the highest level of support for HOT lanes and used them at a higher proportion than men. Why? Women and men have different driving patterns, she explained, and women are responsible for a higher proportion of home-related activities. A Tucson study found women are more likely to drive to work alone, make trips that take longer (for daycare or home maintenance), make more daily trips than men, and work less-traditional hours. "Women earn less on average than men," she warned, "so they could end up spending a substantially higher proportion of their budget on HOT lanes."

The "Lexus lane" image of the facilities has been another area of concern. "If one group pays disproportionately, without benefit," Mowday explained, "then the system must be seen as inequitable." Her study, however, indicates that's not the case. Research on lanes across the nation shows drivers with different levels of income use HOT lanes. Those earning more than $100,000 annually are more than twice as likely to use SR91 at any given time, for example, but the remainder are spread across income levels.

The negative impacts on low-income drivers can be mitigated by investing revenues in transit for the corridor—half of MnPass revenues will be—and by providing credits, she said. Lower-income drivers also may benefit the most from having more choices: for example, they may avoid daycare late fees or docked pay.

What's more, Mowday said, HOT lanes can improve the overall quality of life in a corridor by providing shorter, more reliable commutes; greater access to more housing choices; and decreased road rage. She also noted that commuters' decisions to use express lanes hinge on many factors, not just price.

In addition to her literature search, Mowday used results from local focus groups to discern public perceptions. The majority did not cite concerns with equity, she reported; they also predicted low-income drivers would form carpools or take transit, and that the improved flow on the free lanes would benefit those who didn't pay the fee. "A few individuals were concerned that the rich could escape congestion, but that was a very small portion," she noted. Overall, participants were not opposed to toll lanes.

HOT lanes provide choice, Mowday concluded, and individuals of all income levels have been shown to use them. However, agencies should examine the mix of incomes on the roads and the impact of increasing tolls, she cautioned.

The articles are posted solely for educational purposes to raise awareness of transportation issues. I claim no authorship, nor do I profit from this website. Where known, all original authors and/or source publisher have been noted in the post. As this is a knowledge base, rather than a blog, I have reproduced the articles in full to allow for complete reader understanding and allow for comprehensive text searching...see custom google search engine at the top of the page. If you have concerns about the inclusion of a specific article, please email for a speedy resolution.