WSDOT is looking to other states to determine how successful Express Toll Lanes will be here in Washington. In WSDOT’s blog post, it states:
More than 30 express toll lane systems have been successfully implemented in places around the United States, including Orange County, Calif., Miami, Atlanta and our very own SR 167 HOT Lanes.
Successfully? I don’t think everyone shares the same criteria for success. Our research found the following articles discussing these toll systems that WSDOT considers a success:
Regarding the express toll lanes in Miami, FL, the SunSentinel reported:
The state last year raised the maximum toll on the express lanes to $10.50, with the idea it would discourage some drivers from entering. Too many cars mean slower speeds. But apparently, $10.50 is not a big enough deterrent – leaving open the possibility it will go up to $14.
That is for a 7 mile stretch of roadway. That is $2/mile.
And while WSDOT’s blog article defends the new toll lanes stating:
After express toll lanes opened on I-95 in Miami, HOV lane speeds tripled and general purpose lane speeds doubled. –WSDOT
The February 26, 2015 Sun-Sentinel article goes on to explain what happened with previous rate increases as a means to control congestion in the toll lanes:
After the rates went up, “there was an initial drop in demand that helped increase speeds. However, the demand has returned,” –SunSentinel
In other words, this is taking us down a path of ever-increasing rates that never address the issue of increasing capacity for moving people.
On to Atlanta, where the Atlanta Regional Commission says people have resigned themselves to the toll as the new status quo.
Hundreds of thousands of drivers in Gwinnett County have become resigned to using the HOT lanes, and transportation planners believe the same will happen after an initial ramp-up period for the new toll lanes they’re building now.
…drivers are choosing the HOT lane so often that the state hiked the price to travel the whole 16-mile stretch to a record-setting $11 one morning in April  just to keep the traffic flowing.
In other words, force it on them long enough and they will accept it as the new normal. Which is why WSDOT says they are committed to a 2-year trial. Their hopes are that 2 years from now, what we had before the 405ETL will be a faded memory and we will have learned to accept the pain of paying for slow commutes instead of getting them for free.
This article from the Washington Post makes a very valid point regarding the business relationship between the private tolling company, its stockholders, the government agency and the taxpayers that is of utmost concern:
Private companies have contractual obligations to the governments they work with, but beyond that, they’re responsible to their their stockholders and bondholders, rather than taxpayers.
Now let’s talk about Washington DC’s “success story” as described by Ben Ross one year ago today:. In this article he shows how so much of the toll money will go to the private company collecting tolls that very little will actually go back to the people paying the tolls. I mention Ben Ross because he is actually an expert on the topic of urban development including a book published on the topic.
And finally news about the Dallas express toll lane opening in September owhich also opened in September, is predicting to be a “home run” from a cashflow perspective, right after describing the toll roads that have gone bankrupt in Indiana, San Diego, and Greenville, SC, leaving the taxpayers paying the bill. Proving that the taxpayers are going to pay for the tolling system whether the toll is solvent or not.
Washington State is not alone in the strong resentment of toll roads. Charlotte, NC is getting a new toll road as well, in spite of the public’s objections, as published just last month in the Charlotte Observer.
Tampa, Florida is also fighting these toll roads as published in The Tampa Tribune in October. It appears all of these toll roads have been met with significant resistance, though none of them have been as organized as what is happening here in Seattle.