Representative Mark Harmsworth and Senator Andy Hill have written a bill to return one of the 405 toll lanes to a general purpose lane and to open the lanes to all cars for free from 7PM to 5AM.
A separate bill was written to redefine the carpool requirement to only 2 people at all times.
We are glad to see some action being taken on this problem. Reduction of the carpool requirement is essential to the promotion of carpooling. Restoring one of the ETL back to a GP lane will increase flow of the GP lanes. The challenge is that it puts the carpools and buses back to a single lane which was already as slow as the GP lanes at times during peak hours. This still negatively impacts the incentive to carpool or ride a bus. It further negatively impacts carpools and buses because it allows solo drivers to buy into the lane.
To promote carpooling and mass transit, we need more capacity for them. With 2 lanes for carpools and buses, capacity will handle the carpool demand and get those cars out of the GP lanes, making the GP lanes faster too. The real problem is that in the end, there really wasn’t a significant increase in total capacity of the highway. No new lanes were added north of 160 St while south of 160th there were sections where it gained a lane, but much of that stretch already had 5 lanes. They just changed the usage from GP lane to ETL. At least if both ETL are kept as 2 person carpool lanes, those lanes will each effectively have double the capacity of a GP lane since all the vehicles will be carpools.
They stated that they introduced the two bills this way to have a better chance of being passed. That makes sense. We fully support the reduction of carpool requirements from 3 person to 2 person. (See this article on the benefits of 2-person carpools over 3-person carpools.)
As a method of collecting revenue, tolling is very expensive and inefficient. There are much simpler and more cost-effective ways to collect revenue. And WSDOT states the tolling on I-405 is not intended as a revenue source. WSDOT believes tolling with “value pricing” is an effective method of “congestion management”. In other words, the reason for tolling is only to coerce drivers to NOT use the toll lanes or as extortion.
In addition, in an Everett Herald article reported by Jeff Merrill, president of the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association, WSDOT never consulted WSP on the viability of enforcing the tolling. In an interview with a SoundTransit bus driver it appears that WSDOT never consulted them either and as a result, they are having a hard time dealing with the new lane configuration. In other words, from a project management perspective, the failed to seek or act on the input from any project stakeholders: WSP, MetroKC, motorcyclists and the general public.
Stop405tolls.org is seeking WSDOT to abandon the myth that tolls do anything to increase capacity or decrease demand and to seek more positive means for improving transportation.