#405ETL: An Environmentalist’s Nightmare

If you consider yourself an environmentalist, you should be pissed.
Carpool lanes are incredibly popular in Puget Sound.
So much so that WSDOT calls them a “failure”.  What?!

Their response was to kick out 85% – 95% of the carpools from the carpool lane and start selling that lane to SOVs (single occupancy vehicles).  Yes, before the ETL, 85% – 85% of the cars in the carpool lane were 2-person carpools.  These lanes are now filled with 85% SOVs and overall, the number of cars in the ETL (express toll lanes) is lower than when it had nothing but carpools.  This is to ensure those cars in the ETL can go fast.   So WSDOT, exactly how does that promote trip reduction or reduce congestion???

Those 2 person carpools have been pushed back into the GPL (general purpose lanes).  The GPL are now more congested as a result. (Measurements are mixed on this point, but know that any improvements are related to the new lane added, not tolling.)

520mergeto405n

Ramp from 520 onto I-405 NB at 2:30pm Thursday, Dec 17

So carpooling is down, and congestion is up.  Both of these lead to MORE POLLUTION and more driver anger.  But at least buses are moving faster, right?   There are 450,000 people traveling that highway each day.  Even during peak hours, less than 10 buses per hour drive the I-405 corridor north of SR522, where the congestion is the worst.  In fact, WSDOT reports bus ridership is up to 4,200 people on I-405 daily.  That is still less than 1% of commuters on I-405.  Before the tolls started, the carpool lane was moving over 1600 carpools per hour during peak hours.  That is over 3200 people per hour!  Today it moves less than 1000 vehicles per hour and 800 of those are SOVs for a total of only 1000 people per hour!   Give us meaningful mass transit before you take away carpooling.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club are in favor of toll roads as they put the cost of use directly on the users.  But there is a HUGE difference between toll roads that are built, owned, and operated by a private company vs. converting existing carpool lanes into toll lanes that do not promote trip reduction and destroy the one environmentally friendly asset of the highway itself.

And once WSDOT sells bonds against the future revenue of the toll, it is guaranteed they will have no interest in reducing congestion as that would also reduce revenue.

If you consider yourself an environmentalist, you should be pissed.  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop405tolls

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