7 Questions for WSDOT

Find out what WSDOT is trying to do to fix all the problems created by the Express Toll Lanes while waiting for the Legislature to go back in session and eliminate them entirely.  WSDOT is holding an open house Aug 18th from 5PM to 7PM at the Bothell City Hall.  Details at the City of Bothell website.

Questions you should be asking include:
1. In the 9 month report, slide 21, WSDOT reports peak period bus ridership is up only 3%.  This actually indicates a decline compared to overall growth in the region. Where is the benefit?

2. Slide 20 in the report shows total daily bus riders increased only 264 people PER  DAY.
Capture2
But an estimated 20,000+ carpoolers PER DAY in 2-person carpools were displaced from the ETL and the capacity in the ETL was reduced by 850 people PER HOUR.
CaptureHow is this in any way an improvement?

3. On slide 5 of the WSDOT annual tolling report, WSDOT claimed their customer service centers handled 6.5 million communications with customers. This translates into millions of man-hours of time wasted by customers.  How is this an improvement over no tolls?

4. WSDOT has not made any reports of collisions since the first 3month report indicated collisions were up more than 55% since the tolls began.  Given the primary role of WSDOT is to provide safe transportation, why isn’t WSDOT tracking and reporting this data?  This seems like a gross oversight.

5. The tolling algorithms continue to be crazy with inconsistent pricing as revealed in an article by stop405tolls.org.  The pricing creates even more uncertainty of commutes as people don’t know if they will be able to afford the toll or not.  This does not create a “more reliable commute”.

6.  WSDOT has 6 youtube videos, many pages on a website, an interactive map, and a mobile app to try to help people decipher the ETL.  This is way too complex for residents and impossible for visitors.  This is in no way an improvement over simple 2+ person carpool lanes.

7. The carpool lane never exceeded 1300 vehicles per hour. It takes 1500 -1800 to cause the type of congestion it had.  Clearly the congestion in that lane was not from overuse, but from other causes; namely friction between lanes, cars entering/exiting the lane, and buses which drive slow. (see video) Why aren’t you addressing these issues instead of hiding behind the lie that there were simply too many carpools?

I’m sure you can think of some questions of your own.  Be sure to attend and call them out on it.  But don’t expect to get any satisfaction.  The only way to fix this is to use our ratings to vote for legislators who have the vision to recognize the farce of the ETL and the courage to stand for constituents over parties.  Then once in office, encourage them to sponsor and vote for a bill to stop this reckless design by WSDOT.

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8 comments on “7 Questions for WSDOT
  1. […] of WSDOT open house this Thursday in Bothell)  Governor Inslee held a press conference last Thursday to brag about how […]

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  2. D H says:

    *sigh*
    How many things can I point wrong with this?

    1) You guys did not include ST Routes 532 and 535 in your transit totals and selectively included only KC Metro Routes. So 264 people per day is quite a claim without giving out the full numbers on ST 532 and 535 and you could include CT 424 from Snohomish to Downtown since it uses 405.

    2) 100% HOVs There are numerous assumptions you have made a) Full HOV 2+ compliance b) SOVs are only toll paying but they could also be 2+ during peak periods paying the toll c) Bus passengers in HOV vehicles that could account for 30-50 people per vehicle.

    3) Of course the HOV can’t exceed 1300 vehicles per hour when demand exceeds supply. If you look at a vehicle lane capacity curve once you hit the 1700-1800 veh/hr range you will go down the hill and lose capacity creating of course congestion.

    4) DOT followed up in the accidents went back to normal after the first 3 months of tolling.

    5) Where is the 20,000 people per day carpooling and were they all during the peak hours?

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    • Fewer than you would like.
      1. If you have a problem with WSDOT’s totals, take it up with them. Those statistics were taken directly from the WSDOT 6 month report. But even including those numbers, it pales in comparison to the negative effect it is having on carpooling.
      2. The 85% SOV measurement is based on visual observation of vehicles with no one in the front passenger seat. That value misses carpools that have no passengers other than babies in the back seat. But that value closely matches the value of vehicles that pay, which includes 2-person carpools that aren’t cheating. So in the end, it’s a wash. The 100% HOVs prior to implementing the tolls is accurate. Non-compliance was extremely low with the 2+ carpool requirement because cheaters were far more obvious. The bus passenger count (and 3+ carpools/vanpools) are roughly the same before as after while the 2-person carpools are notably absent.
      3. The HOV lane NEVER EXCEEDED 1300. That means it never reached the 1700-1800 mark that would then show a decline.
      4. WSDOT provided the statistics that indicate accidents are still up.
      5. Where are the 10,000 cars that were 2-person carpools? Peak hours are 5-9am and 3-7pm. During those 8 hours the original carpool lane was averaging 1,000 vph. That accounts for 7,200 of them (90%+ were 2-person carpools). Add to that the 6 hours in the middle of the day when 2 person carpools are allowed, but still require a FlexPass, so most people still can’t use the lanes and you can easily find another 3,000 carpools not in the ETL.

      The question I have for you, D H, is what are YOU doing to reduce the congestion on I-405? Do you ride in a 3+ carpool/vanpool/bus? Or are you just using it as a way to protect your solo drive in the ETL?

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  3. D H says:

    You seem to just avoid the questions and not do the research yourself showing laziness on your part. I’m simply wanting to know more and you are doing what anyone else can do which is selecting information that comes best to your opinion.

    I don’t live on the Eastside but I have an issue with people cherry picking data. I make assumptions with my job too but assuming 100% compliance without any observations let alone you cannot cite.

    The lanes of course were going to fail but if you widen at 522 further north all that is going to do is move the backlog further north and in order to widen I-5 you’d have to rebuild multiple overpasses and have significant construction disruptions let alone high costs.

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    • I don’t know which questions you think I’m avoiding and I’m not cherry picking data. There are so many problems with the #405ETL, we could spend days typing about all the issues and the facts.
      Regardless of who gets in office, we hope to educate them on the failure of the tolls while demonstrating the overwhelming disapproval of the public through the petition.

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      • D H says:

        I feel you avoided my point about the Sound Transit data which I could acquire quite easily. Transit people are saying the ETLs should stay in place but given the abysmal ridership I couldn’t even back it up for a couple thousand per day versus the tens of thousands over 520.

        The HOV 100% compliance assumption saying it is 100% accurate and I have had a difficult time proving non-compliance was low. People likely don’t want to be snitches but if the number was in the 80-90% range I would say that is likely.

        I did ask DOT myself about the accident patterns and it was within the first 3 months of tolling beginning. It will be interesting to see data from March to September given that will provide a full year of data and show the big picture. If accidents are still up they are still up.

        On top of that, it is expensive to collect tolling around 10-20% of expenses versus not even 1% on gas tax. The question becomes what problem do we want to solve? If congestion tolling hasn’t worked in this case and I don’t feel more GP lanes will work long-term even if you added two. It might get rid of off peak congestion but peak will always have demand.

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        • I’m not trying to avoid anything. I try to answer every question posted here and other social media sites. I only have so much time.

          Carpool compliance can be confirmed even now by looking at other carpool lanes, like on I-405 south of Bellevue. But I know people are at least more willing to admit they cheat now because it is so easy.

          Another problem with tolling is that it takes many millions of bills to be processed and with that they have had millions of billing errors. Those have been documented and covered heavily in the media. See this article for a summary: https://stop405tolls.org/2016/04/22/yet-again-more-billing-problems-being-stuck-to-the-drivers/
          And those don’t include the many random errors that people have been misbilled. I personally have had 3 toll charges that were not valid and had to call to get them dropped.
          The list of failings go on. I encourage you to review the slide deck posted here: https://stop405tolls.org/wsdot-secrets/

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  4. D H says:

    http://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/SIP2016_FinalDraft.pdf

    Took a look and between 2014 2015 additions of another. Pages 48 and 50. The fact is the lanes aren’t working. Some get a faster trip but even in peak hours in Canyon Park they will get bogged down. Choke points get moved around and it simply is as you’ve said a failed experiment.

    The question is are enough people convinced to vote for representatives that will make this a priority in the next legislative session? The primaries gave me a huge concern that many Democrats will continue to be in the legislature and where has there been a tax they haven’t loved.

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