This story just published by mynorthwest.com proves once again that charging a toll doesn’t make cars go faster. Adding capacity does. Note that they don’t even discuss what is happening in the general purpose lanes.
And contrary to what WSDOT State Tolling Director Ed Barry claims in the article, diversion traffic is definitely an issue. In fact, Mark Hollenbeck made this point in a radio article on NPR where he explained how mobile apps like Waze and Inrix are guiding people on the back roads that avoid the arterials, which is where WSDOT measures diversion traffic. (See my article about NPR’s story with a link to the NPR audio)
That the tolls continue to reach $10 on a regular basis and that the 45mph federal requirement is still not being met ensures that toll prices will only rise and even as they do, they will continue to fail to improve congestion across all lanes. Ironically, the purpose of the 45mph requirement for toll lanes (it is NOT a requirement for HOV lanes) is to protect performance for the HOVs. Clearly, it is failing. What is even more concerning is that WSDOT isn’t talking about the increase in collisions that happened since the ETL were opened.
As I have pointed out before, there are 4 ways to reduce congestion:
1. Increase capacity
2. Reduce demand
3. Improve efficiency
4. Change how you define Congestion
All WSDOT is doing is trying to change how they measure congestion. They even fudged on the method they measure to review performance driving from end to end. They don’t look at real trips that may only use a shorter segment of the lanes. Also, they are defining “peak hour” as the 4 hour period in the morning and evening, instead of a shorter length as defined by federal guidelines. If they used the shorter period, it would show that they fail a much higher percentage of the time.
It is time to end the tolls and move on with finding legitimate solutions to traffic congestion.