The basic idea of these HOT lanes is pay-to-play. There are gradations of sophistication – the lanes in Minneapolis have variable pricing depending on how many people are using them at any given time – but in the end it’s like putting a little Georgia 400 next to, above, or below, the roads that the rest of us schmucks are currently stuck with. You pay some money, maybe $8 – sixteen times the 400 toll – and you drive carefree while everyone else suffers.
I’m glad I mentioned Georgia 400, because to me it’s a great example of how silly the idea that more roads – toll, elevated, underground, strewn with flowers, or otherwise – are going to solve ANYTHING is. That Buckhead extension, that monstrosity that anyone who has had to slog through at rush hour knows is a real threat to sanity – didn’t even exist until 1993. That $.50 toll didn’t keep the road from getting completely out of control in a decade and a half. Sure, we could raise the toll, but that would just make 75 and 85 that much worse.
What boggles my mind about these HOT lanes is that the whole goal is to make them expensive enough so that the people who use them will have a free and clear ride. How is anything solved by building special lanes that only rich swine, like Sonny Perdue who can give himself a tax break whenever the hell he feels like it, actually use? Even better, many observers have rightly worried that these lanes could doom the already anemic car pools and their associated lane to oblivion.
A sure sign that something is Bad for the Public is when a conservative ultra-libertarian mouthpiece like the Cato Institute gets on board. Public transportation is like kryptonite to these fools, like Ted Kennedy is going to accost them in some dark alley and make them ride MARTA.
On the bright side, researching this topic led me to a hilariously stupid paper by some people running a rag styling itself Reason.org. It’s 84 pages long, longer than “Ways George Bush Screwed Up America”, so of course you won’t read it, but it’s worth noting their four recommended projects (I quote):
- A network of express toll lanes added to the entire freeway system instead of the currently planned (but only partially funded) set of HOV lanes. These priced lanes would also function as the guideway for regionwide express bus service.
- A double-decked tunnel linking the southern terminus of Georgia 400 with I-20 and later with the northern terminus of I-675, providing major relief to the Downtown Connector (I-75/85),
the most congested portion of the freeway system.
- Extension of the Lakewood Freeway eastward to I-20 as a tunnel, and westward to I-20 as a
freeway, providing an additional east-west corridor and new access to the airport.
- A separate toll truckway system, permitting heavy trucks to bypass Atlanta’s congestion in
exchange for paying a toll; a portion of this system would be tunneled below downtown.
Can we say “OMFG on a popsicle stick”? (That’s before you read the part about where this costs $25 billion.) The bottom line, kids, is that there are crazy, horrible fools out there who wouldn’t recognize a transit solution if it said “23 Buford Highway” and smacked them something righteous. ROADS ARE NOT THE ANSWER and only YOU can convince the people running Atlanta of that simple truth.