Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For Whom the HOV Tolls

Every day, as I wait for the shuttle to the Metro, I see lines of cars stretching off into the distance. Ninety plus percent of them have a single occupant, heading to work.

Of course DC does have reversible HOV lanes, and is known for the practice called "slugging," in which people in the outer areas park their cars in designated lots, and people stop by to pick up random fellow commuters so they can use the HOV lanes to head to work. Still, the limitless stream of bumper-to-bumper cars with single occupants demonstrate that people don't value their time as much as they do their independence.

What we need to do, therefore, is raise the cost of independence through a means other than time. Since the HOV lanes are already separated from the rest of the traffic flow, I propose putting tolls on the non-HOV lanes. Single occupant vehicles would be taxed via the tolls, whereas high occupant vehicles could cruise straight through onto the toll-free HOV lanes. If nothing else convinces people to take the bus, metro, train, or slug, watching their fellow commuters zip by while they wait to pay a toll might do it.


Blogger Yoel Natan said...

And they wouldn't have to stop to pay the toll either--just have something like I-Pass or EZ-Pass.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

It's very easy for anyone to pick me up on their way to work, but I often chose to bike through the snow just so I could leave when I wanted and stop at the store. That's how much independence is worth.

With EZpass, the toll would be pretty painless. I wouldn't go HOV.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Daniel Hamermesh on $8 pricing to use Minneapolis HOV lanes during snowstorms -- they were empty, except comment #6 says some were full. Usually it's $1.50.

#15 suggests they didn't have transponders. I decided to link this before I read the comments -- freakonomics' commenters are usually smarter than the posts.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

I don't think the Hamermesh article applies. This would be charging people for NOT using the HOV lane. Encouraging carpooling and all.

Over the short-term, I would expect the curve to be rather sticky. It takes a while for people to set up carpools and the like. In this regard, DC is already well prepared for this sort of thing as slugging is well-established.

Independence is worth a lot, but not nearly so much in cities where one commutes to public transportation.

9:53 PM  

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