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Express Lanes



No matter how many lanes of traffic governments build, they will never solve traffic problems because they incentivize more driving and more traffic, effectively subsidizing the problem they are meant to fix. Subsidizing public transportation and both dense and affordable urban living are far more effective ways to combat traffic.

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  • mikeSchilling

    If it’s a pay lane (as opposed to an HOV lane), and it’s slower than the normal lanes, it’s underpriced.

  • D. C. Sessions

    It’s always essential to keep in mind the objective, the problem that the measure is intended to solve.

    In this case, it’s not true that the pay lane is intended to solve the “solve traffic problems.” The real problem that it is intended to solve is, “how do I get re-elected?”

    • ThrottleJockey

      In my experience toll lanes work pretty well. The ones I’ve used tend to move faster and be better maintained than non-toll lanes. But its true. They’re not meant, per se, to “combat traffic” as Loomis envisions. Rather they’re meant to move traffic faster. If more were to adopt London-style congestion pricing, you’d get some of the impact Loomis would like.

    • djw

      When the voters are directly confronted with the choice to raise taxes for X votes, transit generally does better than roads. One reason local politicians prefer the latter is the people who profit from road expansion are more likely to be local, and more likely to have their hooks in local politicians.

      • sparks

        You could be talking about my city. The voters of the county raised the sales tax for transit (not that it is always well spent), while the city council approved some of the most boneheaded development plans I’ve seen anywhere, a few of which have blown up magnificently. The arena they’re building now is going to be a transportation nightmare when it’s being used for events and a wasteland when it’s not.

  • LeeEsq

    I agree. So do many other people. Most Americans don’t. They want to drive and want to live in non-dense developments. The votes aren’t there for subsidized public transportation and dense and affordable urban living even though there is a lot of demand for such.

    • DocAmazing

      Even in areas where people recognize the need for infill and busses, there’s a big subpopulation that absolutely refuses to take busses and demands to be able to drive at the drop of a hat.

      • dporpentine

        In New York City, we call those people “City Council Members.”

      • LeeEsq

        There are people who commute by car into Manhattan even though parking is an area of stress and frustration.

      • DAS

        I would just assume not have to deal with driving or especially with parking in NYC, but it usually takes twice as long to get from one place to another here in Queens if you take the bus than if you drive. Heck, if you somehow have free, easy to find parking in Manhattan, it’s oftentimes quicker (and cheaper) to drive (especially if you have a carpool) to Manhattan from central Queens than it is to take a bus to a subway station. And while certainly more subways and buses could be added, it’s hard to imagine that there could ever be enough E, F and 7 trains (for example) to fully handle any increased demand for mass transit between Queens and Manhattan.

        And even those of us who live in relative dense urban areas may work in the ‘burbs, where taking mass transit truly becomes difficult.

    • Tyro

      Most Americans don’t. They want to drive and want to live in non-dense developments.

      There are plenty of empty areas where they can live without having to deal with traffic and where real estate is cheap (Kansas, southern Illinois, west texas). Denser metropolitan areas with huge traffic problems will have to resolve their problems by resorting to more transit-oriented solutions.

    • JL

      The votes aren’t there for subsidized public transportation and dense and affordable urban living even though there is a lot of demand for such.

      The fact that there’s a lot of demand for such suggests that there are nontrivial numbers of votes for such, even if we’re not quite where we need to be yet.

  • Warren Terra

    (Obvious nod in the direction of Caro’s The Power Broker, which spends a lot of time discussing how new and better roads have no lasting effect on traffic congestion)

    • hylen

      The Power Broker

      What a great book. A real classic, in my opinion.

  • so-in-so

    Of course good, libertarian “yoeman” ‘Muricans instist on driving where they want, when they want using as much fossil fuel as possible. George Will made clear that public transportation is “collectivist”, I.e. communist or at least sorta socialist. Can’t have that, now can we?

  • RabbitIslandHermit

    Road expansion seems to be more about sticking it to hippies than anything else. Here in the Upper Peninsula someone was bitching on the local news about the EPA supposedly making it impossible to build new roads anywhere here. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would want a new road anywhere here. There’s almost no traffic (I sometimes see more deer than cars) and it’s not like there’s demand for new developments in currently inaccessible places. Maybe for timber? My impression is that the timber roads we already have are pretty comprehensive, though.

  • Henry Holland

    I’ve lived in various parts of Los Angeles (NoHo, Silverlake and MacArthur Park since 2001) since 1975 so I know how bad traffic can be here. There’s two major factors in play:

    1) Yes, there’s more cars on the freeways but adding express/pay lanes is a mugs game. There are parts of the freeway system that were built in a time period of less cars (the 60’s were the freeway building boom years) and they’re badly antiquated in design. The example I use is the 5 heading north from Orange County. In OC, it’s in good condition, plenty of lanes, not a lot of bumper-to-bumper. However, the second you cross over in to LA County, the freeways are in worse condition. The main problem though is a tiny stretch near the 5/10/101 split where the 5 goes from four lanes to two. Doesn’t matter if it’s 3:30 am on a Tuesday, there’s almost always a bottleneck there. They’re stuck, there’s simply no way to add more lanes at that point short of destroying acres of housing and warehouses, which brings its own problems of course.

    2) For the most part, public transportation here sucks goat balls and it’s not going to change any time soon. Sure, the subway helps but the Expo Line that’s slated to end up at the Santa Monica beach (i.e. a true Downtown to Beach option, the most pressing need) will still have the same problem that the subways here have: large gaps between stations which means –wait for it– that they expect you to drive to a station, find parking (not a given at all of them) or use up to two buses and *then* take the subway. I’m lucky that I live a 5 minute walk from a Red Line station that has connections to every other line, but most people here don’t and if I want to go to a concert at the Forum or go drinking in Santa Monica or Venice, too bad, there’s no way to do it by subway only.

    The bus system here is a nightmare. I’d love to be able to take buses to work, but my experiences with it put a stop to that nonsense. No problem getting a bus on Wilshire, but my options after that are a) take a bus on Wilton south that at least 3 times I tried to use it took over 1:15 to show up or b) take a Wilshire bus > Western bus south > a bus on Washington west and I’d still have a 10 minute walk to the office.

    It’s why I drive the 8 mile round trip five days a week, it takes me 18 minutes each way.

  • efgoldman

    I’d gladly move into the dense city and give up the car, but I work in a suburban office park that is serviced by one bus an hour on good days, and city living in these parts is hideously expensive.

    • Tyro

      I worked at a suburban office park and commuted by car from the city because there was no transit. I paid dearly for the privilege both in higher costs of living and in gas. It was a cost that was worth it to me, but not necessarily to everyone else.

      The thing is that the concept of suburban office parks in a corporate decision to save money on real estate by offloading many of the additional costs of of transportation on to the employees.

    • JL

      I work in a suburban office park that is serviced by one bus an hour on good days

      There really needs to be more transit to those goddamn depressing office parks out in Burlington, Woburn, North Waltham, etc (I vaguely remember that you live in Eastern MA too). I’ve worked in one before, and I took the bus, and it was annoying, even though I was fortunate enough to be a 12-minute walk from the subway station where the bus route started. Stuff like the 128 Business Council group shuttles help somewhat for the people who work at those businesses, but they don’t run especially often either.

      • TribalistMeathead

        I work in the boonies, but at the global headquarters of a Fortune 200 company, so the public transit options are pretty good, and fares on some of the routes are paid for by my employer. Plus they just opened flexible workspace downtown. Granted, all of this happened when they finally figured out they were losing talent to companies that had better public transit access, but still.

        At smaller companies, I think it just ends up being a chicken-and-egg thing: No one who currently works there needs a public transit option, and no prospective employees who want/need a public transit option will go work there.

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