Time and Cost (520or90.com)

It’s a bit of a customer service cliche to say that your time is valuable. It’s instructive when people reveal just how valuable it is, and the new tolls are 520 are an excellent case study.

If the traffic maps are any indication, quite a few drivers are looking at a situation like the one at right (generated by this) and choosing to take I-90.  It is a bit cheaper, but anyone that makes this decision is valuing their time at $2.38 an hour.

Of course, the value of one’s time varies from day to day, and many people are making their decision without the tradeoffs displayed quite so clearly. However, lost in complaining about the tolls and their supposed inequity is the simple fact is that travelers have a new transportation choice. If they’re in a hurry (like most freight presumably is), there’s now a fast way across the lake. If they’re not in a hurry, they can still be thrifty.

For transit users (on 520) this is an unqualified win, and it would be an even broader transit win if I-90 were tolled too.

110 Replies to “Tolling and Revealed Preferences”

  1. An excellent application, and one that dispels the notion of “free” trips vs. tolled trips.

  2. Another intersting phenomenon (widely known, but I’ll bring in my anecdote anyway): the costs of crossing the bridge are more easily understood and quantified. This weekend I brought my son across 520 for a haircut. There just doesn’t seem to be a good child’s barber on the west side that doesn’t make him cry. With a minute’s though I paid the $2.20 each way for 520. It’s worth it to me to save the 15 min each way from taking the longer way. But it now has set in my mind that with tip, toll, and fuel this is approaching a $35 haircut, when I could pay $20 – $25 if I stayed in Seattle (hey, maybe he’s old enough now to not cry).

    Of course the cost in time always existed for me – it’s much faster now to get back and forth over the bridge. But the toll has made me evaluate how much my time is worth and put a real value on it. This value is easy to attach to a cross-lake trip, and over time might convince me to travel less.

    1. Totally agree. Just like how paying for parking reveals the real total cost of storing your car somewhere, tolls help you to realize the total real costs of driving your car. Before this app I didn’t ever really think about the fuel of each of my individual trips, now I do.

    2. If the barber is just doing an electric buzz cut, you can buy the commercial hair clippers and do it yourself. Even buying the best equipment you’ll save money and time vs taking the kid to the barber.

      OSTER Classic 76 Hair Clipper

      1. You can do long hair haircuts yourself, too, with a pair of shears and a little training, though I think most boys still have too many ingrained gender stereotypes to want to do that.

        It’s the complicated shoulder-length to ear-length haircuts which need a real barber.

  3. And someone who choses to bicycle from the suburbs into downtown, instead of driving their car, they are also devaluing their time, yet I never see it pointed out on this blog that they, or even bus riders, are devaluing their time.

    1. At least a bike rider is getting some exercise, which is considered a value to most bike riders. I’ve never understood why people will pay money to a gym when they could get just as much exercise by redesigning their daily lives. The overall cost of owning and maintaining a bike is also a fraction of the cost of owning and maintaining an automobile, which adds more value to bike commuting. My biggest complaint about bus commuting is the cost of reading materials. I know I could read library books, but I still find myself spending a small fortune every month on stuff to read on the bus. I guess there’s value in that too.

      1. Wish I could read on a bus. The vibration and movement just makes it impossible for me and yes, I used to get car sick as a child. Light rail and trains are much better.

      2. Really Groan? I can think of a couple, starting with your body. Most people that buy gym memberships could get a good work out just by doing push ups, pull ups, squats, etc. Seriously, very few of the people who use gyms are in the kind of shape where basic human activity isn’t enough.

        Of course gyms are comfortable, have entertainment options and generally don’t have much risk of death or serious injury.

      3. Different kinds of exercise have different effects on muscles and performance. For bodybuilding, heavy weights work best. For boxing, wrestling, and similar interval-intensity sports, lighter weights or bodyweight exercises plus cardio are best — and they should all be done at intervals (1-3 minutes intense, 1-3 minutes easy, 1-3 minutes intense, …) for two reasons: (1) that’s what the sport demands, and (2) high-intensity is your most explosive strength using the anarobic metabolic pathway but it can only be sustained for up to three minutes. The aerobic pathway is “weaker” but can be sustained indefinitely. That’s why sprinters run faster than marathon runners. For weight loss, weights/bodyweight exercises plus cardio done in intervals seems to have the best affect.

        Bicycling flat or downhill is like marathon running: it’s good cardio but doesn’t give much else. You can make it interval by biking on rolling hills or by gearing up and down. However, I’ve never gotten the anaerobic component except when riding uphill.

        The other thing about bicycles is they’re the most efficient motion machine there is. That’s good for travelling the maximum distance with the least amount of energy, but it’s not good for burning the maximum calories. Of course, you can burn a good amount of calories bicycling, but not as much as running or boxing.

        There’s also the social aspect of gyms. Seeing other people working out can motivate you and inspire you. If your friends are there, you see them too. Some gyms have swimming pools, which aren’t available elsewhere.

      4. @Mike Orr — I agree with your last statement. It is probably the most important part of a gym. But I don’t agree that you need a gym (or weights) to get a good anaerobic workout. The gym and the weights just make it easier. The obvious alternatives are pushups and chin-ups. Do 20 chin-ups and show me your biceps. One hundred pushups too easy? Do them one handed. Set your feet on a bar, and do another hundred.

        Dynamic Tension (used by Charles Atlas but also plenty of big time boxers) works as well. The nice thing about that approach is that you can use the techniques anywhere (while waiting for a bus, or on a bus) as long as you don’t mind getting a bit sweaty (or looking strange).

        As you mentioned, for biking, just go up a steep hill. Most bike riders take the easiest (flattest) route, but you can certainly mix it up, and get plenty of strength training. Switching to a heavier bike (like a mountain bike) also increases the workout. A mountain bike over rougher terrain gives a decent upper body workout at the same time. Running stairs also produces a good workout of both types (ask any great running back).

        Again, I agree that a gym is a great motivator and makes things easy, but if you don’t mind spending extra time (and saving money) there are lots of great alternatives.

    2. What [Guy] said. It’s hard to fit they gym into my life, and I find in the summer (I’m a fair weather bike commuter) I get into great shape.

      But then for me biking is faster than driving or taking the bus. But when I worked on the East side I’d ride my bike all the way down to 90 and back – not for speed, but for the workout.

    3. It’s true, and I think most people on the blog would agree that all modes have costs, benefits, and tradeoffs. Martin’s comparison was between one mode…driving 90 vs driving 520. When comparing modes more considerations come into play besides the value of time and the price of fuel, namely productivity (transit riders can work/read while commuting while cyclists can’t), universalizability (for those idealistic enough to choose modes for moral reasons), personal health (win for cycling, loss for transit, big loss for driving), etc etc. Everyone’s calculus is different, but transit advocates make the point that as more people choose not to drive, the range and quality of everyone’s choices improves.

      1. Has anyone done the math on the 520 construction cost per vehicle? If the new 520 is expected to carry an average of about 150,000 vehicles/day, that’s a total of about 1.65 billion vehicles carried over 30 years. Divide that into a construction cost of about $4 billion and the result is that each vehicle trip across the bridge costs about $2.45 in construction cost. But that $2.45 doesn’t include operations costs, maintenance costs or the cost of retiring the construction bonds. So it’s hard to see how a $3.50 toll is going to cover the cost of building and using a new bridge–especially when using the old bridge is (supposedly) free.

      2. Guy, the toll will cover something along the lines of 1/5 of the construction cost of the structure – not, of course, including the cost of the rest of the highway it’s connected to.

      3. 1/5 means we should leave the tolls on for 5 times as long as currently planned. Or maybe for ever. Why not just forever?

      4. “Forever” has worked for the George Washington Bridge entering NYC — peak fares with an EZ-Pass are $9.50, off-peak is $7.50, cash is $12 (source). (I remember when cash was 1/3 that rate just a decade and a half or so ago.) Having grown up with toll bridges throughout the NYC region and the NYS Thruway passing through my hometown, I’m fully accustomed to paying access fees for roadway use — $1.10 to cross 520 last night was a bargain compared to what I’ve experienced back home!

    4. Since the BGT trail segment got closed over the winter and I can’t make the scenic bike trip to work, my blood pressure is up 10 points and I’m 20 pounds overweight due to a lack of regular cardio that was fun…and where I had no choice but to complete it after starting.

      Being healthy was worth a lot more than the extra 60-90 minutes it took to get on the 542. Can’t wait until it re-opens again.

    5. That’s totally true, Sam, though there is a bit of a difference with both of those. As mentioned, biking is exercise,too, so you might be killing two birds with one stone. Also, riding the bus (or biking) can be a lot cheaper. I don’t know where or whether you work, but it’s at least $10 a day to park near my office in Pioneer Square, plus gas, etc.

      Finally, I get to read on the bus, which I’d say is more valuable than time driving where I the best I can do is drive and listen to the radio.

    6. And a bicycle rider factors in their time riding vs time in the gym. So since a bus takes an hour, and my bicycle ride takes 1.25hrs I get my exercise done (2.5 hrs a day) for the “cost” of 2 hrs of commute time.

      Also you need to factor in taxes, and the lost opportunity cost of money. To spend $2.38 you have to earn at least 25% more or $2.97 pre tax wages. And you lose roughly 12x by not investing that same $2.38 or approx. $28.00

      The other cost that needs to be factored in is the cost/mile.

    7. @Sam.Not in my case. Taking public transit from my place on Whidbey to downtown, then riding my bike Kng Street Station to Ballard to complete the first half of my daily trip.

      If I opted to take the bus from downtown, or even Mukilteo, the ride quality and time it takes bot suffer compared to my bike. Driving is faster, by about forty-five minutes, but the stress and lack of exercise aren’t good, and the cost is exorbinant.

    8. I value my sanity more than my time. I HATE driving in traffic unless I am being paid to do so. Guy’s argument below also applies. Right now it takes me about an extra 30 minutes to bike to and from work vs. driving my car but I can skip going to the gym – In that context it seems like a no-brainer.

    1. I’ve seen over $3.80 for premium a few times in the last week. And honestly, 520 commuters tend to be richer than average, so it’s likely they’ll have a car that uses it.

      1. I haven’t seen Premium for under $4/gallon in a long time … thank god I don’t drive anymore since my car requires it

      1. Well, that’s bad user interface design. It should say how it computed the cost. If it’s not clear, it’s never user error. This is the same feedback I have for one bus away’s “scheduled arrival time” not clearly indicating it doesn’t have GPS data and cannot estimate the arrival time.

      1. It is easy to pay $3.80 for a gallon of gas in Seattle, but also not terribly hard to find an AM/PM or 7/11 a few blocks away only charging $3.40.

    2. Gas stations in certains areas charge much higher prices. The Chevron on Bellevue Way and 112th was charging $3.79 a few days ago compared to the Chevron on 148th & NE 8th at $3.39. At that extreme, I’d save $4 when filling up my Subaru – except for the extra 30 minute drive plus an extra 8 miles of driving which almost entirely negates the savings. Add in my time, which I value at far more than $2.38 per hour and presto, the “expensive” gas is far more attractive. In practice I start looking for reasonable gas around a 1/4 of a tank and usually end up paying $3.50.

  4. Anyone know how much real-time data goes into this app?

    Does it take into account the reversible lanes?

    The settings don’t allow for one to indicate if the motorist is able to access the HOV lanes on I-90 which could impact the travel times.

  5. Here’s a link to the PSRC’s ‘Preferred Alternative’ for tolling every freeway and major arterial in the Puget Sound by 2040.
    SR520 is the first, to be followed closely by I-90 if WSDOT and the TC have their way. DBT will follow, then I-5 to balance traffic flows as the two bridges were done. The camels nose is firmly inside the tent.
    I don’t have a problem with user fees and congestion pricing is certainly a good way to spread flows over longer time spans or eliminating some trips all together.
    My beef with tolling (ala outside vendors and screenline collection points) is this.
    It’s a horribly inefficient way to collect a tax with so much of the revenue stream just going to pay for the equipment, backroom operations, and all the follow up collection steps. SR167 hot lanes are a good example of the cost of the operation eating up all the tolls generated for over 3 years. They barely break even now. How does that help maintain the pavement surfaces, if there’s nothing left over.
    SR520 and DBT are estimated to cost 1/3 of the toll revenue collected by WSDOT. I think it will be higher, but let’s wait and see.
    Is this the best way to pay for things, with so much revenue being extracted from the economy and up to half being eaten up to service the system.
    If property taxes, B&O, or sales taxes had such high overheads, we’d all be wanting someones head on a pike.
    Today’s cars have amazing computer systems, and could easily collect enough information to make year to year decisions on how that vehicle is being used – miles and time of day. Couple that with spot check cameras to validate location data, and you can create a simple tiered licence renewal algorithm to be applied on a yearly basis. Let the computers whirr, then send us a congestion priced bill.
    Drive on congested roadways in the peak a lot and you’ll pay a lot. Don’t use the roadways during premium periods and you’ll get a significant break. That’s a lot cheaper than getting a letter a day from the DOT saying you drove on X number of roads last week, at these times, with these variable rates, so send us a check for this amount. Or trying to reconcille your debit account at the end of the month for multiple hits for traveling along X,Y and Z for each journey. That’s way to complicated.
    Doug McDonald has an interesting article on Crosscut today on tolling too.

    1. You’re looking at efficiency in the wrong way. Tolls cost more to collect but do something no other taxing tool can, reduce congestion on a specific facility.

      1. That’s true of you stop there. How does that work when every freeway and major arterial is being tolled in 2040?
        My head hurts just from doing the math.

      2. There is no other tax stream that directly taxes the use of our transportation system resources on a discreet trip level. All other transportation taxes have little or no impact on congestion because they don’t tax the use of resources by time of day and location. Higher gas taxes will in general decrease fuel use, but the location and time of that fuel use doesn’t matter.

        If you want to impact trip behavior on a trip by trip level, and thus reduce congestion the only way to do that is tax on a trip by trip level. Any system that has a greater number of decentralized transactions will cost more to collect.

        It just part of the cost of doing business, in this case reducing congestion and paying for projects.

    2. If you’re upset about tolling, call Tim Eyman and complain. His effort to change how we tax automobiles and transit led the state to no other alternative.

      The takeaway for everyone should be the realization that roads aren’t free. Whether you pay a toll, or a gas tax (I wish), or when you license your car, you are paying.

      1. Inquiring minds want to know so I googled Chik-Fil-A. Who cares? I’m more concerned about the new Walmart “Neighborhood” Market offering fresh Kelsey Creek salmon. Seems Bellevue’s supposedly divided council pushed that through in a show of unity.

    3. Do you eat food, or use furniture?

      Then you are using roadways for the trucks that bring those goods in.

      Shouldn’t you be paying a road tax every time you eat a Chic-Fil-A ?

      1. You are. If the delivery truck drove on a toll road, the costs are passed to you.

      2. No, Chic-Fil-A should pay the tax as part of their cost of doing business. When they price their goods, they will take any road taxes or tolls into account along with building costs, fuel costs, materials costs, labor costs, etc.

      3. How is this thread about Chik-Fil-A and not about toll costs passed to consumers?

        I own a restaurant on Capitol Hill, and I live in Ballard. Most of the restaurant buying/shipping for the region happens from Sodo. When 99 is tolled we will be in that tunnel at least 4 – 5 times a week both ways. Will this get passed on in higher food prices? Of course. Do I feel bad? Hell no. If I had lower cost options I would use them, but the state doesn’t give them to me (Thanks, Tim!)

      4. Bring it in by rail.

        There’s an underused rail line passing directly by both major supermarkets and all the major hardware stores in my town. Does that tell you something about road subsidies? It should.

    4. Would you change your mind if the current trend holds and the existing 4 lane bridge can easily handle all the traffic willing to go over the tolled structure? Spending all that extra money to expand the bridge out to 6 lanes plus widening the approaches may end up being the biggest waste of all here if enough people are content switching to transit, biking, or combining trips. (Even more insane would have been for Seattle to give into Kemper’s wet dream of an 8 lane bridge – holy cow)

      1. Except that the bridge needs to be replaced anyway unless we’re just going to dismantle it. So the cost of the 6-lane bridge is the difference between four lanes and six lanes — probably just a quarter or third of the total.

      2. Sorry, I shouldn’t have used the word “existing” as I know full well the bridge seriously needs to be replaced. I was pointing out that we may not need as big of a bridge as we’re currently building and we certainly don’t need Kemper’s dream gold-plated 8 lane bridge any time soon since tolls seem to be making people choose their trips more wisely or divert to other modes. (That’s assuming everybody isn’t just diverting to I90 which I’m relatively sure isn’t the case – we’ll find out for sure soon enough)

        As for the “quarter or third of the total”, that’s a pretty big chunk of savings on a multi-billion dollar project.

      3. I think it is best to “futureproof” the bridge by building HOV lanes, especially if in the long term BRT is going to be the primary means of transit across the bridge. If there is extra capacity in 50 years so be it. The risk of not being able to run transit service in congestion free lane is not worth the marginal savings of building a bridge that is ~24ft narrower.

      1. Hi Daniel,

        Glad you like the app! We considered this point when generating our cost-calculations but decided that it was a detail that was too difficult to communicate for a v1 launch. We’ll look at this when we reassess for v2. Thanks for the suggestion,


  6. Wish I could read on a bus. The vibration and movement just makes it impossible for me and yes, I used to get car sick as a child. Light rail and trains are much better”

    Yeah I’ve mostly given up on that. Long-form reading works on some ST buses and Link, also Rapidride. For regular city routes, just doesn’t work for me…buses are too crowded, too noisy, too many a-holes, shaky buses, etc. There’s always smartphones at least.

    1. Podcasts. I suggest: Radiolab, Planet Money, TED Talks, This American Life, Marketplace

    2. I can’t understand how you can comfortably read your smart phone but not a book, but whatever.

  7. I wish the app had more specific locations–it matters where in Seattle I am/want to be and where in Bellevue I am/want to be. Otherwise it’s unclear to me how they judge mileage–is it some arbitrary “center” of each city? That’s often not where I’d be going or coming from.

    1. I agree. This seems a bit disingenuous because the difference in gas is so large. Is the route from Husky stadium to downtown Bellevue?

      Equally disingenuous is the Seattle Times raising the specter of both bike lanes and higher parking fees in their 520 article this morning:

      “The urge to speed is understandable, theorizes longtime Seattle resident Travis Winn, because so many Seattle streets have lower speed limits, bike lanes, curb barriers and higher parking fees. “I can imagine why people would want to,” said Winn, who was avoiding the toll bridge last week. “What’s wrong with going fast, when you can?””

  8. Martin, you make a great point about freight that I think sometimes gets lost in the “how to do we get more congestion pricing” conversation. The problem for freight is SR-520 isn’t a freight route, nor is it as direct a route to the port as I-90/SR-519. Hopefully the Port looks at the travel time improvements on SR-520 and quickly becomes a regional advocate for congestion pricing/tolling. Depending on your view of the Port, this may be not be a good thing, but you can’t deny the political clout of the Port, associated organizations (unions, trades, etc.), and Port dependent businesses (agriculture, manufacturing, etc.).

    1. For whom would the port’s advocacy carry weight? I think the general public is on the “ambivalent” to “suspicious” portion of the opinion spectrum when it comes to the port.

  9. I don’t quite get the metrics.

    Are they only comparing the trip of a person who wants to get from say Bel-Kirk Road to UW? Well, then of course the 520 is a straight line.

    However, I think of it this way. Imagine a rectangle formed by 520, 405, 90 and 5.

    Now if you start in the Northwest section of the rectangle, and want to get to the Southeast, then the distance, approximately, of choosing 5 or 90 is the same. This applies for any two diagonally opposite corners.

    The case where the trip would be shorter is if you were going to someplace inside the rectangle. Then you would choose the first bridge you encountered.

    I wonder how many people who switched bridges, always had the option to do so, without increasing distance traveled, and the toll just spurred them into it.

    1. Then you would choose the first bridge you encountered.

      This isn’t necessarily true. 405/520 to 5/90 is about 1.5 miles shorter across 520 then across 90, which means if you were 3/4 mile south of 405/520 – in DT Bellevue, say – you might still want to take 520 (by distance).

      Furthermore, if you were going to DT Seattle (or especially north of there), you’d want to exit at the closest end of DT. Assuming the commute through DT is the same from either end, 520 becomes even more of an advantage.

      Though, of course, the reverse-commuters from Redmond don’t seem to be switching to I-90 as much as the reat.

  10. It is not a total win for buses. I took a bus on 520 inbound this morning. It was crush load. That made each of the stops take longer than normal, including at 92nd, Evergreen Pt, Montlake, Yale, 9th – as people had to file through the loaded aisle. This was a 252, but the 545 that passed was also crush load.

    Also the bus had trouble merging at Montlake because right lane traffic was moving at 60 mph.

    1. And how does it make the I-90 buses perform? Is any mitigation planned to keep transit reliable on I-90?

      1. I believe they’re planning to build this rail line across I-90?… :-)

        Yeah, yeah, I know you knew that, and I know it’s taking too long to get that done…

      1. Unfortunately I believe that there is no plan by Metro or ST to increase trips in Feb. Does anyone know otherwise?

    2. Perhaps not added trips, but some equipment rearrangements?
      I took a similarly crush-loaded articulated 271 to UW this morning, with most people boarding at EPFS.

      Unfortunately, this evening, the 271s were no longer articulated, which suggests that the above may have been just that one trip.

  11. Still think it would be worth whatever it takes to get 2-way all-day bus lanes on I-90 ASAP. Could one similar effect to tolling I-90: more people would choose transit over automobiles because transit is moving while cars are stuck.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The growth of reverse-commuting is not a new phenomenon. I can’t figure out why they didn’t 2-way the bus/HOV lanes 20 years ago!

      Most of the ramps and express-to-local crossovers already exist; I can think of only a couple that are currently reversible and would need to be duplicated or moved. For the most part, all you need is a median divider. So why didn’t this happen a long time ago?

  12. Huh. Would I stand by an on-ramp w/a cardboard sign for 30 minutes to earn $1.18? I don’t think so. Being heated (at vast expense) and equipped with a chair, I suppose a car is a bit more comfortable but it still hardly seems like a good deal.

  13. It’s more than just the cost of time and fuel. Last I saw, AAA estimated the cost of driving a car at a minimum of 38¢ per mile, and that’s for a small car! With extra mileage: (1) sooner to maintain vehicle: oil change, tires, etc.; (2) possible higher insurance costs; (3) more traffic on I-90 = lower mpg for car and higher likelihood of accident; and (4) as pointed out, one’s time, which means more time at the gas station and which likely means less done at home or less sleep, more stress, potential reduction in activities (due to having less time to do them) = potential damage to one’s relationships. Yet, time after time I see letter writers proclaiming how they avoided the toll, and as long as they drive less than 22 miles – for their car gets 22 mpg, and – at ~$3.50 per gallon (the toll rate) – they figure they’re breaking even! No mention whether the 22 mpg was off their car’s sticker, which typically is inflated vs. people’s actual driving habits.

    1. I made a similar point above. Looks like the app creators are likely to add more components to the equation in a later version.

  14. I think there’s a psychological component here. For many people, a dollar spent on a direct transportation expense, be it parking or tolls, psychologically feels like it’s more than a dollar spent on actual purchases. I used to be guilty of such thoughts, myself, but I’ve gotten better in recent years at avoiding them.

    I wonder if there have been any scientific studies on this. How do people compare a $15 restaurant bill with free parking against a $10 restaurant bill with $5 parking? Or a $5 restaurant bill with $10 parking? I’ll bet people are a lot less rational than you might think. The fact that so many businesses validate parking for their customers suggests that many business owners agree with me on this.

    1. +1 to this. During gas price spikes, you read about people driving long distances for only marginally cheaper gas.

      That said, if tolling causes more people to consider vehicular economics more rationally, that in itself is a win for sustainable transport.

  15. This gap in rationality reminds of the some ideas I had (and I’m sure many others have thought the same things) to make tolling more acceptable; the very fact folks will inconvenience themselves for chump change means there are some great ways available to make tolling more fun.

    — Make the toll into a lottery. Each paid trip across the bridge buys a chance to win a cash prize. Make it an instant win, and use electronic signs visible to other drivers to celebrate a winner.

    — Probably equally effective would be to offer drivers odds that their trip will be free. Say one of every thousand vehicles will be randomly chosen to be gifted their passage across the bridge. Use electronic signs visible to other drivers to celebrate a win.

    It’s true that these are also incentives to drive, probably surprisingly powerful given the popularity of other examples (Lotto), but ending most of the bitching about tolling is perhaps worth a little loss of efficiency.

    1. I love it. Serious people will not like it, but it’s a great way to take the sting off the new toll.

      (I’m not sure if it’s legal to, in effect, mandate gambling for all toll-payers, though.)

  16. One additional bit of observation, This morning the traffic on I-90 was significantly slower than yesterday. I think more people are trying the switch to see how it works for them.

    As for increased bicycle traffic, I’m not seeing it yet. But it is the misery months for riding and the traffic hasn’t approached the level which would cause people to say, “I’d rather ride in the freezing rain than sit here!”

    Come spring though and I bet the counts go up for year/year.

  17. anyone that makes this decision is valuing their time at $2.38 an hour…. If they’re in a hurry (like most freight presumably is), there’s now a fast way across the lake

    Freight will most likely be assessed a per axle surcharge. Tolls can be as much as $10.50 each way ($14.50 w/o Good 2 Go). When you’re getting into the $20/hour range you have to start thinking what value that added time has. Are you just getting back to the warehouse faster to sit around or is there another job to move on to. It’ll be a few weeks before we know if there is much congestion reduction (trip reduction, increased transit, shift to off peak use) or if without tolling both bridges it’s just congestion diversion (aka Lexus Lanes). Even with an overall reduction in the number of vehicles using the two bridges congestion can increase if the capacity of 520 isn’t used. That’s the problem with setting tolls to meet revenue goals instead of TDM. Of course the simple fix is variable tolling on I-90.

    1. Well obviously if they’re going to sit around at the warehouse, nobody cares if they’re in congestion or not. But “freight mobility” trumps a lot in debates, with good reason, and this helps freight mobility.

      1. Not nobody, the people stuck behind the stinky truck care that 520 capacity is being wasted and I-90 is adding 20 minutes their commute. I just don’t think we can maximize our investment in current infrastucture without tolling both bridges. Time will tell but it’s looking to me like tolling only 520 is going to fail to meet revenue projections and simple result in congestion diversion. The gains in transit use and peak trip reduction are quickly erased if I-90 turns to black on the traffic flow maps.

  18. Q13 did a piece this morning on Tolling Alternatives. Sorry the story is only available as a video link (I hate that) but the upshot of it was that from the Redmond Transit Center to the Q13 studio the out of pocket expense (gas + tolls) is $1,400 more to use 520. The cost in time is 6 days; or as they put it, “Your money or your life.” Works out to almost $10/hour and although most seemed to think that giving up 6 days of your life seemed like a bad idea there was also the sentiment, “Not so bad, crank up the tunes and just enjoy the down time.”

    I’d thought the story was going to include one person taking transit from the Redmond P&R but I couldn’t find any reference to that on the website. Trip Planner puts it right an hour with a combination ST 545 and various transfer options DT. Driving 520 is 20 minutes so it works out to save you $1,870 to taking the bus but costs you 14 days of your life.

    1. They also neglected the costs for the extra 10 mile round trip on I-90 other than gas. Insurance, maintenance, etc.

      They should have spent more time questioning their assumptions and less time doubting their math.

      1. It’s doubtful the extra miles increase insurance costs. Maintenance costs aren’t going to be that much different either. Most wear occurs starting the car. Number of trips is more of a factor that driving an extra a few extra miles on the freeway. That’s reflected in AAA’s cost per mile decreasing the more miles driven per year. As they noted though if traffic is stop and go on I-90 then the numbers change substantially. You can quibble over pennies per mile but the real story is time. If it’s not worth your time to drive around then it’s certainly not worth the time penalty most people would incur using transit. And if you find just one person to carpool with you pretty much eliminate the cost increase of driving 520 and get back the 1-2 weeks lost driving I-90 or using transit.

      2. Game changers are if you are able to eliminate owning a car entirely and “free” vs market rate parking DT. But that doesn’t address the question of people’s short to medium term decision on Lexus Lanes vs the I-90 slog. Longer term could see people expressing a preference for housing south of Bellevue, trading in for higher mileage cars, changing jobs or moving to the opposite side of the Lake. Interesting that since tolling has started traffic on 520 has been almost cut in half. Add in R8A and the trend downward in VMT and the question, “Do we really need a 520 floating bridge or are there more important things the State could be spending the billions of dollars on?” begs discussion.

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