wsdotA few weeks ago I attended the TCC organized Transit Talk. Along with transit champions Marko Liias and Jessyn Farrell, WSDOT Public Transit Division’s Stan Suchan rounded out the panel. During the Q&A I brought up the failure of our HOV system and asked what could be done, specifically mentioning HOV 3+ as a possibility in those stretches where even WSDOT admits the HOV lanes aren’t meeting reliability standards.

In my opinion, the answers were underwhelming. Senator Liias stated that it was very hard for a politician to take away something from a constituent without giving back something in return. Representative Farrell seemed to agree.

WSDOT’s Stan Suchan basically said the agency needed more time to study the situation. The agency has questions on whether moving to HOV 3+ would result in breaking down some current 2 person carpools into 2 SOVs, thus increasing congestion. To my mind the obvious question is if WSDOT’s definition of congestion is looking at person throughput or only vehicular.

Multiple times both Mr. Suchan and Senator Liias stated that we need to wait for the I-405 widening project to finish up and the results studied before anything could be done on other corridors. Considering that in many places our HOV lanes are worthless right now during peak hours, being no faster than the general purpose lanes, I found the need to wait years to fix the situation disappointing.

That was just my impression from an on the spot answer so I wrote Mr. Suchen in order to make sure I got the whole story. He was gracious enough to write back with substantive responses. Below are my questions and his full responses.

Does WSDOT currently feel the HOV system in the Puget Sound is working?
In many places it does, in others not so well.The HOV system in the Puget Sound Region is delivering, as it has for decades. The freeway HOV system moves about 100,000 transit riders per day. Most HOV lanes carry about twice as many people as adjacent general-purpose lanes during rush hours. They nearly always provide a travel time advantage to transit riders, vanpoolers and carpoolers. In the reverse-peak direction, these lanes are crucial to help transit buses get to the start of their routes.  One thing is very clear; commuters, transit agencies, businesses, and, those in adjacent general-purpose lanes all benefit from HOV lanes.Like much of our transportation system, Puget Sound Region HOV lanes are stressed. In certain locations on many days the HOV lanes are not meeting the 45 miles per hour standard. Both traffic volumes and incidents are key factors. Traffic volumes on many Puget Sound Region freeways are largely back to pre-recession levels. The mix of heavier rush hour traffic and rush hours that start earlier and end later amplifies the effects of incidents on traffic. It takes longer for the system to recover.We need to take reasonable steps to make the HOV lanes work better, but that can’t happen in isolation. We’ll need to consider the effects on other parts of the transportation system, local agency and jurisdiction support and public support.

Currently what steps is the agency pursuing to fix it?
The most significant effort underway is the I-405 express toll lanes, slated to open later this year. The lanes are designed to give drivers more choices, transit riders better performance and WSDOT more tools to manage traffic flow. This system will boost transit, vanpool and carpool speed and reliability, providing new incentives for people to share the ride.WSDOT is also working with Community Transit and other agencies to examine small-scale options to improve HOV lane and transit performance elsewhere. But there’s no quick fix. Given the stresses on the transportation system overall – for example, overcrowded park and rides and peak hour transit buses; overburdened general purpose freeway lanes and arterials; and economic and population growth – it’s important that we are thoughtful and judicious. Any changes we make will require support at all levels, including the general public, and funding.

Is moving to HOV 3+ being studied right now?
I-405 express toll lanes will help us learn a lot about one method to improve HOV and traffic performance; they’re likely to require HOV 3+ during peak hours for toll-free access to the express toll lanes.HOV 3+ inevitably comes up in conversations about system performance. However, it’s not an easy, cheap or sure-fire solution. It would not prevent accidents, which disrupt the entire freeway. It would shift two passenger HOV lane users that cannot find a third passenger to general purpose lanes during already congested peak commute times. We will continue to work with our regional partners to move beyond conversations and collaboratively determine next steps.

How long would it take to implement [HOV 3+]?
I won’t speculate on timing, we would need to study and answer key questions about a multitude of topics, including the effects on general-purpose traffic and safety.

34 Replies to “HOV 3+ not happening any time soon”

  1. The Washington State Transportation Commission will be presenting the tolling plan for 405 on February 3rd at Bellevue City Hall. To their credit, they are proposing free passage in the lanes for HOV 3+ during the rush hours – all other users will have to pay a toll or use the general purpose lanes.

    Anybody with an interest in functional HOV lanes would be advised to comment, in person or online, to balance the “you can take my car from my cold, dead hands” crowd. See the above link for multiple opportunities to comment on the plan.

  2. How about if everybody pro-transit stop wasting time and effort trying to fix a system that never worked very well, and concentrate on getting what we really need: lanes completely reserved for bus traffic, with only exceptions being for police and emergency vehicles? Including transit-owned snowplows, like the transit lanes in Pittsburgh.

    Barriers between buses and car traffic, access by ramps only. And where future rail makes sense, making these lanes easy to convert to rail only. A freeway with three or four lanes of stuck traffic- pretty much like every other day between Seattle and Everett right now-could bring public opinion around pretty fast.

    Give it another year or two, until hours-longer commute trips happen every day instead of current two day cycle. Meantime, WSDOT and the legislature are welcome to spend a decade more deciding to do nothing, until enough members retire, die, or get beaten out of office by younger people with a different outlook.

    Tell me: for us, what’s to lose?

    Mark Dublin

    1. “…concentrate on getting what we really need: lanes completely reserved for bus traffic…”

      In my experience, HOV 3+ are those lanes with the added bonus of allowing Vanpools and anyone willing to fill a couple of empty seats in their car. I’ve never seen HOV 3+ lanes that were chronically congested except for the poorly designed 520 shoulder converted into an ad-hoc HOV 3+ lane – Those lanes were only congested at points where SOVs had to merge across the lanes.

      1. I agree. It is crazy to think we should switch to bus only before switching from HOV 2 to HOV 3, when HOV 3 will work just as well in most cases, with the potential to move more people.

      2. My question with the whole “HOV” idea: would anybody add the list of machines above to an express rail track? Including the single-passenger motorcycles?

        Be great if bullet train or French “TGV” tracks were paved between the rails for, like the DSTT. With above civilian vehicles allowed. At least transit could keep its own right of way clear without need for +number enforcement.

        “Not chronically congested” is not a low bar, it’s a pavement seam. Rush hours don’t make up a whole transit day. Neither do the now-constant single-accident incidents that tie up regional travel for hours.

        +2, +3, or on an “artic” +100… the point is that where bus lanes are not separated from car traffic by barriers and ramps, transit service will inevitably be taken down at the times when speed is most critical. By incidents that transit can neither prevent not control.

        ‘Quakes, blizzards, and other emergency situations don’t happen very often at all. And in addition to above catastrophes, a new category: “Issues!”

        (Would be great to re-master the old Japanese monster movies to have terrified crowds pointing skyward and shouting: “Wo! Wo! Godzilla issue! Rodan issue!”)

        But snow, rain, dark of night or Issue!, a transit system’s record is really only as good as the most service it can deliver on its worst operating day. Otherwise- a bus becomes nothing but a large, slow car.

        Besides: I also seem to remember that Federal Interstate highways are designed for 70 mph, with lower speeds mainly a fuel-saving measure from the “oil crisis” of the Jimmy Carter era. If so, buses moving at 70 might be persuasive advertisements to motorists adjusting speed between zero and five.

        Mark

      3. Mark, you get what you pay for. And sometimes you get what the highway agency pays for, which can be a great deal!

        In much of the 20th century, and maybe in some ways going forward, it may be an advantage not to have rails in the ground. Chicago has freeway-median trains on the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Dan Ryan expressways. Do they get close to serving newer employment centers that have formed out those ways (Oakbrook, Naperville, Schaumburg)? Seattle’s freeway buses have. Chicago, without HOV lanes anywhere, hasn’t been able to run remotely reliable transit service anywhere except where the rails are. Seattle, with HOV lanes, runs at least some buses that are more reliable than driving for long distances — it captures a lot of Redmond and Bellevue workers that way. Chicago hasn’t had much success getting Naperville or Schaumburg workers on transit; neither have the transit agencies of the Bay Area had much success with Silicon Valley tech companies (the companies end up running their own shuttles).

        It always sucks to chase ridership, but in the heyday of freeway expansion mass transit lost its ability to influence land use, so chasing was all the agencies could do. Chicago and the Bay Area chased ridership down freeway medians with trains and lost some big opportunities. Seattle didn’t have the money to do that, chased it with buses, and now transit is an indispensable part of Bellevue, of all places. HOV lanes are a big part of that. We don’t know where all the growth is going to occur in the future and HOV lanes let us hedge our bets, because WSDOT thinks they’re a good idea even in places we don’t run all-day transit!

      4. “We don’t know where all the growth is going to occur in the future ..

        Yes we do, anywhere there is a paved highway. More likely at the edges of the growth boundaries where the housing prices start to fall off. The straighter the road, the better.

      5. What about Ashland BRT? Doesn’t it have transit lanes?

        The advantage of having pre-1940s rail is overwhelming. It provides basic connectivity and gives at least some pairs where people can live and work without having a car. The cities with a significant number of non-drivers is almost identical to the cities with surviving prewar rail (SF Muni, Chicago El, NY subway/LIRR/various, Boston T). The primary exceptions — DC and emerging Los Angeles — have made huge prewar-like investments in subways and BRT. (And no, Link won’t be there until ST3 or 4.)

        But it’s the existence of prewar rail and its hundreds of thousands of riders that makes it politically easier to expand and modernize the system, and it’s cheaper too if the heaviest lifting is already in place. That’s been the major hurdle with other cities that lost their prewar rail or never had it: people have lost the belief that it could make a difference, so they’re unwilling to spend enough to make a truly effective system, or they make it play second fiddle to new highways and interchanges. DC and LA are the only ones who have successfully bucked the trend. And of course our Canadian neighbors — Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal — incidentally all the largest Canadian cities, some no larger than Pugetopolis. (I think we could add Edmonton and Ottawa too, but I don’t know enough about their transit networks to be sure.)

        This brings us back to the “Federal Way problem”. As far as I know, Federal Way has never had rail. The only reason it has so much ST Express and priority for Link is that it’s on I-5, and kinda halfway between Seattle and Tacoma. These are the kinds of things that building up the legacy rail network could not serve. But on the other hand, they wouldn’t exist if we had focused on the existing rail network. The 1972 subway proposal went from Seattle to Renton — not Southcenter or SeaTac or Kent, and not toward Federal Way — because those areas were just converting from farmland when the line was designed. Going back further, we can imagine an Interurban-turned-Sounder through Kent and Auburn, but again not Federal Way. That could have refocused development to those areas, because trains tend to concentrate development while highways disperse it. Of course, I-5 would have happened anyway in some form, but we could have put the largest suburbs on the existing rail lines — and actually had trains on them.

        “Seattle didn’t have the money to do that, chased it with buses, and now transit is an indispensable part of Bellevue, of all places.”

        The 1972 subway would have gone to downtown Bellevue and Crossroads. As for the “indespensible” part now, I think that has more to do with downtown Bellevue’s growth than anything. The largest commercial centers in the region are now downtown Seattle, the U-District, and downtown Bellevue, and I’m not sure which one is second and third. Bellevue’s growth was due to city council decisions in the 80s; I wonder if even they knew how major Bellevue would become. So with this size and concentration comes the need for transit.

        But there haven’t been similar concentrations in Kirkland, Redmond, Lynnwood, Everett, Federal Way, Kent, or Tacoma — only in Bellevue. In that sense, Bellevue is the odd one out. And as I said, its HCT access was going to be rectified in 1972, and besides that there’s the Eastside Rail Corridor where something could have been done.

      6. Sure, except that we’ve seen a bunch of growth other places recently.

        I agree that some growth is likely to occur in that way, but probably not all of it. A poll recently suggested that about half of Republican voters want action on climate change. I’m not usually prone to so much optimism about it, but it’s possible substantial collective action on climate change could be the next thing like marriage equality, where support among politicians lags the surprising tide of optimism among the public until standing politicians have little choice but to change their minds, despite not leading on the issue for a minute.

      7. Ashland BRT is essentially restoring the utility that the streetcar network (which was then converted into its bus network with very few changes) had before rising traffic levels utterly destroyed its speed and reliability. Chicago also has bus lanes in the CBD, which do about as much good as Seattle’s do (some, but not as much as they should). It’s restoring it on one street (albiet one very long street) and will never achieve speeds that make it relevant to a huge portion of its region’s transit needs. Ashland BRT is a good project but its influence on Chicago land use will likely be small.

        Pre-1940s street rail was torn out in a lot of cities after rising traffic levels rendered it useless. Most pre-1940s urban rail was street rail, and it was mostly sufficient until traffic car traffic killed it. The cities that kept their pre-1940 rail were big and dense enough to have traffic problems worth escaping even before mass-motorization. Even SF tore out a lot of street rail and would have torn out the rest had they not made a new investment in grade-separation under Market Street. The Bay Area has made a lot of big transit investments but still ended up with gaping holes in terms of fast regional connectivity and lots of growth in those holes, to the extent that the private sector has actually led the way in serving Silicon Valley job sites, though of course in a manner less capitalist than corporate-feudal. It also hasn’t really grown regionally important things around BART stations at all, even when it has grown denser housing around them.

        Chasing ridership sucks. And it’s not really clear any city has been very successful chasing it with trains.

    1. (I go across the lake and back again on 520 about once a week, typically either on transit buses or in 3+ carpools. The lanes really move, often when the general-purpose ones are essentially stuck! Lowering the standard to 2+ would be taking something away from everyone that uses those lanes, as Liias puts it, with nothing in return. Allowing other HOV lanes to become uselessly slow at peak hours has again taken something away from their users, with nothing in return. We can’t even really say it happened through inaction rather than action — the lanes were intended to be managed to a 45 MPH standard, and WSDOT has ignored this!)

    2. My HOV experience was mostly on 520, so to me HOV-3 is natural and effective, while HOV-2 seems like HOV-lite and an interim step. But I always though the HOV-2’s would be converted to 3 when the need came, and it’s clearly already here. HOV-2 seems like the temporary concession Mercer Island got for the express lanes: SOVs until rail comes, but not after that. I’m concerned if HOV-2 is viewed as a permanent promise by WSDOT, because that doesn’t sound to me like what HOV is for. Could the legislators clarify this?, haha, as if.

      1. We called the HOV +2 lanes (which were just being implemented–IIRC the original plan was for +3) “datepool” lanes waaaay back when I was at UW Architecture. They’ve always seemed to be a boon for things like that, or someone driving with their toddler in tow; nice idea for them, I guess, but less useful incentives for implementing carpools. Not that +2 isn’t a whole heck of a lot better than all general traffic lanes!

        Carpooling, perhaps unfortunately, will never be much more than a niche particularly as much employment has moved away from fixed hours and many employers are not large enough to have more than one person living in any given neighborhood.

        (Now, if oil ramps back up to $150 once the Saudis have killed off the shale drilling, maybe we’ll see more +3 or 4 carpools…or insane organic transit like the buses of Lusaka or matatas of Nairobi!)

  3. “Senator Liias stated that it was very hard for a politician to take away something from a constituent without giving back something in return.”

    At least he’s honest, and that tells us what the real roadblock is.

    “It would shift two passenger HOV lane users that cannot find a third passenger to general purpose lanes during already congested peak commute times.”

    Yes, that’s the point.

    1. Exactly and we need Marko to get re-elected. Especially as his Republican opponent refused to answer basic questions on transit.

  4. The real problem WSDOT faces right now is that when it took federal funding to build the HOV lanes, it also agreed that they would ensure that the traffic in those lanes moved traffic at 45 mph or faster during peak periods 90 percent of the time.
    The lanes on I-5 and I-405 are failing to meet that standard.

    Right now the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is giving WSDOT time to come up with a plan to fix that problem, but if it doesn’t the state could lose funding from the FHWA. It’s a last resort move, but it would be potentially devastating to WSDOT.

    So in the long run WSDOT will need to fix this problem… either by converting the HOV 2+ lanes to HOT lanes or to HOV 3+ lanes. But let’s be clear here, WSDOT won’t make that change to to improve the speeds of buses… it will do it to avoid having its federal funding cut off.

  5. A year ago I was one of those “people should just live near where they work” voices. Now, I’m an SOV Federal Way to Bellevue commuters. It’s nice that they’re trying to get transportation moving quicker, but the fact still remains that if I (and my fellow commuters) lived closer to where I/we worked, this might not be such an issue.

    When we bought our single-family detached Federal Way, we were coming in from out of state and I didn’t yet have a job or a good familiarity with King County. For eight years, I had a Federal Way to Federal Way commute and things were great.

    We’d move north and east if we could afford to (my wife’s not yet convinced, likes the schools and our church but she’s not spending 130-180 minutes in the car each day). I know this is a *transit* blog and we’re talking about *transit* policy, but the transit problem could be reduced if we did more to encourage more reasonable housing where the jobs are plentiful or to encourage more jobs where the houses are plentiful. (I will fully acknowledge this is a very simplistic viewpoint that’s not really compatible with most of my own political leanings, but I’ll still throw it out there, even if I get flamed for it.)

    1. You’re not wrong about housing and it actually plays a huge part in transit policy. The situation is this: People will live where they want to live and work where they want to or can find work; that is inevitable. Right now, we have a situation where our transportation system is catering heavily to the “single-family house in the suburbs commuting to a job in the dense cores of Seattle or Bellevue” crowd. That’s unsustainable over the long term, but so is building reams of single-family detached houses in those same dense cores. If your definition of reasonable housing is detached single-family houses then that’s likely an unsolvable problem, regardless of how many HOV3+ lanes and miles of light rail track and number of express buses we deploy.

    2. “People will live where they want to live or can live and work where they want to or can find work”

      Fixed that for you.

      “our transportation system is catering heavily to the “single-family house in the suburbs commuting to a job in the dense cores of Seattle or Bellevue” crowd”

      The transit system is heavily focused on downtown Seattle and the U-District, and to a lesser extent downtown Bellevue and Microsoft. (In contrast, Boeing doesn’t have a particularly high amount of transit, although vanpools do some of it.) But I wouldn’t say the transportation system as a whole does. A large percent of workers work at myriad suburban and city locations not among the big five. For instance, the sprawl in Factoria and Issaquah. The only vestiges of downtown-centrism in the road network that I see are the express lanes on I-90 and I-5, which go toward downtown Seattle in the morning and away in the evening. That’s completely outdated on I-90, although on I-5 it’s probably still accurate.

  6. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why a single 2+ HOV lane on a 5-lane highway doesn’t work. The average rush-hour vehicle occupancy is 1.2, which means about 1 in 5 vehicles have 2+ people in them. Restrict 1 in 5 lanes so that 1 in 5 vehicles are eligible means those 1 in 5 vehicles who are eligible go that lane, the rest go the others, and the net result is that all lanes are equally clogged.

    It should also be noted that the one HOV lane in the Puget Sound Region that really does what it is designed to do is 520 westbound through Medina. And it works because it’s 3+. If it were only 2+, it would be the same failure as the I-90 HOV lane through Mercer Island.

    It should also be noted that most 2-person “carpools” are not really carpools at all, but parents shuttling their kids around, couples spending the evening together, and families driving someone to or from the airport. The definition of 2-person carpools also includes every time a lone individual rides in a taxi.

    Converting HOV lanes to 3+ will not induce a single one of these drivers to split up into separate cars.

    1. What you say seems possible, but I’ll need more evidence. The biggest problem with the I-90 HOV lane is that it ends, and everyone in it needs to merge into the clogged GP lanes. So of course there’re backups. The same thing happened in the 520 HOV lane before construction, and that was 3+. When the I-90 lane is extended all the way across the floating bridge, I expect things will get a lot better keeping it HOV-2.

      1. Even when the I-90 HOV lane extends across the bridge, the I-5 ramps are not getting any wider, so the merge is not going away. It will just get pushed further west.

    2. >> Converting HOV lanes to 3+ will not induce a single one of these drivers to split up into separate cars.

      I agree. I’ve driven on HOV lanes a lot. Most of the time I would have the same number of people in the car I would anyway (e. g. when out hiking with a friend). The few times that I carpooled to work, it was actually on 520, that has an HOV 3 rule. It didn’t stop us from carpooling. Part of the advantage of carpooling is that you share the misery. Half the time I drove, and had to put up with the traffic, the other half she put up with it.

      That being said, I’m sure the HOV lanes provide an incentive for people to find someone to share the ride. But HOV 3 simply means you have to work a little bit harder to find that extra person. There might be some people who try to get two extra riders, but when they only get one, decide to give up, but I doubt very many, though. If anything, I think it pushes them to widen their search. There is simply a bigger incentive if the HOV lane moves even faster. If I have to deal with a passenger and all I save is five minutes (and still endure a pretty bad commute) I don’t think I’ll bother. But I think I’ll make some effort if I can save 15 minutes, all the time keeping my foot on the gas pedal while driving (not alternative between the foot and the gas).

  7. I don’t pretend to know the traffic patterns on the Eastside, but on Interstate 5, I don’t have sympathy for the same drivers stuck in the same gridlock day after day. So many people coming from Everett/Lynnwood to downtown Seattle, and Federal Way/Tukwila to downtown Seattle. There are many options available to those people yet for whatever reason they aren’t using them. Whether carpool or public transit, there are alternatives to sitting in gridlock every day, twice a day. If they choose to do the same thing over and over again and get the same results, who’s the crazy one here? If they’d rather sit in gridlock for about an hour a day over driving their car to a park and ride and taking a bus then walking to their destination, that’s their choice and I don’t have much sympathy. If those people who work downtown would take transit, it would make it a lot easier for people that need to get into the area but not in the specific downtown area, like Capitol Hill.

    1. I’ve often thought about this. It always seems crazy to me to see people stuck in horrible traffic, assuming that they are stuck in it day after day.

      But I think there are a number of reasons for this. Partly it is because the transit system in Seattle is very poor. Another is that people aren’t necessarily traveling for miles and miles on I-5. For example, I’ve often got on I-5 at the U-District, then gotten off at Lake City Way (a pretty short distance, and much of it ramps). The combination of these two (bad city transit and relatively short distances) make for a lot of cars on the road. For example, I knew a guy that drove from Lynnwood to Fremont. My first thought was that he was crazy, but then I thought about how long it would take to ride a bus. At best he gets a slow bus ride to the U-District, followed by a very slow bus ride to Fremont (the ride back is especially slow).

      Another reason people drive those roads is because they are visiting a friend, and the friend lives a bit out of the way. They can probably get there just fine, but getting back home would be a hassle. For example, I have a friend that visits his dad in a Suburb of Tacoma every Friday. He works in downtown Seattle, so he normally takes a bus. He also get to Tacoma very easily, but not only is getting to the suburb really hard, getting back is terrible. The hourly rental cars aren’t really focused on that market (solving the “last mile” problem) so that doesn’t help much either. So, every Friday he drives into work (which is terrible) and then drives from Seattle to Tacoma (which is even worse).

    2. Who are the people who drive to downtown Seattle 9-to-5? It’s hard to believe that any of those are left. Of course the CEOs do, but beyond that, who?

      1. Lawyers, doctors, anyone with grandfathered cheap or free parking, etc etc. A full 34% still drive alone, though in the traditional core it’s only 20%. In SLU, for instance, it’s 50%.

      2. I once met a person who did it, but he lived on Queen Anne, so wasn’t taking the freeway. The justification was that the bus was extremely packed and moved extremely slowly, barely faster than a walking pace. He paid through the nose for parking, though – had the service existed, he could have commuted back and forth, round trip, on Uber or Lyft every day and probably paid about the same.

        Of course, for trips that short, the notion that it’s strictly bus vs. private car is a fallacy. Walking, biking, and the monorail are all perfectly good options he never seriously considered.

  8. The HOV network in the Puget sound region has several problems. First, there is still a lack of build-out of the network. I-5 through the rest of Pierce County (and even into Olympia), SR-167 south of Auburn (ever notice how you get to the end of the HOV lanes and things come go a grinding halt) the lack of dedicated HOV ramps and stations (especially for Busway, K-D Road, and Star Lake P&R). Secondly, anything that happens in the mainline affects the HOV network and slows it down as well (not to mention, people trying to enter/exit the HOV lanes since there are no dedicated “interchanges” for them to the mainline.

  9. The lack of dedicated ramps is by far the biggest problem (along with the focus of this article). We are actually doing fairly well as far as HOV lanes in general. One exception is the reversible express lanes. This problem will go away on I-90 (at least that is my understanding) but it will remain a problem on I-5. Of course, pretty soon light rail will go beyond the express lanes, so that pretty much takes care of that (I don’t expect many buses traveling on that part of I-5 after light rail gets there).

    There are a few places in the boonies that lack HOV lanes, but that number will shrink quite a bit in the next few years (as construction continues):
    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/hov/

  10. Excellent post. This is probably the second biggest issue for transit (the first being ST3). I don’t agree with the policy, and as a citizen of Washington State, I would like to know who I should contact to get it changed. Stan Suchan or my local representative? As it so happens, I live in Representative Farrell’s district, so I could contact her, but I would like to start a real campaign, similar to the one we used when we got the monorail to accept ORCA (or at least study the issue).

    As to the argument that we should keep the status quo, I understand it. After all, if you are a politician, the last thing you want is to upset people with a change. The only reason to do that is if you believe enough people are upset with the way things are working right now. I’m convinced they are, but the politicians aren’t, because not enough people have contacted them about this issue.

    As to the argument that you are “taking away something”, I disagree. You could say the same thing about the situation as it exists right now. Years ago, when these lanes were added, buses traveled very quickly on them. Now they don’t. What if you bought a house in Lynnwood, and took a job in downtown Seattle, assuming that your commute would always take about twenty minutes (five minutes in Lynnwood, and fifteen on the freeway). That is gone. That has been “taken away”. Now you are stuck with a commute that is much worse, and it is because WSDOT hasn’t done their job. They haven’t even agree to the standards they set (45 MPH).

    I have an analogy, and hopefully it isn’t too tortured. Imagine a rental car company set up a special rewards program. Rent a car three times a year, and you get special service. You get to stand in a different line, and an assistant will be there to talk with in five minutes. But now everyone is getting in on the act. Too many people rent a car three times, and expect this fast service. As a result, the rental car company can’t keep up. The “special” line is often just as long as the regular line. So the agency changes their policy, and says you need to rent ten cars a year. Is the rental company “taking something away”? Not really. They are simply delivering service that will better approximate what was originally promised (five minute service). This is what WSDOT should do on every roadway that is stuck right now.

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