Feds on New Miami HOT Lanes: Good for Transit

Miami’s conversion of HOV lane space to new high-occupancy toll (HOT)
lanes as part of the federal Urban Partnership
program, which also prompted New York City’s congestion pricing push,
is cutting travel times for local transit and boosting use — but
overall bus ridership in the corridor has stayed static, according to a
new report
from the U.S. DOT.

217665_600_0_4.jpgMiami’s 95 Express HOT lanes, at left,
with regular traffic at right. (Photo: SF
Biz Jrnl
)

The U.S. DOT, working alongside the National Bus Rapid Transit
Institute, found that the city’s 95 Express project has trimmed travel
times by as much as two-thirds for users of the bus service on
northbound HOT lanes.

But the picture is murkier for transit in Miami’s I-95 corridor,
which saw static levels of "mode share" (transportation-speak for the
percentage of area travelers using a particular option) between 2008 and
2009.

Overall bus ridership in the I-95 corridor decreased by 4.6
percent, even as 95 Express bus ridership rose by 30 percent during the
same period, according to the report.

Why did broad transit use fall while single-occupancy vehicles
flocked to the new HOT lanes? Service cuts and fare hikes of as much as
33 percent for monthly transit passes played a big role, the U.S. DOT
found, as did the economic recession and lower gas prices that made auto
travel more appealing to locals.

However, the report did contain some positive signals for transit
mode share in Miami’s I-95 area. Half of the bus riders surveyed by the
U.S. DOT said they had switched over from car travel, "which suggests
that the 95 Express bus service in general has had some success over
time in attracting private auto users," the report stated.

Moreover, the U.S. DOT noted that 95 Express buses constitute just
one-fifth of the corridor’s total transit ridership — meaning that even
a 30-percent increase in popularity can’t carry the whole system. That
could change this month, however, with the current northbound 95 Express
HOT lanes adding a southbound component and the state starting bus
service
connecting Miami-Dade with Broward County, its northern
neighbor.

  • What a freaking misleading report. The claim is that the conversion of their old HOV lane to a HOT lane helped transit. They of course want to use this data to justify other such conversions. But if you read the project description in the report you will see that they didn’t just convert an HOV lane to a HOT lane. They actually added another lane of travel, which of course will improve travel times, well, at least temporarily.

    It wasn’t the HOT lane that helped travel times. It was the increase in capacity.

    They could have had the same effect at no cost simply by requiring 3 passengers in the HOV lanes instead of just 2.

  • Michael, what they did is as follows:

    There used to be 6 lanes. 5 general lanes and one HOV lane which was not separated (so you could enter or exit whenever)

    They re-striped, adding a new lane (no concrete was poured) and separated the HOV lane, so now there are two HOT lanes and 5 general lanes. The HOT lanes have specific entry and exit points.

    I think it’s fair to say that the project, which did not include widening, lowered travel time, and should be done elsewhere. Carpools continue to travel for free, and everybody gets faster moving traffic. Nobody loses.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Oh, so somehow the fact that “no concrete was poured” (let’s see how long that state lasts, shall we?) somehow negates the fact that FREEWAY LANES WERE ADDED and that VEHICLE CAPACITY WAS INCREASED.

    What a strange alternate reality.

    But hey, “nobody loses”! More traffic is good … for everyone! Win-win! Synergy! Think outside the box!

  • transitman

    Richard,

    I think jass means that by restriping, they effectively made more with less. That is, they must have encroached on the shoulders and/or made the existing lanes narrower. Otherwise you would have to pour concrete.

  • Furthermore, Richard/Michael, even if concrete was poured and an actual new lane was added does not necessarily mean that vehicle capacity and congestion will subsequently be decreased. Welcome to the Braess Paradox, which “is a good illustration of how easily our intuitions about collective interaction can be fooled. It is not a true paradox but rather a counter-intuitive observation about the behaviour of road traffic networks…Car drivers seek to minimise the time to get from A to B, much as molecules seek to minimise their free energy. Like molecules, car drivers may not be able to act independently of each other: collective interactions may influence individual behaviour”: http://vcp.med.harvard.edu/braess-paradox.html

  • Fla Joe

    Capacity increased only for drivers in the HOT/HOV lanes. There were 4-regular purpose lanes before and there are 4 now. There was no increase in capacity for drivers using regular lanes. All benefits go to drivers traveling north of Golden Glades – maning overwhemingly Broward County motorists (look at the backup to get on to the turnpike – not I-95 northbound).

    The North Line Metrorail extension would have Dade County residents more benefit than the HOT lanes. But, Mayor Alvarez & the clueless minions running the county just took that money. Oh, there is a one-half billion dollar Metrorail extension to MIA that NOBODY will use and hence has no benefit to anybody..

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