Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Green Caltrain: San Mateo County to study 101 carpool and toll lane options

TransportiCA Note: Very proud to post this, as one of the co-authors of the report mentioned - "Innovation Required: Moving More People with Less Traffic," is Dr. Joseph Kott, AICP, PTP - my Sustainable Transportation Planning professor at SJSU and Sustainable Urban Development professor at Presidio Graduate School, as well as, Vice-President of the amazing nonprofit Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities.  Dr. Kott co-authored the report with Jeff Hobson, formerly of TransForm, and now with SFCTA.


Last Thursday, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority board got an update on options for “managed lanes” to address congestion on Highway 101.   The project team has narrowed the logical options to three that are considered feasible (see chart), and these options will be submitted for environmental review starting next month on June 16.
The “managed lane” options considered include adding a lane and using it for high occupancy vehicles (carpools and buses), or converting a general purpose lane.  Some of the options considered include “High Occupancy Toll” lanes which allow drivers of single-occupant vehicles to pay a toll and use the lane.
The criteria to evaluate options include increased person throughput, travel time reliability, congestion relief, cost and speed of implementation, and compatibility with adjoining north and south segments.    The environmental study will consider greenhouse gas emissions and equity, but those are not listed among the criteria to choose options.
Your blogger doesn’t know whether the study’s assessment of congestion will consider induced demand, which is the long-demonstrated phenomenon that adding capacity to a congested roadway tends to draw more trips, increase overall vehicle miles travelled, resulting in an immediate or rapid return of congestion.
Also not mentioned was the opportunity to invest in better transit and transportation demand management programs, to reduce the share of people driving alone.  TransForm conducted a study on “optimized HOT lanes” suggesting that the best congestion relief and GHG reduction results would come from converting a lane to a HOT lane and using the money to support drivealone alternatives.
Unlike initiatives addressing capacity on the Transbay corridor, the presentation focused on vehicle congestion and throughput. By contrast, Transbay capacity initiatives look at all of the modes used by people crossing the Bay – BART, buses, ferries, carpoolers, and solo drivers.
Board member Matsumoto asked why the 101 segment from 380 to San Francisco isn’t being considered. The answer was that congestion was lower in that segment, and there is not enough right of way for options other than lane conversion.  However, CalTrans is also working with San Francisco on the segment from SF to 380.
Board members were interested in the driver’s experience of HOT lanes; staff suggested field trips to 237, which is one of the Bay Area locations where such lanes used.  Board member Horsley asked how HOT lanes could be sold to people who prefer to drive alone, the answer give was that in other places where HOT lanes are used it helps overall flow in the general purpose lanes, not only the tolled express lanes.
Highway carries 230,000 trips per day. As everyone knows who drives 101, or avoids driving on it, the highway has congestion that results in delays and unreliable travel time – the picture below illustrates peak hour slow spots.
Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 3.44.15 PM
The project is being managed by a team from Caltrans under the direction of Tony Harris who was delegated to manage this regionally important project by Brian Kelly, head of CALSTA, California’s State Department of Transportation, in cooperation with San Mateo County staff and major employers on the corridor.
If you are interested in plans to address congestion on 101, watch for the start of the environmental process in June.

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