Will Toor and Mike Salisbury at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project have put together a good paper called Managed Lanes in Colorado (it’s a PDF) that looks at the policy rationale behind (and a few issues with) creating additional highway capacity in the form of managed lanes with tolling, that also allow high occupancy vehicles and transit to take advantage of the investment, addressing some of the “Lexus Lane” criticism of using tolls in the public right of way (on projects that are still mostly publicly funded). It’s not quite as fun to read as my magnum opus from this winter on the same topic (US 36: For Whom the Road Tolls) but might be more appropriate for forwarding to policymakers.
If you live in Boulder, you’ve almost certainly noticed the construction along US-36 — aka the Boulder-Denver Turnpike. The main thing that’s being built here is one new lane in each direction. However, it’s not your average road-widening project. Usually when additional capacity is added, it’s rapidly consumed by induced demand. Instead, the two new lanes are going to be special managed lanes. What does that mean?
These new lanes are going to be optimized for mass transit, in this case buses. It won’t quite be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), in which the lanes are used exclusively by buses, passengers pay on the platform, and board like you would on a subway or light-rail line. The US 36 system will be somewhere between that and the express service that we’ve got now. Even at peak hours, when buses are departing every 3-5 minutes, there will still be a significant amount of spare capacity in the managed lanes. This capacity will be made available to high occupancy vehicles, and those that are willing to pay a toll. There may also be a number of permits issued for electric vehicles, though how that would work remains to be determined. The toll value, the number of passengers required to be considered “high occupancy” and the number of EV permits that might be issued will all be managed to ensure that the buses go at least 50 miles per hour. The two general purpose travel lanes in each direction will remain free to everyone.
Bite-sized summaries of ten regional transportation issues, including using Bcycle as a last-mile transit solution, the bazillion-dollar freeway boondoggles in progress, $5 gasoline, FasTracks finances, Boulder-Denver BRT and more. Would be nice if they had links to deeper information… but that’s what The Google is for.
Whenever Tax Day approaches, I end up thinking about where that money goes, and what it buys, and whether I really wanted any of it. Increasingly, it seems to me that the larger the governing jurisdiction, the less democratic it is, and the more despairing I am of having any influence over it. More than any other realm of policy, the way we build our cities — and thus our buildings and our transportation systems — influences our energy use and other impacts on the world around us. Land use is nominally controlled by local government (city planning boards, zoning commissions, etc). However, in many important ways the actions that local governments can take are limited by the state and federal policymakers. In particular, they’re limited by what they can get funded. The large jurisdictions take your tax dollars, and then set up hoops for small jurisdictions to jump through in order to get it back. This leads to an unfortunate homogeneity of policy, and discourages experimentation, or even imitation of things known to work in other places. At best you end up playing accounting games, doing things like building bike paths with federal flood mitigation money.
How exactly does this mitigate flooding again?
The weather in Denver is so fickle! 20°C on weekend, -10°C the next. Makes for interesting wardrobe choices. Either way though, the Denver bike paths are fricking awesome!
Dear Denver RTD,
I had the pleasure yesterday of riding my bike 19 miles from Lakewood to downtown Denver almost exclusively on cycling paths, all the way to Union Station, where I intended to catch a BX up to Boulder. I understand you are in the process of re-developing the old rail station to be a major multi-modal transit hub for the city, with a great deal of high density mixed use transit oriented development in the vicinity. So far, it looks absolutely great, and I applaud you for working with the city and developers to continue central Denver’s urbanization in an intelligent way, and make long term investments in non-automotive transportation infrastructure for the region. I am considering re-locating to the Denver area from Southern California when I finish my PhD, to work at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, and the region’s excellent transit system is one of the reasons. I prefer not to own a car or drive, for economic, fitness, and environmental reasons, and having high density mixed use developments and effective multi-modal transit options makes living without a car much more pleasant and convenient.