ON-Lion Letter

Today, drivers in Orange County, Calif., "can choose to pay a toll to use the 91 Express Lanes to bypass traffic congestion on the 91," according to a recent Orange County Register op-ed by Baruch Feigenbaum.  "The two Express Lanes handle 49 percent of the peak-direction throughout on the six-lane expressway, even though they represent only 33 percent of the physical lane capacity.  These lanes take a simple concept -- users pay -- and show why it can be so effective.  If you want to pay to move into the free-flowing lanes, you can.  If you don't use the lanes, you don't pay for them."

A plan put together by the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles "recommends taking the user-pays concept and applying it to select, jammed surface streets," continues Feigenbaum, Reason's assistant director of transportation policy.  "While surface streets do not carry the traffic volume of freeways, many are often just as congested.  Consider that, at most major cross streets, oncoming traffic in a particular direction receives a green traffic light signal less than 50 percent of the time.  So streets with those red lights can only handle 50 percent of the capacity that identical roadways without traffic signals could carry.

"A managed arterial concept gives drivers the option to safely skip red lights at the area's worst bottlenecks," he writes.  "Drivers would have the option to travel through traditional intersections or use new tolled underpasses to bypass traffic signals.  Passenger vehicles would be charged a small toll (likely 10-25 cents) per intersection.

"Technology and pricing can help loosen some of the worst bottlenecks in Orange County, which would mean more employment and recreational opportunities for everyone," he concludes.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports the Reason Foundation's infrastructure-policy work.

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