Are HOT Lanes Coming to Ontario’s Highways and How do they Work?

HOT Lanes: A Better Way to Attack Urban Highway Congestion – High-occupancy toll lanes benefit all highway users—not just the affluent (6 page pdf, Robert W. Poole Jr. and C. Kenneth Orski, Regulation, 2000)

Also discussed here: HOT Lanes: A Better Way to Attack Urban Highway Congestion (Robert W. Poole Jr. and C. Kenneth Orsk, CATO Institute)

And here: 2014 Ontario Budget Passes in Legislature – Plan Will Create Jobs, Build Modern Infrastructure and Transportation, Enhance Retirement Security (Press Release, Ontario Ministry of Finance, Jul. 24, 2014)

And here: Budget 2014 Building Modern Infrastructure (9 page pdf, Ontario Ministry of Finance, May 1, 2014)

And here: 495 Express Lanes Usage Update – July 2014

And here: Metrolinx: HOT lanes should be used to break the ice for VMT charging (Grush Hour, Apr. 18, 2013)

Today, we review a paper that was written 14 years ago but is still highly relevant in today’s world of congested urban highways that are getting worse, in the US and Canada at least. The authors review the state of car-pool or transit-only lanes (or high occupancy lanes as the transportation planners dub them), conclude that these lanes tend to be underused and are ineffective and point out the advantages of converting that the HOV lane to a HOT lane which introduces supply and demand pricing to the argument. Given also the great pressure for politicians against introducing any tolls but the equally great pressure to generate revenue and lower taxes, HOT lanes seem inevitable.

One must think that the government in Ontario is thinking along the same lines as they propose HOT lanes for all 400-series highways in the province, included in the May 1, 2014 budget and repeated in a budget bill that received Royal Assent on Jul. 24, 2014 as part of the “economic tools” to pay for over $30B needed for public transit over the next 20 years. A first step to more comprehensive road and congestion pricing perhaps?

how HOT lanes work

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Does “Free” Parking Downtown Make Any Sense?

How to Tax Parking (And How Not To) (Transport Providence, July 8, 2014)

Also discussed here: What’s the Best Way to Tax Parking? (Angie Schmitt, StreetsBlog, Jul. 25, 2014)

And here: Parking Taxes – Evaluating Options and Impacts (21 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Aug. 29, 2013)

Today we review a blog post that discusses the equity or fairness in how parking spaces and lots are taxed, noting that many parking lots next to stores offer “free’ parking and these are taxed at a lower rate. A better approach from a fairness and environmentally wise point of view is to tax all spaces at the same rate. Parking rates are key to lowering congestion as well as discouraging casual use of roads by cars in the downtown- and as we see in San Francisco (SfPark), applying varying parking rates according to demand goes even farther.

providence parking

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

What is the Next Biggest Environmental Health Problem After Air Pollution?

Lessening the Severe Health Effects of Traffic Noise in Cities by Emission Reductions (28 page pdf, Tor Kihlman, Wolfgang Kropp, and William Lang, The CAETS Noise Control Technology Committee and the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering, May 2014)

Also discussed here: Traffic noise is dangerous for your health: Solutions exist for dense cities (ScienceDaily, Jul.1, 2014)

Today we review a report that looks at the second biggest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution, noise. As with air pollution, the single biggest source is road traffic from the interaction between tires and pavement or “rolling noise”. Solutions call for “quiet pavements” and improved design of tires although the authors report that present regulations and that most actions by government and industry fall well short of solving the problem. An interesting point was made about safety concerns about electric cars being too quiet to the point that government wants to require noise emitters – a step that is seen as unnecessary and counterproductive. Again, as with air pollution, an effective solution is to reduce roads traffic by promoting quiet forms of transportation, such as walking and cycling. Steps to reduce road noise would also benefit efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change impacts.

noise in cities

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Monitoring Roadside Pollution with Sensors on Bikes

Cyclists will monitor air pollution in Hamilton (CBC News, Mar. 13, 2014)

Also discussed here: Bicycle Air Monitoring Program – Pittsburg (GASP)

Today we review two citizen initiatives in Hamilton and Pittsburg to monitor air pollution levels along roads and bike paths used by cyclists in these cities. The program that began first in Pittsburg with the Group Against Air Pollution and Smog, collects and displays the Particulate Matter on maps of the urban core in real-time. The Bicycling Air Monitoring program in Hamilton just began on June 26 with over 60 cyclists volunteering to use the 20 GPS and air monitors which were funded with only $25 K from contributions from volunteers and a local city Councillor. These data fill gaps in the map of air pollution measured by much more expensive provincial air quality monitors (over $250K each) or by using a specialized mobile van dedicated to roadside monitoring.

pittsburg pollution

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

How Congested with Traffic are Canadian Cities?

TomTom Americas Traffic Index (74 page pdf, TomTom, Jun. 3, 2014)

Also discussed here: TomTom Live Traffic

And here: Vancouver home to worst gridlock in Canada (CTV News, Jun. 3, 2014)
Today we review the latest report on Traffic Congestion by the GPS-maker, TomTom. The three worst cities in Canada are Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa where the average driver with a 30 minute commute encounters as much as 87 hours of delay each year. TomTom also produces real-time, live traffic congestion maps, such as the one shown below for Ottawa during the morning rush hour. The reddened areas indicate where there is a need for congestion charging to lower and redistribute peak traffic flow away from these road segments.

congestion Ottawa

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Are Tolls a Better Way to Pay for Road Infrastructure than Taxes?

The Free Ride Is Over: Why Cities, and Citizens, Must Start Paying for Much-Needed Infrastructure (34 page pdf, Philip Bazel and Jack Mintz, Research Paper, The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, May 20, 2014)
Also discussed here: Cities should embrace user fees to fund repairs to aging infrastructure: Report (Manisha Krishnan, Calgary Herald, May 20, 2014)

Today we review a report that analyses why user fees for municipalities are not applied to roads but are happily applied to other forms of public infrastructure such as public transit, waste and water drainage. The costs of road infrastructure tends to come from transfers from the federal or provincial levels (which as a revenue stream has been rising) or from property taxes with very little outside of gas taxes from the users. The result is that local politicians are shielded from accountability for the condition of roads and, as it affects property taxes which are higher in the urban core, people tend to accept commuting longer distances to buy cheaper properties in the suburbs – which only celebrates urban sprawl and congested highways leading into the cities. It also disadvantages those affected by the added congestion whether it is added congestion from the suburbs or the environmental and health costs borne by those living downtown. Other countries regularly charge road users for roads and bridge infrastructure.

As this report concludes: “To the detriment of their infrastructure, cities across Canada have made insufficient use of user pricing. It is time for a change.”

road user fees

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Monitoring Personal Pollution Exposure and Location with a GPS

Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and temperature data to generate time-activity classifications for estimating personal exposure in air monitoring studies: an automated method(21 page pdf, Elizabeth Nethery Gary Mallach, Daniel Rainham. Mark S Goldberg, Amanda J Wheeler, Environmental Health, May 8, 2014)

exposure by gps

Today we review research that looks at the advantages offered by a GPS and a PM2.5 particulate sensor to monitor 70 children and the pollution sources and durations they are exposed to over 10 days. The pollution sources vary between indoors and outdoors, using transit or driving, as well as in proximity to roadside emissions in the large metropolitan area that Montreal is. This approach improves upon the data that can be collected from a personal pollution exposure sensor that only produces the total pollution exposure over a given time period by breaking down the exposure by location. The use of a GPS also precludes the need to keep a diary as well as offering more convenience and accuracy, and possibly an effective way of monitoring larger populations for longer periods- if smart phones with a sensor were used for example..

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

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