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I-66 widening will happen soon whether it makes sense or not

Virginia Governor McAuliffe announced today that I-66 will become one lane wider eastbound inside the Beltway, from the Dulles Toll Road to Ballston. That changes previous plans to hold off on widening, to give transit and tolls a chance to ease congestion on their own.


Could only HOT lanes combined with transit and multimodal options have eased congestion on I-66? We'll never know. Photo by Virginia Department of Transportation on Flickr.

Until today, the plan was to allow single-occupancy vehicles to use I-66 in exchange for paying a toll, and to dedicate the toll revenue to transit and demand management. Then VDOT would study whether or not it was still necessary to widen the road.

However, Republican leaders in the Virginia General Assembly filed legislation to block that plan, and widen immediately instead.

The new compromise plan will immediately move forward with widening I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Toll Road to Fairfax Drive in Ballston. In exchange, Republican leaders will drop their opposition to the tolls and transit components.

One more compromise

McAullife's original tolling proposal had already been significantly compromised. His original plan called for tolls in both the peak and non-peak directions, and an immediate switch to HOV-3. Those proposals were axed months ago to appease Republican lawmakers outside the beltway.

What was theoretically finalized in late 2015 was converting the existing peak-direction HOV-2 lanes to HOT-2, an agreement to spend the majority of toll revenue on transit projects in the corridor, eliminating exemptions for hybrid cars, Dulles Airport traffic, and law-enforcement cars so that all single-driver cars had to pay the toll, and an agreement that Virginia would not widen I-66 without first studying the effects of the tolls and transit.

It's that final part, the agreement not to widen, that's now changing. The remainder of the 2015 deal, including tolling, dedicating most revenue to transit, and eliminating the various HOV exemptions, will continue.

Tolling is still expected to start in 2017, the same as the original timeline. It will take longer to build the new lane, but not much longer. The widening will likely be complete by late 2019, just prior to a planned sister project outside the beltway. The HOV-2 provisions will become HOV-3 both inside and outside the beltway in or around 2020.

The widening inside the beltway will cost $140 million.

This is a loss for Arlington, but there are silver linings

This new compromise is a blow to Arlington, which has long supported investments like transit, cycling, and transportation demand management as alternatives to widening I-66. It is also a blow to Virginia's move toward a more data-driven transportation decision-making process, as the lawmakers pushing for widening ignore data saying it's not necessary.

While Smart Growth advocates never like to see highways gets wider, there are some bright points in even this compromised proposal.

While induced demand causes most widened highways to fill back up with traffic quickly, I-66's tolls will adjust in price according to the level of congestion, which should fight that tendency. The widening will also require a thorough environmental review, giving the community a chance to discuss impacts to parks, trails, water quality, and more.

Crucial to the compromise is the fact that the majority of toll revenue will still be dedicated to transit and other multimodal improvements, and that HOV exemptions that currently make it easy for single-occupant cars to skirt the rules will be eliminated.

That said, serious concerns remain. The governor has stated that the $140 million is not being taken from any other project, but money doesn't just appear. Even if it hadn't been allocated to another project yet, it would have been eventually. What are we not getting because we're spending $140 million widening I-66?

McAuliffe's plan has been watered down several times already. Will Virginia stick to its guns now? Or will toll revenue eventually be stripped from transit? Will the planned move from HOT-2 to HOT-3 never materialize? Will tolls really follow the formula to rise with with traffic, or will political wrangling make tolls too cheap to be effective?

What do you think of the compromise? Is it better or worse than the status quo?

Chris Slatt is chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission and of WABA's Arlington Action Committee. His posts are his own opinions. 

Comments

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What exactly is Arlington losing here? Face?

by charlie on Feb 10, 2016 1:32 pm • linkreport

A. We are losing the chance to see what transit and tolling could have done to relieve congestion, absent the widening
B. Somebody is losing $140 million, though it is not clear who.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 1:37 pm • linkreport

Well I just want to say I'm an Arlingtonian and I support this.

I know GGW likes to be divisive and pit different groups against each other, but believe it or not there are Arlingtonians who think this is a good idea.

by VJU on Feb 10, 2016 1:37 pm • linkreport

I actually think this is a good compromise. In my anecdotal experience, eastbound I-66 is congested a significant amount of the time - weekdays and weekends, peak an off-peak alike - between the 267/Dulles Connector merge and at least Westmoreland St. An extra lane in this stretch is the most obviously defensible widening opportunity in the corridor, especially since it's badly congested at times that weren't even proposed to be tolled. I'm generally a believer in alternative demand management but this spot is simply an enormous bottleneck, and some of the recent traffic study data clearly shows it.

I think it is well worth it in exchange for the rest of the proposal moving forward.

by Zach on Feb 10, 2016 1:39 pm • linkreport

And I'm not "anti-smart growth." You can invest in transit while at the same time investing in highways. You can do things that help both bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists at the same time.

I know that might be earth-shattering news to the narrative GGW likes to sow.

by VJU on Feb 10, 2016 1:39 pm • linkreport

@VJU, yep. And again I don't see a argument on how Arlington is a loser. Advocates for "Tolling now" may be hurting a bit but that isn't a county.

by charlie on Feb 10, 2016 1:45 pm • linkreport

I think it is well worth it in exchange for the rest of the proposal moving forward.

Yes, sometimes common sense actually wins. Given the nature of this stretch of road, this was the only long-term solution. Tolling/transit was NEVER going to be enough to fix this stretch of I-66. VDOT's own data admitted this.

I would say that a small toll (say 50-75 cents) should be applied even during off-peak times to help pay for the 3rd lane.

by ArlingtonFlyer on Feb 10, 2016 1:48 pm • linkreport

Honestly, sounds like a reasonable compromise...IF everything agreed to holds. An extra lane isn't necessarily a bad thing, and the review process for the build will provide the chance for community engagement on a whole range of livability and environmental issues.

Biggest concerns are 1) that $140 million price tag goes up and further saps money from other resources, and 2) the toll revenue agreement toward transit continues to get watered down is slowly chipped away toward other uses.

by Travis Maiers on Feb 10, 2016 1:49 pm • linkreport

@VJU
Because history has shown throughout the unites states that widening freeways doesn't reduce traffic.
Once Arlington widens the 66, traffic will still be there.

by Brett Young on Feb 10, 2016 1:50 pm • linkreport

Arlington will certainly get more traffic. That's despite them doing way more than everyone else in the region to actually reduce traffic (and be successful at it).

Other places are even jealous of what Arlington was able to acheive and blatantly state they want to create a similar environment where they are.

But when push comes to shove they just figure "screw it" and widen the roads anyway.

We had a plan that had some widening but with a lot of stuff to try and prevent people from just clogging the roads again. All the "compromises" have since been to get rid of various things to keep things in check and add more widening.

What's worse is that we know, that just won't work. But facts don't matter when it comes to 66.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 1:50 pm • linkreport

I suppose this is fine but it is a shame tolling is not happening in both directions. The only time that 66 actually flows well is during rush hour in the rush hour direction, despite all of the HOV cheaters and hybrid exemptions. To me this means that tolling the other direction will only be accomplished with another lane increase or something else and that is disappointing. But I understand the political difficulties here.

by Abe on Feb 10, 2016 1:51 pm • linkreport

And its not 66 itself. Its decades of just letting development build without requisite investments in transportation and then trying to fix problems one at a time which created several bottlenecks along the entire corridor. Adding 100s of thousands of residents with the bare minimums in transit, walkability, and cycling is of course going to create nightmare traffic issues. But instead of adding those things we just widen the roads again.

Yet somehow Arlington is the bad actor because they avoided these problems.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 1:54 pm • linkreport

"I know GGW likes to be divisive and pit different groups against each other,"

No.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 1:55 pm • linkreport

Somebody earmark this post for future reference in about 3-5 years, when congestion has resumed/exceeded current levels at Ballston and the state starts talking about widening further east to the district line. That's typically about how long widening "solves" congestion before induced demand eats up the extra capacity.

$140M for 3-5 years of (slightly) faster travel... What a bargain!

by Dave on Feb 10, 2016 1:56 pm • linkreport

While I'm disappointed the agreement includes an accelerated timeline for the widening of I-66, I'm encouraged that aspects of the deal include increased investment in multi-modal transportation solutions that will include expanded bus service, carpooling, and other ways to improve transit options not just on I-66 but throughout the region.

I've been assured by the Governor that the widening of I-66 will be done within the existing right of way and sound barriers will be strengthened to completely mitigate any harm to existing homes or Arlington's quality of life as a result.

by Delegate Patrick Hope on Feb 10, 2016 1:56 pm • linkreport

I think some of you are underrating the importance of this compromise securing any kind of tolling on I-66 at all. I agree that tolling in one direction during peak hours is insufficient to solve the congestion issues in this corridor. But you know what will get us a lot closer to true congestion pricing? Tolling at all. Once the infrastructure, signage, and expectation of tolls are in place, expanding/increasing them will be an easy and viable alternative to reflexive calls for widening.

by Zach on Feb 10, 2016 2:01 pm • linkreport

I think some of you are underrating the importance of this compromise securing any kind of tolling on I-66 at all.

No doubt, this is an important political compromise.

However, that shouldn't prevent us from pointing out that an entirely political decision isn't actually based on any fact.

The previous plan would've provided some great evidence for the ability to manage congestion with tolls and remove the percieved need to widen roads.

So, I would agree that this is a 'common sense' political compromise. But the idea that this is a 'common sense' transportation compromise isn't supported by anything.

An extra lane in this stretch is the most obviously defensible widening opportunity in the corridor, especially since it's badly congested at times that weren't even proposed to be tolled.

And no matter how defensible that argument is, it still would be better to toll the road first and then re-evaluate based on how the toll performs in managing demand.

by Alex B. on Feb 10, 2016 2:07 pm • linkreport

"The widening will also require a thorough environmental review..." - interesting. Getting a categorical exclusion from FHWA for this should be harder than it will be.

by darren on Feb 10, 2016 2:10 pm • linkreport

I think some of you are underrating the importance of this compromise securing any kind of tolling on I-66 at all.

Really the need for a compromise comes from a few delegates who apparently didn't know what they were voting on a couple of years ago threatening to push through a bill that would have erased everything that had been worked on up until now. Now they just get to erase a few things. Even though that's what they voted on before.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 2:11 pm • linkreport

NoVA is becoming like Atlanta with its sprawl and traffic. Long live the south!

by Mark on Feb 10, 2016 2:30 pm • linkreport

Dave, as long as Northern Virginia's population is growing fast, it's only reasonable to assume congestion will increase long term. Adding highway capacity still makes congestion better than it would be without it.

And congestion also has a financial cost to commuters, non-commuters and businesses. Any relief saves us money.

by Kevins on Feb 10, 2016 2:33 pm • linkreport

Mark, NoVA's congestion is worse than Atlanta's.

by Kevins on Feb 10, 2016 2:35 pm • linkreport

Kevins - "Dave, as long as Northern Virginia's population is growing fast, it's only reasonable to assume congestion will increase long term."

You're correct... if and only if you assume that there's nothing that can be done to shift newcomers' mode choice at all. However, lots of existing places have managed to add population and still not widen roads at all... by pursuing investment in other modes.

That option is now off the table for NoVa though. I suspect that this widening will simply shift the congestion to either further east on I-66 where the road isn't widened and/or surface streets in Ballston which aren't being widened.

How shifting the congestion from I-66 west of Ballston to these other 2 locations is worth $140M (and the forgoing of whatever that $140M would have bought elsewhere in the state's budget) is beyond me. But hey, I'm sure that the I-66 drivers will be thankful... again, until approx 3-5 years from now when they start clamoring for wider I-66 to DC and/or wider streets in Ballston.

by Dave on Feb 10, 2016 2:51 pm • linkreport

"And congestion also has a financial cost to commuters, non-commuters and businesses."

Yes. So does air pollution. And increased demand on private and public entities for providing more parking spaces in lots and garages. And increased road accidents and death from inducing people who would have ridden transit or biked or walked to drive instead. And increased demand for the extension of urban services/infrastructure (and their associated capital and maintenance costs) to what is now exurban farmland and forests, because suddenly now driving from those locations to downtown is slightly easier.

The point is, the state just decided to not even bother trying to quantify whether the abatement of congestion was worth $140M + all the costs of not abating it. They simply said "widen, baby, widen" and moved forward with their ideological goal of maximizing car use at the expense of everything else.

"Any relief saves us money." So if we spent $140 billion to widen all roads everywhere, we'd save 1000x the $140 million being spent here on I-66? Relief doesn't always save more money than the relief cost in the first place. You have to study a particular relief method (and its alternatives) against the costs of providing that relief... but hey, why study something when you can just go with your gut?

by Dave on Feb 10, 2016 3:00 pm • linkreport

You know what they say: elections have consequences.

NoVA has been trending blue for the last 10 to 20 years but this was a real quality of life issue that likely cost the Dems the state senate.

On a policy note, tolling Fairfax drivers to pay for Arlington bus lanes and bike paths was such a terrible, terrible idea, one that pitted localities and ecen social classes against each other and did nothing to solve congestion.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 10, 2016 3:18 pm • linkreport

Typo: should be "even social classes"

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 10, 2016 3:19 pm • linkreport

I'm not as opposed to widening I-66 as the typical GGWer, but if you widen only outside the Beltway, don't you just create additional traffic at the point where the highway narrows?

by Hadur on Feb 10, 2016 3:19 pm • linkreport

On a policy note, tolling Fairfax drivers to pay for Arlington bus lanes and bike paths

This isn't true. The "bike paths" in question would have run almost wholly in Fairfax and Prince William counties as the Custis Path is extended out from Falls Church.

Same with buses. Many would run through and terminate in Arlington but they'd be using the HOT Lanes that are being built between Fairfax and Prince William.

The senate race that was crucial to Va democrats was outside the Richmond area. Not in Northern Virginia.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 3:21 pm • linkreport

Aren't the new bus lines and the Rte 50 MUT still in the plan?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 3:26 pm • linkreport

@drumz

The problem was that election resources were diverted to "safe" seats and could not be focused on that suburban Richmond seat or other targeted seats.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 10, 2016 3:43 pm • linkreport

The problem was that election resources were diverted to "safe" seats and could not be focused on that suburban Richmond seat or other targeted seats.

Except democrats won in Northern Virginia.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/mcauliffes-hopes-for-senate-majority-dashed/2015/11/03/95400f9c-826a-11e5-8ba6-cec48b74b2a7_story.html

The republicans who are still here criticize 66 but even then the big issues were gun control and abortion clinics.

It sounds convenient to attack "bike paths" for the project but that doesn't make it true.

People do have a hard time commuting on 66. It's not because of anything except that we added a lot of people without doing anything in regards to transportation except widen roads for the most part. It's way past time to actually try something different (which isn't really happening here since 66 is still being widened).

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 3:50 pm • linkreport

Arlington will certainly get more traffic. That's despite them doing way more than everyone else in the region to actually reduce traffic (and be successful at it).

The ONLY reason Arlington saw a shift to less traffic was because of pure geographic luck of being at the entry point to DC and thus where multiple metro lines were forced through. If it wasn't for that location, Arlington would be no different than any other suburb.

That option is now off the table for NoVa though. I suspect that this widening will simply shift the congestion to either further east on I-66 where the road isn't widened and/or surface streets in Ballston which aren't being widened.

Not really because the bottleneck is caused by poor design more than the need for more capacity. The reality is that adding this third lane isn't really adding any capacity, it's really just extending the merge lane, so that traffic has more space to merge. That's all it is.

And no matter how defensible that argument is, it still would be better to toll the road first and then re-evaluate based on how the toll performs in managing demand.

But we already know the answer. It wasn't going to work long-term. VDOT's own modeling showed there would only be minimal short-term relief with the tolling only plan.

by ArlingtonFlyer on Feb 10, 2016 4:00 pm • linkreport

As Alex wrote above, it makes far more sense to toll first and then adjust accordingly. But given the rhetoric I've read from Fairfax and Loudoun County regarding congestion tolls, I suspect that it's the only way forward.

by Geof Gee on Feb 10, 2016 4:01 pm • linkreport

Three cheers for compromise! Anyone capable of counting votes understood that Delegate LeMunyon's bill to ban tolling on 66 inside the beltway would have sailed through and been veto-proof, thereby killing any real chance of easing travel in this bedeviled corridor. In the end, the choice for Arlington was: Receive no toll funding for multi-modal purposes or receive toll funding for said purposes in exchange for immediate widening. Since widening would likely happen anyway, they held their noses and accepted it now in exchange for the deal. Outer locales held their noses to accept the toll, knowing a significant portion of the resulting toll revenue paid by their constituents will go to purposes of remote value to those voters. Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Congratulations to the governor and legislators for showing gridlock isn't inevitable, whether in legislative or transportation arenas. May their federal counterparts take note.

by Road to Damascus on Feb 10, 2016 4:04 pm • linkreport

The ONLY reason Arlington saw a shift to less traffic was because of pure geographic luck of being at the entry point to DC and thus where multiple metro lines were forced through. If it wasn't for that location, Arlington would be no different than any other suburb.

Arlington does have some geographic luck but the reason traffic has fallen on its surface streets was tying its transportation and land use plans together so that the most dense areas are also the easiest places to get around without a car.

Not just metro, but the Art bus. The now-canceled streetcar plans, its investment in bicycle infrastructure.

That's why traffic is lower on almost all of the surface streets today than 30 years ago despite a huge population spike.

Fairfax is just now trying to do the same but has a lot less to work with.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 4:04 pm • linkreport

@Hadur: you do, but 66 between the Beltway and the DTR isn't the problem...in no small part because over half the traffic on 66 east of Nutley exits onto the Beltway.

As for this compromise plan, call me guardedly optimistic. The concerns of some about congestion in 3-5 years should be mitigated by the fact that peak period tolls will remain. While I would have liked to see the tolling first and then evaluate to see if the widening's necessary, I'll accept this if it moves the plan forward.

That said, I would have liked to see the Governor grow a pair instead of appeasing what amounts to a small handful of legislators and their constituents who grew their own traffic problems by moving out there but blocking efforts to mitigate the commute. Had the Governor stood firm and vetoed any potential anti-tolling plan, I doubt the General Assembly would have had the votes to override the veto.

by Froggie on Feb 10, 2016 4:06 pm • linkreport

"It's way past time to actually try something different (which isn't really happening here since 66 is still being widened)."
---
As if building a multi-billion dollar rail transit line, restricting a road to carpoolers during rush hours, and lining the road with a bike trail - in addition to sustantialy reducing the road's planned footprint - wasn't already "trying something different".

We've been "trying something different" on I-66 for over a quarter-century. It's not working.

What was that again about the definition of insanity?

by August4 on Feb 10, 2016 4:07 pm • linkreport

As if building a multi-billion dollar rail transit line,

Which carries more people than 66 does in an hour.

restricting a road to carpoolers during rush hours,
Which are the times when 66 is actually flowing the smoothest.

and lining the road with a bike trail

It already does in Arlington at least and the trail is very busy year round. Extending that seems sensible.

So yeah, doing more of those things helps people get to where they're going faster.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 4:11 pm • linkreport

What was that again about the definition of insanity?

So what would your preferred alternative be? Something that looks like this?

by JES on Feb 10, 2016 4:26 pm • linkreport

Arlington does have some geographic luck but the reason traffic has fallen on its surface streets was tying its transportation and land use plans together so that the most dense areas are also the easiest places to get around without a car.

But that's all because of the Metro lines. The transportation/land use plans would never have occurred without Metro. The only reason Arlington has those Metro lines is geography.

Fairfax is just now trying to do the same but has a lot less to work with.

Fairfax simply doesn't have the geography and compact size to do what Arlington did.

So yeah, doing more of those things helps people get to where they're going faster.

The number of people who will bike from Fairfax into Arlington/DC is inconsequential in number. It won't provide any relief to I-66. It might be fun for some recreationalists on the weekend and maybe a few diehard commuters, but otherwise it does nothing.

by ArlingtonFlyer on Feb 10, 2016 4:38 pm • linkreport

"The number of people who will bike from Fairfax into Arlington/DC is inconsequential in number. It won't provide any relief to I-66. It might be fun for some recreationalists on the weekend and maybe a few diehard commuters, but otherwise it does nothing."

There are already a significant number of bike commuters on the W&OD trail, and it seems like if there were a good facility parallel to I66 that would also get transportation use. It might not be a massive amount, but it will not be all that expensive (and note, it would not only be for people riding to Arlington, but within Fairfax, for example to Dunn Loring, and to the Orange Line metro stations) most of the alternatives money will go for transit.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 4:45 pm • linkreport

But that's all because of the Metro lines. The transportation/land use plans would never have occurred without Metro. The only reason Arlington has those Metro lines is geography.

Except the original plans were to run in the median of 66 all the way to the river. Instead Arlington lobbied to have it run underneath Wilson so they could build intensely right on top of the line. That wasn't an accident of geography it was very much intentional.

Fairfax simply doesn't have the geography and compact size to do what Arlington did.

Sure but its not like Fairfax couldn't have been smarter about its own transportation and land use plans. Instead they just assumed that everyone will drive everywhere. They were correct but it turns out that makes traffic very bad.

But Fairfax isn't alone in this. This is the case across much of the country.

The number of people who will bike from Fairfax into Arlington/DC is inconsequential in number. It won't provide any relief to I-66. It might be fun for some recreationalists on the weekend and maybe a few diehard commuters, but otherwise it does nothing.

No one has really argued that it would. It would help local communities that are going to have to deal with an even wider highway and actually provide some non-driving connections in places that have little to none.

But that hasn't stopped tolling opponents from latching onto this one small part of the overall project and lying about what is actually proposed.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 4:50 pm • linkreport

Most of the widening will be through Falls Church, not Arlington. So by my calculations, Arlington wins again. It's a shame for the houses and quality of life this impacts.

by Matt on Feb 10, 2016 5:09 pm • linkreport

Dave, every commuter has a choice of mode of transportation. If someone decides to live in an area where car dependency is high, then car is their choice.

You seem to be insinuating that investing in mass transit is somehow a more cost-effective way to relieve automobile congestion while ignoring the facts that Northern Virginia has already invested billions in mass transit over the last 30 years and congestion has worsened.

But if your argument is $140 million is not worth the investment, then please tell us how much congestion costs Northern Virginia each year and how much (little) will be saved post widening. My guess is you can't.

And which "existing places have managed to add population and still not widen roads at all"? Can you come up with a list of places of comparable populations and population growth rates as Northern Virginia, showing how congestion has declined in each of these places without widening any highways or roads? My initial guess is you can't.

by Kevins on Feb 10, 2016 5:27 pm • linkreport

While induced demand causes most widened highways to fill back up with traffic quickly,

Call Sarah Palin. We need more bridges to nowhere. Apparently, due to induced demand, even bridges to nowhere fill up quickly.

The ICC has not filled up quickly. The Beltway HOT lanes have not filled up quickly. I-70 near Green River, Utah has not filled up quickly. Where are these roads that automatically fill up?

There are good arguments against widening, but not this utter nonsense of roads that "fill up quickly".

by massysett on Feb 10, 2016 5:34 pm • linkreport

Most of the widening will be through Falls Church, not Arlington. So by my calculations, Arlington wins again. It's a shame for the houses and quality of life this impacts.
I-66 actually avoids Falls Church City entirely. It darts north then south again to avoid the city. I believe the city was able to successfully negotiate that routing with VDOT back when the highway was built. This is why neither West Falls Church nor East Falls Church stations fall within Falls Church City limits. They’re in Fairfax and Arlington Counties respectively.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Falls+Church,+VA/@38.8860155,-77.2423584,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x89b64b6e7a4663ad:0x6e536688973d9759

by Jason S. on Feb 10, 2016 5:34 pm • linkreport

"But if your argument is $140 million is not worth the investment"

It is difficult to a benefit cost for tolls and transit plus widening vs tolls without widening, because we have not done the latter as an experiment. General comparisons to other cities are not useful - the specific conditions of the I66 corridor (with highly concentrated employment, high parking costs, etc) are.

Certainly comparing the 140 million to cost of congestion in NoVa in general is absurd - most of that congestion is on highways other than I66 or on arterials rather than interstates or is on I66 outside the beltway. The proper comparison for the 140 million is congestion on this particular section of I66 and possibly some parallel arterials that would be impacted. This decision seems to have been made without such analysis.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 5:35 pm • linkreport

@Dave

"$140 million being spent here on I-66? Relief doesn't always save more money than the relief cost in the first place. "

I dunno...140M for 5 new lane miles (or $28M/Mile) of road that will carry tens of thousands of vehicles per day versus the $100M/mile, 5 year late DC streetcar to no where that even under the most optimistic assumptions will carry a couple thousand people per day. If it ever opens.

The $28M/mile is a comparative steal.

by Janine on Feb 10, 2016 5:35 pm • linkreport

The ICC has not filled up quickly. The Beltway HOT lanes have not filled up quickly

These routes are tolled. That makes a difference. That is this current plan's saving grace at least. But the people who are the most mad about the tolls are the ones who made sure the widening is happening anyway.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 5:36 pm • linkreport

"The ICC has not filled up quickly. The Beltway HOT lanes have not filled up quickly."

Certainly tolling helps, and as some have pointed out that is a good feature of this plan. Though I note that on I495 the tolls will rise to assure free flow - my understanding is that that is not the case on I66? They will be capped?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 5:38 pm • linkreport

but if you widen only outside the Beltway, don't you just create additional traffic at the point where the highway narrows?

Not necessarily. It can increase transportation options outside the Beltway, encouraging businesses and residents to conduct economic activity where the infrastructure is rather than transacting business in the places that refuse to build needed transportation infrastructure. Instead of locating in Rosslyn in a warren of narrow highways and atop a deteriorating Metro, a business might locate where the highways are wider.

by massysett on Feb 10, 2016 5:38 pm • linkreport

"Instead of locating in Rosslyn in a warren of narrow highways and atop a deteriorating Metro, "

Its like medieval down there ;) In fact the strongest office markets in the region are adjacent to metro stations. Marriot is planning on moving to a metro station. Evidently they have some faith it is not deteriorating.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 5:40 pm • linkreport

Janine, right. How much is the Silver Line? $248 million per mile. And congestion on 66 has not improved since it opened. So $28 million/mile to improve congestion seems like a comparative steal.

by Kevins on Feb 10, 2016 5:44 pm • linkreport

Janine

The DC streetcar, whatever its merits or demerits, is not being built by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 10, 2016 5:45 pm • linkreport

A solid compromise. Tolling is a step in the right direction. Now to make sure they regularly increase the tolls to deter congestion.

by Administrator on Feb 10, 2016 5:48 pm • linkreport

And Rosslyn is a warren of highways* because we thought we needed a bunch of roads just so the place could be a good business center.

So instead lets just build a warren of highways somewhere else to prove that you need highways to attract businesses.

*This is also why I don't get why people think Arlington is anti-highway. Three major highways run through town. One of them is 10 lanes wide.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2016 5:48 pm • linkreport

Its like medieval down there ;) In fact the strongest office markets in the region are adjacent to metro stations.

Fallacy of correlation.

The strongest office markets are also well-served by highways. For instance many roads and highways pour into DC. It's striking to see a map of the region and see how all roads lead to Washington. We have a huge infrastructure of roads to pump cars into Washington (and into other areas like Tysons which, until recently, did not even have a Metro station) yet when Metro was added people say "see, look, there's Metro, that's why the office market is great."

Rosslyn-Ballston is well served by both highways and Metro. Most Metro lines parallel major road corridors.

by massysett on Feb 10, 2016 5:51 pm • linkreport

@ drumz

Um, I thought the point of this whole endeavor was to decrease congestion on I-66. But after actually reading through the projects on the 2012 report, well, I guess mitigating congestion was never really the point.

http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/resources/NorthernVirginia/I-66_Multimodal_-_Final_Report.pdf

Please, I ask anyone who thought Arlington is in the right here, actually look at what they want / wanted to do. This odd laundry list of hyperlocal projects recommended by VDOT and adopted by Arlington is nonsense.

I mean, honestly, how is widening the Mount Vernon Trail or providing ped access to Potomac Yard going to mitigate congestion on a highway in another part of the County serving an entirely different group of people?

I certainly support an active cycling/pedestrian culture in Northern Virginia, and I support transit more than most people. But I'd expect the windfall from tolling a major artery would fund Metroway on Route 50 or expand the Orange Line to Centreville, you know stuff the whole region will use.

To put it bluntly, using the funds of the region to pay for little "parks and rec" improvements in Arlington wasn't regionalism or smart growth, it is extortion.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 10, 2016 5:53 pm • linkreport

A lot of those projects are required to mitigate the environmental harm of widening the roadway.

But again most of the bike improvements aren't in Arlington.

Anyway, Virginia can't just go and extend metro on its own. So it go ahead and plans for what it can do.

by Drumz on Feb 10, 2016 6:00 pm • linkreport

I-66 actually avoids Falls Church City entirely. It darts north then south again to avoid the city. I believe the city was able to successfully negotiate that routing with VDOT back when the highway was built. This is why neither West Falls Church nor East Falls Church stations fall within Falls Church City limits. They’re in Fairfax and Arlington Counties respectively.

I never said anything about Falls Church CITY. I said Falls Church, which has many addresses boardering or in very close proximity to I66. Thinking this widening some how impacts Arlington is a joke.

by Matt on Feb 10, 2016 7:34 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure if it's worth $140 million, but otherwise this seems like a reasonable idea. You can use tolls on both 267 and 66 to match demand and capacity, but with the merge point as it currently exists, that merge point will continue to be a mess. It'd be hard for tolling alone to fix that spot.

by passing through on Feb 10, 2016 7:49 pm • linkreport

@Paul J. Meissner,
The study team asked Arlington for all potential bike projects, so that's what they included. If you look at the supplemental report, you can see the few projects that were actually considered regionally-significant and therefore acceptable for funding from the toll money. There are only 5 of them:
1) widen the Custis Trail to 12' where feasible
2) fix the connection between Bluemont Junction Trail & Custis Trail at the Fairfax Drive offramp
3) Build a contiguous Arlington Blvd Trail from Rosslyn to Fairfax City.
4) Construct a Trail between the West falls Church metro and the Pimmit Hills neighborhood
5) Build a Trail along Route 7 connecting Tyson's to the W&OD

All would encourage more bike commuting through the 66 corridor.

The rest of the multimodal projects identified are generally either new bus service or improving access to metro stations on the orange line.

by Chris Slatt on Feb 10, 2016 7:50 pm • linkreport

When I previously spoke to somebody from VDOT, I thought I learned that this type of widening would be difficult because there are houses near 66 along that stretch. Looking at satellite images, that does seem to be the case. Has there been any mention of how many people would have to give up their homes?

by passing through on Feb 10, 2016 7:55 pm • linkreport

@passing through,
VDOT claims they can do this widening entirely within existing right-of-way. That said, the Custis Trail and portions of the W&OD are within that right-of-way so that doesn't mean everything will be sunshine and rainbows.

by Chris Slatt on Feb 10, 2016 8:00 pm • linkreport

Most of the widening will be through Falls Church, not Arlington. So by my calculations, Arlington wins again.

Many of those additional cars will have destinations in Arlington (and DC for that matter). They're all going to suffer from an increased number of vehicles going through their jurisdiction. There's plenty of losing to spread around.

by Falls Church on Feb 10, 2016 8:29 pm • linkreport

Good! As an Arlington resident I strongly support multimodal transit solutions. I bike, ride Metro, and yes, sometimes I drive. The ideological opposition to I-66 widening is just silly at this point. Widening to Ballston can be done with very little impact outside of the corridor, and will put some relief on one of the most congested roads in the region. Many times I've driven west on I-66 late and night to find stop-and-go traffic where the Dulles toll road merges.

by Bill on Feb 10, 2016 8:34 pm • linkreport

Many of those additional cars will have destinations in Arlington (and DC for that matter). They're all going to suffer from an increased number of vehicles going through their jurisdiction.

Totally marginal impact and not the reason to oppose this terrible idea.

by Matt on Feb 10, 2016 8:50 pm • linkreport

While induced demand causes most widened highways to fill back up with traffic quickly

This argument about induced demand has degenerated to a point that's unrecognizable from the original.

The original argument was that in dense settings you can't keep widening roads until all demand is met; you have to built alternate modes of transportation.

The problem is that it has degenerated to 'never widen roads'. 'Induced demand' is as much a debate killer as 'murderer' is an abortion debate.

I-66 inside the Beltway is actually the perfect example. There is no viable space to widen I-66, so you need to do something else.

A good idea would be to seriously increase transit capacity along this corridor. A new metro line, or streetcars or at least full BRT.

However, the terrible arguments on both sides 'no widening' v 'only widening' now has led to a compromise where everybody loses. The road is still being widened, and a nuisance toll is introduced to pay for a few measly buses.

In the end, this will help nothing. Widening I-66 to Ballston will put a new traffic jam right there where the road narrows, and the new buses will be stuck in that same traffic jam. Result: nobody is happy, and everybody will still be stuck in traffic, and people will throw their hands in the air 'because nothing can be done'. Meanwhile people keep dying from bad air, and an absurd amount time is wasted sitting in traffic.

Want proof? Look at the HOT lanes along I-95, I-495 and I-395. Are the traffic jams gone now there are HOT lanes? Nup. Have people massively changed to the comfortable transit offered? No.

Nothing has changed, despite extra lanes, high nuisance tolls, and a bunch of nearly empty buses that help few people because they go from nowhere to nowhere.

All this arguing distracts from the solving the real problem: an massive unmet need for transportation along I-66/US-50/US-29 and I-95/US-1 from Western and Southern NoVa to DC and Tysons (and similar route in MD).

by Jasper on Feb 10, 2016 8:53 pm • linkreport

"The original argument was that in dense settings you can't keep widening roads until all demand is met; you have to built alternate modes of transportation.

The problem is that it has degenerated to 'never widen roads'. 'Induced demand' is as much a debate killer as 'murderer' is an abortion debate."

Isn't this the exact situation here?

We could and should do more for transit but first we have to get leaders to acknowledge that widening alone won't work. Some elected officials still have a problem with that and almost ruined everything because they balked at the fact that maybe just widening forever isn't actually sustainable in any way.

by Drumz on Feb 10, 2016 9:17 pm • linkreport

$140 million to fix this:

AADT on 66 at FFX/Arlco line in 2014: 130,000
AADT on 66 at FFX/Arlco line in 2001: 129,000

2001 #'s: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/resources/Arlington.pdf
2014 #'s: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/resources/Traffic_2014/AADT_PrimaryInterstate_2014.pdf
all vdot counts: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/ct-trafficcounts.asp

$140,000,000 to get 130,000 vehicles through a choke point slightly faster. Worth it?

by Nick on Feb 10, 2016 9:28 pm • linkreport

Don't turn on GGW; last time I checked, we are supposed to marry humans, not cars.

by OwlGreene on Feb 10, 2016 9:45 pm • linkreport

Awesome....Awesome....AWESOME.....finally some common sense.
Would like to have seen I-66 widened though:
-3 lanes from the beltway to 267
-4 lanes from 267 to Washington Blvd

Hopefully this comes to fruition. This couple w/tolls is the right plan.
Metro can't handle the volume it currently has, I-66 inside the beltway is artificially way way too small....name me one other metro region must less the nations capital that has its major artery shrink in capacity over 50% as it nears the central core?
Beyond stupid and glad to see common sense.

Induced congestion is extremely overstated....most comes from massive population expansion independent of any road growth....NOVA has already matured in pop growth....and as we have seen with the I 66 westbound lane addition between Arlington and the DRT traffic flow is already improved.

I'm sure though the pointy head ivory tower NIMBYs living in their Agenda 21 bubble with GGW will whine though....because God forbid we do something to improve congestion as opposed to just making drivers more miserable.

by Tee on Feb 10, 2016 10:36 pm • linkreport

@Tee,
+1.

by August4 on Feb 10, 2016 10:49 pm • linkreport

The anti-car GGW lobby won't tell you this but I will:

1) What other metro area, let along the nations capital, has their main entrance shrink in volume by 50% as the I-66 corridor does east of the beltway?

2) I-66 inside the beltway isn't really just the I-66 corridor, it's I-66 + 267/DTR....so basically we take the 4 lane 66 with the 5/6 lane 267/DTR and shrink it to TWO lanes as we approach the central core....and somehow metro is supposed to fill in the gap?

3)I-66 inside the beltway is awful at rush hour, during mid day, nights, and weekends when Metro doesn't run in peak....so umm if 66 isn't bigger then how do we move people with super reliable off peak metro?

4) The Roosevelt Bridge doesn't need to be wider. I-66 inside the beltway doesn't just serve DC....it serves Ballston/Rosslyn/Clarendon....which is why traffic clears up after exit 71....so that argument fails too.

I'm common sense planner....we need all the above. Better transit, improved choke points on highways, as opposed to many Arlington NIMBYS and Ivory Tower GGWs who just want to punish motorists.

Partisan left wing social engineering is just as bad as right wing dogma folks.

by Tee on Feb 10, 2016 11:11 pm • linkreport

Janine - FWIW, while I can't defend the implementation of the streetcar in DC, the comparison of the 5 lane miles added to I-66 to the streetcar isn't analogous.

The streetcar is about "intra-city" transportation and serves a completely different land use context, while the I-66 lane miles are about inter-city transportation.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/10/making-case-for-intra-city-vs-inter.html

As I have argued elsewhere, the streetcar has spurred a minimum of $750 million in new development on H St., which will add thousands of new residents to a once moribund corridor. In the Bladensburg-H St. catchment area, the amount specific to that area is between $125 and $200 million, which decidedly wouldn't have been built without the streetcar, not at all.

That number doesn't count existing development around Union Station or future development there, which I attribute to other forces, but will be served as the line is extended.

Strictly as an augur for development, the streetcar is a wild success.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 6:25 am • linkreport

@RicharLayman; did you see Yonah's latest in the NY times? Was talking about paris trams and the new NY tram line.

Struck me that similar to your point that Streetcar in DC has precipitated density is areas outside the dense core.

I'd say on that logic the two areas most needed are EOTR and Georgia Ave.

by charlie on Feb 11, 2016 8:07 am • linkreport

@Tee:

Regarding your #1 (from your 11pm comment), consider that over half the traffic on 66 exits onto the Beltway, so the 50% drop in capacity there is not unwarranted. A similar case can be made for your #2 argument.

Your #4 contradicts your #1. You complain that 66 sees a drop in capacity approaching the DC core, yet you argue the T.R. Bridge does not need to be widened. Can't have it both ways.

by Froggie on Feb 11, 2016 8:36 am • linkreport

I hadn't seen Yonah's piece. I just read it.

I am still working through the proposal. The writing about it is all over the place, because they aren't distinguishing between streetcar and light rail--in Europe they call either service a tram. Even Yonah calls it a streetcar. I need to read the base document produced by NYC DOT, which I haven't tracked down yet.

If it's streetcar like on H St., it's ridiculous--DC is not NYC. The catchment areas for the proposed waterfront service in NYC have more residents than all of DC (Brooklyn and Queens as a whole have almost 5 million residents!!!!).

If it's streetcar like in SF on Market Street or in Melbourne, it's not ridiculous but would need street priority to have positive impact.

If it's light rail it might not be ridiculous. But I don't see how it makes sense. The light rail services in Paris are on the outskirts of the city.

This would be an "interior service." To my way of thinking it would be capable of generating more than 120,000 trips per day. Then it gets to the point of "why not just do another subway?" except for the fact that a subway costs many more billons than light rail.

I don't know Toronto superwell but the Eglinton Light Rail is forecasted to have 180,000 trips/day. I don't see how light rail service is capable of that, although there will be some dedicated trackage.

Toronto's streetcars operate like buses, but on some lines carry a great number of riders.

When the NYT columnist first proposed this line in 2014, I was critical.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2014/04/streetcars-are-not-good-inter-borough.html

(And just like you lack confidence in the current DC administration being able to bring the right level of management and services to deconcentrated and distributed residential homeless facilities, I lack the confidence in the DeBlasio administration to do this kind of transit service.)

Anyway, the proposal in NYC is gonna be twisted and pulled and the writing will be all over the f*ing map with most of it not useful, comparable to the writing about the streetcar in DC, and light rail in suburban Maryland.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 10:24 am • linkreport

+1 massysett

+1 Tee, I guess that's why the DC area consistently ranks as most congested city in the country.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 10:26 am • linkreport

...despite having the second highest transit ridership

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 10:27 am • linkreport

Give I-66 more lanes.
150 mil to help 47.5 million riders per year isn't a terrible deal in transit. Remember - it's moving people.
The point of not fixing a road shouldn't be to punish cars/trucks/buses.

by asffa on Feb 11, 2016 10:44 am • linkreport

Yes. We know the leftwing fanatics at VDOT just want to force everyone to sit in traffic.

Again, Arlington is not anti-highway. Three major ones (one of them is 10 lanes wide) all run through the county and connect between Rosslyn and the Pentagon.

The only people "punishing" motorists are motorists themselves. VDOT is bending over backwards here to make things a bit better but the best ways to actually have a nice drive on 66 is either ride with a buddy or pay a toll.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 10:44 am • linkreport

@Tee,

Another +1.

@Kevins,

Interesting that the road opponents - many here at GGW - always have a packaged knee-jerk response to every plan to increase road capacity - high-handed nonsense about "induced demand" accompanied with slogans about the need for "more transit options". Anything but building a new road or widening an existing one.

Congestion on I-66 has been a mess for over 25 years so the "induced demand" is already there.

As for "transit options", a very expensive transit option opened just 19 months ago. It's called the Silver Line.

The elephant in the room is I-66 was built too small to begin with. The widening is long overdue and would have happened long ago anywhere else.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 10:48 am • linkreport

@Froggie.....uh DC AND Arlington=the Central core of the metro region.
Nice try though.

Traffic is headed from the 267/DTR and I-66 to Arlington and DC which 2 narrow lanes on I-66 absurdly undeserves. This is compounded by a horrible transit system which:

-Does not go far enough out on the I-66 corridor
-Cannot handle current volume on and off peak

So all you transit lovers....you always leave out that if we ignore expanding I-66...how are all these people supposed to fit on Metro?

Oh and the 150 million...you do realize VDOT runs I-66 and WAMATA runs metro which is a SEPERATE agency so that 150 million isn't somehow going to be freed up for your utopian transit system.....

by Tee on Feb 11, 2016 10:57 am • linkreport

charlie -- about your succinct summing up about the streetcar on H Street--that it supports intensification in areas outside the core but otherwise possessing possibilities, YES, EOTR and "Georgia Ave." are the best places to put streetcars forward in DC as an intensification and community improvement device.

-- although again for intra-district transit services I would accede to a line including the current H St. to Rosslyn, serving Downtown and Georgetown, with extensions on the east to Minnesota Ave. station and south down Minnesota Ave. with major stops at Pennsylvania Ave. and Good Hope Road and then to Anacostia Station, but with a spur to Benning Road station on East Capitol. As far as service beyond Benning Road, I wouldn't know what to recommend

The thing about "Georgia Ave." is now more lately I have been thinking about Kennedy Street as a distinct element of this.

I'd probably do a Riggs Road service from Fort Totten to Kennedy Street to Georgia Ave. and maybe to 14th St. Ideally it would be extended eastward into PG County, maybe as far as U. Blvd., where it could connect to the Purple Line.

For Georgia Ave. itself, for a few years I've come to believe in the separated Yellow Line concept, first suggested by Dave Murphy in a GGW post.

But I would argue for "two" separated yellow lines. One would go up Georgia Ave. to at least Silver Spring and MoCo could figure out what it would do for an extension--e.g., it could have at least one new station between Silver Spring and Forest Glen and between Forest Glen and Wheaton.

The other would be from Fort Totten to White Oak via New Hampshire Ave. That would mostly benefit MoCo BUT would significantly interdict ("reduce") commuter traffic on New Hampshire Ave. which would be a significant benefit for DC.

So I guess that would be just a different leg of the green line.

In the interim, sure streetcar service would help Georgia Ave. a lot.

... and an undergrounded 16th St. light rail would make sense too.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 11:08 am • linkreport

Kevins -- speaking of fine grained distinctions, "DC" doesn't have the worst congestion in the country, the suburbs do. Congestion rankings are based on measures on interstate highways mostly.

Yes, the major commuter arteries into the city are regularly congested, but most of the street network outside of that are not, proving that when it works Metrorail is very important, especially when complemented with high frequency bus services (DC's top 5 Metrobus lines each have about 13,000 to 20,000+ daily riders, plus there is the main Circulator route), an urban design that preferences walking, biking, and transit, and employment agglomerations.

The number of places I can get to with a five mile bike ride are pretty amazing, and that includes Bethesda, Silver Spring, and College Park/Rte. 1 outside the city.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 11:11 am • linkreport

@RIchardLayman, might be wrong about this but the proposed NYC project was by the Gov, not by the mayor.

The ability question is still open.

Imagine what we could in DC if we took the housing trust fund money and spent it on transit.

by charlie on Feb 11, 2016 11:25 am • linkreport

+1 August4, if transit were the solution to road congestion, DC would be the 2nd least congested area in the country. But it's the #1 most congested.

Richard Layman, how pedantic. In reality I said "I guess that's why the DC area [see, AREA</>!] consistently ranks as most congested city in the country." And, yes, it was made in response to a comment about freeway bottlenecks, by the way.

And, no, congestion is not limited to suburban freeways, and congestion studies do not solely focus on them.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 11:32 am • linkreport

FWIW, I see the value in widening I-66 but the basic problem is how the mobility system in NoVA is still preferencing automobility.

Fortunately, since I live in DC, for the most part, that's not my problem, except for the issue of interdicting this traffic when it is dumped into DC.

Were I to do paired investments in sustainable mobility as part of the program, I'd do the RER-type underground line that I recommended as part of comments to the DC State Rail plan, but triggered by a long ago comment by Dan Malouff in a post on GGW.

That would be a continuation of the Penn Line but underground through DC with a station in the western end of Downtown, another in Georgetown/Rosslyn and then continuing on into Arlington and points beyond, to be determined by Virginians.

I'd invest in a second northern crossing of Metrorail, and DC could use that to jumpstart the creation of what I think of now as a separated Silver Line rather than the separated blue line.

(I'd probably create a new separated Blue line from Rosslyn into Georgetown and then up Wisconsin which would then move eastward at some point to link the legs of the Red Line within DC and to provide a high quality east-west transit connection in Upper Washington. People could transfer to other lines in Rosslyn or at Geogetown for service westward or into Downtown.

I'd consider adding dedicated busways to the Long Bridge as part of its reconstruction.

I'd commit to the electrification of the railroad and four tracking between L'Enfant Plaza/Union Station and Richmond, so that the "Northeast Corridor" passenger rail system can be extended to Richmond.

Another would be to argue for extension of the Purple Line westward from Bethesda to Tysons Corner at a minimum, including high capacity transit service across the Legion Bridge.

Purple Line Map DC Metro

People like Paul J. Meissner could then make better arguments than I about the routing for extending the Purple Line southward.

Ironically, I didn't start blogging in earnest til 2/2005, but I created my blog in 11/2004. Some of my earliest posts were on some Fairfax County transportation planning initiatives, when I was trying to create a "Dr. Transit" brand, riffing off "Dr. Gridlock," which back then was pretty road and car focused.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/dr-transits-prescription-for-fairfax.html

I stand by what I wrote then. Fairfax needed to figure out how to create its own intra-county high quality transit network (I didn't state it like that then) rather than just think about transit in terms of Metrorail.

FWIW, in Sept. 2006 I wrote that it was a disaster that the Silver Line was moving ahead without adding a second crossing.

This in 2008:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.de/2008/01/people-transportation-plan-virginia.html

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 11:34 am • linkreport

kevins -- specificity in language is the boon of analysts. I am an analyst.

Anyway in your quote, you use area and city to mean the same thing.

You wrote this:

"... DC area [see, AREA</>!] consistently ranks as most congested city in the country."

It's not a city that's congested, it's the highway network in the metropolitan area. The metropolitan area, called "DC" is not the center city. So don't make arguments about the center city when using data about the metropolitan area.

Specificity in scale, language, unit of analysis is very important.

That's why most of my writings on these issues are very specific about land use context when I discuss the mobility network. cf. the diagrams in the _Smart Transportation Guidebook_ or the New Urban Transect.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 11:39 am • linkreport

"+1 August4, if transit were the solution to road congestion, DC would be the 2nd least congested area in the country. But it's the #1 most congested."

That does not necessarily follow, as we have discussed in the past due to issues with how TTI measures congestion, differences in employment centralization, etc, etc - I do not recall we discussed it at length with you or with Brett M who posted the same notion (and also liked to bring up this alleged syllogism in response to specific project concerns)

I really think our discussions would proceed better if the general question of transit and the TTI measures could be discussed in a post specifically about them (perhaps you could write one) instead of being brought up whenever transit expansion is compared to road widening in a specific location.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 11:39 am • linkreport

@Kevins
if transit were the solution to road congestion, DC would be the 2nd least congested area in the country. But it's the #1 most congested.

And if more lanes were the solution to road congestion, there would be some sort of correlation between more road space built and less congestion. But there isn't.

by MLD on Feb 11, 2016 11:44 am • linkreport

August4, as you can see from these last two responses to me, when they don't like the facts, they quibble over words and other unimportant matters.

Richard Layman, the DC area is ranked as #1 in the list of "Top 10 Most Congested Cities in the United States". Take out your argument over "area" and "city" with them, not me. I used both words properly in context.

CrossingBrooklynFerry, this is not a discussion about TTI's methodology. If you don't agree with it, I'm sure you can tell us which superior methodology and data set you're basing your implication that DC area is not the most congested. My guess is you don't.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 11:50 am • linkreport

the thing about "transit as the solution to road congestion" is that it depends on the network, as discussed in Belmont, the WMATA system is polycentric, except within DC and along the Wilson Blvd. corridor.

So it wasn't designed so much to reduce congestion as it was to facilitate movement of suburban commuters to and from DC.

The point someone made about how the Metrorail system was originally designed "along highway corridors" reflects this point.

Both networks were designed, simultaneously, to facilitate movement of suburbanites to and from the region's main employment corridor.

The transit system design was "satisficed" to reduce cost and because it was seen as part of the commuter network, to use existing rail corridors and highway right of way or intended highway routes (e.g., the Green Line from Greenbelt to Fort Totten was supposed to be between lanes of I-95, which would have terminated at I-70 which would have been the continuation of what is now I-270 to around Union Station.

Anyway, if the people planning 50 years ago were really thinking about integration of transportation and land use planning with the aim of significantly reducing "congestion" they would have designed a different transit network, as well as a different set of policies, laws, and regulations concerning land use.

It just happens that DC is lucky as hell that it had an urban design spatial pattern created during the walking city era, a design that preferences sustainable modes (walking, biking, and transit) and that the transit network that was created put lots of stations in a relatively compact area.

In that compact area, the core of the city, roughly coincident with the L'Enfant plan, I argue the transit network functions somewhat "monocentrically" which is why DC gets extranormal network effects from the integration of transportation and land use, maybe by default, if not always consciously.

And yes, that means "DC," that is "Washington, DC" also known as "the District of Columbia" doesn't have bad congestion, even if the suburban highway network in the US Census defined "Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area" is congested.

To be fair to kevins, as CBF points out, the problem in failing to make the proper distinctions in scale of analysis start with the TTI and are facilitated by all the media coverage which merely regurgitates the findings, without looking at them more deeply.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 11:56 am • linkreport

"CrossingBrooklynFerry, this is not a discussion about TTI's methodology. If you don't agree with it, I'm sure you can tell us which superior methodology and data set you're basing your implication that DC area is not the most congested."

This is not the appropriate thread to discuss that. It has already been discussed. If you want to discuss that topic, please write a post about it - then everyone with a technical interest in the topic can discuss it, including people who are not interested in this part of NoVa, who may not be reading this thread.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 11:57 am • linkreport

kevins -- just because other people and organizations mislead and manipulate information doesn't mean that you should abet them, especially if you want to move the discourse and "ideation" forward.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 11:57 am • linkreport

CrossingBrooklynFerry, in hindsight maybe you shouldn't have brought up that topic.

Richard Layman, right, when you don't like the data, shoot the messenger.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 12:01 pm • linkreport

David C, hence "David C does not know."

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 12:11 pm • linkreport

@ CBF

I share the skepicism about these headlines that DC has the worst traffic, blah, blah, blah as well. And I'd love to have a wonky thread about transportation assessments / methodology.

However no one needs a multimillion-dollar study to affirm that there is a severe bottleneck where the DTR meets 66 and congestion continuing until Ballston.

The proposed improvement / widening here seems to be quite reasonable and is narrowly tailored to the affected area. Contrary to someone's pic posted here yesterday, no one is building the Katy Freeway in Arlington.

And on the other side of the aisle, it doesn't seem like anyone is car shaming or engaging in a social experiment.

I think GGW should tentatively support this project or at least reserve judgment until the multimedia details are finalized. But for now, GGW should--at a minimum--applaud the political compromise necessary to make it happen.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 11, 2016 12:25 pm • linkreport

kevins - actually back atcha... It's been more than 35 years since I took expository writing (English 225) but, stating this in a manner to not get the "comment deleted", I am not the one arguing fallaciously.

http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/writingprogram/courses/LSA_225.asp

Using misleading information to bolster arguments is considered "fallacious" or "illogical."

Speaking of, saying I am "shooting the messenger" is called an ad hominem or "argument to the person" rather than focusing arguments on the information relevant to the discussion.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 12:26 pm • linkreport

Typo - meant to say "multimodal details"

I hate autocorrect.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 11, 2016 12:27 pm • linkreport

PJM - not exactly analogous, but the C100 people arguing for the completion of a DC Rail Plan before going forward with the expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel were merely advocating planning as a delaying tactic, when there is no question that if addressed as part of the plan, tunnel expansion would be recommended.

This kind of "weaponizing of planning" gives planning a bad name.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 12:29 pm • linkreport

Alex B summed it up nicely early in the thread.

Yes, this is a good way to show how political compromises work. But in terms of what would have been more effective the previous solution (toll first then see what needs to be done) would have been more prudent.

The entire necessity of a compromise comes from certain delegates totally threatening to derail the entire process (that they largely voted for themselves) and having the governor call their bluff. I'm glad the governor doesn't have to decide whether or not to veto but this wasn't exactly unavoidable had certain politicians actually stuck by what they voted for.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 12:30 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman, there's nothing wrong with using Inrix data, which TTI and federal, state and local governments also use. And other commuter surveys, like the one the Census conducts, generally corroborate.

Using absolutely no data to bolster your argument is what should be considered "fallacious or illogical."

And thanks for the unsolicited English lesson. I guess when you have no data to bolster your arguments, creating a diversion is a useful tactic.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 12:36 pm • linkreport

Paul

I do not recall if GGW took a position, but the position of the Coalition for Smart Growth was to support the Governors original compromise, which was to implement tolls and transit improvements first, then to examine traffic patterns to determine if a widening was warranted. I do not think I ever said a widening should be absolutely ruled out. There is a lot of strawman discussion happening around here.

I continue to be concerned about the financing plan for the widening, and making sure that the tolling and the multimodal improvements do not get watered down.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 12:46 pm • linkreport

Using the DC ADT data for various arterials proves that DC does not have the congestion claimed by TTI in their reports. And generally, bus service on the city's major arterials/routes (S, 70s, X, 30s, 90s) moves approximately 40% of the total people throughput in those corridors.

It's very clearly the case. Observationally too, were someone to do a systematic observation of DC streets, intersections, and districts.

I am not a kamikaze bike rider, and I can comfortably "Idaho Stop" through major intersections on many arterials because of the dearth of oncoming traffic during rush periods. (Yes, that doesn't include the main commuter routes like NY or RI Avenues or 16th St., but it does include the majority of DC streets.)

In fact, in DC, that is, the center city, Washington, which comprises not quite 1% of the land mass and about 10% of the metropolitan area's population, transit is the major cause for limited congestion.

That's the argument I make. So someone saying "DC's congestion proves that transit doesn't work to limit congestion" to discuss road widening issues in Northern Virginia is arguing counter to data and experience.

The same likely would be the case for Wilson Blvd. from Rosslyn to Ballston. I don't ride it that much, but it doesn't appear to be that congested, and my understanding is that the traffic data that Arlington County maintains proves that it isn't, and there is strong reason to believe this is because the placement of 5 Metrorail stations along the route.

In any case, I know to use DC data to argue about DC issues, and mode and land use context data to argue about the appropriateness of certain types of services, and I know to use MD data to argue about issues in Maryland, and VA data to argue about issues in Virginia, although when you lay it out in terms of land use context and mode and the integration of land use and transportation planning and practice, it is possible to extend arguments across different places with different conditions.

Fortunately, I am capable of arguing that way, and others, sadly, are not.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Kevins

"August4, as you can see from these last two responses to me, when they don't like the facts, they quibble over words and other unimportant matters."
----

Yep. That's the M.O.

Hang around long enough and you'll get used to it. I certainly have.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 1:16 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman, this is about 66 widening in VA. I made no claims about DC proper traffic data. I only stated the fact that the "DC area is ranked as #1 in the list of "Top 10 Most Congested Cities in the United States," which includes Northern Virginia, FYI.

As regards your dismay with Inrix, please convey that to DDOT, which is an INRIX customer.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 1:19 pm • linkreport

To say "DDOT uses INRIX" or some other state DOT uses INRIX and therefore INRIX is great and good and we believe everything they say, is misguided.

State DOTs largely use INRIX data for traffic flow information on local streets, roads, and highways. They also use that data to see how many vehicles use different roads and streets.

That use of data is VERY different from what INRIX does with that data to generate its congestion scorecard. State DOTs are not concerned with some measure of "annual delay" across a whole metro area.

To conflate the two is, as Richard put it, "fallacious."

by MLD on Feb 11, 2016 1:37 pm • linkreport

There's two points that need to be made here. @Jasper's nailed the first one real well, and I'd submit further that very wide, very straight and very developable Arlington Boulevard US-50 could support Metrorail on a number of levels, including ease/cost of construction and a ready-built source of ridership in current Orange Line users, of which there are too many for the Orange Line to effectively handle.

In fact, an Arlington Boulevard Silver Line extension solves several problems at once, including the most important issue - which brings us to the second point that needs to be made.

The real capacity limiter, and the ultimate source of congestion on every mode, is the Potomac River. It is the lack of capacity for any mode to cross the River that causes the most congestion on both the rail lines and the roadways, all of them funneled into too few and too small crossings. Widening 66 to any number of lanes is an exercise in futility not because of induced demand but because the only place where widening could actually help is the place where it's virtually guaranteed not to happen: across the river. Similarly, Metro expansion is unsustainable anywhere in Virginia not because of any inherent problem with Metro or transit in general, but because there's a hard limit on the number of trains you can force across one two-track bridge and through one two-track tunnel and we're already past that limit.

The Silver Line should not have been built as it was, but as part of a project to solve Metro's core capacity challenges by running Metrorail from Dulles to Union Station through Falls Church, Arlington, and Georgetown, in phases, starting with the most critical phase: the Rosslyn-Georgetown Tunnel. Opponents of a new tunnel say you can't build it if you can't fill it: half the capacity goes to the Silver Line and the other to the Blue Line, and the other half of the Arl Blvd tunnel can be filled by trains running on a new short connection between Silver and Yellow that also, incidentally, fills up your bridge. If this new line/Yellow/Green can handle turning trains at MVS, great, otherwise, you just need to build another platform underneath the existing L'Enfant Plaza. Maybe you want to do that anyway, actually, for future services that might use the other half of the Green Line's EOTR capacity.

Regardless, it's the lack of a secondary tunnel that forces a whole bunch of suboptimal and frankly arbitrary scheduling and routing choices, to say nothing about the crush loading and routine failure of the services overburdened and overburdening the single tunnel that is in place.

On the road half of this equation, the situation is equally dire. Congestion cannot be solved by widening any part of 66 other than the Roosevelt Bridge, because there's fundamentally a capacity mismatch between the six lanes of Roosevelt Bridge and the 12+ lanes of combined roadways that feed into it. Whether building another 6-lane bridge or expanding the bridge we already have to 12 lanes is a worthwhile use of transportation money is an open question. It's a question to which I'm inclined to believe that the answer is no, but that's not the point here.

The point is that no amount of capacity expansion anywhere other than across the Potomac itself will actually have any significant impact on congestion, caused not by intra-Arlington or even intra-Virginia traffic but in fact by traffic trying to go to and from DC. We can't even have an honest conversation about the merits of tolling, widening, transit, or anything to do with this corridor until we identify the true source of the problem, from which every other symptom stems.

by Ryan on Feb 11, 2016 1:43 pm • linkreport

"As if building a multi-billion dollar rail transit line..."

Which carries more people than 66 does in an hour."

Transit use is at capacity and car traffic exceeds road capacity, so you point, besides simply being argumentative, is...?

------

"restricting a road to carpoolers during rush hours..."

"Which are the times when 66 is actually flowing the smoothest."

Certainly.

I-66 traffic does flow "the smoothest" when most driving commuters are prohibited from using it. Again, your point is...?

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 1:44 pm • linkreport

MLD, still twisting words. No surprise. I guess it's a good thing I said nothing about INRIX being great nor did I conflate its data with anything. My acknowledgment that TTI, federal, state and local governments also use INRIX data is not close to the same. I haven't nor will I start debating its merits on this thread. So better luck next time, pal.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 1:52 pm • linkreport

I-66 traffic does flow "the smoothest" when most driving commuters are prohibited from using it. Again, your point is...?

My point is that even if you drive on 66 today and refuse to ever vary from the way you commute today you might still look askance at this new compromise even though on the face of it seems a boon to drivers.

That's because:
1. We know widening will just get more people to drive. Even VDOT, hardly a "anti-car" source says this.
2. And we also know that the times when its easiest to drive on 66 is when we have rules about who can use it. Either via a price or hov rules. If you're really concerned about just not having to sit in traffic then this is what you want for the best chance at avoiding traffic.
3. To add to that, you should want more transit to get more people out of their cars which frees up space for you.

If you just want a free and fast ride then VDOT (again, hardly anti-car ideologues) is already letting you know that isn't going to happen not because of political cowardice or anti-car ideology but because they couldn't build a big enough road.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 2:10 pm • linkreport

Northern Virginia beyond Ballston is pretty car-centric, so this is actually pretty fair. But I would have preferred to have seen westbound lanes widened to incentivize greener morning commutes and allow for easier emergency evacuation of the core.

by Omar on Feb 11, 2016 2:17 pm • linkreport

I am not a kamikaze bike rider, and I can comfortably "Idaho Stop" through major intersections on many arterials because of the dearth of oncoming traffic during rush periods. (Yes, that doesn't include the main commuter routes like NY or RI Avenues or 16th St., but it does include the majority of DC streets.)

Your description would apply to the suburbs as well. I could easily "Idaho Stop" on most roads through the suburbs...except the major arterials. Much like DC proper, most suburbs only have traffic problems on a limited number of major arterials.

I have friends that live out in Ashburn. Sure, Waxpool Road and Route 7 through Ashburn are very congested arterial roads, but otherwise, the road network has very little traffic even during rush hour peaks. Even though Ashburn has almost no transit network to speak of and has experienced explosive population growth over the past 20 years.

In any case, I know to use DC data to argue about DC issues, and mode and land use context data to argue about the appropriateness of certain types of services

The problem is that many of the issues you are trying to isolate to Virginia or Maryland are actually caused by DC and the way DC is managed (or mismanaged). Plus, if it wasn't for all those commuters coming from the suburbs to DC, the Metro would NEVER have been built in the first place and much of the benefits that DC gets would never have occurred. All of this to say, is that transportation planning and data analysis can't be segregated away how you propose and doing so undermines regional transportation planning and the very transit system you are praising.

by ArlingtonFlyer on Feb 11, 2016 2:18 pm • linkreport

Sorry if I was unclear. Perhaps I exaggerated a bit when I said you thought the data was "great." You said:
"Richard Layman, there's nothing wrong with using Inrix data, which TTI and federal, state and local governments also use."
You implied that since governments use INRIX data, then it's fine to use INRIX's congestion data to say that DC is the worst. That is what you meant, right? If not, please enlighten us.

I'm saying that government use of that data is actually quite different from the congestion scoring use of that data. So implying that government use of the data is an endorsement of the congestion index is misguided.

"And other commuter surveys, like the one the Census conducts, generally corroborate."

Other data sources don't corroborate the rankings in the TTI/Inrix scorecards. There is no correlation between Inrix rankings and commute times as measured by the census. Nor is there any correlation between Inrix rankings and road miles per capita or anything else that might measure capacity. That lack of corroboration is exactly the issue many of us have with the analysis.

by MLD on Feb 11, 2016 2:19 pm • linkreport

@ Ryan

I agree in that the TR bridge will be widened to accommodate the traffic from Route 50 and I 66 as well as the hundreds of tourist and commuter busses from VA. Chances are that the TR will need to be replaced within the next--I dunno--20 years anyway.

@ CBF

Yes, I know you didn't say no widening at all. No worries, neighbor.

My comment was directed at the original article. After being a commenter here for the last year or so, I pretty much assume that the content featured on GGW is cleared beforehand and thus represents the viewpoint of Mr Alpert and the editorial board.

That may or may not correct, but that's the impression I get.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 11, 2016 2:33 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman

Yes, the major commuter arteries into the city are regularly congested, but most of the street network outside of that are not

The same is true of the suburbs. Why then are you saying that the District is not congested but they highways in the suburbs are?

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 2:38 pm • linkreport

I have driven this road frequently over the years and this is a much needed piece of infrastructure. It still limits the lanes into DC the same as before but the chokepoint between the DTR and Fairfax Dr/ Ballston has been nuts forever. Two lanes of DTR into two already compressed lanes of I-66 into two lanes of I-66 right after the Lee Highway exit. I am as pro transit as they come but this is a worthwhile effort.

by NikolasM on Feb 11, 2016 2:44 pm • linkreport

@Drumz,

Once again, road use exceeds capacity and transit use is at capacity (Metro lots fill up early and the trains are packed) so exactly what's wrong with "getting more people to drive" or does ideology trump common sense?

Again (for the last time), I-66 was built too small because officials and planners caved in to Arlington's unreasonable demands. The very fact that access to the road has been restricted to a privileged few at peak times - from day one - is an acknowledgement that the road is too damn small.

I'm not getting paid to continue debating the obvious.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 2:47 pm • linkreport

"Once again, road use exceeds capacity and transit use is at capacity (Metro lots fill up early and the trains are packed) "

The proposed transit improvements would include buses(presumably with their own park and ride lots) in the HOT lanes to the metro stations and to employment centers like Tysons. They would not be impacted by the capacity constraints you claim.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 2:54 pm • linkreport

CrossingBrooklynFerry, nice diversion. But TTI report is not equal to INRIX data.

MLD, what an imagination. I made no claims about what any government endorses or the merits of the INRIX data they use. You don't have to like the data but I can reference it as I please. It sure beats your use of no data to support your argument.

Census commuter survey published in 2013 ranked DC #2 in terms of commute times, INRIX's "Top 10 Most Congested Cities in the United States" ranks it as #1. Census and INRIX also ranked New York as #1 and #2 respectively that same year. What a coincidence!

Don't worry. I understand why you don't like the results. The two biggest transit-oriented metro areas in the country were also the most congested. And, I hate to break it to you, but they also happen to be at the bottom of the list in terms of highway lane miles per capita.

That's why I think widening our freeways to keep up with our fast growth is important. You don't have to agree, but the evidence is on my side.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 2:55 pm • linkreport

so exactly what's wrong with "getting more people to drive"

I mean besides the safety and environmental concerns there is the simple issue that when someone is themself driving they prefer fewer cars on the road because that means less traffic. Adding transit, tolls, and tighter HOV restrictions helps ensure that. But if you'd rather have a free ride by yourself albeit sitting in traffic then that's a fine position to take.

I don't see how its possible to argue for a solitary and free ride without any traffic.

Again (for the last time), I-66 was built too small because officials and planners caved in to Arlington's unreasonable demands.

No it wasn't. Not when you consider that Arlington immediately took steps to reduce congestion overall in many ways that has lowered traffic considerably while growing the population.

Other counties didn't do that and instead just built wider roads and yet traffic is still bad.

The very fact that access to the road has been restricted to a privileged few at peak times - from day one - is an acknowledgement that the road is too damn small.

Its HOV-2. That's not even the most restrictive HOV route in Northern Virginia.

And that's going away next year. Feel free to drive by yourself on 66 next year. You'll just pay a toll instead. Tolling is a really good, proven way to keep congestion down. Better than widening at least.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 2:59 pm • linkreport

@August4 - "access to the road has been restricted to a privileged few at peak times"

How is being part of a carpool a "privilege"? Wouldn't the definition of privilege be driving a large 2 ton vehicle with just yourself inside it all the way from Gainesville to your nice job in DC? Let's just be honest and say that single occupancy vehicles win again.

by Daniel on Feb 11, 2016 3:00 pm • linkreport

"But TTI report is not equal to INRIX data."

Cleary TTI does not agree with your interpretation of the data.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 3:04 pm • linkreport

Besides, widening 66 from 267 to Ballston - in one direction - is nothing more than a glorified version of the "spot improvements" that have been ongoing for the last 5 or years. Nothing to even think twice about much less debate ad nauseum.

The road should be expanded to 3 lanes in both directions from 267 to the Roosevelt Bridge. It can done within its existing footprint - including the Rosslyn tunnel. The whining about "what happens to the traffic once it reaches DC?" is a red herring since most the traffic has dissipated by the time it reaches DC.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 3:04 pm • linkreport

"How is being part of a carpool a "privilege"? "
---
If you can carpool, you're welcome. If you can't, tough.
I would call that a privilege.

As for single-occupant vehicles "winning again", that only will apply to those who can afford to pay a toll on a road they've already paid and have been long prohibited from using unless they meet a requirement. Not exactly a "win", but I suppose half a loaf is better than none.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 3:12 pm • linkreport

I can live with the third lane to Ballston. But there was always a chance it was going to happen anyway. VDOT just wanted to see the effects of the new HOV rules and Tolls first.

But now there are fewer tolls and the HOV rules aren't changing so VDOT has even less to measure and has to take on a big project anyway. Not because lawmakers thought VDOT should hurry up but because they threatened to do away with the entire project. That seems extreme.

But if all the traffic has dissappated by the time it gets to DC then why expand the road all the the way to the DC line?

The original plan was never anti-car. It provided a lot of new options for drivers. Same with the current plan but we can reasonably say it will be less effective (and thus, ultimately more harmful to drivers) than what it could have been.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 3:13 pm • linkreport

CrossingBrooklynFerry, saying that DC area is #1 on it's top 10 congested list, is not interpreting, it's stating fact. Sorry you don't like the rankings.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 3:26 pm • linkreport

Tolling is a really good, proven way to keep congestion down. Better than widening at least.

Widening supports more economic activity. Four congested lanes move more people than two congested lanes. Tolling is a way to allocate a scarce resource. Widening is a way to increase the size of the resource so it is not as scarce. Tolling can be a good way to pay for improvements. Tolling should not be used as a substitute for making improvements. In previous years we built toll roads so that we could pay for the roads. Only now would some people suggest tolling the road merely to keep people from driving on it.

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 3:28 pm • linkreport

"CrossingBrooklynFerry, saying that DC area is #1 on it's top 10 congested list, is not interpreting, it's stating fact. "

No it isn't interpreting. You interpreted elsewhere, implying that this says something about the ability of transit to address congestion. At least I thought you said such a thing. Are you saying you are agnostic on the impact of transit on congestion?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 3:31 pm • linkreport

Tolling is a really good, proven way to keep congestion down.

Oh, and by the way, there's a reason nobody on this blog suggests hiking Metro fares through the Rosslyn tunnel. Wouldn't that be a good way to keep congestion down on those trains? Indeed, Metro can't handle the passengers it has now. I haven't seen any articles advocating for higher Metro fares as a method of fixing this problem. Yet slapping a toll on a highway to limit congestion is somehow seen as a good idea.

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 3:32 pm • linkreport

Private single occupancy automobile use is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation in the country. By far. The whining about having to pay tolls and sitting in traffic jams is the sound of privilege, not someone who carpools in an HOV lane.

by Daniel on Feb 11, 2016 3:32 pm • linkreport

"Tolling can be a good way to pay for improvements. Tolling should not be used as a substitute for making improvements."

Tolling, like pricing in general can do both.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 3:32 pm • linkreport

massysett, four lanes move more people than two? Blasphemy! Haven't you learned that the capacity argument only works for transit!

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 3:33 pm • linkreport

Widening supports more economic activity.

So would more transit. Here we're getting both.

Four congested lanes move more people than two congested lanes.

I'm having a hard time seeing what's good about that here. For anybody. Most of all those stuck in traffic.

Tolling is a way to allocate a scarce resource.
So is just letting people sit in traffic for free. Those with more time to pay will use the road. Tolls at least let us reuse some of the cost that has to be paid.

Tolling can be a good way to pay for improvements.
Again, exactly what is happening here (doens't stop people from complaining about bike trails or whatever).

Tolling should not be used as a substitute for making improvements.
Its not, the tolls are going to be funding a bunch of different things. But even then, less traffic is certainly an improvement no?

In previous years we built toll roads so that we could pay for the roads.
Yes. That was a good idea.

Only now would some people suggest tolling the road merely to keep people from driving on it.
No one is stopping anything from driving on the road. Much like no one is prevented from taking transit even though you have to pay a fare to ride.

Even then, considering that today your only option to ride on 66 at rush hour is to be HOV the current plan that lets single riders ride for a fee actually opens up who can use the road rather than preventing anything.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 3:36 pm • linkreport

masseysett -- fwiw, the capacity issue at Rosslyn with Metrorail is a engineered-in flaw that derives, obviously, from the original design (like the two tracks). Charging more for fares for trains using that tunnel would have no impact on the usage. The problem is trying to get three lines through one tunnel when switching takes time.

I no longer remember the max capacity, it's something like 26 trains/hour, depending on how many times you switch between the blue line and the orange/silver line. The fewer the blue line trains, the more orange line trains you can let through.

As long as lines share tracks and require switching throughput will be reduced. I won't bother discussing how the situations aren't really comparable.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 3:47 pm • linkreport

less traffic is certainly an improvement no?

No, it is not. And that is where I have a fundamental disagreement with a lot of what I see on this blog.

Traffic is not bad. People drive because it improves their quality of life. They drive so they can get to work. They drive so they can shop. They drive so they can see friends and family.

People also drive for business. When I'm stuck in traffic, I look around and I don't just see commuters. I see delivery trucks. Utility company workers. People in construction trades. When they drive, they're on someone's clock, getting paid to waste time sitting in traffic.

We can reduce traffic by "managing demand." This pushes people into modes they don't want to use, which reduces their quality of life. Or, it causes them to travel at less desirable times, reducing their quality of life. Of course it would be more efficient if more people commuted at 3am. That would reduce traffic congestion. It would also reduce quality of life for people who now have to commute at 3am.

These exact same arguments apply to transit. Creating artificial scarcity through tolls and NIMBY may well reduce traffic. But it also reduces quality of life.

I do support many tenets of urban development because they can actually reduce demand in a way that does not reduce quality of life. If folks want to live in a dense environment that allows them to walk and cycle more, great. Let's give that to them. But that need not be at the expense of people who do not want to live in such environments and businesses that must transact business over transportation networks.

So no, less traffic is not an improvement. Building the transportation networks we need, without making phony decisions merely to create artificial scarcity, is an improvement.

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 3:49 pm • linkreport

CrossingBrooklynFerry, [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] DC area is #1 on the most congested list, but has 2nd highest transit users and we have spent billions on transit in Northern Virginia, including the $248 million/mile Silver Line, and congestion on 66 has not improved. Sorry, friend.

massyssett, raising Metro fares? Blasphemy! Haven't you learned that congestion charges only work on drivers?

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 3:50 pm • linkreport

Can we define the problem here?

For some, the problem appears to be "we need to add a lane to 66." Which isn't a statement about the problem at all, but instead is a proposed solution.

The real problem is congestion.

We know a few things about congestion. We know that expanding highways is unlikely to address congestion. We also know that the one thing that can address congestion is pricing: using the power of markets to reduce congestion.

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2011/10/only-hope-reducing-traffic/315/

It's proven.

And this is why the original plan for 66 inside the beltway was promising. It stated the problem (congestion). It proposed a first step (tolling) to address the problem. And if tolling alone wasn't enough, it had a built-in mechanism to fund additional improvements (toll revenue).

The compromise is a prudent political deal, but make no mistake: despite the comments here about the dogmatic reaction of anti-car people, it's the pro-lane people who've prevailed with their dogma.

When you define the problem as a lack of lanes instead of congestion, then the only solution is not just obvious, but it's also impervious to any actual evidence.

by Alex B. on Feb 11, 2016 3:51 pm • linkreport

fwiw, the capacity issue at Rosslyn with Metrorail is a engineered-in flaw that derives, obviously, from the original design (like the two tracks). Charging more for fares for trains using that tunnel would have no impact on the usage.

Of course it would. With higher fares there would be less demand (sorry, an economist would say "decrease in quantity demanded") and no need to run even 26 trains per hour through that tunnel.

But of course a better solution is to build another tunnel across the river, not hiking fares merely to induce people to get off the train. Yet people argue it would be a good idea to put a toll on a highway merely to induce people not to use it.

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 3:55 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman, what evidence are you basing your argument that "Charging more for fares for trains using that tunnel would have no impact on the usage"?

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 3:57 pm • linkreport

No, it is not. And that is where I have a fundamental disagreement with a lot of what I see on this blog.

You express a pretty nuanced view but I'd say that most people aren't thinking that when they're crawling along 66 trying to get to work.

We can reduce traffic by "managing demand." This pushes people into modes they don't want to use, which reduces their quality of life.

Few people care about the mode. Most just go with whatever makes sense. That's how slugging was invented along 95. People came up with a solution that worked best for them. Not because they like hitching rides with strangers.

Creating artificial scarcity through tolls and NIMBY may well reduce traffic. But it also reduces quality of life.

Its not artificial. You're just paying for road space (and the implicit promise that you'll be able to go at a certain speed). That makes your trip predictable. That's a real benefit.

So no, less traffic is not an improvement. Building the transportation networks we need, without making phony decisions merely to create artificial scarcity, is an improvement.

Wrt to 66 I think that's already the plan. It's a pretty multi-modal road what with a metro line running down the middle. The proposed plan makes it even more so and with the exception of 1 class of people you won't even have to pay a toll if you don't want to. Only part of the road is being tolled outside the beltway and inside the beltway you only pay if you're riding by yourself. Something you aren't allowed to do today.

The only thing anti-car about what has happened is people disagreeing with the purely political decision to go ahead and widen inside the beltway to Ballston. VDOT (again, not an org interested in punishing drivers) didn't want to do that at first.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 4:01 pm • linkreport

The real problem is congestion.

No, it is not. The problem is that the transportation network is insufficient to move people. Congestion is a symptom of that problem.

If you define "congestion" as the problem, then one solution is to demolish all roads. Another solution is tolling. Both these solutions reduce use of transportation networks and, therefore, reduce quality of life.

When the problem is properly defined--insufficient transportation networks--then it is apparent that widening does indeed help. Only with this false conception of "congestion" as being a problem do we wind up with ridiculous arguments like "oh, if we widen a road, it will fill up because of induced demand, so nothing was solved."

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 4:02 pm • linkreport

"massyssett, raising Metro fares? Blasphemy! Haven't you learned that congestion charges only work on drivers?"

I have repeatedly said that raising transit affairs can be appropriate where real congestion on transit is an issue. But in general most of metro is not congested even at peak, and none of it is congested off peak, or even for large portions of peak. At one time metro had peak of peak pricing, and I would love for someone to do a post on the issues it faced, and if it should be brought back. If the Orange line is truely packed to capacity (I have heard different anecdotes on that) and if WMATA can selectively raise peak fares on the Orange line in Va without raising fares elsewhere, it should do so.

For exactly the same reason we should toll highways. And without regard to whether a capacity expansion proves BCA positive or not (though I strongly believe that additional rail capacity across the Potomac is BCA positive)

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 4:11 pm • linkreport

"Only with this false conception of "congestion" as being a problem "

Congestion is defined as the problem because historically some funding for roads has come out of CMAQ, and some people (including some commenters here) have suggested that air quality is a benefit of widening - that is only the case if congestion is actually reduced, and that impact is only important for motor vehicles.

As for added trips they do potentially have benefits, but it is not clear all do - in particular making longer shopping trips easier will simply change the distribution of shopping among retailes - which if retail were a perfectly competitive industry with completely variable costs, would necessarily be a good thing (you can prove choice works best under those conditions) but because retail is charecterized by high fixed costs, and "imperfect competition" it is not possible to say a priori if improving consumer choice leads to economically better outcomes.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 4:15 pm • linkreport

BTW

I have also repeatedly said that metrorail garages in NoVa are underpriced, because they regularly fill up extremely early.

I am not sure how people have gotten the idea that congestion pricing is never applied to transit.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 4:17 pm • linkreport

When the problem is properly defined--insufficient transportation networks--then it is apparent that widening does indeed help.

This isn't apparent at all. If the network isn't sufficient, then all options should be on the table. Why does the default of widening the highway rise to the top?

The only answer is dogma. You could just as easily make the case to toll the road and expand Metro.

If you define "congestion" as the problem, then one solution is to demolish all roads. Another solution is tolling. Both these solutions reduce use of transportation networks and, therefore, reduce quality of life.

Tolling might reduce use of highways, but not necessarily reduce the use of transportation networks. In fact, tolling would be a great revenue source to help expand more efficient ways to move people, such as transit.

That's been the experience in cities with congestion charges: not only does the revenue reduce auto congestion, but the buses on the streets move more efficiently and thus attract more passengers. The toll revenue helps fund additional transit improvements. It's a virtuous cycle, precisely because they think about the entire transportation network - not just roads and cars.

by Alex B. on Feb 11, 2016 4:21 pm • linkreport

massysett - your satire was great. Brava (or o) hehe :)

by asffa on Feb 11, 2016 4:37 pm • linkreport

it's about how many trains you can move through the tunnel in one hour, nothing more, nothing less. The number of the people on the trains doesn't change things much.

If a Metrorail line doesn't share tracks, and only the red line doesn't share tracks, it has roughly the capacity for a train every 2 minutes.

Switching between lines, the capacity is about 26 trains/hour at the chokepoint, because of the time it takes to move the switch to and from. One way WMATA increased throughput was not sharing the switch equally between blue and orange, but doing 2/3 orange and 1/3 blue.

In any case, the number of trains that can go through the tunnel is fixed. If you have three lines trying to go through one tunnel, then you have a capacity issue.

It's a design issue.

For a better explanation, ask a civil engineer or mathematician experienced in linear programming-operations research.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 4:46 pm • linkreport

Of course, yes you could charge $10 or more per fare and reduce demand to virtually nothing. Then you wouldn't need to run any trains.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 4:47 pm • linkreport

"it's about how many trains you can move through the tunnel in one hour, nothing more, nothing less. The number of the people on the trains doesn't change things much."

Some people may think that as you reduce total ridership, you linearly reduce the number of trains. They are missing the importance of frequency to providing good quality transit service. That is one reason transit operating costs are so fixed, and why reducing ridership worsens the transit experience, while reducing the number of vehicles makes the driving experience better.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 11, 2016 4:55 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman, I had a feeling you weren't going to provide any evidence for your claim about a Rosslyn tunnel congestion charge. So, how did you conclude that $10 congestion charge would kill demand to nothing when the average income for Metro riders on the each Orange Line station is over $100k (according to Metro survey data)?

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 5:00 pm • linkreport

I don't understand why people think there is some scandal when we argue to price roads without saying that we should charge transit fares based on demand. We already do that with the fact that longer trips pay more (on rail) and that it costs more to travel at rush hour (again on rail, though some bus routes have higher fares).

We can certainly adjust things one way or the other and observe its affects but its not like we don't already do the basics.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2016 5:07 pm • linkreport

masseysett -- why dc isn't congested and the suburbs are?

Because--until the recent serious degradation of the quality of the Metrorail network--DC residents have multiple options (modes) for getting around, modes that can be more efficient than driving especially when you take into account parking, while by comparison, the suburban mobility network is car-dependent.

Because you can only move so many cars/lane mile/hour (800-2000 depending on the design of the road network, the number of curb cuts, whether there are road crossings), it's a simple matter of physics.

It takes a lot more space to move one person around in a 150 sq. foot box equivalent when three 150 s.f. box equivalents equal a 40 foot long bus and carry 50+ people. Similarly, stringing 30 to 40 150 s.f. box equivalents as 6- or 8-car Metrorail trains moves upwards of 1,000 people, and faster yet since it's underground.

But that only works with a broad set of nodes, a well designed and efficient transit network, etc. and with continued emphasis on TDM.

One of the problems of the city being popular and trendy to live in is the influx of residents not ready to make the switch from car to other modes.

Because only a small amount of add'l traffic can add serious degradation this is a problem, because although the DC road network is "robust" (having many alternatives) its capacity/throughput is roughly fixed (although throughput can be improved here and there somewhat through a systematic addressing and fixing of chokepoints, which I see no evidence of DC doing).

One way to increase throughput would be to move to HOV2 on commuter arteries like 16th St., New York Ave., Rhode Island Ave., Pennsylvania Ave. etc., but it would be really hard to effectuate this.

At least one lane and TDM promotion, could really increase throughput by reducing by 1/2 to 1/3 the number of cars coming in and out of the city on those roads.

Those of us who get around primarily by walking, biking and heavy rail transit aren't affected much by the increase in driving, but bus riders are.

2. wrt the problems in VA and MD being "DC's fault," that's an overstatement. Yes, we don't have the capacity for all kinds of people driving into the city in terms of parking etc. So we made a choice to prioritize transit.

Sadly, we haven't kept on the leadership side to have the system remain robust and effective, and expand as appropriate, not to mention expand within DC.

And Maryland and Virginia haven't made decisions about creating mobility infrastructure that recognizes this reality.

So fault is multifaceted.

E.g., Ryan's point about US 50, I don't know it well enough, maybe that'd be a good way to create a separated silver line alignment within VA before it goes east to DC.

But his points about the tunnel, I raised in 2005/2006 when no one else really was bringing it up--Arlington continued to advocate for the separated blue line but didn't talk about the tunnel capacity issue that much.

This is from the Central Washington Transportation Study from the 1970s, about throughput.

Mobility efficiency -- Passonneau

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 5:07 pm • linkreport

"Private single occupancy automobile use is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation in the country. By far."
---
Nonsense.

Taxes, tolls and user fees paid by drivers finance 60%-70% of road construction, varying by state. By comparison, Metro ridership is 70% subsidized (per WMATA, fares contribute about 30% of its annual budget).

That percentage would be even higher if a significant amount of gas tax and toll revenue wasn't hijacked and re-purposed for to spend building and subsidizing transit. As a matter of fact, tolls from Dulles Toll road users are financing 52% of Silver Line construction costs.

When was the last time transit fares were used to pay for building or subsidizing other means of transportation? I'll save you the trouble - the answer is never.

This nonsense about "private automobile use" being "heavily subsidized" - as if drivers get a subsidy to buy and operate their vehicles - is a crock. It's a silly canard constantly promoted by the ill-informed and/or ill-intentioned. It's past time we let it drop.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 5:08 pm • linkreport

I am not an economist, but I understand price elasticity enough to figure that at a round trip fare of $20, plus either bus fares on both sides or parking fees on the origin side--which could be an additional $5 or more, likely people would shift their trip to driving.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 5:10 pm • linkreport

Taxes, tolls and user fees paid by drivers finance 60%-70% of road construction AND maintenance.

And before we go off on the "property taxes" and "taxes to general fund that are paid by all of us" tangent, keep in mind that most of the taxes are paid by people who drive (at least in metro DC). Therefore it drivers who are pretty much "subsidizing" themselves, in addition to subsidizing transportation for non-drivers.

Any transit user or bike rider who gets the urge to whine about "private automobile use" being "heavily subsidized" should pause, thank a driver for providing their cheap transit/bike ride, and leave it at that.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 5:20 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman, I don't know where you got the idea that DC proper is not congested. It's absurd. DC-295 is one of the most congested thoroughfares in the metro area. New York Avenue, K and M St NW are consistently congested, as well as lots of other roads

I also take it you also can't explain how you concluded that a Rosslyn tunnel congestion charge would reduce demand to zero. Okay.

by Kevins on Feb 11, 2016 5:30 pm • linkreport

So are Kevins, August4, and massysett just going to ignore the negative externalities that are inherent in encouraging SOV usage by widening highways?

by Mike M. on Feb 11, 2016 5:39 pm • linkreport

masseysett -- why dc isn't congested and the suburbs are?

I'm still baffled that you are giving long explanations for this when you haven't even shown that the District is not congested while the suburbs are. As someone who has lived in this area for over fifteen years I can say your assertion does not mesh up with anything I have seen. There is congestion in DC. There is congestion in the suburbs. There are congestion-free parts of DC. There are congestion-free parts of the suburbs. How are you making this assertion that the District "is not congested" and the suburbs are congested?

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 5:41 pm • linkreport

making longer shopping trips easier will simply change the distribution of shopping among retailes

You would only say there is no benefit to this if you think that allowing people to choose what they think is best confers no benefit.

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 5:49 pm • linkreport

So are Kevins, August4, and massysett just going to ignore the negative externalities that are inherent in encouraging SOV usage by widening highways?

No, which is why I support higher fuel economy standards, tough emission controls, enforcement of speed limits on city streets, and measures that reduce the effects that highways have on water quality. However, because the use of transportation networks--even SOV usage--also has positive externalities, I do not accept that it is a good idea to adopt any transportation policy whose objective is to reduce the amount of transportation that occurs.

by massysett on Feb 11, 2016 5:54 pm • linkreport

"So are Kevins, August4, and massysett just going to ignore the negative externalities that are inherent in encouraging SOV usage by widening highways? "

----

I can't speak for the others.

Unlike others here who obviously choose to ignore the "negative externalities" [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] that are inherent in the stalled/barely-moving traffic on 66, I want to see something done to mitigate them.

Stalled, stop and go traffic pollutes far more than free-flowing traffic that moves at a steady pace. That's "pollution reduction 101". Not to mention the "negative externalities" of lost time and productivity and reduced quality of life caused by time lost in congestion.

I-66 has been badly congested- and getting worse - since the late 1980's. It's now close to gridlock 7 days a week. All the "do anything but increase road capacity" so-called "alternatives" we've implemented over the past 30 years (most recently more multi-$billion rail) have failed miserably at solving the problem.

Perhaps we should actually try a solution instead of more "alternatives" and REALLY do something about the "negative externalities" of SOV usage. We an start with stopping the silly pretending that SOV vehicles will magically go away if we keep making driving unnecessarily difficult and unpleasant and making people look bad for needing to drive.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 6:20 pm • linkreport

Nothing about the plan is about getting rid of cars. Even people who disagree with the recent compromise expect to get rid of cars.

Paying a toll (or riding with someone) isn't a punishment. It's an acknowledgement that we can't just keep expanding the road forever. Instead we will expand the road a little bit (to a mere ten lanes for about 25 miles and then 6 for another 10 beyond that) and then use some of that money to provide more alternatives.

by Drumz on Feb 11, 2016 6:31 pm • linkreport

drumz - if demand pricing was used today for MetroRail Rosslyn ridership stuck waiting too long on platforms would have had to pay more.
Of course that'd be a bad idea. It's stupid as a general rule to financially reward some state or corporation for bad planning and traffic tie-ups.

by asffa on Feb 11, 2016 6:46 pm • linkreport

Metro uses demand pricing today. It's not in real time and you can argue that it's too high for the service provided if you like but nonetheless it exists. You pay more to ride metro when it is the most crowded.

by Drumz on Feb 11, 2016 6:51 pm • linkreport

Re-read what I wrote. I said most streets aren't congested, but some are, consistently. Those roads that are consistently congested are the commuter-ways.

The way to deal with them is to add transit and HOV restrictions.

I don't recommend congestion charges, because the suburbs (even Arlington) would use that as a way to compete against DC for business location. Some people have even suggested that tolls are to be imposed on I-66 as a way to discourage business from locating in DC.

Another way to think of it is intra-city travel vs. inter-city travel. In DC, the roads used primarily for inter-city travel are congested. There are alternate routes, sure, but because of the city's design, some parts of the city have significantly fewer options than others.

In the plans I've written, I call the types of movement:

- to (the city)
- through (from someplace to another place via this place)
- within

Each of those types of movement has different characteristics.

But it's fair to say my perceptions of NoVA or Suburban Maryland and traffic are probably like yours of DC, colored by a limited perspective of driving only in certain places at certain times. Maybe those other times the conditions are much different, but because I don't travel then, I don't know.

by Richard Layman on Feb 11, 2016 7:23 pm • linkreport

@August4
The elephant in the room is I-66 was built too small to begin with. The widening is long overdue and would have happened long ago anywhere else.
^QFT
^^Truer words never spoken
^^^/Thread

by Tee on Feb 11, 2016 8:35 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Tee on Feb 11, 2016 8:47 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Tee on Feb 11, 2016 8:49 pm • linkreport

Drivers don't come close to covering the cost of the roads they use. How about parking? Or fossil fuel subsidies. Or the externalities mentioned above, including pollution and ahem, climate change. This is a classic example of a privileged group moaning about having to give up their long-held benefits. In this case, though, they win again. Congrats.

by Daniel on Feb 11, 2016 9:12 pm • linkreport

I was thinking of GW parkway as the turf highway but yeah 50 can count as well. So four highways.

395 isn't in the edge of Arlington. It literally splits between crystal city and Columbia pike.

And traffic has fallen on 29 over the years. Despite hov restrictions already in place on 66.

I'm not saying get rid of 66. No one has. I don't know how one could read that. I'm just saying stick to the current plan and that waiting to see if a third lane is necessary was the better plan than the current compromise.

For some it seems like the only answer is to widen? How much? Who knows just keep widening until we feel satisfied.

That seems way more dogmatic than what is proposed. And what I'm ok with for the most part even if I'm disappointed with the way the most recent compromise went down.

by Drumz on Feb 11, 2016 9:23 pm • linkreport

@Paul J. Meissner
I agree in that the TR bridge will be widened to accommodate the traffic from Route 50 and I 66 as well as the hundreds of tourist and commuter busses from VA. Chances are that the TR will need to be replaced within the next--I dunno--20 years anyway.
Absolutely right.

Bridge replacement is an excellent conversation to tackle now, or in the next five to ten years. Expansion would almost certainly be a part of that conversation. So would the meaningful transit improvement of a second Metro crossing, whether on its own merits or as part of mitigation/compromise/deal-making for the new bridge capacity. I don't pretend to know how that conversation will unfold or what decisions will ultimately be made, but it is imperative that we get serious about the river crossings sooner rather than later.

That's the conversation we ought to be having.

@Richard Layman

Ryan's point about US 50, I don't know it well enough, maybe that'd be a good way to create a separated silver line alignment within VA before it goes east to DC.
In most places, US-50 is 6 lanes wide; it's never narrower than 4 lanes and a lot of sections of it have frontage roads on top of those aforementioned lanes - which means ease of cut-and-cover construction. A subway under it has an excellent jumping off point just south of Rosslyn, meaning it can be easily tied into the existing Rosslyn second station plans or any future iterations of the separate Blue Line at Rosslyn. Arlington Boulevard is roughly half a mile south of Wilson Boulevard (and the portion of 66 that features median-running Metrorail) and also half a mile north of Columbia Pike - close enough to both to pull ridership off of those congested corridors, but far enough away to be considered a unique investment as opposed to replicating infrastructure.

Connecting the existing Silver Line infrastructure to Arlington Boulevard would require a new platform built perpendicular to the existing platforms at WFC, and a split off of the existing tracks to feed this new platform. Then, the tracks could follow Broad Street / VA-7 to Seven Corners, and then Arlington Boulevard all the way to Rosslyn. It's physically and technically feasible, with the only open questions being money and will to invest in doing that.

(And, of course, the fact that building any Metro in VA before building the tunnel is an exercise in futility and mayhem making.)

But his points about the tunnel, I raised in 2005/2006 when no one else really was bringing it up--Arlington continued to advocate for the separated blue line but didn't talk about the tunnel capacity issue that much.
As you mention, it's been a known issue for more than a decade now. The problem of limited cross-Potomac capacity isn't a new one, after all.

The difference between now and ten years ago is that the consequences of ignoring/downplaying the problem are blatant and apparent - it's simply no longer really possible to pretend that another tunnel isn't needed or that three distinct lines of service can be maintained. Similarly, if it isn't apparent now, it will be in a few years: no matter what you do to the roads on either side of the Potomac, you will continue to experience bottlenecking as a result of the capacity imbalance between the bridge approaches and the bridge itself.

It's unfortunate that as a region, we/leadership wasn't able or willing to be proactive re: cross-Potomac capacity, and we're stuck cleaning up the mess long after the damage has been done (and will continue to be done for years still, as designing and building river crossings isn't an instantaneous process). Still, better late than never.

by Ryan on Feb 11, 2016 10:13 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 10:29 pm • linkreport

Drivers don't come close to covering the cost of the roads they use
We've been over this. Besides, what drivers pay their transportation is far more than what transit users contribute towards building, operating and maintaining transit, so let's squash this.

How about parking?
Parking on DC residential streets is regulated by RPP permits which aren't free. Parking on DC's busiest streets is metered. If you think RPP's and meters are too cheap, you're free to call your DC Council member and lobby for less of a "subsidy".

In 2014, revenue from parking meters in DC was $40 million, and parking ticket revenue was another $92 million. Parking meter revenue alone more than pays for the cost to maintain DCís street grid ($22 million budgeted for 2015), and adding in total parking revenue (fees and fines, plus the 18% parking garage/lot tax) then parking revenue actually exceeds DDOTs entire yearly budget. If anything, parking in DC isnít a "subsidy". It's a profit center.

Now, please don't [deleted for violating the comment policy] trying to argue that parking on taxpaying private property provided by businesses for their employees, tenants and customers is publicly "subsidized".

Or fossil fuel subsidies
According to the EIA, of all the oil produced by and imported into the US (let's leave out coal), a full one third is refined into diesel. Since there are hardly any diesel cars in the US, we can logically conclude that any diesel fuel consumed in the US that isn't used for trains and buses is used to truck your goods and services around the nation. Did you really think your local Apple Store, Nike Store, or Whole Foods was stocked with goods that arrive by bicycle or Metro?

Another 20% of that oil is refined into plastics, now if you don't use any plastics in your goods, services, clothes etc., you can ignore that if you choose.

The evil passenger car consumes a whopping 38% of the oil the US uses, so let's not even try to pretend that fuel subsidies provided by the US government are soley for the benefit of selfish people who demand "cheap oil" to run their "gas-guzzling single-occupant SUV's" because that just isn't so.

Or the externalities mentioned above, including pollution and ahem, climate change

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] As I mentioned before, road opponents choose to ignore that a large part of those "externalities" are caused by traffic congestion. In this region, an inadequate road network is largely responsible for that.

Let me know if have anything else.

by August4 on Feb 11, 2016 11:37 pm • linkreport

I doubt the Governor's decision to drop tolling and HOV restrictions in the reverse-commute direction was "to appease Republican lawmakers outside the beltway."

In fact, some outside-the-Beltway Republicans criticized that change as unfair and hypocritical.

More likely, that change was in reaction to strong opposition to the reverse-commute restrictions among Arlingtonians and other inside-the-Beltway residents concerned about their reverse-direction car commutes or the diversion of I-66 traffic onto local roads.

by Allen Muchnick on Feb 12, 2016 12:45 am • linkreport

Seven outside-the-Beltway Democratic legislators (Senators Petersen, McPike, and Wexton, and Delegates Bulova, Murphy, Bell, and Boysko) also prominently opposed tolling I-66 without widening. Without this strong Democratic opposition, the Governor might have prevailed over the NoVA Republicans.

by Allen Muchnick on Feb 12, 2016 12:51 am • linkreport

This nonsense about "private automobile use" being "heavily subsidized" - as if drivers get a subsidy to buy and operate their vehicles - is a crock. It's a silly canard constantly promoted by the ill-informed and/or ill-intentioned. It's past time we let it drop.

If you include externalities like air pollution, CO2 emissions, and the fact that sprawl generated by auto-orientation acts as a multiplier on those things, it's not even close. You may pay for the gas to operate your car and the cost to maintain it - but that price you pay for gas isn't remotely covering the impact of its use.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 8:09 am • linkreport

"Seven outside-the-Beltway Democratic legislators (Senators Petersen, McPike, and Wexton, and Delegates Bulova, Murphy, Bell, and Boysko) also prominently opposed tolling I-66 without widening. Without this strong Democratic opposition, the Governor might have prevailed over the NoVA Republicans."

Of course at least part of why they did that is heavy pressure from Republicans, who made I66 a prominent campaign issue.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 8:34 am • linkreport

Ryan -- thanks. When I find someone willing to help me produce a new conceptual subway map with a separated silver line, a separated blue line, a separated yellow line, and a green line branch up New Hampshire Ave. from Fort Totten, I'll add this element within Northern Virginia.

Many years ago--he's much busier now--David A. did one for me. But that was a long time ago and my thinking continues to evolve, in large part in response to commenters here.

Conceptual map for transit expansion in the DC region with a focus on subway service expansion within the District of Columbia.

Compared to this map, I would make a separated orange line with the end leg the blue line, the separated silver line would pick up the east end of the orange line but could include a branch up Bladensburg.

I'd want a shuttle though between the orange and the silver in Northeast though, somehow.

The separated yellow line would go up Georgia Ave. and then somehow in MoCo. A separated green line would include a branch up New Hampshire.

And in this map there is a brown line. Instead of truncating the blue line as was done here, I'd just continue it on the brown line configuration up Wisconsin, but I'd probably end it on the eastern leg of the Red Line, rather than continue it further south.

The southern most part of the proposed brown line (by MV Jantzen) could become another Green Line leg, so you could have two legs on the north and two legs on the south.

by Richard Layman on Feb 12, 2016 9:59 am • linkreport

@Richard Layman

Re-read what I wrote. I said most streets aren't congested, but some are, consistently. Those roads that are consistently congested are the commuter-ways.

OK, so I re-read what you wrote, which was

It's not a city that's congested, it's the highway network in the metropolitan area. The metropolitan area, called "DC" is not the center city. So don't make arguments about the center city when using data about the metropolitan area.

and

why dc isn't congested and the suburbs are?

and

"DC" doesn't have the worst congestion in the country, the suburbs do.

I get what you are saying about routes used for within-DC transportation not being congested, while longer-distance routes are congested. But the same is true of the suburbs. If you want to say something about DC, fine. There is no need to say inaccurate things about the suburbs so that you can make DC look better.

by massysett on Feb 12, 2016 10:05 am • linkreport

"I get what you are saying about routes used for within-DC transportation not being congested, while longer-distance routes are congested. "

Actually I frequently encounter bad congestion on suburban arterials, and poor LOS at intersections, generally due to the lack of a permeable stret grid

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 10:13 am • linkreport

"I get what you are saying about routes used for within-DC transportation not being congested, while longer-distance routes are congested. "

Actually I frequently encounter bad congestion on suburban arterials, and poor LOS at intersections, generally due to the lack of a permeable stret grid

Yes, you are absolutely right. I never suggested otherwise.

The same is true in DC. It is possible to sit through multiple traffic light cycles and not move.

What is with this DC vs Suburbs deathmatch? Do people feel some need to put down the suburbs so they can make city life look better?

by massysett on Feb 12, 2016 10:18 am • linkreport

It's not a city vs suburb thing. But people love to confuse the two to make a point about whatever.

But the arterials can get crowded in the certain areas because there usually just any other way to get to where you're going. That's not the case in places with a grid of streets and more transit options.

by Drumz on Feb 12, 2016 10:30 am • linkreport

masseysett - fwiw, I said in a comment above that I could be just as parochial about suburban road networks because of limited familiarity as are the comments about the city, for the same reason... although in some parts of the city movement is facilitated by a dense grid of streets, which isn't the case in much of the suburbs.

and again, were you to go through all the comments, I said yes, DC has some roads that are consistently congested, the commuter arterials.

also thinking about what you wrote about the problem not being congestion but an insufficient road network, the issue isn't even that.

As Jane Jacobs wrote in _Nature of Economies_, paraphrased "when people are asking why aren't there enough roads, they are asking the wrong question. The right question is why are there so many cars."

This isn't an anti-car comment. I only take hardcore seemingly anti-car positions because 99.999% of people take the pro-car position.

The point is that the road network is "insufficient" only because the majority of people want to use it at the same time (morning and evening rush, weekend out and about hours, etc.) and it is impossible to build a road network to the maximum capacity of rush hour.

Impossible being defined as the inability to devote that much space to roads which then aren't used much of the time outside of rush hours. (Same goes with parking, so much space is devoted to it and in certain cases specifically, it's a low value use of space.)

That's what Jane Jacobs was writing about. Or what I mean when I say some of these questions are basically about the physics of space. It's not possible to move efficiently lots of people around one person at a time via the equivalent of 150 s.f. boxes, especially at the same time.

wrt cars vs. sustainable mobility, it matters to me enough to make living and work choices that are congruent with sustainable modes. Other people make different choices.

Even so, sometimes it isn't possible to stay on the sustainable mobility platform when circumstances change significantly. E.g., had I been able to stay on in Baltimore County Planning (the recession and then political changes made that impossible), I would have bought a car, because the distance to and from work was too great for transit+biking to be very efficient.

We're in a position of considering a car because of a possible change in Suzanne's work circumstances. The job site is outside of efficient transit connections. It's almost 10 miles to the nearest Metro station, and about 19 miles from where we live. We're not happy about thinking about buying a car (opportunity costs are high, and e.g., we rented a car this weekend for $12/day + taxes etc.), but it might have to be done.

by Richard Layman on Feb 12, 2016 10:44 am • linkreport

note that this is the reason that I argue that the pro-transit and neoliberal argument around "choice" and "giving people options" misses the point.

The real point should be about optimality. Just because people have choices doesn't mean that they'll make the optimal choice in terms of the scale of the metropolitan area.

It's not an efficient use of resources to force people to use a car. It works at the level of a single household unit, but it doesn't scale. It works badly at the scale of tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of households.

The reason a lot of these discussions go round and round is because people skip those basic principles of land use context, mode choice, distance from the core, etc.

It's hard to make transit work well (defined as efficient [fast] and reasonably cost effective) beyond 10 miles.

by Richard Layman on Feb 12, 2016 10:50 am • linkreport

If you include externalities like air pollution, CO2 emissions, and the fact that sprawl generated by auto-orientation acts as a multiplier on those things, it's not even close.

That is also without including the cost of destruction of wildlife habitats, issues with polluted runoff draining into waterways, flooding issues that are exacerbated by large amounts of impervious surfaces, noise pollution, light pollution, and much more.

https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch8en/conc8en/ch8c1en.html

by CyclistinAlexandria on Feb 12, 2016 11:02 am • linkreport

"What is with this DC vs Suburbs deathmatch? Do people feel some need to put down the suburbs so they can make city life look better?"

I am not concerned with that, so much as with the argument that all the suburbs need to reduce their congestion issues is widening, and that we should give up on other approaches to dealing with congestion. I say that not as a DC booster, but as advocate for suburban reinvention.

"note that this is the reason that I argue that the pro-transit and neoliberal argument around "choice" and "giving people options" misses the point.
The real point should be about optimality."

I am very aware of optimality. When I walk into a meeting on a complete streets project in the City of Alexandria (hardly the most autocentric place in NoVa in terms of attitudes) I think we achieve far greater success talking choice, than talking optimality.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 11:07 am • linkreport

In DC, where 10 of the 14 elected officials (not counting the AG) live in car-centric and car-dominated areas of the city, talking about choice as we do doesn't net us much in the way of fundamental and structural change.

... but I am the first to say that calling it "optimality" doesn't make it particularly palatable.

by Richard Layman on Feb 12, 2016 11:13 am • linkreport

sorry to go on, I meant to include

"and this is in a city where 51%+ of work-day trips are made by transit, walking, and biking."

by Richard Layman on Feb 12, 2016 11:13 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 11:20 am • linkreport

@MLD

And if more lanes were the solution to road congestion, there would be some sort of correlation between more road space built and less congestion. But there isn't.

So if we don't expand 66....the spill over traffic on 29/50/local roads will just magically go away and metro somehow will be able to move thousands of more people...just like that?

Wrong. Statements like this give planners/liberals a bad name.

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 11:22 am • linkreport

@Ryan

In fact, an Arlington Boulevard Silver Line extension solves several problems at once, including the most important issue - which brings us to the second point that needs to be made.

That's great, but it will be light years before that happens...metro cannot handle their current capacity...much less additional...meantime I-66 is a disaster...fixing it now helps now...and you can still improve metro in the future. This is NOT one or the OTHER.


Widening 66 to any number of lanes is an exercise in futility not because of induced demand but because the only place where widening could actually help is the place where it's virtually guaranteed not to happen: across the river.
On the road half of this equation, the situation is equally dire. Congestion cannot be solved by widening any part of 66 other than the Roosevelt Bridge, because there's fundamentally a capacity mismatch between the six lanes of Roosevelt Bridge and the 12+ lanes of combined roadways that feed into it. Whether building another 6-lane bridge or expanding the bridge we already have to 12 lanes is a worthwhile use of transportation money is an open question. It's a question to which I'm inclined to believe that the answer is no, but that's not the point here.
The point is that no amount of capacity expansion anywhere other than across the Potomac itself will actually have any significant impact on congestion, caused not by intra-Arlington or even intra-Virginia traffic but in fact by traffic trying to go to and from DC.

Disagree completely. This is an excuse anti-road people love to use, it reminds me of climate change deniers who use the comment "Well we can't do anything about it" to prevent action.

Look at this link
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/01/21/traffic-study-shows-why-i-66-is-a-mess/

I-66 traffic is NOT all headed to DC, it is headed to ARLINGTON and DC....which is why the most congested point is the DTR/66 merge to Glebe Road.
Widening 66 here is a spot improvement that greatly helps merge the 2 corridors as Volume rises then drops.

Your statement is completely inaccurate.

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 11:32 am • linkreport

@Alex B

Can we define the problem here?
For some, the problem appears to be "we need to add a lane to 66." Which isn't a statement about the problem at all, but instead is a proposed solution.
The real problem is congestion.
We know a few things about congestion. We know that expanding highways is unlikely to address congestion.

NOT TRUE.
Congestion is a result of many things, including population growth.
Ever heard of a Build v NO Build analysis?


We also know that the one thing that can address congestion is pricing: using the power of markets to reduce congestion.
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2011/10/only-hope-reducing-traffic/315/
It's proven.
And this is why the original plan for 66 inside the beltway was promising. It stated the problem (congestion). It proposed a first step (tolling) to address the problem. And if tolling alone wasn't enough, it had a built-in mechanism to fund additional improvements (toll revenue).
The compromise is a prudent political deal, but make no mistake: despite the comments here about the dogmatic reaction of anti-car people, it's the pro-lane people who've prevailed with their dogma.
When you define the problem as a lack of lanes instead of congestion, then the only solution is not just obvious, but it's also impervious to any actual evidence.

Incorrect. Congestion pricing can artifically make it so the tolled roadway is not as crowded at certain hours; but without either massively expanding metro, or adding more road capacity, congestion in the region will still be awful.

It was a TERRIBLE idea, and a complete stall tactic if not extortion, for Arlington to insist on tolling FIRST, then using revenue for anything else BUT widening I-66. Total farce and I am glad they got called out on it for a change.

I-66 is SO horrible inside the beltway, it so SO artifically SMALL...that it must be expanded FIRST before anything is done. It is just way too small to begin with.

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 11:36 am • linkreport

@Tee,
If widening highways affected congestion long-term, we would see a correlation between highway spending and congestion. We don't. Therefore, over the long-term, either highway widening is not a solution for congestion or it is such a costly solution that nobody has ever spent enough to get there.

Honestly, I think the ONLY realistic congestion solution, at a metropolitan scale, is pricing. When you're giving away an essential good like MOBILITY, you're going to have constant shortages if you don't have an effective strategy for allocating it efficiently - the free market is likely the best strategy we have.

by Chris Slatt on Feb 12, 2016 11:43 am • linkreport

Tee, I'm glad someone else actually accepts the obvious fact that our Metro area's huge job growth and consequent population growth (and our neglect of building sufficient road/highway capacity) are huge factors in our area's increasing congestion, and why our area is the most congested.

And MLD was dead wrong about lack of correlation between highway capacity and congestion: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/29727/i-66-widening-will-happen-soon-whether-it-makes-sense-or-not/#comment-311336

Chris Slatt, how's this for a correlation: Houston area has spent more on highways than the DC area the last 30 years and Houston area has dropped in the congestion rankings while DC area has gone to the top.

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 11:46 am • linkreport

Again, traffic has not spilled over in Arlington. It's actually fallen.

Why would this change in the future when this project will make it easier to take 66 if you're by yourself (and if the road is being commensurately widened).

by Drumz on Feb 12, 2016 11:49 am • linkreport

@Tee,
"These figures clearly indicate that there is no significant difference in congestion cost per capita between metro areas that invested heavily in highway construction and those that did not.

In addition, to assure that the results shown above were not anomalous, we analyzed the effect of road building according to the other indicators for congestion used by TTI – Excess Fuel Use Per Capita, Delay Per Capita, and Roadway Congestion Index. The results of this analysis are shown in Figures 3, 4 and 5. These figures show that metro areas that invested heavily in road building fared no better than those that did not."
http://www.daclarke.org/AltTrans/analysis.html

So highway building is expensive, ineffective, encourages sprawl and destroys the environment. What's not to love?

by Chris Slatt on Feb 12, 2016 11:55 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Chris
if widening highways affected congestion long-term, we would see a correlation between highway spending and congestion. We don't. Therefore, over the long-term, either highway widening is not a solution for congestion or it is such a costly solution that nobody has ever spent enough to get there.
Honestly, I think the ONLY realistic congestion solution, at a metropolitan scale, is pricing. When you're giving away an essential good like MOBILITY, you're going to have constant shortages if you don't have an effective strategy for allocating it efficiently - the free market is likely the best strategy we have.

Umm..no. No amount of pricing will solve the congestion issue for NOVA much less metro DC if the supply is way way too small.
The DC area is the worst nationally for congestion, and it is because of
1) Close-minded NIMBYness that built a road network that is way too small for THE NATION’s CAPITAL
-We have no bridge to Maryland west of the beltway until narrow Route 15
-We have no bridge to Maryland east of the beltway until Route 301

Thus the beltway, originally designed to be a “local bypass” instead is
-Long distance for NY-FL traffic
-Regional bypass for outer suburbs

Compounded by having TWO corridors…I-66 and 267…lose 65% of their capacity as they approach the central core

The only solution if we do not expand roadways is to either instantly, massively, magically expand metro out To Gainesville, and build TWO Purple line type circular transit systems…which ain’t happening

OR

Drop a bomb on NOVA, send it back to it’s 1960 population…THEN the congestion will go away.

You cannot though honestly sit here and act like the solution is to make driving punitive.
People drive because
A) WE HAVE A LARGE population
B) OUT MASS Transit is too small

The solution again is either

A) Evacuate NOVA to 1960 population size
B) Magically expand metro overnight
OR
C) Expand one of the worst chokepoints in the region on I-66…a chokepoint that is SO bad..it is backed up nights/evening/off peak constantly.

Also…I HAVE SEEN firsthand how making spot improvements has greatly improved congestion.

-Look at I-66 from Manassas to Gainesville, 10 years ago it was 2 lanes and bumper to bumper…now at PM rush hour it moves at 60 MPH
-Look at the Fair Lakes Interchange with the Fairfax County Parkway

Congestion is BETTER because they expanded it to meet the capacity needs of a major population center corridor.

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 12:37 pm • linkreport

@Chris

"These figures clearly indicate that there is no significant difference in congestion cost per capita between metro areas that invested heavily in highway construction and those that did not.
In addition, to assure that the results shown above were not anomalous, we analyzed the effect of road building according to the other indicators for congestion used by TTI – Excess Fuel Use Per Capita, Delay Per Capita, and Roadway Congestion Index. The results of this analysis are shown in Figures 3, 4 and 5. These figures show that metro areas that invested heavily in road building fared no better than those that did not."
http://www.daclarke.org/AltTrans/analysis.html
So highway building is expensive, ineffective, encourages sprawl and destroys the environment. What's not to love?

Did they bother to show a build vs no build scenario?
Probably those metro areas experienced MASSIVE population growth...post WWII...which was sprawled out low density....which led to congestion.

Not building the roads would have meant either even WORSE congestion or a stagnant local economy.

Moreover, I-66 inside the beltway...the RIGHT OF WAY IS ALREADY THERE.
Nothing is more frustrating than being stuck on some socially engineered undercapacity roadway where there is a massive median UNUSED.

The environment will improve with less cars ideling in smog...in an already polluted urban center.
This isn't being built on Cape Hatteras National Seashore...the corridor ALREADY exists WITH the RIGHT OF WAY.

You can't sit here with your hands plugged over your ears and pretend that building roads=more congestion.
It's just not that simple and leads to bad policy.

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 12:43 pm • linkreport

@ drumz...wants to believe the solution is to go on a massive road diet that is 100% transit/0% highway irregardless of how impractical that is for the DC Metro area.

Consider the posts:
1) Again, Arlington is not anti-highway. Three major ones (one of them is 10 lanes wide) all run through the county and connect between Rosslyn and the Pentagon.
Are you serious?
-I-395 runs on the "edge" of town
-I-66 is barely a highway because Arlington forced it to be way way too small to begin with
-Route 50 cannot handle to flow-over due to I-66

2) My point is that even if you drive on 66 today and refuse to ever vary from the way you commute today you might still look askance at this new compromise even though on the face of it seems a boon to drivers.

That's because:
1. We know widening will just get more people to drive. Even VDOT, hardly a "anti-car" source says this.
2. And we also know that the times when its easiest to drive on 66 is when we have rules about who can use it. Either via a price or hov rules. If you're really concerned about just not having to sit in traffic then this is what you want for the best chance at avoiding traffic.
3. To add to that, you should want more transit to get more people out of their cars which frees up space for you.

I am guessing drumz never heard of a "build" "no build" analysis, or just wishes to ignore it?
So the reason why we have congestion is just because we built more roads?
It has nothing to do with the exploding population and job base...if I-66 never was built we never would have had congestion because either:
-Metro DC never would have grown
-Housing projects never would have been approved
-We'd still be in a 19th century economy

3) Again (for the last time), I-66 was built too small because officials and planners caved in to Arlington's unreasonable demands.

No it wasn't. Not when you consider that Arlington immediately took steps to reduce congestion overall in many ways that has lowered traffic considerably while growing the population.

Other counties didn't do that and instead just built wider roads and yet traffic is still bad.

The very fact that access to the road has been restricted to a privileged few at peak times - from day one - is an acknowledgement that the road is too damn small.

Its HOV-2. That's not even the most restrictive HOV route in Northern Virginia.

You do realize when you artifically limit capacity on I-66, all it does is just force motorists to crowd Route 50/29, and your local/neighborhood roads?
Consider this "spillover" effect in the utopia world free of I-66.

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 12:45 pm • linkreport

Chris Slatt, [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Job growth is a much bigger factor in population growth and thereby congestion. Tell us which new highways encouraged so much "sprawl" in Loudoun and Prince William County during the last 10 years?

And [deleted], the ancient analysis you referenced basically ignores the effect of population growth on congestion and is bereft of analysis of the change in each metro area's congestion index over the same time frame measured.

Without an analysis of the above, you have no way of measuring the effect of any additional road capacity. But even that's insufficient. You also need an analysis of lane mile capacity per capita (and the change during the period) to draw the conclusions of the misleading analysis.

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 12:50 pm • linkreport

@Kevins and @Tee,
It's easy to poke holes in other people's studies. Where is the long-term, comprehensive, peer-reviewed study that shows that additional highway lane-miles reduce congestion in the long-term? Shouldn't we have that before spending hundreds of millions of dollars?

Common sense says that they COULD, if there was some realistic cap on demand like strict zoning that concentrates population growth and job growth in the core, or if it were priced which would encourage people to make their trips more efficiently or at off-peak times, but in the absence of a demand-reducing force it's like trying to satisfy the demand for free vacations by building more resorts - it's not going to happen.

And in case it wasn't clear from the article - I don't think this I-66 widening is the best use of $140 million, but if we are going to spending $140 million widening a highway, I'm ecstatic that we're doing so to one that we are also pricing during the peak of traffic. I certainly wish we were also doing so in the other direction.

by Chris Slatt on Feb 12, 2016 1:02 pm • linkreport

...when you artifically limit capacity on I-66...

The entire existence of a highway like I-66 is artificial.

We're not talking about a river or a hill. There's nothing natural about the existence of a large, grade-separated highway.

by Alex B. on Feb 12, 2016 1:24 pm • linkreport

@ Chris Slatt

I do appreciate, however, that you are open to the expansion.

However, I am not totally sold on the concept of congestion pricing simply because the proponents of said models are almost always opposed to road expansion in general no matter what. This was similar to the transportation fund referendum in 2003 which failed because it was derided so brilliantly as a "sprawl tax."

Personally, I imagine that liberal/progressive minded people who employ a congestion pricing on roads would scoff at how society uses similar models on health care, education, security, and other basic needs. (See also, why Bernie Sanders is doing so well among young liberals.)

Third and finally, I think there was a real opportunity that GGW missed here. Delegate Hope (or perhaps a staffer of his) did comment on this matter. And sadly his comment was buried among the more than 200 comments here, many of which contained the same points or personal attacks over and over again.

Perhaps we can hear more from him or someone in the governor's office who helped on this deal. That would be more helpful and much more constructive.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 12, 2016 1:34 pm • linkreport

That is also without including the cost of destruction of wildlife habitats, issues with polluted runoff draining into waterways, flooding issues that are exacerbated by large amounts of impervious surfaces, noise pollution, light pollution, and much more.

All of which occurred when they built DC, Arlington, and everything else within the Beltway, including Metro, so I honestly don't get the point of that statement, unless it's simply an effort to trash the type of development and infrastructure the writer personally disapproves of.

And that's what's driving of this entire argument against improvements on I-66 and increasing road capacity in general - people who think their personal preferences should dictate public policy and determine the greater good.

They've enjoyed a disproportionate amount of influence on transportation planning policy in this region for half a century and we're living with the results. Thankfully that's beginning to change.

by August4 on Feb 12, 2016 1:41 pm • linkreport

"However, I am not totally sold on the concept of congestion pricing simply because the proponents of said models are almost always opposed to road expansion in general no matter what. This was similar to the transportation fund referendum in 2003 which failed because it was derided so brilliantly as a "sprawl tax.""

I disagree. Lots of people in the transportation community who are not at all involved in urbanism or multimodalism support tolling.

And as one might note here, some people who are very hostile to new roads, are unenthusiastic for tolls (at least when they enable new roads or new lanes - go check the discussions here of the I495 HOT lanes)

"Personally, I imagine that liberal/progressive minded people who employ a congestion pricing on roads would scoff at how society uses similar models on health care, education, security, and other basic needs."

How about electricity, water, food. We make people pay for them. Education of course is a legal mandate.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 1:43 pm • linkreport

"They've enjoyed a disproportionate amount of influence on transportation planning policy in this region for half a century " That is why there were so many new metrorail lines built beyond what was originally planned in the 1960s. Oh wait, never mind.

Fact is it has been difficult to build ANY new transportation infra, of any mode.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 1:45 pm • linkreport

Fact is it has been difficult to build ANY new transportation infra, of any mode.

Somehow, rail ALWAYS gets built, even if it takes creative and unfair financing, along with fast-tracking the study, review and approval process to do it. The financing scheme to build the Silver Line on the backs of DTR after it failed federal grants muster is a case in point.

Not to mention the poorly-planned, yet to be operational DC Streetcar To Nowhere and the Purple Line which is getting built thanks to raising Maryland gas taxes and marginalizing opponents. The canceled Columbia Pike Streetcar was a aberration.

by August4 on Feb 12, 2016 1:55 pm • linkreport

DTR users.

by August4 on Feb 12, 2016 1:56 pm • linkreport

"However, I am not totally sold on the concept of congestion pricing simply because the proponents of said models are almost always opposed to road expansion in general no matter what."

If not the models then what about the actual evidence collected from similar schemes?

As for what liberals do or don't support there's the fact that continuous road widening has horrible environmental impacts, increases inequality (cars are expensive and yet people have to buy them or they can't get anywhere), and a threat to public health (check out asthma rates near highways) it would make sense to support solutions that seem to reduce congestion overall rather than adding to it.

All of which is kind of silly when we are talking about 66 because it is being widened.

by Drumz on Feb 12, 2016 1:56 pm • linkreport

The Silver Line took decades. And it was the only metrorail expansion beyond the original plan. It is a good example of how hard expanding rail is. Purple line does not exist yet, and the DC streetcar took a very long time to do a short segment. In the meantime there have been many highway projects in the region, from the 11th Street Bridge in DC, to the ICC, to new interchanges on Rte 7 in Loudoun and on Rte 29 in PWC, not to mention the HOT lanes in NoVa. I am sure others can find more - those are just off the top of my head.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 2:08 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

The effects of highway expansion on congestion in metro areas cannot be determined by comparing the amount spent and/or amount of capacity added alone. Why? Each metro area is of different sizes, different population growth rates, have different highway lane capacities per capita, etc.

So if DC and NY areas have congestion indices of 100 and 99 in 2010 and DC increased highway lane miles 50% from 2000 to 2010 but NY increased 20%, that's not nearly enough information to draw the conclusion that "highway construction is an ineffective means of managing congestion." You still need to know what the congestion index was of each in 2000, you need to know the change in highway lane miles per capita, the change in population growth, etc. The absurd analysis you referenced neglects all of that.

Also, be wary of using an analysis based on a TTI report on GGW. CrossingBrooklynFerry, Richard Layman and David Alpert consider it "flawed" and "misleading," and you should not "abet" TTI (but my guess is they'll make an exception in this case since your analysis says what they want to hear).

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 2:22 pm • linkreport

CrossingBrooklynFerry, that's not quite accurate. The Silver Line was considered a future extension to the original plan. The first future extension was actually from Rockville to Shady Grove and then Addison Road to Largo.

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Kevins,
The majority of the metrics that study looks at are PER CAPITA. How does that not account for population growth?

I agree that TTI is garbage, not because the data is bad, but because it is measuring the wrong thing. It ignores everyone who is getting to work some way other than in a car.

Imagine a fictional city where 90% of people get to work instantaneously via teleporter with a zero second commute. The remaining 10% drive slowly, at 5mph, to work because the city has diverted road maintenance funding to teleporter funding. It would score abysmally in the TTI report, despite 90% of their workforce having no commuter whatsoever.

Let's measure mobility. How long does it take you to get to various job centers and how much does it cost, including all available modes? How about to the nearest grocery store? The nearest dentist? The nearest clothing store? That gets much more to the heart of people's transportation experience. Living your life, how much time and money do you need to spend to get where you need to go?

by Chris Slatt on Feb 12, 2016 2:36 pm • linkreport

And MLD was dead wrong about lack of correlation between highway capacity and congestion: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/29727/i-66-widening-will-happen-soon-whether-it-makes-sense-or-not/#comment-311336

Eh? Your comment has nothing about highway capacity correlation. One place being at the top of one ranking and the bottom of another (as picked from a list by you) does not a correlation make.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 2:37 pm • linkreport

As a user of Metro out to Vienna, looking out at east-bound I66 I'm continually hard-pressed to find those vehicles with more than a single occupant. It's ridiculous to treat this problem as a lack of road capacity when nearly every driver is taking more than their appropriate (legal) share of the roadway. While it may be reasonable to simply institute tolls for everyone due to the difficulty wit enforcing HOV, it makes no sense to suddenly think road expansion is a solution.

I'm also equally hard-pressed to see where the road can be expanded. The sound wall is right up against the neighborhoods, and the shoulder is already up against the sound wall. Are Arlington residents going to lose parts of their neighborhoods to support the existence of the same way out far from everything? And then suffer the transfer of high traffic volumes and gridlock to smaller street as well.

The only proper solution is to improve the per vehicle occupancy rates and recognize that gridlock will always occur by people varying the timing of their schedules.

by James W on Feb 12, 2016 2:47 pm • linkreport

"Also, be wary of using an analysis based on a TTI report on GGW. CrossingBrooklynFerry, Richard Layman and David Alpert consider it "flawed" and "misleading," and you should not "abet" TTI "

Au contraire, I like TTI so much I insist on also pointing out there assertion that building transit reduces highway congestion ;) I do think there are issues with the congestion metric though.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 2:48 pm • linkreport

MLD, actually, the definition of a correlation is "a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things"

Thing 1-1: DC area topped INRIX top 10 congestion list.

Thing 1-2: DC area was at the bottom of the list in terms of highway lane miles per capita.

Thing 2-1: Kansas City metro was at the bottom of top 10 congestion list.

Thing 2-2: Kansas City metro was at the top of the list in terms of highway lane miles per capita.

Sorry, pal. Any way you slice it, it's a correlation.

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 2:54 pm • linkreport

The Silver Line took decades

The ICC took even longer.

The Silver Line was a dormant plan for "decades" after Dulles Airport opened (a "future rail line" was part of the Dulles plan). It was fast-tracked once Connelly and Wolf got together with the Warner administration and USDOT to get things moving.

Within 4 years, MWAA was engaged (because WMATA was moving slowly) and the DTR was handed over to MWAA as a funding source when the project failed to meet Federal ridership and traffic mitigation standards and a NOVA transportation sales tax referendum was rejected by voters.

The Silver Line encountered nowhere near the amount of study, scrutiny and well-organized vocal minority opposition (and the expensive, lengthy legal hassles the opponents caused) as the ICC did. Not even close.

In the meantime there have been many highway projects in the region, from the 11th Street Bridge in DC,

After some 50 years of on-and-off dealing with loud opponents of a simple connection at Barney Circle which would have cost a lot less to build.

to the ICC,

Another project that took half a century. And a lot of wasted time, money and effort.

to new interchanges on Rte 7 in Loudoun and on Rte 29 in PWC,

Spot improvements to catch up with demand, but they beat the heck out of a blank.

not to mention the HOT lanes in NoVa.

Yeah, right. Strictly for carpoolers and those who are willing to pay to be treated like carpoolers.

I am sure others can find more.

So am I. But I don't anyone can find one that has had a significant impact, except for the upgraded Routes 50 and 5 in Maryland in addition to Routes 32 and 100 near Baltimore which are essentially Baltimore's outer beltway, not DC's.

The ICC is the only completely new highway built in the DC metro area in over a generation. I-66 and the extensively upgraded I-270 were completed and opened in 1986 and 1990, respectively.

So let's not pretend that "we've built all those new roads" because nothing could be further from the truth.

by August4 on Feb 12, 2016 3:01 pm • linkreport

Meanwhile we're having serious discussions about spending billions of dollars on a development-driven light rail line in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties while the Maryland portion of the Beltway, built for the region's 1980's population, hasn't been expanded since 1991.

And we have people talking about "all those roads".

by August4 on Feb 12, 2016 3:10 pm • linkreport

"But I don't anyone can find one that has had a significant impact, "

Hmm, a lot of money spent for no significant impact. Sounds like you are making the case for strategic transit investments.

"The ICC is the only completely new highway" Why is completely new a qualifier? We regularly add to capacity with widenings (BTW I forgot to mention the widening to Rete 28. And the Rte 7 widening west of Tyson - again, off the top of my head) , with new interchanges and with other additions to capacity. In a built out area, that already has numerous highways, building new ones from scratch is not likely to be the best policy, even if you want more road capacity.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 3:10 pm • linkreport

MLD, actually, the definition of a correlation is "a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things"

Well I suppose two points of data is a lot. You've converted me. Highways uber alles!

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 3:12 pm • linkreport

The Virginia portion has been (in addition to the HOT lanes, expansion in Alexandria approaching the Wilson bridge) and the Wilson bridge replacement itself.

MAYBE its different in Maryland. I note this started as a Va discussion, about I66.

Oh, that reminds me we have also expanded the Fairfax County Parkway. And we are just finishing an expansion of the exit ramps from I395 at Seminary.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 3:12 pm • linkreport

Chris Slatt, I was referring to highway lane miles per capita. The ancient analysis is comparing a metro area's amount of dollars spent per capita and total highway miles built over a period of time. How is that enough to conclude "highway construction is an ineffective means of managing congestion" without comparing the change in congestion indices, the change in highway lane miles per capita, etc. For example, if metro areas A and B have the same congestion indices and invested the same amount in highway capacity expansion, we cannot expect the same impact on congestion in both areas if A is growing faster than B.

The analysis explicitly says "Note that this analysis did not control for other factors which might influence congestion levels, such as changes in population, economic activity, and land use changes."

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] If population growth is a huge factor in congestion, an analysis that doesn't control for it is utterly useless.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 3:18 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 3:22 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Tee on Feb 12, 2016 3:31 pm • linkreport

Hmm, a lot of money spent for no significant impact

Look around and see the "no significant impact" for yourself, or have a friend who drives take you out and show you. You don't even have to wait for the next rush hour.

Sounds like you are making the case for strategic transit investments.

Why do road opponents always have to turn it into a roads vs. transit argument?

Maybe some "strategic transit investment" - beyond the $20 billion+ we've spent on Metro rail in addition to MARC and VRE - is warranted, but let's even consider continuing with the same silly and long proven- wrong "transit instead of roads" thesis. That train left the station - and broke down - long ago.

by August4 on Feb 12, 2016 3:35 pm • linkreport

All of which occurred when they built DC, Arlington, and everything else within the Beltway, including Metro, so I honestly don't get the point of that statement, unless it's simply an effort to trash the type of development and infrastructure the writer personally disapproves of.

The point is that we're trying to rectify the mistakes we've made with respect to the environment and trying to initiate development that is complementary instead of destroying everything. As a species, we've become conscious that we depend on the natural systems of the planet after disrupting them so severely.

by CyclistinAlexandria on Feb 12, 2016 3:40 pm • linkreport

"Look around and see the "no significant impact" for yourself, or have a friend who drives take you out and show you. "

"But I don't anyone can find one that has had a significant impact, "

Perhaps I am misreading you. Do you think items like the rte 28 road widening, the many new interchanges, etc have no significant impact or not?

"continuing with the same silly and long proven- wrong "transit instead of roads" thesis. "

I have never opposed all road improvements, in particular not the ones it appeared to me that you rerided as of no significant impact. If spending hundreds of millions of dollars on roads has no signficant impact, then it would seem like transit investments might have a higher return, and go further than road investments. Not I personally do think that an interchange can have a significant impact - I am only addressing what would be the case if they did not.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 3:43 pm • linkreport

Usually when we refer to a "correlation" we're talking about two sets of data. Now, I suppose you could consider two data points to be a "set" but it sure isn't a very robust one.

Here's a chart that compares freeway + arterial lane miles and hours of delay from TTI. I don't see a correlation, I see random motion:

http://streets.mn/2015/07/05/the-congestion-charts/

Some of the ones with the fewest lane miles per capita (chicago, NYC, philadelphia) have pretty normal congestion. Some with more lane miles per capita (Atlanta, Seattle) have higher congestion.

Beware of rankings that don't actually show you the distance between two values and imply that each value is as much higher or lower as the next.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 4:02 pm • linkreport

Chris Slatt, if "TTI is garbage" why are you defending an ancient analysis based on a TTI report?

MLD, great job moving the goal post. Why didn't you use this one, which is actually more relevant to the claim you made?

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 4:23 pm • linkreport

Kevins

What is the a priori reason that freeway lane miles are more important than freeway plus (converted) arterial lane miles? As I am sure you know, looking at multiple series for correlation, without an a priori logic, is likely to result in finding only spurious correlations. Given several ways of defining the extent of the road network we would need to see the justification for expecting one measure to correlate - otherways one could simply look at multiple measures, and present the one that happened to correlate best with decline in congestion.

Note, even if there is a causal inverse relationship between road miles and congestion, that omits the questions relative to benefit cost, transportation alternatives, and the impact of pricing (for example most of the freeway miles in the above chart are not priced, so any relationship may not be generalizable to priced lanes)

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 12, 2016 4:38 pm • linkreport

Not sure how that was "moving the goalposts" since we were talking about capacity in general.

Again, I would say if you look at the actual data (not the "smoothed" data which is not really how it should be presented) or if you looked at a scatterplot, you won't see an obvious relationship.

Phoenix, Tampa, and Miami have low freeway lane miles per capita and have relatively low congestion. Boston and Atlanta have higher lane miles per capita and higher congestion. So what exactly is the relationship?

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 4:42 pm • linkreport

"Somehow, rail ALWAYS gets built."

The residents of virtually every other city but Washington are laughing their asses off at this one. It only took NYC about 80 years to break ground on a new line, the 2nd Ave Subway. Chicago built exactly one completely new line (Orange) and rebuilt part of a former line to create the Pink in the last 50 years. But yes, rail ALWAYS gets built.

But road projects, sigh... everyone knows they are always languishing for funding. I hear stories from suburban friends about how they must go door to door begging people to donate whatever they can so that new and wider arterials and bypasses can be built. I imagine the roads out there in the sticks must be paved with dirt or worse, given how little the government spends on roads every year.

Won't somebody please, please, PLEASE think of the poor drivers and their suffering on an urban road network that has not expanded once since the advent of Metro?!

by Jeremy on Feb 12, 2016 5:05 pm • linkreport

Here's the same data (large and very large urban areas) in a scatterplot - from 2011 when TTI actually included lane miles on their spreadsheet:

R-squared of 0.1. So freeway capacity per capita explains 10% of the variance in delay. What's funny is that freeway capacity per auto commuter is even less correlated - only 5%. That's the opposite of what I would expect.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 5:08 pm • linkreport

Rail certainly isn't getting built in Baltimore in the near future... so I guess "always" must cover a very long period of time.

by Jonas on Feb 12, 2016 5:11 pm • linkreport

Rail "always" gets built, that's why the Corridor Cities Transitway is going to be rail, and the Streetcar on Route 7 is under construction, and the Baltimore Red Line were rammed through.

Highways just have to deal with whatever crumbs are left after Big Transit vacuums up all the money; that's why the new mixing bowl was never built, we never got a wider Wilson Bridge, and Bob McDonnell was never allowed to waste $200 million on the US 460 upgrades that were never even constructed!

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 5:18 pm • linkreport

Sorry, Columbia Pike, not Route 7! Also separated Blue Line is coming right down the pipe I hear!

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 5:26 pm • linkreport

CrossingBrooklynFerry, it's not about importance, it's about relevance. MLD and I were specifically discussing correlation between highway capacity and congestion.

MLD, both graphs show a clear correlation. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 5:26 pm • linkreport

So clearly, you can build as much highway as Phoenix, and get low congestion, or build as much highway as Washington (same amount) and get high congestion. Seems clear as mud to me but there you go.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2016 5:34 pm • linkreport

MLD, there are often statistical outliers when examining a data set. That's why the graph offers a "smoothed out" line to allow you to visualize the correlation a bit better. And the smoothed out line shows there is indeed a clear correlation despite your suggestion to the contrary.

In this case, these are just minor outliers. While Phoenix, Tampa and Miami may have low annual hours of delay compared to NY, Chicago and DC, they still have higher annual hour delay rates than Kansas City, St. Louis and Cleveland, which have the highest freeway lane miles per capita rates. In other words there's still a correlation.

And what could possibly explain why Phoenix, Tampa and Miami have lower annual delay hours than DC area? One explanation is they have more retirees and a much older median age than the DC area (and national average.

by Kevins on Feb 12, 2016 6:04 pm • linkreport

@Kevins,
I'm talking about TTI because people are talking about congestion; TTI appears to do a good job measuring highway congestion. I don't think we should be basing our transportation decisions on it, but that doesn't mean we can't have an intelligent conversation about it.

by Chris Slatt on Feb 12, 2016 8:16 pm • linkreport

I don't get the argument against widening a road that's congested. On top of that, it sounds like the only good thing drivers got out of the deal. I get roads are somewhat subsidized but drivers pay a ton of taxes, tolls, and fees. But that gets sliced and diced by politicians. Drivers should be pissed about having their taxes diverted. But we get it 'if' we get something too. Not an indirect benefit of increased transit or something that I cant use for the benefit of someone who hates my choice. After all, roads are subsidized. You would think that would go back to those selfish drivers. But the entitlement amongst transit elitists is amazing. if you walk and talk you have benefited from roads. Roads are a public good not solely for SOV's.
What I don't get is why transit advocates who(in theory) pay little use tax, disparage drivers in order to fund their direct consumer benefits. If mode share is that bad why do people whine about a road widening that does not affect them? Save me the emotional appeal of pollution and whatnot. Also, The whole wider roads cause more traffic is true. That's because its a capacity expansion. Moving more congestion will lessen the intensity. Most road dorks know you cant build your way out of congestion, but you have to do something that directly benefits the taxpayer. Also, the goal with widening is safety and less emissions as well as throughput. But somehow driver safety and such gets lost in the anti widen groups argument.
I think most of the anti car argument is couched in entitlement and realizing how slow and expensive the process is to fund it. Transit costs more to build, maintain and serves less people. Think about it. Build an 'L' train for 5 miles, Ex. CTA red line extension for 2.3 billion or a 19 mile tolled highway (Illinoistollway.com) for 2.3 billion. CTA operating costs 2015 is 681 million to maintain. In 2015 The 300 mile Illinois Tollway costs 300 million to maintain. You obviously get more bang for your buck building a freeway(Tollway). I love transit and roads but right now I live far from the city so it does not work for me. that's why the cars/transit debate is so interesting.
Driving and transit are two separate markets. Driving is all about spending, transit about saving. That does not mean if your pro road anti transit, but the reverse is not true. Transit advocates hate roads and the perception of consumerism by SOV's
So why all the anti driver rhetoric? I'm guessing If transit had a cash cow like drivers we would not have this problem. Taking transit is rough and inconvenient and slow, so people get dogmatic and justify why they deserve more than their fair share, I get it. Don't hate the player, hate the game
I wonder how this thread would go if a WMATA line or for my sake a CTA line were extended. There would be all this consternation about what would have been better. None would be dedicated to bashing suburban sprawl or cars. Least of all would be pro car people arguing how we deserve that money for a highway project.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 13, 2016 4:08 am • linkreport

@Chicagointerstates

Can you name one instance where widening a road permanently solved the congestion issue?

Beyond that, the highway system (along with other policies) have transformed the built environment in the United States such that arable land is being used for very low density housing. The collective energy waste, pollution and other "externalities" are more heavily subsidized than rail and denser urban living, which is more energy efficient.

by William on Feb 13, 2016 7:31 am • linkreport

People wouldn't be so against widening if there was evidence it worked. But it doesn't.

Also, driving and transit aren't separate markets. Especially on 66 where there is a transit alternative along the entire corridor (metro and then eventually VRE). And transit carries more people per hour than the road currently does.

None of that is anti-car. Indeed my goal is to make driving easier. The evidence shows that the best way to do that is stop widening on its own and at least change other conditions.

by Drumz on Feb 13, 2016 7:41 am • linkreport

Christ Slatt, that sounds completely contrary to your earlier suggestion that "TTI is garbage." If it's garbage then an analysis using it should be considered "garbage." Particularly if that analysis explicitly says "Note that this analysis did not control for other factors which might influence congestion levels, such as changes in population, economic activity, and land use changes."

Drumz, there is ample evidence increased highway capacity correlates to lower congestion. Look at the charts above. The metro areas with most highway capacity have the lowest delays. The metro areas with the highest highway capacity have more delays. Saying there's no evidence is spreading a myth.

Thanks, MLD for your help!

by Kevins on Feb 13, 2016 9:19 am • linkreport

@Kevins
Job growth is a much bigger factor in population growth and thereby congestion. Tell us which new highways encouraged so much "sprawl" in Loudoun and Prince William County during the last 10 years?
*Blows a kiss*
Best line in the whole thread. Truerwords never spoken./Thread game/set/match....check mate

So many here love to use the "build it and it fills up" phrase....so if we don't build roads than congestion improves?
Or population growth and new housing doesn't get built? Right.

What bothers me a lot is that people take a something credible, like building NEW highways, and dis credit it by saying it has the same impact on sprawl.

There is a difference between fixing a choke point on an inter city highway like I-66 vs building a new road like the Bi-County parkway and outer beltway vs inner I-66.

I am against the bi county pkwy since it would be a new corridor opening up vacant land and rural areas for massive re zoning....whereas I-66 fixes a major artificially small choke point merging two corridors.

Unfortunately when people blindly argue that any highway expansion=induced congestion they discredit real cases of it like the Bi County pkwy and that hurts good planning.

by Tee on Feb 13, 2016 11:04 am • linkreport

Correction: The metro areas with most highway capacity (per capita) have the lowest delays. The metro areas with the least highway capacity (per capita) have more delays. Saying there's no evidence is spreading a myth.

by Kevins on Feb 13, 2016 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Kevins,
Let me try and clarify my statement one more time.

TTI measures congestion. I think, as a metric for how well transportation functions in a Metro area, congestion is "garbage".

That said - almost this entire comment thread is about congestion - whether widening highways is a solution to it and whether adding transit service is a solution to it. As such, studies that are based off of TTI data are 100% relevant to the discussion.

Also here's another study for you to chew on - it finds that neither highway widening nor transit expansion has a long-term effect on congestion. It's less "ancient".
https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.6.2616

by Chris Slatt on Feb 13, 2016 5:28 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

After someone brought up TTI, I tried to make a distinction from the data INRIX collects and the TTI report (by "TTI" I mean Texas Transportation Institute). The data INRIX collects is very useful, what conclusions TTI or anyone else draws from the data is what's up for discussion.

The data is not meant to tell how "transporation functions," rather how road/highway traffic flows. Calling it garbage for not fulfilling a purpose it was not intended to fulfill is what's odd to me.

by Kevins on Feb 13, 2016 6:14 pm • linkreport

Correction: The metro areas with most highway capacity (per capita) have the lowest delays. The metro areas with the least highway capacity (per capita) have more delays. Saying there's no evidence is spreading a myth.

Again, highway lane miles only explains 10% of the variation in congestion. No peer-reviewed paper would hang their hat on such a low correlation. Feel free to continue ignoring the evidence though.

by MLD on Feb 14, 2016 12:02 pm • linkreport

And what could possibly explain why Phoenix, Tampa and Miami have lower annual delay hours than DC area? One explanation is they have more retirees and a much older median age than the DC area (and national average.

That could explain it, though Phoenix is not older than DC. Also, if you look at lane miles per auto commuter, which we might assume would account for the difference in aged, non-working populations, the correlation with delay is even less. Again, the differences in delay between cities as measured by those rankings has very little relationship to the amount of road space those places have.

by MLD on Feb 14, 2016 12:08 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Kevins on Feb 14, 2016 2:37 pm • linkreport

I hope common sense will prevail and more lanes are added.

by asffa on Feb 14, 2016 5:49 pm • linkreport

As can be seen from much of the detailed debate here, this is hardly a simple issue of common sense. It's highly questionable whether widening will help much at all. The demand is so much greater than supply that gridlock is never going to be eliminated, only narrowed in the rush-hour windows.
But the big issue that is being ignored here is that auto travel is already producing a huge negative impacts on communities and it's a horribly inefficient means of transporting large numbers of people, especially in a highly populated area. It is senseless to promote it further, let alone at the expense of the people who live in the city while subsidizing the people who perpetuate the problems of suburban development. The suburbs are designed around the (hypocritical) idea that no one wants to live near traffic, so it makes no sense to ignore that idea in cities. It's an abomination that a massive highway corridor such as I66 cuts inside the beltway at all.

by James W on Feb 15, 2016 1:40 am • linkreport

How about a compromise: we'll support adding lanes as long as the entire length of I-66 inside the Beltway is buried underground?

by oboe on Feb 15, 2016 10:25 am • linkreport

@ William,

Of course what your asking is a straw man. Where an interstate experiences congestion delay measured in hours is reduced by road expansion period. Nothing can solve peak period congestion. It can be mitigated by road widening for vehicles, fixing design and safety issues with the road which will reduce the delay. Remember induced demand studies don't measure LOS or local road spillover, they just measure capacity. Roads are built to address current and projected capacity. Roads are not built to "fix" congestion. They are meant to move more vehicles through the same space more efficiently. Just because you fell for the rhetoric does not mean that its ambiguous. Road expansion is much better than doing nothing, or taxing you and then diverting it to benefit someone else. Especially on solutions that disparage you even more. Now,I am okay with paying tolls as long as they go towards the massively subsidized roads I drive on (sarcasm).
Now specifically in this corridor its built up and experiences severe congestion. Two lanes aint gonna do the trick but its probably because the activist crowd would have their pitch forks ready if they actually built it to fit current and project traffic volume. Then we could see if congestion was "fixed".
Its good you mention city life is energy efficient because it fails everywhere else. Severe congestion is not energy efficient. Combine that with high crime, bad schools, COLA, and overpriced housing. Not to mention entrenched politics and autocratic mayors who want to foist taxes on citizens they don't control is what this is all about. Using the congestion argument tries to pigeon hole one aspect of road building that the activists see as a weakness. But fail to see the bigger picture. That roads handle all users not just commuters. I would love it if they were built over capacity but that would not be prudent.
As for subsidizing roads, heck put the 20 cents on every dollar towards freeways, that goes to transit. I live in Illinois, we have toll roads so we are not subsidized to the degree you may think. BTW, Schools, Airports, Transit, are all subsidized so should we not build those either.

by chicagointersatates on Feb 15, 2016 8:42 pm • linkreport

@ James W

Cities did it to themselves. Dense cities fought road widening to save their transit agencies. Not to mention freeway revolts of the 60's and 70's. I can show you a freeway and the fringe groups that try to stop it. Acting like it was an unfettered auto conspiracy is sorely mistaken.
The positive impacts of auto use largely outweigh pollution impacts. Things like freedom and liberty cant be measured I guess.

by Chicagointerstates on Feb 15, 2016 9:12 pm • linkreport

@August4 "Taxes, tolls and user fees paid by drivers finance 60%-70% of road construction, varying by state."

1. Um...what? Most tolls collections cost more to run than they bring in in toll revenue. It's a fantasy to pretend that drivers are paying their way because of tolls.
2. You focus on road construction. Do you think road maintenance is free? Or are you one of the people who wants to build new infrastructure while letting old bridges collapse like we're some third world craphole?

by Jason on Feb 15, 2016 10:02 pm • linkreport

@ drumz
Just because transit is in the median does not mean the destination is the same. Regional, and commercial traffic aren't served by transit. Chicago has transit in 3 of its highway corridors and the roads are still congested. In fact the worst road in the nation(90-94) has the blue line(Chicago) running in its median. People on transit are going to specific places, cars go everywhere. Transit does not run all day, cars do. that is why they are considered separate markets! Not to mention very few transit riders are choice riders. Most transit riders use it because they cant afford a car.
If transit is already in the median(I-66) than why is not congestion delay down? Trying to tax people especially variable tolls is no strategy to me. Would you want variable rates for life insurance? for WMATA fares? Of course pricing manages congestion but causes a lot of spillover. When you don't have freeway congestion because of (TDM) you have more local road spillover congestion. Or pushing the bottleneck up the line, not down it. Not every draconian congestion relief strategy should be foisted on to drivers because of the anti car inferiority complex.

by chicagointersatates on Feb 15, 2016 10:28 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz

Here is a link to comments on the (Ike) expansion in Chicago . The 'EL'(CTA) runs down the median and is served by Metra(heavy rail). lt has all the activists out with their pitch forks. Their info got shot down by an IDOT official.
http://eisenhowerexpressway.com/pdfs/final%20senator%20harmon%20%20townhall%20meeting%20summary%20091514.pdf

by Chicagointerstates on Feb 15, 2016 11:45 pm • linkreport

@chicagointersatates "If transit is already in the median(I-66) than why is not congestion delay down?"

As a New Yorker, from what I know about the (good, certainly by American standards) quality of transit in Chicago, I'm pretty surprised that someone from Chicago would fall for viewing transit as a way to reduce traffic instead of it being a way to get around DESPITE traffic.

Look at NYC. The rush hour traffic/gridlock gets just as bad as it does here in LA, where I now live, but for the majority of New Yorkers that has literally zero impact on their ability to get around. Because most New Yorkers don't even have a driver's license, and just take transit everywhere. IIRC, it's something like 50% of New Yorkers that don't have a license, and 75% if you look just at Manhattan (Staten Island in particular really skews the citywide average).

And if I'm wrong about anything in my recollection there it would be that I'm mixing up driver's licenses with not owning a car; in which case for the purposes of the conversation we're having it doesn't really matter which one it is because for our purposes they're functionally equivalent statements.

by Jason on Feb 16, 2016 12:20 am • linkreport

People on transit are going to specific places, cars go everywhere. Transit does not run all day, cars do. that is why they are considered separate markets!
I'm not sure about Chicago, but in DC at least, transit runs all day except for the overnight hours. Congestion is not a regular problem on any road I'm aware of from 12 AM to 6 AM. The roads need to be there to fill overnight demand, but the current capacity is more than sufficient to fill it. Current capacity is only insufficient during times when transit exists as an alternative. I do agree with your point that cars help solve the last mile problem though, because there are plenty of destinations difficult to reach with transit. Fortunately, most future commercial growth in the region is concentrated at places within a ten minute walk of existing/planned Metro stations.
Not to mention very few transit riders are choice riders. Most transit riders use it because they cant afford a car.
This seems untrue. The most popular morning stations are at the ends of rail lines (e.g., Shady Grove, Vienna, Franconia, etc.). Sure, a handful of people live within walking distance of those stations, but the vast majority are commuters that drive to the station from further out, parking their car at the huge commuter garages. Those folks can obviously afford to own a car and park it at relatively expensive daily rates, so they're willingly choosing to ride. Again, Chicago may be different, but the vast majority of Metro riders in the DC area choose to ride transit because it's faster and less frustrating than driving during the morning rush hour. At nearly $16/day to commute/park from an end of the line station to downtown DC, Metro is not much cheaper than driving, yet people choose it anyway. Some data on ridership patterns is available at the link below:

http://planitmetro.com/2015/04/15/metrorail-revenue-by-station-visualized/

If transit is already in the median(I-66) than why is not congestion delay down?
I'd speculate that compared to what congestion would look like absent transit in the median, congestion is way down. Imagine how bad traffic would be if Metro stopped operating on a random Tuesday but people still worked a normal day.

Even more likely, in a hypothetical universe where Metro was never built, I'd imagine you'd see much less centralization of employment in the DC/Arlington core. You'd instead see patterns like Atlanta/Houston/LA where jobs are spread across a huge geographical area, because employers would relocate to places where their employees could easily access. There are pros and cons to that, of course, but I prefer a city with a vibrant downtown over a city with a loose collection of scattered office parks.

Would you want variable rates for life insurance? for WMATA fares?
Not sure what you're getting at here. Life insurance does have variable rates. Smokers, for instance, pay more than non-smokers. Same thing with WMATA fares. Riding during the peak is more expensive than riding during the middle of the day. What's your point with this?

by Jason S. on Feb 16, 2016 8:49 am • linkreport

HOT lanes are only free when you have at least 3 people in the vehicle if you spent a minimum of 9$ more for a EZPass Flex upgrade, otherwise it'd standard for EZPass to charge you full price anyway.
Also, EZPass requires you give the retailer the right to hold your credit card information on file indefinately, like that hasn't been a problem with Target, Home Depot, etc. And like they haven't a history already of overcharging and abusing clients.
nope, not ever a problem (cough)

by asffa on Feb 16, 2016 11:03 am • linkreport

I understand it all now.

People living in the DC exurbs want all the benefits of a speedy and smooth commute, BUT while living far from their jobs, far from any mass transit options, on a cul-de-sac with a yard and white picket fence and all that.

Public cost. Private gain. No way.

Further subsidizing personal automobile travel is silly. Gas taxes haven't risen in years. Raise the gas tax to pay for this.

by Dan on Feb 16, 2016 4:10 pm • linkreport

@ Jason S

My comment about congestion pricing is variable. Anyone with a heartbeat gets how risky that is. As a driver/taxpayer I wouldn't want to pay a variable rate for anything. Especially congestion pricing. Even in traffic engineering studies it has very little impact as a congestion reduction strategy. It pushes all the traffic into the un tolled lanes or onto other roads. Essentially a Lexus Lane. But, never the less is the lynch of anti car ideology. If your read the link I posted below, @drumz it is a comment on every aspect of (CTA0trains in the median as well (Metra) in the same corridor. Identical to this corridor. Road widening is justified based on demand. If a corridor has congestion that creeps out of rush hour its more than justified. Not widening just keeps the bottleneck in place and it will grow and grow.

"This seems untrue."
Well I would say that the oracle himself, Todd Littman recognizes that most transit riders are price insensitive. That's where the idea that you cant raise fares because of the negative impacts on those who cant afford a car comes from. I am sure it differs by region and transit mode. But that is what you here when the argument turns to subsidization.

Where transit is viable is only during congestion. That is why cities with transit have gone out of there way not to widen highways. They are protecting their transit agencies. or induced congestion if you will.

Now don't misunderstand me. I am pro transit and pro road. Both, complement each other in the transportation network. But you cant deny that every road public meeting is filled with transit and environmental activists trotting out nonsense. Widen highways where its demanded. It's not a conspiracy to build highways.

Transit is great when it works for you. I don't subscribe to a transportation dogma. it is what is to me. Chicago has great transit but I pay the taxes and it doesn't serve me but when I chose to ride cause hey, everyone likes trains.

Now, If it was not there how large would the highways need to be I get that. Most people here are SOV's and being in the center of the country. We have a tremendous amount of truck traffic. At the same time Chicago has not widened any of its corridors In 50 yrs. When you don't widen people leave or move farther out and mode share exacerbating sprawl. Seems D.C. has the same issue. Which is what you pointed out about popular Metro stations.
Cities need to quit placating the anti car movement and realize some roads need to move people in and out of the city. Nothing cute, just 4 lane arterials moving along point to point to the interstate. Widen the roads so the middle class might think of moving back to the city.

Chicago has extensive sprawl. City expressways have not been widened. Worst congestion next to LA. Now, Only until (2005)recently the Illinois Tollway widened its suburban corridors, built an extension of 2 highways and relieved congestion. Great move and none have filled up yet. I get what your saying that roads cant do it all. Now get what I'm saying transit cant either.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 17, 2016 2:43 am • linkreport

If traffic was going to spill onto local roads with 66 it would have already with its current restrictions (instead traffic has fallen on other roads). Since those restrictions are actually going to be looser in the future I have no idea on what basis people think spillover will get worse. All the evidence says it won't.

Tolls here are actually lessening current restrictions.

by Drumz on Feb 17, 2016 6:31 am • linkreport

@chicagointerstates,

+1.

Most reasonable and sensible comment on this thread.

by August4 on Feb 17, 2016 9:25 am • linkreport

"As a driver/taxpayer I wouldn't want to pay a variable rate for anything."

In free commodity markets prices constantly vary. How pray tell, do you deal with buying gasoline?

" Especially congestion pricing. Even in traffic engineering studies it has very little impact as a congestion reduction strategy."

No, plenty of studies show it is has great effect.

"It pushes all the traffic into the un tolled lanes or onto other roads."

Or into carpooling, or to other hours. Even if it does not, it reserves free flow for those who value it most.

" Essentially a Lexus Lane."

No. Studies have shown lower and moderate income drivers use tolled lanes as well. Because sometimes they put a particularly high value on a reliable travel time.

"But you cant deny that every road public meeting is filled with transit and environmental activists trotting out nonsense. "

Not nearly to the extent that any road tolling proposal is attacked by people trotting out regularly debunked nonsense.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 17, 2016 9:59 am • linkreport

@ crossingbrooklynferry

Sorry, But buying gas and getting charged for something I already paid for is two seperate things.

"it has little impact as a congestion reduction strategy"

Well, if you look at impacts on congestion as we are talking abbout variable tolling or "ETL". Manages traffic too much. Not all tolling stragies are bad. Now i dont know what your impression of congestion pricing is, but to me its a lexus lane. Only for those who can afford to drop 10-29 dollars a day on a toll as i believe 66 will be. Pretty basic a "lexus lane". For those who can afford to pay or sit and wait or spillover somewhere else.

Me and you have a difference of opinion, obviously. Because depending on the tolling strategy, it impacts traffic. Not everyone can afford to get gouged during rush hour. So those who are willing to pay or can afford $10-20 a day will use the lane.

"plenty of studies show it has a great impact"

Yeah its called spillover,but I 66 wont be immediately affected by pricing. However as traffic grows more spillover will occur.
and the matrix shows the differences.
This is similar corridor in Chicago
http://www.eisenhowerexpressway.com/pdfs/290%20cag13%20matrix.pdf
"No studies have shown that lower and moderate income people use tolled lanes as well"

Well, if you use it once a year i guess your right.

Well lets take a look at those public meeting comments.

for the a similar corridor.

http://www.eisenhowerexpressway.com/pdfs/final%20senator%20harmon%20%20townhall%20meeting%20summary%20091514.pdf

From VDOT:

http://www.vamegaprojects.com/tasks/sites/default/assets/File/pdf/MARK_CENTER/HOV%20Transit%20Ramp%20Plans/I395HOV_Transit+Ramp_Response+to+Comments_MASTER.pdf

Maybe you should read my comments about the Illinois Tollway before you spew your nonsense. Lets not kid ourselves you don't like any lane widening so sounds like a loss for you.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 17, 2016 2:32 pm • linkreport

"Sorry, But buying gas and getting charged for something I already paid for is two seperate things."

So then it is not about variability, as you said above. You just do not want to pay for it. Note some HOT lanes are ones you never paid for, they are new lanes. As for tolling already built lanes, if it relieves congestion, and better allocates capacity, I see nothing wrong with that.

"Now i dont know what your impression of congestion pricing is, but to me its a lexus lane. "

I have used the I495 HOT lanes. Not regularly, but when I am in a big hurry and it is worth it. Lots of people use them but not every day.

Spillover on I66 was already studied by VDOT.

"Lets not kid ourselves you don't like any lane widening "

I never said that. I said I preferred the previous plan, which was to implement tolls, and then to revisit widening after they had been in place - looking at not only the impact on I66 but also on parallel roads. As for the current plan, to toll and widen without waiting, I think it less desirable than the earlier plan, but still an acceptable compromise. Please try to avoid mischarecterizing my position.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 17, 2016 2:41 pm • linkreport

It's really astounding to me that, in the face of mountains of data that prove clearly that adding highway lanes does not ease congestion and only creates more traffic, people can still insist it's necessary. But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given how fervently some deny climate change. It's all very sad, really.

by Alex on Feb 17, 2016 6:00 pm • linkreport

To add, whether additional lanes improve traffic or not isn't really central to the issue. It is a matter of whether continuing to encourage and support large number of single driver commuters is a proper transportation goal.
The suburbs are designed around residents not wanting traffic near them, so that's the principal to start with. High volumes of traffic are detrimental everywhere, but especially in a well developed urban setting which has the basis for more sustainable and less-destructive transportation solutions. Those who build their lives around cheap, readily available driving options need to at least bear the true cost, momentarily and with their time, of that poor solution. The Exurbs are not nearly as attractive without the huge concessions make to drivers. And it makes no sense to continue to take land in more sustainable communities to support residents in less sustainable ones.

by James W on Feb 17, 2016 9:41 pm • linkreport

James W-
when it comes to deciding whether to widen I-66, trying to put the invention of cars back in its time-capsule isn't relevant, what's relevant is doing what's advisable to smooth their way past so they aren't stuck in traffic as long, wasting fuel, people's time, and sometimes even causing dangerous situations.
And btw - cars aren't cheap, and their ready availability and how people can't necessarily get around easily without them, including often not being able to build their lives regarding employment - or deciding to make the exurbs unattractive (?) really shouldn't be the focus over whether they should finally add a lane - in a location they've needed more for many years.
Besides that, I thought exurbs meant dense, generally aged suburbs, ie. not "sprawl" - not cutting new incursions on nature spaces or in reference to spread out suburbs. But I know it's a newish term, and maybe vague. But why would it be some obscure social good to make them less attractive?

by asffa on Feb 18, 2016 5:31 am • linkreport

Besides that, I thought exurbs meant dense, generally aged suburbs, ie. not "sprawl" - not cutting new incursions on nature spaces or in reference to spread out suburbs. But I know it's a newish term, and maybe vague.

Exurbs are the posterchild for sprawl - suburbs well beyond the traditional suburbs.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exurb

a region or settlement that lies outside a city and usually beyond its suburbs and that often is inhabited chiefly by well-to-do families

Early suburbs were just extensions of the city (in DC, places like Columbia Heights were once considered suburbs); their shape changed with changes in transportation.

Exurbs are often characterized by a rural aesthetic (unlike the stereotypical suburban subdivision). Low density, auto-centric, and way, way out there from the city center.

by Alex B. on Feb 18, 2016 8:54 am • linkreport

Alex B.-
Oh. Some folks been using said word incorrectly to describe the areas that are basically semi-urban. If the neighborhood's old enough, their designs aren't huge houses on large plots of land routinely denuded of all natural topsoil.
I-66 still needs to widen, and it isn't about "sprawl". You have to go past the projected I-66 improvement to go find said exurbs.

by asffa on Feb 18, 2016 10:21 am • linkreport

Oh. Some folks been using said word incorrectly to describe the areas that are basically semi-urban.

I don't think I've ever seen the word used in this way, but I'll admit it's not the most intuitive phrase.

That said, the hierarchy makes sense:

Urban
Sub-urban
Ex-urban
Rural

I-66 still needs to widen, and it isn't about "sprawl".

Of course it's about sprawl. Sprawl has several key characteristics: it's on the fringe of the metro area; it's low density; it features segregated land uses; and it's auto-dependent.

Those are precisely the kinds of travelers that use I-66 to get into the center of the region. Those are precisely the kinds of areas that the politicans opposed to the initial plan represent.

You have to go past the projected I-66 improvement to go find said exurbs.

And that's the larger point: their preference for sprawl out there has real costs for people living in the core.

by Alex B. on Feb 18, 2016 10:30 am • linkreport

@crossingbrooklynferry

I look at them as "Lexus Lanes" because of variable pricing. That is it. I guess I'm old school. I am you used to flat rate tolls. I like to know what I have to spend. HOT lanes have been indexed to congestion by quarter in some states. Uncertainty is nerve racking.

Spillover is probably limited by all the trade offs. Drivers will get to use it for free during other hours. I have seen HOT lanes in other states and you get to see people fly by you. You look at the price and say "Who can afford that". So all of the growing demand for I66 in general is still going to build just not as quickly. Or, as some would say, slowing down the effects of induced demand. HOT lanes just kick the can down the road.

Now, why I got the impression you did not like widening or its not your first choice. I constantly read the grousing about widening on ggw. No matter what the project or traffic implications. No matter what drivers are not getting. It's always about how much more we should be fee'd and taxed and our space taken. kind of conspiratorial.

Tolling the whole road could over manage traffic, especially with congestion pricing in all lanes. That will cause drivers to choose a less efficient route, or shunpike. That is why they don't just toll the whole thing. Shunpiking is a way of life in states that have toll roads.

The real reason, I think they are building an extra lane, as a comprimise. Or as a "Pareto improvement" Drivers don't get what they want. People who hate roads in general don't get what they want either.

I would prefer they use the old free system on freeways. I know it will probably be congested on opening day, just not as much at rush hour. Not having to pay for use of a "free interstate" is nice and don't want to see that eventually elimanated because of special interests. The big winners here are bankers and environmentalists. I see like most drivers do, like a lamb to slaughter, money to be made. "What is the nest scheme that is going to cost me."

In Chicago they have two of these projects waiting to go. Similar lane wideings,P3,HOT-3, it seems like it is the newest thing. I've seen California's HOT lanes and they were moving, it was you that was'nt. I guess that leaves a strong impression of their usefulness.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 18, 2016 12:22 pm • linkreport

Again, on what evidence do we think that tolls on 66 will lead to spillover traffic? Any traffic that has spilled over from 66 has done so because of the current HOV2 restrictions. But traffic has actually fallen in 29 and only grown very slowly on 50.

Worries about spillover traffic may be valid in other places but it just doesn't apply to 66 in Arlington.

by drumz on Feb 18, 2016 12:38 pm • linkreport

"I look at them as "Lexus Lanes" because of variable pricing. That is it. I guess I'm old school. I am you used to flat rate tolls. I like to know what I have to spend. HOT lanes have been indexed to congestion by quarter in some states. Uncertainty is nerve racking."

The term Lexus Lane implies they are only used by and benefit the affluent. Which is not the case. It is misleading. They are priced lanes.

And variable pricing makes lots of economic sense - when traffic lighter tolls can go down, which means the managed lanes will be better utilized - and they go up when they provide the most benefit, and that keeps them free flowing, which is the point of the lanes.

I do not find the variable tolls nerve wracking, that is how markets work. Air fares, intercity bus fares, grocery prices, gas prices all vary.

"I constantly read the grousing about widening on ggw. "

I read grousing against tolls, against bikes, against transit. In the comments. Often times from different handles, which appear when old ones disappear (hmmm) We do not all share the same positions. I suggest that to determine MY position, you read my comments, and do not make assumptions.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 18, 2016 12:44 pm • linkreport

Alex B-
No. That it causes sprawl argument doesn't work - believe it or not, that additional road space would be used and is needed by more than those "exurban" (I assume you mean Southern VA) riders. It's everyone needing it, and it should have been done years ago.
I think you can plainly see all these years of I-66 not being wide enough and poor planning tying up causing pollution and traffic did not prevent sprawl of McMansions in the "exurbs". You can't argue fixing a bad situation retroactively caused it.
CLearly there needs to be "semi-urbs" or something in your definition list. I can think of areas that aren't spread out (or wasteful) winding suburbs but aren't quite full urban.

by asffa on Feb 18, 2016 1:21 pm • linkreport

I think you can plainly see all these years of I-66 not being wide enough and poor planning tying up causing pollution and traffic did not prevent sprawl of McMansions in the "exurbs". You can't argue fixing a bad situation retroactively caused it.

They've been widening 66 pretty consistently out that way though. They just finished the Gainseville 29 overpass and widened the road all the way to Haymarket. Meanwhile the new plan will bump that up to ten lanes between Haymarket and Merrifield.

by drumz on Feb 18, 2016 1:25 pm • linkreport

No. That it causes sprawl argument doesn't work...

I didn't say widening 66 would cause more sprawl, but it is very clearly a dispute about sprawl. It's the legislators from sprawling areas that are complaining.

by Alex B. on Feb 18, 2016 1:31 pm • linkreport

asffa - Of course road availability played a big part in the growth of sprawl. Most of the residential population west of Arlington is sprawl. It was the whole commandeering of the Interstate system that's allowed suburbia to take hold here. The ability to cheaply drive long distances is a fundamental enabler of sprawl - it's nearly synonymous. And the demand for I66 into Washington now comes from the worst offenders, those bedroom communities way out in Loudoun and Prince William County. That's what is being promoted and perpetuated by road widening more than anything else and is the fundamental problem with road widening here.

The basic geometry of a radial space means we're never going to be able to accommodate outer populations who try to drive to the center. Any attempt just fills the center with giant roads which destroy communities, roads which simply swing back and forth from gridlock to low use.

by James W on Feb 18, 2016 2:19 pm • linkreport

I look at them as "Lexus Lanes" because of variable pricing. That is it. I guess I'm old school. I am you used to flat rate tolls. I like to know what I have to spend. HOT lanes have been indexed to congestion by quarter in some states. Uncertainty is nerve racking.
I’m used to “free” interstates (i.e., paid for by taxes, not user fees and tolls). That said, tolls make economic sense: By tolling a road, more of the expense burden falls onto people frequently using the system. It’s the same way with Metro. In both situations, everyone pays a small amount via taxes, and frequent users pay the taxes plus a usage fee. Ideally, the existence of tolls means a lower tax rate, all else equal, but obviously there are a lot of moving parts.

It’s important to note that flat toll vs. variable toll is a revenue neutral decision: If the flat toll is $5 per 10 miles, then the expected value of the variable toll will also be $5 per 10 miles. You’ll pay more in rush hour, but less at other times of the day. If you only drive during rush hour, the variable toll will be more expensive than the flat toll. If you only drive in the middle of the day, the variable toll will be less expensive than the flat toll. The sumproduct across all drivers results in the average variable toll equaling the flat toll. I suspect that you dislike the variable toll concept because you primarily drive during rush hour, so the baseline is higher (e.g., $10 per 10 miles). I can certainly sympathize with that, but under a flat toll, drivers at non-peak times subsidize drivers at peak times. Stated alternatively, with a flat toll, you’re overcharging drivers in the middle of the day, but undercharging drivers at rush hour. The variable toll is designed to fix that problem. It also gives drivers a financial incentive to avoid the busiest time of the day (certainly not an option for everyone, but flex schedules are becoming much more common for many office workers).

I can see why you think uncertainty is nerve wracking, but if you’re a regular commuter, the uncertainty all cancels out due to the law of large numbers. Using the hypothetical numbers above, you’ll pay $10 per 10 miles on average under the variable schema in rush hour. That might be $8 on a day with light traffic, or $15 on a day with a bad accident, but it averages out to $10. Over the course of a week, you’ll pay $10 x 20 = $200. That $200 figure has some variance in it too, but crucially, the confidence interval around the $200 will be narrower than the confidence interval around the $10. Why? Because over the course of a month, bad traffic days are canceled out by good traffic days. While you paid 50% more than average on the bad accident day (i.e., 15/10 - 1), in order for the monthly cost to be 50% higher than expected, you’d require $15 tolls all month long, which isn’t likely. It’s an even tighter distribution when looking at things on an annual basis. Ultimately, uncertainty in price isn’t really much of an issue at all for people that budget on a monthly basis, and this fact can be proven with basic properties of statistical distributions. Even better, the variable pricing schema reduces the real nerve wracking uncertainty: uncertainty in time. With a flat toll, your commute might vary between thirty minutes and two hours, dependent upon traffic, accidents, weather, etc. With a variable toll, prices are established to ensure you consistently experience that thirty minute commute.

by Jason S. on Feb 18, 2016 3:12 pm • linkreport

@Jason,

Um...what? Most tolls collections cost more to run than they bring in in toll revenue. It's a fantasy to pretend that drivers are paying their way because of tolls.

So DTR tolls aren't actually paying 52% of Silver line construction costs after all.

Same thing with the bridge and tunnel tolls in New York that contribute towards MTA and PATH operating and maintenance subsidies. And the Delaware River Bridge authority tolls that cover a large part of running High Speed Line trains between New Jersey and Philly.

Thanks a bunch for clearing that up.

You focus on road construction. Do you think road maintenance is free?

Well, we are talking about road construction here.
But since you brought it up, tolls, gas taxes, auto use fees such as registrations and general fund taxes (primarily from drivers) cover those costs.

The source and use of funds vary by state, but the fact is the bulk of funds are raised from taxes and fees that are paid by drivers.

Where did you think the money comes from? Transit fares?

by August4 on Feb 18, 2016 4:12 pm • linkreport

The tolls collected on the bridges and tunnels with the highest tolls in the country - which are constantly being increased because they are used primarily to fund transit (while the roads are left crumbling) - "cost more to run than they bring in in toll revenue".

Priceless.

by August4 on Feb 18, 2016 4:16 pm • linkreport

...general fund taxes (primarily from drivers)...

Oh dear.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2016 5:14 pm • linkreport

@CrossingBrooklynFerry

"Lexus lanes" it may be a generalization, but is based in truth.

This has some data on Virginia HOT Lanes.
RFF-IB-03-03

My disagreement with these types of "priced lanes" has to do with equity, political and impacts to freeway traffic. When they build HOT lanes my taxes aren't working for me. They work if I see the equity impact, or the utility of capacity expansion of general lanes. I see the funding that these HOT lanes will provide and it is not much. Mainly for maintenance of debt and upkeep of the lane.

"I don't find variable tolls nerve racking that is how markets work."

Yeah no problem there, those things I have not paid taxes for. So no problem. But if I am paying taxes for something that I have to purchase at the highest price because of the highest volume. That seems like a penalty for not being able to afford to use those lanes.

These types of 'variable tolls' are usually levied by time of day, or congestion levels. What is their incentive to be fair? How much congestion do they allow to build just so they can keep the toll or high? I just see it as a scheme that will continue to grow on regional freeway and toll highway networks. Sure they manage traffic that is beneficial to their debt holders, not drivers. It's just another ambiguous form of a tax, That's it. Just politicians with a politically expedient strategy that the middle class will pay for in tolls or induced congestion.

'I constantly read the grousing about widening on GGW.'

I know we have covered this, but people who are 'pro road' are never polluting transit public hearings. Transit hearings are actually more thought out because people debate the issue at hand. Not why the DOT is doing this capacity expansion. For example, 'People need to get out of their cars.' 'It will just fill up tomorrow' 'why cant we fund (xxx)transit'. Mostly read from DOT comments, as well as environmental concerns.

You don't find the word "road activism" on google do you?
But, you do find transit activism, bike activism, environmental activism. How much of the war on cars in cities has been about tolling, pedestrian speed bumps, RLC's, speed cameras, slowing drivers down to 15 mph on a 30mph road. Or pedestrian deaths, cycling deaths, or that we need to take out lanes of traffic on a congested road and build bike lanes or BRT. (CTA Ashland avenue BRT) Thankfully that died it would have impacted the neighborhoods terribly. I don't think you are fully 'anti-road' you obviously pointed out that you used the 395 Hot lanes once. I don't think you rode them on a bike or walked in them.

I would also appreciate it, if you don't mischaracterize me as well. I'm not against bike lanes, I just think they dangerous. I am not against transit I used it all of my first 20 yrs. of life,(parents had no car) I was the first. Chicago allowed me to live without a car, just not very well. Also, I have read your posts as well as others for quite some time. This blog always intrigued me. I guess the debate on the Nashville transit BRT is what got me hooked.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 21, 2016 2:28 am • linkreport

@CrossingBrooklynFerry

So Where do you stand? So far you like tolling strategies. Um, pro road, perhaps.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 21, 2016 2:55 am • linkreport

@ Jason S.

I don't know if I like tolling as a way to control traffic. I think that is the problem of our time. Everything has to be managed. Numbers have to be humped and money has to be made. Baseball has sabre metrics, roads: TDM strategies. Tolling for the purpose of those willing to pay is something I see as an equity and political issue. Taking a free road that is paid for and tolling it seems like a tax, egalitarian(less pollution and increased mode share) things aside. It's another thing taken away for the benefit of the many now only for the few.

Actually, I don't use the toll road I live by for commuting. I'm a former city slicker turned suburbanite. I work in the burbs but travel to the city on the weekends. I either shunpike or take the toll road for speed.

I am used to tolls, Illinois is full of toll roads and I see the positives and negatives. They are good and are great source of funding on heavily used roads like(I-90,94,88,294,355,390). The ISTHA has rebuilt and expanded most of the system, doubled tolls, and man those roads are like an autobahn. I do have to justify why I use it, which keeps the congestion down. But, there are roads like the Chicago Skyway(I-90) and the Indiana Toll Road(I-80,90) that have lost money for the tolling corporation that bought them. Just to use the toll from (I-90,94)95th ST. to the state line is $3.80( 4 miles)30k AADT. Now, do you think they would use congestion pricing there? I don't think so.
Congestion pricing seems like this 'You buy a ticket to the amusement park but they also sell a ticket to line cut. Hey I bought a ticket too. What am I chop liver? Not really fair.

I see your point about the law of averages comes into play. But that avg. wont be the same or dependable by time, day or congestion. Generally your costs are increasing. Which is never a good thing.

On a political level,what is their obligation to the public if the P3 isn't making money? Do they induce some congestion just to make the HOT lane look like its worth it? That's where the worry lies for me. TDM, and traffic impacts aside.

by chicagointerstates on Feb 21, 2016 4:31 am • linkreport

@affa

No. That it causes sprawl argument doesn't work - believe it or not, that additional road space would be used and is needed by more than those "exurban" (I assume you mean Southern VA) riders. It's everyone needing it, and it should have been done years ago.
I think you can plainly see all these years of I-66 not being wide enough and poor planning tying up causing pollution and traffic did not prevent sprawl of McMansions in the "exurbs". You can't argue fixing a bad situation retroactively caused it.
CLearly there needs to be "semi-urbs" or something in your definition list. I can think of areas that aren't spread out (or wasteful) winding suburbs but aren't quite full urban.

The argument that all road construction does is induce demand, is a very bad argument that holds no water.
It would ALMOST be like saying that the "Clean Air Act" didn't do anything to clean up CO2 emissions since CO2 emissions in the US have skyrocketed during that time span.

It is a very illogical fallacy that ignores all other factors.
Congestion went up in NOVA, and nationally, post-WWII because
-We had a massive boom in population
-We had a massive boom in people moving from the city towards the suburbs

Sure, road building made it more easier, but the fact is if roads were not built, we would have worse congestion because the growth was coming in any event.
This is EXACTLY what happened on I-66.

Arlington fought tough and nail to prevent it, instead it was built way way too small if it was just the I-66 corridor let along the I-66/DTR corridor. Result?

I think David C. Birtwistle in the "Local Opinion" page of the Sunday Washington Post Metro Section said it best:

This highway is congested not only at rush hour but also throughout the day and on weekends.....

Moreover, David rightfully stated:
-Census Bureau data shows most Arlington workers live outside Arlington
-Most Arlington residents work outside Arlington

So this is hardly an exurban only problem.
Heck..ARLINGTON stands to gain the most as their workers/residents will have easier access AND their local roads will have less I-66 detour traffic.

I would add as well, we have a build vs no build scenario analysis for a reason-it works.

Back in 2002, I voted against the gas tax in NOVA because I was afraid if passed, building roadways such as the Tri-County Parkway near Bull Run would only worsen sprawl in Loudoun and PW counties.
What happened? The tax failed, but PW and Loudoun supersized in any event, so we got the growth, but without the infrastructure.

THAT's what you get. Now fortunately we are in the process of building our way towards a more functional system. Expanding metro will help, improving reliability of major throughways helps, tolls help.

by Tee on Feb 22, 2016 6:34 pm • linkreport

@drumz
They've been widening 66 pretty consistently out that way though. They just finished the Gainseville 29 overpass and widened the road all the way to Haymarket. Meanwhile the new plan will bump that up to ten lanes between Haymarket and Merrifield.
Yep...and the congestion has gotten MUCH better.
Bristow and WPC gre by about 300% between the mid 90s and mid 2000s, yet I-66 remained just two lanes after Manassas.
Each day, I-66 was backed up from Gainesville to Centreville the full 10 miles.
Now?
Traffic after Manassas breezes by at peak rush hour at speeds of 60+, and should be expected to do so for the long term as WPC is close to being built out.

If you don't build it, they still come.

by Tee on Feb 22, 2016 6:36 pm • linkreport

@Tee - I think you're missing the main defining feature/problem of sprawl which is the over reliance on automobiles for every transportation need. The existence of a huge number of people flooding into Arlington using single occupant cars defines sprawl. That is the problem which is not solvable by trying to out build road use.
The scenario painted where the population grows independent of infrastructure is also precisely the problem. There is no way private autos are a feasible transportation solution with large populations. Congestion is never going to go away since it's a function of people's tolerance for it. The equilibrium point of supply and demand is where traffic is just short of gridlock. If the roads are overly free-flowing more people organize their lives around them, less free-flowing and fewer do. Given time, more people will move out further than Gainseville and congestion will return to it's previous level. And society will just be worse and worse off as a whole, with less ability to cope with the growing population.

by James W on Feb 23, 2016 4:50 pm • linkreport

First, as currently constructed, I-66 in the beltway is way way too small for the multi corridors it handles. This is an obvious fact given how often it fails outside of rush hour-during a time when METRO service is not on peak schedule.
Heck, I-66 fails on the reverse direction of rush hour, proof enough our mass transit system CANNOT accommodate this load.

Unless a nuclear bomb wipes out half of the NOVA population, there is no way I-66 inside the beltway can ever be functional, and out system suffers because of it.

You are making the mis-take of thinking that any highway expansion will make things worse, in this case, no, any highway expansion will make it BETTER because I-66 is so so horrible inside the beltway (and really inside Route 50).

Second, we can't start over. Sure, it would be better IF NOVA was less dependent on cars, but that simply is not the case. We can say that growth was irresposnible post WW-II, but the solution is to make something effective and sustainable.

Simply doing the reverse, and NOT expanding massively failing roads like I-66, won't make things better. The solution is all of the above...improve failing roadways AND improve mass transit/multi-modal options (which this plan does).

Fact is, all the post WWII growth in NOVA is here. We can't bulldoze Fairfax County and rebuild it as a transit orientated community. We CAN make it more multi-modal, but the fact is the single family, non-mixed use footprint is in, and we have to accept it, which means funding both multi-modal and road expansion.

by Tee on Feb 23, 2016 5:54 pm • linkreport

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