Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019
News

66-year express lanes have changed the behavior of commuters, but not necessarily in the way expected by public servants

Morning rush hour on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway on Friday. (Dayna Smith for the Washington Post) A reporter from Luz Lazo Transportation covering the metro, buses, capital, taxis and the capital of Washington, as well as the road network of the region. On December 8 at 6:15 pm, when the 66 Express Lanes were inaugurated, the authorities promised that the tolls would allow smoother navigation on the highway, a major East-West communications route from northern Virginia in the district, famous for its congestion generating headaches. The promises of the state – less congestion and shorter commute times at peak times – have been met for many commuters who are able to pay or carpool, but the new toll system has had a negative effect on many other road users. For some commuters, the rush hour period simply changed later – outside toll hours – and moved them onto a highway just as blocked as before. According to an analysis of Washington Post data, some motorists were looking to avoid the toll, while other commuters make longer journeys into the city or abandon their efforts to use public transit because of the facilities. inadequate. state and local governments and transit agencies and commuter interviews. The new, heavily used toll lanes on one of the busiest highways in the Washington area have caused profound changes in commuter behavior, prompting motorists to change their schedules and journeys, according to data, while offering per mile in the country. "Would most people in the hallway say that their travel has improved? I do not think so, "said Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run). "This toll system has just made driving impossible and not affordable." The extended rush hours introduced with the toll system mean that commuters who took I-66 for hours other than the VMOs now had less room for maneuver to wait for the restrictions. get up and always have him work at the hour. The thousands of hybrid vehicle owners who have been allowed to use HOV 2 lanes for free, even solo, can no longer do so unless they want to pay tolls. Commuters willing to pay for the use of the lanes were shocked by the high tolls, which averaged $ 35.50 during the peak of precipitation at 8:30 am, according to data.
"It's ridiculous," said Krishna Komaragiri of Ashburn recently sitting in his car, parked on the side of Dulles' access road, while waiting for the expiry of the toll. "Who will pay for this?" The average toll between 6:30 am and 7:00 am is $ 10, according to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation. The average averages 20 dollars at 7 hours and remains above 30 dollars at 8 hours until falling back around 9 hours. While Komaragiri was waiting, the balance sheet in Washington at 9 am was $ 20. [Maryland rakes in millions of dollars from toll fines and penalties] The system is designed in such a way that tolls fluctuate to maintain a minimum average speed of 55 mph. As traffic increases, the toll increases to help manage the number of vehicles entering the roadway. There is no cap on tolls, which change every six minutes. Motorcycles and vehicles carrying two or more people use the lanes for free. According to a VDOT report, less than 1% of expressway users paid tolls of $ 40 or more. Those who pay most often travel between 8 am and 9 am during the peak of the rush hour, but the average price for a round trip is $ 13.09, the report says. According to the state, about 30% fewer cars enter the roadway. "Our goal is not to generate revenue in northern Virginia," Deputy Secretary General for Transportation Nick Donohue said in a recent debate. "We are trying to offer more choice to our travelers." Komaragiri is strategically timing his way to I-66 at 9:30 am, when the morning toll is closed. If he has a few minutes in advance, he waits on the shoulder, as do dozens of additional commuters on the roads leading to the 66 Express Lanes, risking a $ 30 plus $ 66 penalty. court fees and three points on their driver's license. The Virginia state police say it's a risk that commuters take too much. There is also evidence that some commuters are trying to deceive the system: Solitary drivers switch their E-ZPass transponder to carpool mode and hope not to get caught. On November 30, in the morning, a law enforcement campaign revealed 13 charges against such commuters. In the 10 months following the opening of the system, the state police issued 614 VMO offenses, according to the archives. Komaragiri, a government contractor, said the risk was worth it because he has already paid $ 6.65 tolls on the Dulles Greenway and $ 2.50 on the Dulles toll road. The idea of ​​a third – and unpredictable – record is unbearable, he said. "Positive Indicators" The 10 kilometers of peak hour toll lanes between the Belt Beltway and the District District would be the only system of its kind in the country. State officials said the goal of the lanes was to move more people and improve mobility in the corridor. As part of the program, rush hours were extended by 90 minutes. Tolls are in effect from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm Eastbound and from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. to the west, Monday to Friday – extension of the toll booth with a closer beginning and end. Despite the unintended consequences, state transportation officials say the tolls are exactly what they were designed for. [Virginia to tweak 66 Express Lanes pricing to address tolls that have topped $47] More commuters are carpooling, which has taken some vehicles off the road, they say. The number of vehicles traveling with two or more people on I-66 inside the Beltway during toll hours has increased by 25% since January, from about 12,000 to 15,000. approximately, according to the VDOT report. However, the majority of road users are still solo drivers who pay tolls.
"I do not think you'll see us declare success, but we see positive indicators," Donohue said. The number of passengers at the subway stations is increasing in some stations located in or near the corridor, as well as in some buses that use them. The data showed that one month after the start of the toll, the total number of passengers taking the metro in the morning has slightly increased. In June, passenger numbers at West Falls Church and East Falls Church increased by an average of 200 passengers, or 5%, according to Metro data. The increase represents the highest average number of passengers in the stations – both along I-66 – in at least two years, although it is unclear whether this can be directly related to tolls. The data show that the most outside station of the orange line, in Vienna, has recorded no detectable change in average ridership after the opening of the toll lanes.
Since the toll system was introduced, the number of commuter bus passengers serving Prince William and Fairfax counties has increased, as has the number of buses connecting users to the subway system. Tysons, according to the data of the public transport operators. A new route connecting the Fairfax County Government Center to the West End of the district via I-66, with an average of seven passengers on the day of opening, is now averaging 27 per trip, according to officials. Fairfax connector. In Prince William, the number of bus passengers between Gainesville and Manassas and Tysons subway stations has increased by approximately 12%. The number of suburban bus users linking Prince William to the Pentagon and the district increased by 6.6 percent, OmniRide bus system officials said, although they attributed the increase to Introduction of half-price rates in May, incentive that will continue until the end of the month. The next toll system will open in 2022. "All the arrows are going in the right direction," said Tom Biesiadny, Fairfax County Transportation Manager. "There are people who are paying now and people who are turning to public transit or carpooling. The imposition of tolls has led people to change their travel habits. But critics say there are still not enough alternatives for those who want to give up their car. During interviews, many commuters recounted their repeated attempts to try public transit only to find a complete park for subway buses and suburban buses. Authorities in northern Virginia have indicated that new incentive parking facilities are under construction, funded by toll revenues. [66 Express Lanes collect more than $6 million in tolls during first 4 months of operations] In the first 10 months of operation, the toll system generated revenues of nearly $ 18.5 million, according to VDOT, funds used to finance toll operations, maintenance of facilities and improvements transit and other modes of transportation in the corridor. The agency's budget forecasts that the 66 expressways will earn $ 25.3 million in fiscal 2019, of which $ 15.4 million will be used to fund multimodal improvements.
An entrance ramp to Interstate 66 inside the Beltway. (Dayna Smith for The Washington Post) The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which manages toll revenues for transit and transit improvements in the corridor, has approved $ 12 million worth of new projects last summer. , including $ 7.2 million for new or improved bus services. In anticipation of the opening of the toll system last year, the commission awarded $ 10 million in grants for projects, including new express buses in Fairfax and Prince William counties. "I do not like the 66 tolls, but if we have them, let's ensure as much transit as possible," said state, Del. Danica A. Roem (Prince William), who fought without success. during the last legislative session to limit tolls and reduce toll hours. Meyer, Loudoun's supervisor, agreed, saying the transit had not been significantly improved, while the tolls imposed a burden on many commuters. "VDOT's approach was:" Hey, let's make driving totally unaffordable and unusable for people, so they use public transit. "Instead of making the public transport system much more efficient," he said. "When people see tolls over $ 20, they watch the government tell them," How can you let that happen? "It seems we do not care about the interest of our citizens when we do, "Meyer said," I just do not think governments or the private sector should be allowed to charge more than a dollar a kilometer. "Transportation officials acknowledge the challenges and the need for further improve public transit, but they also highlight state data showing that road users – including those on commuter buses – are now arriving at their destination faster and spending less time in traffic Expressway speeds averaged 52.6 mph during the morning rush, compared to 43.8 mph before tolls, saving at least two minutes of travel time. It is appropriate t However, it should be noted that these are average speeds and does not mean that users of the expressway never experience congestion or continuous traffic. State officials say it is too early to say where new modes of travel will take place. Commuters will see another major change in pavement in two years when the state will complete a widening project in eastbound lanes, then again in 2022 when it will extend tolls to Outside the Beltway and that the HOV requirement will be changed to VOM 3. "Our objective here is to continually review the operation of this road and take steps to help move more of people, "said Donohue, deputy secretary of transport. Changing the route When the toll system was put in place, Rahul Vachhani, a resident of Fairfax, could no longer drive alone in his hybrid vehicle at peak hours, unless he was willing to pay the toll. He found a passenger. Two Vachhani colleagues also adjusted their movements. One of them started her work day later so that she could occasionally move to enter the highway when tolls come up. Another has moved from I-66 to US Route 50, where the route from northern Virginia to the downtown passes through traffic areas that are increasingly slowed down by many traffic lights. The data shows that thousands of commuters have changed – or changed their routines – to avoid paying tolls. Historically, the volume of traffic on the highway began to increase around 5 am, reaching its maximum at 9 am and stabilizing throughout the afternoon. Traffic changed immediately after the toll was opened on December 4, 2017. Today, 30% fewer vehicles enter the road at 5 am It fluctuates, but it's about 12,000 fewer vehicles per month during the work week, according to Post's analysis. However, the volume of vehicles entering the highway when tolls end at 9:30 am continues to increase for approximately 90 minutes, inadvertently prolonging rush hour.[[[[
Virginia Explores the Expansion of the 495 Express Lanes to the American Legion Bridge]In addition, the volume of traffic on parallel roads to the district, including US Highway 29, has increased slightly, although state reports indicate that travel times have not increased significantly. The volume of traffic on Route 29 between 5 and 9 am increased by 4.6% immediately after the opening of the toll system, according to Post's analysis of traffic data of the state. On the George Washington Memorial Parkway, speeds fell by 3% during the morning race of the past year – although managers do not directly combine the changes to avoid overflows of expressways. Tyler Anbinder, a resident of Arlington County, explains that his drive on the Lee Highway (Highway 29) has worsened. "It's a lot, a lot more people. It can be the same, and it was never the same before, "said Anbinder, who lives in Clarendon. "I have to leave a lot more time to get to Arlington, no matter where I am, in this corridor." A review of westbound traffic data during the afternoon commute reveals similar findings: less cars on the road during toll hours, but vehicle influx just before and after the tolls are lifted. However, westbound tolls are not as high as in the morning, as evening trips are more off-beat, probably because workers have more flexibility to leave the city center.
Morning rush hour on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway on Friday. David Salzberg (Dayna Smith for the Washington Post) said the toll system had "changed life". A scientist who commutes between Vienna and Ballston from 7 am to 4 pm Salzberg wins more than 30 minutes on his return journey by taking the 66 Express Lanes. He continues to frequent the streets in the morning but is ready to pay about 4 dollars in the afternoon. In return, he returns home in 20 minutes instead of the 50 minutes that it would take in the surface streets. "I will not pay $ 40, but $ 5 to win half an hour," he said. "My time is worth more than that."[[[[
Maryland runs to catch Virginia in toll road projects]Prince William resident David Vergun had a year of road tests around the tolls – and a much more complicated ride. Prior to express lanes, he would travel to I-66, inside the Beltway, around 6 am, before the HOV restrictions came into effect at 6:30 am. He gets up now an hour earlier to avoid getting caught on the road. when tolls start at 5:30 in the morning. "Tolls are ridiculously high," said Vergun, who commutes from Gainesville to the Pentagon. "I can not afford $ 20, $ 30 or $ 40 each way." It regularly takes the Virginia Railway Express, but the commuter train is not an option when it meets in the evening at Arlington and the last train leaves at 7 pm. pm Finding a passenger to carpool is not feasible for a Defense Department reporter with a complicated schedule. And the few times he tried to take the metro from Vienna's train station, he had trouble finding parking. His best choice is to leave the house at 4:30 am, three hours before the start of his shift. "I'm trying to get the most out of it. I go early and play sports or jog or something, "he said. Vachhani turned to the unique version of carpooling: slugging. His schedule does not quite match that of the Fairfax County buses in downtown Washington. He did not know anyone with whom he could carpool. So he joins a group of Facebook commuters looking for riders or rides and stops at the Vienna metro station every morning to pick up a traveling companion, allowing him to set his E-ZPass transponder in carpooling mode. and to travel free of charge. "I was not ready to pay $ 14 or more in tolls," said Vachhani, project manager at the American Chemical Society. He found a regular batter who was also trying to avoid tolls. "It's simple: if you have the money, pay and go," said Vachhani. "If you do not have the money, find someone to accompany you."

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