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Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

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NBC correspondent Marianna Sotomayor has been following the Beto Presidential campaign — literally. Here she is blasting down the highway while blabbing into a cell phone camera. She barely has her eyes on the road, making this a textbook example of distracted driving:

According to the NHTSA and the NTSB, distracted driving is a leading cause of highway collisions. Distracted drivers have severely degraded reaction times, similar to that of drunk drivers. How did NBC News editors (and lawyers) sign off on this?

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The Mercury News has published an article on the plague of HOV cheaters. Speaking on behalf of the MTC, the article describes the problem as unsolvable — and that the region should just accept a 39% cheating rate.

The Merc describes various “Buck Rogers” gizmos the MTC has tried, everything from phone apps to “laser-guided” cameras, to attack the problem. Of course these technologies are expensive vapor-ware — which completely misses the point. There exists a very simple and very inexpensive solution to the problem that requires no new technology:

The core concept that would permit automated, electronic enforcement of occupancy relies on changing the definition of an eligible carpool. Instead of allowing any vehicle with three or more occupants, a revised policy would limit eligibility to pre-registered carpools. Such carpools would be required to have a transponder. Thus, the only enforcement required on the HOT lane itself would be ordinary electronic toll enforcement: communications equipment to interface with the vehicle-mounted transponder and video cameras to make an image of the license plate of any vehicle without a valid transponder/account combination. The only other enforcement required would be periodic verification that the carpool is still in operation, as originally registered. Thus, enforcement would be off-road, not on-road.

Shifting from casual to registered carpools would return to the original trip-reduction purpose on which the creation of HOV lanes was based: providing an incentive for fellow employees to share rides to work, leaving one or more vehicles at home and thereby reducing congestion on the roads during peak periods. Over the last several decades, a number of studies have found that large fractions of those traveling to work as carpools were in fact “fam-pools”—members of the same family who would be traveling together in any case (and whose carpooling therefore does not reduce peak-period vehicle use). For example, one analysis of data from the National Personal Travel Survey and the National Household Travel Survey found that fam-pools constituted 75.5% of all journey-to-work carpools in 1990 and 83% in 2001.

Metro-area ride-sharing agencies are the most likely entity to register eligible carpools and to work with employers to audit their continuing existence (and hence eligibility for free or reduced-rate access to HOT lanes). Such agencies already have experience working with employers on carpooling and vanpooling programs. The ongoing existence and operation of vanpools is monitored and audited, since the vehicles are often provided by a public agency and must be retrieved if the vanpool ceases to operate or drops below a threshold number of participants. Many of these agencies are supported, in whole or in part, by the state DOT or other public agency, so this new role could become part of their ongoing contractual obligations.

This is such an obvious solution, one has to wonder why it is never discussed within the MTC. It re-enforces the notion that the only purpose behind carpool lanes is to greenwash highway widenings.

And by the way, if you are wondering where this radical idea comes from, the above quote is from the Car-bitarians at Reason. You know things have really gone off the rails when Reason makes more sense than the ‘progressive’ planners at the MTC.

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MTC staffers testing out an ‘occupancy-detection’ camera.

 

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BART fare evasion has become the cause celebre, with the agency given a blank check for security-theater. A partial list of projects includes $60 million to secure stairwells at night and $18.4 million for new fencing. BART may even spend $200 million replacing faregates with newer models.

According to BART officials, the fare-evasion costs the agency $25 million per year. That might sound like a lot, but in relative terms it is 5% of ridership (which compares favorably to other big city metros).

What if I told you there was another transportation system in the Bay Area with a much worse cheating problem? A large network covering the whole Bay Area, whose evasion rate was a whopping 24 percent?

I’m referring of course to the HOV highway network. MTC studies find that 24% of vehicles in the HOV lane lack the necessary number of passengers.

And whereas BART fare-dodgers don’t slow up trains, HOV cheaters very much clog up highways — to the point where average speeds in the HOV lane have slowed to a crawl. This in turn slows public transit and other buses, with large economic cost.

Unlike BART, the HOV lanes operate on the honor system and there are no plans to change that. So despite the rampant cheating, don’t expect Caltrans to install toll-booths or K-rail to “harden” HOV lanes.

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Other than some vague references to some Green New Deal, Presidential candidates have avoided talking about transportation policy — with one exception. Sen. Mike Gravel has published a 21st Century Transportation Vision to his campaign web page. For a candidate considered quixotic and unserious, he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to transportation policy.

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Of course BMW trained its AI to drive like an asshole:

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This has been a grim year for pedestrians in San Jose, with 23 fatalities (thus far). But San Jose leaders have come up with a brilliant solution: widen roadways and speed up the traffic!

Officials in San Jose think a possible solution to the recent uptick in fatal pedestrian deaths plaguing the city could be to widen the roads at a couple of traffic trouble spots.

The plan involves a land swap that will allow officials to widen Branham Road and Snell Avenue, two of the most problematic streets in the city. San Jose plans to use the strips to widen Branham and Snell. Right now, the roadway narrows down and forces cars to merge within a short distance.

This project will widen a 2-lane road into 4-lane, with medians along with new signals. This will greatly speed up traffic, leading to more death and destruction. It is crazy they call it a pedestrian safety project.

In a 2017 memo, Councilmember Khamis called this a “Green” infrastructure project, and proposed taking $2 million out of the Essential Services Fund to help pay for it.

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Branham Ln current configuration

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