Imagine a world where you can breeze down US1 during rush hour without a care in the world. No gridlock. No traffic. You bypass intersections and the suckers stuck in the slow lane because you are on one of Miami-Dade’s numerous newly implemented ‘Managed Lanes.’ From the Palmetto, to LeJeune, to the entire length of US1, transportation officials have rolled out toll lanes across South Florida, and more are to come.

Unfortunately this future is not in some fantasy world - it is the transportation plan being pursued by our Miami-Dade MPO - led by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Image Courtesy the Miami-Dade MPO. The MPO Transit /Managed Lanes Expansion plan conflates two very different mobility strategies and sets the stage for an incremental phase out of premium transit service.

What are managed lanes? The FHA defines managed lanes as, “Highway facilities or a set of lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions.”  In most cases this involves variable tolling on the managed lane based on surrounding levels of congestion.  Simply put, the lanes are toll roads that run parallel to ‘free’ roads, allowing users to pay a premium to bypass traffic.

As you can see from the map above from the Miami-Dade MPO Near Term Plan, the planners at the MPO have some serious confusion about the relationship between managed lanes and transit. MPO planners are conflating their need for more revenue with their responsibility to provide better mobility throughout Miami-Dade. What follows is what MPO planners have in mind for your transportation future (Disclaimer: I didn’t make this up - it came directly from the MPO Near Term Plan):

Once the SR 836/826 interchange reconstruction is complete the managed lane system can be expanded. A combination of tolling, express lanes and transit services, similar to the operation on I‐95 Express managed lanes represents a greener, cost effective strategy to meet the demand on the transportation system. At a relative minimal cost of implementation this strategy provides a feasible approach that has proven to yield the desired results of mobility improvements that will help transit become more sustainable.

Greenwashing at its worst. To claim that adding capacity to the road will lead to any sustainable benefit is disingenuous at best - and to further claim that this will yield some transit benefit is an insult to the people of Dade county.

The optimal strategy for managed lanes is to convert existing lanes and shoulders , as was done with the I‐95 Express project. Managed lanes in the 2035 LRTP comprise 99 center line miles of improvements. Approximately 27% of those improvements are identified as “Cost Feasible” in the LRTP, 61% are funded only for planning design and right‐of‐way. The remainder of the facilities are unfunded.

FDOT is undertaking a PD&E study for the development of managed lanes on the Palmetto Expressway.
This north‐south corridor is an important link between the Kendall area and the MIC completing a grid of
future managed lanes carrying express transit services.

MDX has initiated a PD&E study for the integration of a managed lane project along the South Dade Busway along US1. If the PD&E study finds that managed lanes are feasible and if the improvements are made to the Busway, it would be operated as a managed lane and the available capacity would be “sold” to auto drivers. The fees paid by private autos would be based upon the demand, in order to preserve free flow conditions. Buses that currently use the exclusive right‐of‐way would operate in mixed flow. Revenues from the tolls would first go to repay the bonds then secondly would go to pay for the operation of the facility. The level of revenues dedicated to transit would still need to be determined and the FTA, who paid for a portion of the Busway, will need to approve the planned project. FTA has stated that the approval of the project would be based upon the level of benefit provided to transit.

Thank goodness for the FTA. We have written extensively on the conversion of the busway to an expressway,  but this is the clearest indication yet that MDX is up to no good. They acknowledge that toll revenue would go to other needs before even being considered for transit, and that the FTA is not yet on-board with their plans because there is no benefit to transit riders. The citizens of Miami-Dade County are being fleeced of their right to convenient and easy mass transit so that county leaders can build ‘lexus lanes’ from one end of Miami to the other.

Different from progressive congestion management policies, like London’s now famous congestion pricing plan, managed lanes are not intended for urban, transit served areas.They provide a fast alternative to both non-tolled streets AND transit, and are described by the FHA as a ‘highway facility.’ While congestion pricing is meant to control/reduce car demand in urban and transit served areas, managed lanes are simply extra capacity and another revenue source for cash strapped transportation agencies.

Regarding London’s congestion pricing plan, Next American City had this to say,

London’s congestion charge system charges private car users who enter the zone £10 ($16) per day between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The scheme has been a huge success, resulting in a 20% drop in car use, £120 million ($197 million) annual net-revenues, and the fastest growth rate for the city’s bus system since the 1940s. …

As a result of the congestion charge, CO2 emissions fell by 16% within the charging zone, with nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions dropping too. Functional benefits also exist. Average traffic speeds have increased by 37%, with delays to private journeys decreasing by 30% and bus journeys by 50%. Speedier journeys have also reduced average taxi fares.

Congestion pricing is an important part of urban mobility management - but the managed lanes plan proposed by the Miami-Dade MPO is nothing more than a veiled ploy to undermine transit service, and expand highway capacity. There are plenty of ways to expand transit ridership, but managed lanes is not one of them. We need strong and vocal support of transit reform and expansion - NOT the slow dismantling of transit service to the benefit of Miami-Dade’s Mercedes driving population.

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10 Responses to ‘Lexus Lanes’ Coming to a Street Near You

  1. B says:

    As a daily I95 commuter and occasional 95 Express bus rider, I would argue that there is a transit benefit associated with managed lanes on expressways. Simply put: before 95 Express, there was NO practical premium transit option for rush hour commuters. (Tri-rail just takes you so far out of the way). Without the managed lanes, the busses would just get stuck in traffic. Of course, we’d much rather expand Metrorail and commuter rail, but that’s still many years away.

    Along the Dolphin, there is currently NO premium transit option. Same for the Palmetto. If you can take an express bus downtown from Mall of Americas or the I-75/Palmetto interchange, wouldn’t that be better than NO transit option?

    I do agree with you on the Busway though, as well as BRT routes on surface roads in general. Auto traffic should NOT be allowed on those. We need increased frequency and better signal prioritization, and a few flyover ramps.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The purpose of MDX is not to provide transportation, it is to make money by collecting tolls. It’s not that they don’t want to fund transit - it’s just that as a service that needs continuing subsidies transit can’t fit into their business model. Unfortunately MDX is far removed from the the indirect subsidies that make driving cheaper than transit even including tolls. The result is transit will always have their hand out and MDX can’t help as it needs to preserve its business model.

  3. C says:

    Confused how they would put managed lanes on Biscayne Blvd, that would be hard to manage…

  4. Victor Dover says:

    Many always suspected the South Dade Busway was really a Stealth Widening of US1.Here’s fuel for that conspiracy theory.

  5. Steven Kohl says:

    You have got to be kidding. The only thing I could agree with here is maybe doing HOV lanes on the Palmetto, Turnpike, and Dolphin. This I could see being great. It’d could be a 24/7 HOV lane with express buses, and only for cars with 2+ people. Driving solo and caught on the HOV lane? TICKET! What a great excuse for the police department to make money.

  6. Gary Hunt says:

    I believe these lanes are the worst thing that can be done for traffic congestion because anything that does not promote the concept that we all are suffering in the same boat will postpone better solutions. When we allow the more affluent and consequently more influential drivers to sail along then “hey, there’s no problem” and better bus and rail will never happen for the rest of us.

  7. Daniel says:

    All these things that seem like terrible ideas are actually very good things as they will overall make traffic worse hence creating more support for real transit. They also generate badly needed money for the area.

  8. Tony Garcia says:

    Actually that money will go to pay bond investors for the road -not for any community necessity.

  9. Eddie Suarez says:

    I’ve said this before, traffic congestion, like a stuffy nose, can be solved in two ways: You either remove the congestion or your get a bigger nose. But without removing the congestion, your nose will just become stuffed again and again no matter how big you make it. Get cars off the road and you remove the congestion without needing a huge nose!

  10. Tony Garcia says:

    Well said sir

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