The latest phase of the multimillion dollar attempts to mitigate congestion along I-95 goes into effect this week in the form of a ramp metering system. Needless to say, I am curious to see the result: Will drivers obey the lights, knowing full well that the local FHP is understaffed and underfunded? Will demand outpace supply and will cars back up into local roadways and intersections? Will we experience a decrease in VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and see a worthy reduction in congestion? Only time will tell…
Ramp metering is a form of restricting access to roadway. Signals located at the entrances to freeways dictate when cars can proceed. The timing for these signals, in a well designed ramp metering system, is based wholly on the existing congestion of the roadway. Ramp Metering seeks to mitigate the “turbulence” caused by vehicles entering highways – a significant cause of congestion as motorists accelerate and merge with existing traffic. Ramp meters regulate this access, creating a steady flow of vehicles rather than the platoons caused by signals leading into the current highway entrances – helping to avoid the dangerous shockwave phenomenon we discussed nearly a year ago.
While I generally speak favorably of ramp metering – I have a few concerns I feel the DOT should address. Foremost, it seems a bit counterintuitive to me to implement a congestion pricing (HOT Lane) program simultaneously with a ramp metering system that does not allow motorists to buy themselves out of the on-ramp wait time to begin with. The way I see it, if a motorist is willing to pay $X to drive in the HOT lanes to get from A to B faster, why would he want to wait to access the highway to begin with? For the whole scheme to work seamlessly, a second access lane should be provided to allow motorists to buy instant access to the highway. Call it Ramp Pricing.
Secondly, the current ramp meter placement, similar to the HOT lanes, punishes drivers in Miami-Dade (see above) while giving Broward drivers (suburban drivers who presumably have higher VMT) unfettered access to the whole system. At final build out, it seems theoretical that a driver from western Broward (who is willing to pay the congestion pricing fees, of course) could flow across I-595 and into I-95, guaranteed 55mph service the whole way (once the I-595 congestion pricing comes online as well). This is an obvious concern: we are in a sense providing easiest access to our urban areas to those who live the furthest away…
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