The Problems with
HOV in the Southwest Corridor and How They are Solved by Monorail
CAMPO has recently emphasized adding a high occupancy
vehicle lane on the southern end of MoPac (Loop1) from the Barton Creek
Greenbelt to Town Lake as reported by the Austin American-Statesman's
Kelly Daniel in her column on Monday, February 18th, 2002. This recent
decision was made by CAMPO earlier in the month.
As reported in her column, this high occupancy lane would be a single lane
that would be separated from other lanes and presumably would not require
expansion of the road. According to Daniel, 'Central Texas transportation
planners have worked for years on the idea of HOVs on MoPac, U.S. 183 and
I-35 and still don't have a good solution for where drivers would exit the
lane in downtown Austin. Cesar Chavez Street? Fifth and Sixth streets?
Daniel also states that 'CAMPO voted 10-9 to recommend the study. That's
created a kind of Catch-22 about the HOV lane's future. The state cannot
proceed until it gets formal resolutions of support from Capital Metro and
the Austin City Council.'
The Austin Monorail Project takes the position that HOV lanes and Monorail
are not mutually exclusive. However, to the extent that the same dollars
to build the HOV could be used to construct Monorail, we feel that this
money is far better spent on Monorail.
Our reasons for this conclusion are as follows:
UNDERUTILIZATION: Seeing HOV lanes with a handful of cars that
qualify for its use appears to be a gigantic waste, and frustrating to
those who either (1) don’t have the required number of passengers, or (2)
are getting on or off before there is a convenient entry onto or exit from
the HOV. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) acknowledges that
there may be a disparity between the public perception of optimal usage of
the HOV, and the engineering standards of usage that TxDOT anticipates.
TxDOT takes the position that its HOV lanes throughout the State are well
MONORAIL: HOV rationale is that for every driver who finds two
friends who will ride with him, this takes 2 cars off Mopac. The speed and
comfort of the Monorail, however, is expected to carry at least 3000
motorists per rush hour on the southwest route alone, swiftly and safely
above the congestion to their destinations with Guaranteed Reliability. As
more and more people discover they can rely upon the Monorail schedule,
more and more people will prefer to use the Monorail, since even if Mopac
traffic is lightened, it will never become dependable.
ACCIDENTS ON THE HOV: Accidents can and do occur on an HOV lane,
causing traffic to back up for miles; it is harder to get rescue vehicles
and equipment onto an HOV lane, and the rest of the freeway is tied up
with workers having to straddle the barriers. In recent talks with TxDOT,
however, they advise us that newer HOV lanes are designed with ways of
opening up the barrier, both to permit traffic to continue to flow, and to
allow emergency vehicles access to the site. This is a welcome
development, and we applaud their efforts.
TxDOT also points out that the number of such accidents are statistically
very few, largely due to the streamlined design. Yet it does occur, and
when you’re the one stuck in the line, you’re not thinking of statistics.
Still, we welcome the improvements.
POLICING: In Houston, a police officer and squad car is stationed
on each HOV lane during its hours of operation to insure compliance with
the ridership regulations. It is anticipated that Austin would have to do
the same. This adds a tremendous annual expense in police personnel,
planning, and equipment.
We believe that however well intentioned the construction of HOV lanes is,
the problem of actual underutilization, no matter what the accepted
engineering standards are, is a flaw that cannot be overcome, and that
Monorail provides a better solution for this route.
THE ADVANTAGES TO MONORAIL IN THE PROJECTED SW CORRIDOR
Absolutely guaranteed reliability. From the time you board the Monorail, you
know what time you'll arrive downtown; trains run at 35-40 mph between stations;
2. The proposed route relieves traffic on Mopac from four sources: the
Pinnacle/’Y’ area of Hwy 71 and 290, from people coming up on South Mopac, from
residents who live in the William Cannon Slaughter areas; and from people who
normally would enter Mopac at the Ben White/Cap of Texas Hwy ramp;
3. In-city Austinites would be able to enjoy the benefits of this speedy
transit; this is transit designed for people, for their comfort and for their
4. Express trains could run with all-station trains if there were sufficient
5. Park & Rides would be conveniently placed at the Oak Hill ‘Y’ area, at Mopac
& William Cannon, and at Ben White and Lamar.
6. Thousands more people would ride this transit than those who would ever or
could ever qualify for an HOV lane.
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