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? Somewhere else?'

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 used.

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

1. 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 safety;

4. Express trains could run with all-station trains if there were sufficient demand;

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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Last updated: 03/27/02.