Thursday, November 05, 2020

Transportation News

I'm feeling rather sad at the moment. Waves hands at all this.

I just wrote up my monthly roundup of Natural Resources happenings in Los Angeles County for LWV.  A lot happens in my little county of 10 million people. If LA Co were a country, we'd have the same population of Azerbaijan, Portugal, Sweden or Hungary.

To keep it shorter, I focused on transportation this month.

On October 15, UCLA Luskin Center held a fantastic seminar on Understanding the History of LA Traffic.  You can read the accompanying paper, A Century of Fighting Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles: 1920-2020.

I learned about the difference between facility pricing (pay to use a specific toll road or to cross a bridge) and cordon pricing (pay to enter a congested area like central London) and corridor pricing.  Los Angeles is the first in the world to study corridor pricing and using the money for reparations to the communities in the corridor.  

This is huge, and I'm so proud of Los Angeles for putting environmental justice front and center in the framing.

For instance, if you want to travel from Long Island, NY to New Jersey, you need to cross Manhattan.  You could pay a toll on the Trans-Manhattan Expressway and bypass surface streets, minimizing your impact on those communities.  Or you can pay nothing and clog the surface streets of Chinatown while traversing between the Manhattan/Brooklyn bridges to the Holland Tunnel.  This leads to horrific traffic congestion, air pollution and traffic deaths in Chinatown.

Under corridor pricing, you pay to traverse through a corridor.  It doesn't matter if you take a freeway, an arterial or side street.  You drive through, you pay for the externalities that you impose on the residents of that area.

Figure 2.1 from RAND Tech Report Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policy Makers. This figure relies upon data from page 922 of this NHTSA report.

We're already doing it on a smaller scale by charging solo drivers to use the carpool lanes on I-110.  Community groups serving communities along the I-110 corridor can apply for some of the funds raised from the tolls for active transportation projects.  But, this favors communities with people experienced in the ways of writing grant proposals.  Those are generally not the communities with the greatest needs. It also limits how the money can be spent, and those may not be the greatest needs.

Corridor pricing means the money will go to the communities in the corridor automatically.  People are hashing out what that would look like.  More money for public health?  Retrofitting homes and schools for air filters? Cash for residents?  Free transit for residents?

Meanwhile, I made a video about the kind of transportation changes we really need to make to avoid catastrophic climate change (as if what we are experiencing isn't already catastrophic.)


I keep hearing that we can't. We could never get Americans to do this. But, then I wonder why we would rather kill the planet and ourselves (Covid:Masks) rather than do the things that Asian countries like Taiwan are doing.