Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Toll Lane for Transit?

HART, Expressway Authority to Study Innovative New Solution
Last week, HART and the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority announced that they had partnered up to win a federal grant to study Bus Toll Lanes for Tampa Bay.

What's that, you say? Transit and highway agencies working together? What's next, dogs and cats getting along?

Actually, this is a perfect partnership. Bus Toll Lanes (or BTLs) can offer a solution that works for drivers and riders alike to help ease congestion, promote transit ridership and make for a quicker commute.

Here's how it works. The BTL creates dedicated lanes for transit on local highways that automobile drivers can also use for a toll. Price management of the toll lanes, in which costs increase or decrease based on the amount of traffic, keeps the lanes flowing smoothly. So, if you want to hop off a heavily congested highway, you can pay a little more to get where you're going a little sooner. At times of lighter congestion, you might choose to stay on the main roadway.

Nothing really new so far, right? You've probably heard of price-managed toll lanes before. The difference with a BTL is the incorporation of public transit with a pricing strategy that puts transit first, giving customers the best service for the lowest price.

The $800,000 grant awarded by the Federal Highway Administration will allow HART and THEA to conduct a study assessing the benefits and costs of a BTL network in the Tampa Bay area. The study will identify a sample set of corridors where BTL may be implemented and also provide initial estimates of the social and economic benefits of the program.

You can read news coverage of the BTL study at the Creative Loafing website, and on TBO.com.

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