The proposal by the Washington State Transportation Commission in the March 16 Seattle Times is just the latest example of the incompetence of those responsible for the areas transportation system. The proposal makes one wonder whether the commission members have ever tried commuting along I-405.
While I rarely commute during peak hours, Friday morning I experienced I-405 congestion first hand with a 9:00 A.M. drive south on I-405 from Totem Lake to Bellevue. I was fortunate to have a passenger so had access to the HOV onramp from 128th. It gave me direct access to the I-405 HOV lane, avoiding the long lines for those using the regular access lanes. Once on I-405, there was very little traffic and I was able to travel at or near the speed limit until just north of Bellevue where I had to cross the “regular” lanes to get to the SE 8th exit.
By contrast, I doubt if those on the regular lanes were averaging more the 20 mph along that stretch of I-405. The very limited traffic on the HOV lane along with the benefit from car pooling makes it obvious that the vast majority of drivers have great difficulty in finding a rider. Yet the transportation commission is proposing to make it more difficult by requiring those who use the HOV lanes to find 2 riders.
What is even more absurd, rather than using the new I-405 lane to reduce congestion for all those forced to use regular lanes, they’re planning to use it as an additional HOV lane. It’s bad enough their “3+ requirement” will result in more cars forced to use the regular lanes. The fact they want to devote a 2nd lane for those willing and able to pay $10 per commute is unconscionable.
Bruce Agnew, whose Cascadia Academy has “promoted and monitored HOT lanes for 10 years”, was quoted as saying "tolled lanes resulted in less congestion in all lanes”. That seems rather “optimistic”. Typical of those promoting tolls they tend to besmirch buses with claims “Transit gets stalled in the same bad traffic” and “It took buses an average 45 minutes to make the morning commute”. While the ST535 schedule shows it takes 42 minutes between Lynnwood and Bellevue T/C, the bus makes 4 time-consuming intermediate stops along the route. (It seemed a rather "unusual" critique since buses also use the HOV lanes.)
There is absolutely no reason they couldn’t add direct bus routes and increase frequency from both Lynnwood and Everett. (They currently run every 30 minutes, which is probably why I never saw any during my commute.) Currently 14 million annual transit riders use buses on the I-5 corridor. Doing more to emulate that success is the only way to reduce I-405 congestion. The commission’s approach will only make it worse.