Optimizing our Highways

Better use of existing roads can reduce traffic and improve transportation choices

Map of degraded carpool lanes in Bay AreaTransportation in California has reached a crisis point. There is grinding congestion on our roads. Buses, vanpools, shuttles and carpool are stuck in the same traffic when there are no carpool lanes. And even the carpool lanes are now getting bogged down in traffic, as seen on the right.

The Bay Area is planning over 500 miles of express lanes, about half by converting existing carpool lanes. Express lanes let carpools and buses get out of traffic (many will require three-person carpools to make it work). Then, if the lanes aren’t full, solo drivers can use them for a fee.

Yet the proposed system is riddled with problems. There is no equity strategy to ensure disadvantaged commuters can get significant benefit and reduce their overall transportation costs. There is no focused effort to optimize the use of the lanes and encourage high-occupancy use. And there are bottlenecks where buses and carpools will have to merge back into regular lanes.

TransForm is working to create a model we are calling FAST Bay Area, and to help scale these Fast, Affordable, Sustainable Transportation concepts statewide.

Elements of FAST Bay Area include:

  1. Map of planned express lanes in Bay AreaMake sure express lanes are fair. Express lanes can be fair if they support the expansion of high quality, affordable transportation choices for low-income commuters, coupled with strategies to reduce the barriers for low-income drivers to use the lanes. TransForm will be producing a report outlining detailed equity strategies by fall 2018.
  2. Develop a truly regional network. The network must be continuous to work. Yet there are huge gaps in the future system as shown in the map above (red lines). Unless we get the state to allow conversion of regular lanes (which is all that exist in these areas) to express lanes, these critical links will continue to bring buses and carpools to a halt. This idea is gaining currency quickly, with a recommendation for it on the Dumbarton Bridge and consideration of it for San Francisco on 101 and I-280.
  3. Optimize use of the lanes. Commuters need more fast, affordable options. TransForm believes that corridor-wide partnerships exclusively focused on shift to high-occupancy modes can make that a reality. We are helping catalyze a 101 Mobility Action Plan that would identify strategies to optimize the use of 101 between San Jose and San Francisco, and then bring together a partnership to realize these opportunities.

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Get Involved

For more information, contact Chris Lepe.