Moving People, Not Just Cars


Ensuring Choice, Equity & Innovation in MTC’s Express Lane Network


Jeff Hobson & Clarrissa Cabansagan

Year Published: 


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Express lanes, also known as high-occupancy toll lanes or “HOT lanes,” could provide a regional highway network where transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes work together to seamlessly provide convenient and swift transit connections through the Bay Area.

But MTC’s proposed Express Lane Network is out of balance. The Express Lane Network is the 2nd-largest project in Plan Bay Area, the region’s comprehensive transportation and land use plan that is supposed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. MTC plans to collect $6.5 billion in tolls from drivers and spend most of the money to build – or pay financing costs for – hundreds of miles of new highway lanes. There is no funding to expand transportation choices to support long-term congestion reduction. Nor is there funding for programs to ensure low-income families receive equitable benefits from this new transportation system.

Moving People, Not Just Cars is a detailed analysis of MTC’s network and how it compares to practices in regions around the country, and shows how MTC can prioritize choice, equity, and innovation to move more people for less money, make connections sooner, and invest in public transit and other long-term solutions. 

Key recommendations include:

Recommendations for Choice

  • MTC should dedicate at least 50% of HOT revenues to provide new transportation choices – transit, vanpools, carpools, and other alternatives to solo driving – along HOT corridors and to mitigate the network’s impacts on low-income families.
  • MTC should create a transportation choices expansion plan as part of the express lane network and include a commitment that with the opening of every new HOT lane, there will be a simultaneous improvement in transportation choices along the same corridor, over and above existing service.

Recommendations for Equity

  • MTC should design and implement mitigations to ensure low-income families receive an equitable share of the benefits and do not bear a disproportionate burden of the HOT network. Mitigations may include access to the network itself, as well as transit investments.
  • MTC should expand its environmental justice analysis of the HOT lane network to include a primary research question on the distribution of benefits across different income and ethnic groups, considering differences in expected frequency of use of the HOT lanes.

Recommendations for Innovation

  • Along with the relevant CMA and Caltrans, MTC should study the “optimize-a-lane” approach (defined above) before pursuing new-construction projects in MTC’s Phase II (after 2015) or beyond, and for any congested corridor with at least 8 mixed flow lanes and no HOV lanes.MTC and a CMA should seek approval from Caltrans, the state legislature, and if necessary federal authorities to try the “optimize-a-lane” approach in at least two Bay Area locations.