SECOND OPINION by Cliff Slater
October 11, 2005
The primary objection to the High-Occupancy/Toll lanes (HOT)
An additional concern is that of equity; toll lane costs
would fall more heavily on the less affluent.
So it should puzzle those who have these concerns to find that the HOT lanes in
Rather than commuters in the regular freeway’s slower traffic resenting those whizzing by on the toll lanes, a federal government survey found that non-users overwhelmingly approve of HOT lanes. The reason is that these motorists know that the HOT lanes provide a reliable way to be on time for crucial appointments when needed. They also realize that the addition of HOT lanes relieves traffic on the regular freeway.
A similar attitude prevails among our local residents who never use TheBus. Many of them will object to any suggestion of a cutback in bus service for the same reason. Their rationale is that they might need to use TheBus someday.
The issue in both cases is that we all value reliability in transportation. Precisely how much we value it is a new field now being studied by economists.
Another field that has been well researched is the allied one of how much commuters value their time spent traveling. Economists do this by measuring how commuters choose between money savings costs and how much additional time they are willing to take in order to save that money.
For example, they measure the additional time taken by motorists choosing a longer route on an untolled highway in order to avoid paying the toll on a bridge. By knowing the motorists’ earnings, the toll savings, and the additional travel time, economists can calculate how much motorists’ value their time.
They can also gather data on those downtown
We can also compare the time saved by those commuters who pay for higher-priced vanpools rather than the cheaper Express Buses and compare that to their earnings.
From the many studies on this subject economists have determined that when we are walking or waiting during our commute, we value our time at about what we earn. When we are sitting comfortably in a bus, train or auto we value our time at half of what we earn.
Value of time is a significant determinant of how commuters choose between the various commuting methods open to them. It is the second most important determinant next to commuters’ out of pocket costs for parking.
However, neither value of reliability nor value of time have
been included in past computer models attempting to correctly forecast transit
ridership. It may be the reason that every
It will be interesting to see whether these values will be
factored into the supposedly highly sophisticated computer model that will influence
whether we get HOT lanes
Of course, were we to tie the pensions of elected officials to the accuracy of the upcoming transit projections, that would ensure that value of time and reliability was included and a lot more besides -- including comparing the actual results of rail ridership in similar communities.
Cliff Slater is a regular columnist whose footnoted columns are at: www.lava.net/cslater
 There seems to be no objection to the less affluent paying an additional highly regressive tax for a rail line.
 The survey showed that 66 percent of non-users approved of HOT lanes. Source: Federal Highways Department, Guide to HOT lane development, Chapter 4.
commuters value reliability highly. If TheBus is sometimes three minutes early
but is m
We must allow that if some
days our drive to w
While research is only beginning in the value of reliability, one conclusion already being drawn by researchers is that our actions show that we value reliability far greater than we think we do.
Brownstone, David & Kenneth A. Small. Valuing
Time and Reliability: Assessing the Evidence from Road Pricing Demonstrations.
 There are innumerable studies of the subject. Some of the more valuable are:
Arnott, Richard & Kenneth Small. The Economics of Traffic Congestion. American Scientist 82 No. 5. September-October 1994. pp. 446-455.
Nelson, James R. The Value of Travel Time in Chase, Samuel B., Jr. Problems in Public Expenditure Analysis. The Brookings Institution. 1966. pp. 78-126. KW:
Moses, Leon N. and Harold F. Williamson, Jr. Value of Time, Choice of Mode, and the Subsidy Issue in Urban Transportation. Journal of Political Economy Vol. LXXI, No. 3. June 1963. pp. 247-64.