Friday, September 7, 2007

Questions about HOT lanes you should know and ask

The HOT lanes - To hot to handle?

Here are some of the questions asked that I did not hear get answered. Perhaps they were too hot to handle?

Q. How will you know who is a HOT user and who is carpooling. The answer reported was “that’s still unclear.”

A. The obvious answer, is “we intend to take your picture.” It’s a relatively simple matter to photograph the occupants of the car as well as the license plate number, then use imagining software to determine the number of occupants from the photograph, and finally issue citations electronically to the violators. Every one of these steps except the imaging software is in use today on the red light cameras installed throughout the area. So far the red light cameras are “legal” because they are selective. They only photograph the vehicles running the red lights. These HOT cameras will necessarily have to photograph everyone who doesn’t have an EZ Pass or similar transponder. You can be assured that Fluor, the private company designated to construct the HOT lanes and draw revenues from the tolls, will quickly solve the technology problem. The real problem is whether the citizens who are not violating the law will tolerate being photographed every time they pass a HOT lane toll gate. I encourage you all to not call in sick and take in a Washington Nationals Day game when the new stadium is built. You are going to be on candid camera for sure!

Q. How much will they charge. They said somewhere between 10 cents and one-dollar a mile depending on congestion

A The real answer - “Depending on congestion” means they will charge what the market will bear. At $1.00 per mile it will cost $28.00 to run the whole length of the current HOV lane. At 10 cents a miles it will cost $2.80. Do you think that at least 10 times as many people will pay $2.80 as will pay $28.00? Of course they will. If Fluor gets 11 people at $2.80 for every one-person at $28.00, it’s in their interest to put 11 vehicles on the road rather than one.

Q. Where will these 11 people come from.

A. I’ll answer this one. They will be the drivers who would rather pay $2.80 to drive into Washington DC than pick up two slugs! Every driver who leaves a slug line to pay a HOT toll puts up to two sluggers back into their automobiles and onto Interstate 95. I predict that there will be thousands of additional automobiles put on Interstate 95 almost from the first day.

Q. Have you considered how many sluggers you might end up putting on Interstate 95 because the drivers who used to pick them up are now just paying the HOT tolls? (I asked this one.)

A. We hadn’t really thought too much about that one.

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