Monday, April 22, 2013

Do Not Remove the NB I-5 HOV Lane, Please!

This article is from September of last year, but it appears to be a timeless discussion regarding the northbound (NB) I-5 HOV lane in North Portland. It is no surprise why the HOV lane was implemented along this corridor in the first place: a demand control strategy to get more people to share rides or take transit. Let's look back a few years: the HOV lane was implemented along the NB I-5 in North Portland and another southbound (SB) HOV lane was implemented in Clark County, WA, just north of the Interstate Bridge. In 2005, the SB lane was removed, but the NB lane continues through North Portland.

It appears that critics are now calling the existing NB HOV lane "its own strange beast" and are suggesting the lane be removed. Well, not so fast. The HOV lane is a vital strategy to control the inevitable rapid rise in freeway congestion. The lane is used by several high-speed, high-frequency express bus lines from the Portland City Center to several park and ride facilities in suburban parts of Clark County during the afternoon commute. The moment that time-saving, speed-enhancing mechanism is taken away, the buses are forced to travel at speeds nearly identical to single occupancy vehicles. Not only does it make operating costs for these lines much higher, but it also detracts many passengers away from using transit since it will lose its competitive edge as a mobility option for commute travelers along the corridor. Speed and travel time are two of the most important ways to attract discretionary riders (in this case, commuters), so taking the HOV lane away will simply push some of the current bus riders right back into their car.

I can't help but compare this criticism of the HOV lane to Joan Didion's discontent of the early version of the HOV lane concept in LA. One would think critics would learn from the past and start putting the pieces together as to why the Portland HOV lane is staying put, at least for now.

Post was graciously edited by Chris Myers.

1. Didion, Joan. “Bureaucrats,” The White Album
2. The Oregonian Editorial Board. "Time to be rid of I-5's northbound HOV lane." The Oregonian Online Edition. 5 September 2012. 
3. SW Washington Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). Vancouver High Occupancy Vehicle Lane. 

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you.
    Even if they were to convert the HOV lane to a regular lane, I don't think you would see an improvement in the peak hour congestion. Congestion is so bad that the additional amount of capacity would be insignificant. There might be an improvement initially but it would go back, or even become worse than congestion today. Plus that would punish carpoolers and they might decided to start driving themselves since there are less benefits to riding the bus or carpooling.
    Also, the HOV lane helps Portland meet air quality and other standards.


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