By Scott Weiser
Former Boulder Mayor Will Toor is gunning for your right to use the public highways you paid to use. In an opinion piece at ColoradoPolitics.com Toor, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project transportation program director, calls for conversion of existing free lanes into HOT toll lanes on I-25 through Denver. Toor claims this will “increase mobility on existing roads, and improve transit and other options,” going on to say, “This sounds like magic…”
Well, it is magic, or more accurately it is a disinformation campaign in support of his life-long goal of making it impossible for you to get from point A to point B in your car so you’ll park it and take the train or bus…or a bicycle.
Toor says that the light-rail line that parallels I-25 “provides a fast, uncongested trip for many travelers” but doesn’t say how many travelers for a reason. He also significantly doesn’t say how many people drive their cars to work every day.
According to U.S. Census data at least 75 percent of daily transportation-to-work trips in the area are in single-occupant vehicles whereas only 4 percent use any form of public transit, and the bulk of those are by bus. That amounts to just over 68,000 public transit commuters versus 1.1 million private vehicle commuters in the Denver metro area daily. That doesn’t include non-work or commercial vehicle use.
Worse, according to the census data only one percent of work commuters use any rail-based public transit daily. According to the Denver Regional Council of Governments only about 27,600 passengers using public transport, free private HOV or private toll-paid vehicles use the downtown express lanes on an average day.
Contrary to Toor’s claim, taking away free lanes and creating more HOT lanes decreases mobility, slows highway commutes, drives commuter traffic onto side streets, and increases miles driven, which increases air pollution as longer but less-congested routes are chosen. It’s also highly discriminatory against poor people who can’t afford the tolls and are forced onto even more congested and limited free lanes by this plan. But that’s what Toor wants.
Toor writes “This win-win approach would give drivers access to HOT lanes where congestion would be greatly reduced. It further would allow more people to use additional, affordable, effective and efficient transit instead of driving. Meanwhile, traffic in the remaining “free” lanes would be no worse than before the changes.”
“Win-win?” “Allow?” “No worse?” That’s just plain nonsense. Wealthy drivers like Toor are already the prime users of toll lanes while Average Joe gets jammed up in the already limited free lane congestion. Or they simply get off of I-25 and U.S. 36 and detour around the jams. What they don’t do is take the train or bus.
In Los Angeles when the crowd-sourced navigation program WAZE started re-routing drivers around the clogs on the notorious I-405 onto surface streets, screams of outrage were heard all the way to Sacramento. The traffic-jam avoidance caused angry residents of the lower-income communities flanking the I-405 to demand that the police force WAZE not to plot routes through their neighborhoods. Of course the police can’t do that, so WAZE commuters still divert from the freeway to surface streets when the side route is calculated to be faster than the freeway, moving the congestion from limited-access purpose-built transport corridors to kid-filled surface streets. It will be no different under Toor’s plan.
Like all magic tricks, Toor’s is all smoke, mirrors and misdirection. It is his way of imposing a “sin tax” on wealthy car commuters and making free car commutes hell on earth in order to force people onto outrageously expensive public transit alternatives that are functionally useless in reducing highway congestion but have cost us more than $5.3 billion so far to move only four percent of daily commuters.
Toor doesn’t want you to know that statistic; he just wants you out of your car no matter the wasted time and inconvenience. He is bucking human nature. Despite the average six-and-a-half minute congestion delay they now face, people like driving their cars enough that total ridership on RTD is dropping each year. Maybe that’s why Toor wants you out of your car.