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THEN AND NOW 69 American central business districts could achieve a con- free, and this suggested a more general principle that has sensus that area or cordon pricing is an appropriate been more widely adopted. technique by which to control traffic congestion. They Robert Poole, Kenneth Orski, and a number of other fear that cordon pricing in the center will only acceler- transportation innovators saw opportunities for simi- ate the migration of economic activity to outlying sub- lar win-win situations in the networks of HOV lanes urban centers. In their pursuit of economic growth, that had already been built during the past 20 years in American downtowns can be said to fear road pricing a number of American cities. To promote carpooling, much more than they fear congestion. vanpooling, and transit use, thousands of lane miles It is also the case that the steady decentralization of had been added to freeways but reserved for HOVs. residences and employment in America for more than While some of these lanes actually carry more people in 80 years has resulted in the more dramatic growth of the peak periods than adjacent general-purpose lanes, congestion on regional freeways than on central city they often appear to be less crowded than those surface streets. Naturally, then, congestion pricing in general-purpose lanes. Poole, Orski, and others advo- the United States has been more facility based and cated the conversion of HOV lanes that were being located in suburban settings. used below their full capacity to HOT lanes. HOVs travel free in such lanes, while additional single- occupant vehicles (SOVs) are allowed to buy their way HOT Lanes as a Road Pricing Innovation in through payment of a premium fee or toll. Again, those paying the toll, who already paid for the roads A number of authors who participated in the Curbing through their fuel taxes, are not compelled to pay a toll Gridlock study had observed that Americans were even but instead are given an opportunity to buy an upgrade more likely than Europeans to interpret road use in their travel. In San Diego County an 8-mile HOV charges as punitive, especially because, in many more lane in the median of a crowded Interstate 15 was con- instances than in Europe, roads have already been paid verted to HOT-lane operation during peak periods for by hypothecated user fees in the form of motor fuel starting in 1996. Since 1998 the price on this facility taxes. Trucking interests and automobile clubs have has been adjusted to reflect current demand in order to been complaining for decades that road user fees would assure the HOV users that their travel will not be constitute charging users a second time for roads that degraded by the SOV drivers who choose to buy their they have already paid for directly through fuel taxes, way into these lanes. In Houston, Texas, the Katy Free- which are themselves "surrogate tolls." Given this back- way performed a pilot test that charged carpools of two ground, it is easy to see that the more successful path to people a fee to travel on a similar lane that was free to the adoption of road user charges in America consists of carpools carrying three or more people. Other regions, charging motorists directly for the production of com- including Alameda County near San Francisco and pletely new and beneficial travel options, and not charg- Minneapolis, Minnesota, are considering the conver- ing them simply for the use of congested roads in order sion of HOV lanes to HOT lanes or building new HOT to regulate flows. lanes from scratch. On the SR-91 project in Southern California, for Later at this conference, others will provide you with example, four express lanes were added to an extremely more detailed accounts of these pioneering cases. I wish congested freeway in a suburban setting, and users are only to point out that they have made a huge difference charged to use the new capacity according to a toll sched- in American policy making. They have moved conges- ule that varies with the level of congestion, while the pre- tion pricing from a hypothetical concept that many existing lanes are not tolled. By capturing those willing found frightening to a demonstrated concept that has to pay more to travel at higher speeds, the newer lanes worked to the advantage of many who initially had felt create benefit for those who choose to use them and for threatened by the concept. Many said that pricing those who choose not to pay but who face lower traffic would not work because people had little or no flexi- volumes on the preexisting lanes. Such projects exem- bility to change their travel patterns, and these lanes plify the specific conditions under which Americans, in have shown otherwise. Originally derided as "Lexus an environment of politically prominent and universal lanes" that would serve the rich, premium lanes have hypothecated user fees, are willing to accept road pric- been chosen by many users of many income circum- ing. They see marginal benefits in exchange for the mar- stances on occasions when they are pressed for time ginal costs that are being imposed on them. Because of who would have chosen the regular lanes on other days. preexisting requirements that new capacity expansions One author at the Curbing Gridlock conference had provide special opportunities to high-occupancy vehicles feared that congestion pricing would discriminate on (HOVs) such as carpools and vanpools, the SR-91 proj- the basis of gender because male travelers often have ect at first allowed such vehicles to travel in the new lanes more resources than women (Giuliano 1994). Yet some