May 16, 2011

Report offers Congress cost-effective transit solutions

A new report released on Monday by Reason Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Transportation for America proposes cost-effective recommendations that Congress should consider as part of the pending transportation bill that will stretch limited transportation dollars, save money in the long run, cut congestion and better maintain the existing system.

The jointly written report, “The Most for Our Money: Taxpayer Friendly Solutions for the Nation’s Transportation Challenges,” introduces innovative approaches that will expand the efficiency of U.S. infrastructure while keeping costs in check.

“Needless to say, the obstacles facing our transportation system are large, especially given the current state of the economy and difficult funding climate,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.  “But by making smart, selective choices about how our vital dollars are spent, — fixing what we have first and looking for ways to better utilize the system — we can maintain our current network and better meet changing transportation needs.”

The report outlines seven specific tools that would significantly improve the nation’s transportation system by reducing future congestion, planning for the future, better utilizing existing capacity, and increasing the safety of roads and bridges.

For example, the implementation of "Transportation Scenario Planning" would bring together local governments, metropolitan planning organizations and regional councils to assess forecasted data on transportation demands and develop “what-if” scenarios to indicate how potential systems would function as populations expand. Legislators, businesses and the public then assess these scenarios and come to agreement on the most favorable solution.

Many communities find that changes to “business as usual” result in a more efficient transportation system at a lower cost. Scenario Planning has been used in various states and regions and was recently embraced by Chicago in its “GO TO 2040” plan to develop a new transportation system by 2040 that would meet the city’s growing population and transportation needs. 

Another innovative approach the report recommends is to reduce congestion on the road by expanding the use of High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. HOT lanes are reserved for buses and other high-occupancy vehicles. Single-occupancy vehicles wishing to access the less congested HOT lanes pay a fluctuating rate based upon the number of vehicles in the HOT lanes to ensure they keep traffic moving.

These lanes have already been introduced in cities around the country, and in Southeast Florida alone, saved commuters nearly $9 million in just six months.

The report also recommends five additional strategies, including:

•    Bus Rapid Transit

•    Intelligent Transportation Systems

•    Intercity buses

•    Teleworking

•    Local street connectivity

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