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Transportation Nation

Virginia's 495 Express Lanes Unveil News Ops Center

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The operators of Virginia’s I-495 Express Lanes unveiled the highway’s incident command center on Wednesday where traffic monitors will watch the flow of vehicles on a widescreen monitor displaying a dozen camera angles. The new lanes are expected to open by the end of fall.

The center will operate 24/7 with staffers monitoring traffic volume in order to compute toll rates. The new roadway – connecting the Dulles Toll Road to the I-395/I-95/Springfield interchange 14 miles to the south – will charge drivers dynamic tolls, meaning the price will change depending on traffic volume. The more traffic, the higher the toll.

The express lanes’ private sector operator, Transurban, is required to keep traffic moving at least 45 m.p.h., so if traffic slows due to heavy volume tolls, will be significantly increased to deter further drivers. Transurban invested $1.5 billion into the lanes as part of a public-private partnership with Virginia, and will receive toll revenues for the next 75 years.

“Three times per mile we will have detector stations that will give our control center here information regarding what is the volume of traffic and what is the speed of traffic,” said Transurban operations manager Rob Kerns. “Our dynamic pricing is scheduled to update every fifteen minutes.”

Transurban has not released precise toll rates because of the dynamic nature of the pricing system. Moreover, once the highway opens, staffers will need some time to determine what rates work best.

Simulation of Express Lanes signage (image courtesy of Transurban)

“The tolls are set minute to minute based on what's actually happening out there. We won't know until the road opens how drivers are reacting to different toll prices,” said Jennifer Aument, a project spokeswoman.

The average toll will be between $3 and $6 during busy periods, said Aument, who said the Express Lanes are designed for use a couple times a week when drivers need a dependable ride. The new lanes will run parallel to 495’s regular travel lanes that are often clogged bumper-to-bumper.

Aument is encouraging drivers to familiarize themselves with the coming changes to the Beltway at 495ExpressLanes.com and to sign up for an E-ZPass as soon as possible.  Only E-ZPass will be accepted in the new lanes, with HOV-3, buses, and motorcycles riding free. However, carpoolers will still need to obtain an E-ZPass Flex transponder.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: NY MTA: Monthly MetroCard Could Go Up to $125

Monday, October 15, 2012

The New York MTA has released its new fare hike proposals, bringing the cost of a monthly MetroCard to as much as $125 under one scenario.

The hikes, which came as the authority also proposed a one dollar rise in cash tolls over most of its bridges and tunnels -- to $7.50 -- are not unexpected.  The authority has presented a virtually endless series of hikes to pay for its operations in its current budget.

MTA chief Joe Lhota said the increases are unavoidable. "Costs that the MTA does not exercise control over, namely those for debt service, pensions, energy, paratransit, and employee and retiree health care, continue to increase beyond the rate of inflation."

The proposals will now go to hearings before a final option is settled by the MTA board.

Our Jim O'Grady sends these notes from MTA's headquarters.  We'll have a fleshed out version soon.

METROCARD
The current base fare of MetroCard is $2.25. A 30-day unlimited pass is $104, and a 7-day pass is $29.

There are four proposed versions of the increase, which the MTA is calling 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. (Click on the below graphic for more detail.)

Under Proposal 1, the base fare would rise to $2.50. Under proposal 1A, the bonus discount would remain unchanged, effectively providing a per-trip fare of $2.34. Under this proposal, the 30-day unlimited MetroCard would rise to $112 and the 7-day would rise to $30. Under proposal 1B, the bonus discount would be eliminated but the increases to time-based cards would be lower. The 30-day would rise to $109 and the 7-day would remain unchanged.

Under Proposal 2, the base fare would remain unchanged. Under Proposal 2A, the bonus discount would be reduced to 5%, effectively increasing the per-trip fare to $2.14. Under this proposal, the 30-day unlimited MetroCard would rise to $125 and the 7-day would rise to $34. Under Proposal 2B, the bonus discount would be eliminated, the 30-day card would rise to $119, and the 7-day would rise to $32.

Under each of these proposals, the $1 surcharge for purchasing a new MetroCard would be implemented.

(image courtesy of MTA)

Eight public hearings are scheduled from November 7 to 15. The public can also record videotaped comments at MTA headquarters and train stations in Long Island and Westchester. From the MTA's website: Members of the public are also encouraged to submit written comments via to the MTA's website, or register to speak at a public hearing by calling (718) 521-3333 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.  MTA Board Members will review transcripts of all public hearings and submitted videos, as well as copies of all written comments submitted via the web.

The MTA says 2013 fare and toll increase must generate $450 million annually. The 2015 fare increase must raise $500 million annually.

Usage statistics:
38% of fare trips use bonus MetroCard
31% use 3o-day
16% - 7-day
10% - pay per ride
5% - cash

Most Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North tickets would rise by 8% to 9.3%, with the fee increase based on distance.

TOLLS:
E-ZPass discounts  (vs cash) remain.

RFK Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Queens Midtown Tunnel:
E-ZPass - from $4.80 to $5.30
Cash - from $6.50 to $7.50

Verrazano Narrows Bridge:
E-ZPass round trip - from $9.60 to $10.60
Staten Island resident E-ZPass rate:  from $5.76 to $6.36

Henry Hudson Bridge
E-ZPass - $2.20 to $2.43
Tolls by mail (camera snaps license plate, bill mailed to driver; this bridge is cashless) - $4 to $5

Cross Bay, Marine Parkway Bridges
E-ZPass $1.80 to $1.99

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Traffic Is Down But Revenues Soar In Six Months After Toll Hike At NY-NJ Port Authority Crossings

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The George Washington Bridge The George Washington Bridge is a NY-NJ Port Authority crossing that links New Jersey to Manhattan. (Flckr / Ciorra Photogrpahy)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Six months after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey raised prices at its six bridges and tunnels, the numbers are in: about a half million fewer drivers per month are using them. That's a 5 percent decrease.

That will not be a problem for the authority's bottom line. Toll revenues are up 31 percent since the hikes kicked in this past September. Between October 2010 and March 2011, the tolls raised  $459 million; October 2011 and March 2012, the tolls took in a whopping $602.7 million.

The drop in vehicle usage is to be expected, especially given that four months after prices went up at the crossings, tolls jumped by 50 percent on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Those are feeder roads to the Port Authority crossings, which laid a double toll hike whammy on drivers making a typical trip to Manhattan or Staten Island.

Traffic has fluctuated in the past six months but has remained consistently down. In the 16 months before the toll hikes, the number of vehicles using authority crossings ranged from 10 million to 11 million--excluding three months of extreme weather during late 201o and early 2011. Then came September, when the authority raised peak-time E-ZPass tolls to $9.50 from $8.  (After scheduled increases through 2015, that toll will be $12.50.) Since then, usage of the crossings has ranged from 9 to 10 million vehicles per month.

The hikes remain contentious. A February audit of the authority, conducted as a condition of support for the toll hikes by New Jersey Governor Christie and New York Governor Cuomo, found a $4 billion cost over-run at the World Trade Center and an average salary for authority employees of $143,000 per year. Both governors used the audit as an occasion to blast the authority for wasteful spending.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg held a Congressional hearing on Wednesday to grill Bill Baroni, Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, about the fairness of the hikes. The hearing devolved into political theater as Baroni, a Christie appointee, told Lautenberg he was unfit to investigate the impact of the toll hikes because the senator had for five years used the bridges and tunnels for free, a perk of his position as a  Port Authority commissioner.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: US Mayors Want Fully Funded Transpo Bill, Toll Hikes Send Staten Islanders Flocking to E-ZPass

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Top stories on TN:

MTA unveils iPad-like informational kiosk at some subway stations. (Link)

Audi is using fraying infrastructure and stupid drivers to sell cars. (Link)

Some NYC parking meters are experiencing second lives as bike racks. (Link)

An aeroponic garden at Chicago's O'Hare Airport

A group of U.S. mayors met with congressional leaders and White House officials to push for a "comprehensive, fully-funded" transportation bill. (The Hill)

New York City's Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a transit-disrupting water main break on Manhattan's Upper West Side. (WNYC)

Bus vs. train: which system does more to help a city? The answer: it depends. (TheStreet)

After this weekend's toll hikes went into effect, Staten Islanders are lining up to buy E-ZPass. (Staten Island Advance)

The pedestrian safety officer program on three East River bridges is costing NYC $80,000 a month. (NY Daily News)

San Francisco BART protesters have gone from wild to mild. (SFist)

St. Paul (MN) businesses, which have been struggling during the Central Corridor light rail construction, may get a financial boost thanks to the project meeting a key deadline. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Chicago's O'Hare Airport now has a no-soil, vertical garden that grows everything from Swiss Chard to green beans, right between Terminals 2 and 3 on Concourse G. (Marketplace)

The Long Island town of Ronkonkoma is seeking a developer for a 50-acre mixed-use hub that would "create new businesses and jobs, expand the property tax base, keep young people from leaving Long Island, encourage the use of mass transit, and create a regional destination." (Newsday)

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WNYC News

E-ZPass Union Wins 15-Month Fight

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A labor union has won a 15-month fight for the right to represent about 300 employees at an E-ZPass customer service center on Staten Island. The National Labor Relations Board announced late Wednesday that the employer's objections to the union election, held in May 2009, were without merit.

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WQXR News

Union Solidarity Under Attack at Staten Island E-ZPass Center

Friday, August 06, 2010

To see how support for a union at the E-ZPass customer service center on Staten Island has fallen off this year, all you have to do is show up on a Thursday. That’s the day when workers there, as well as at other places where there are workers represented by the Communications Workers of America union, wear red shirts to show their solidarity. And what does it look like there?

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WNYC News

Union Solidarity Under Attack at Staten Island E-ZPass Center

Thursday, August 05, 2010

To see how support for a union at the E-ZPass customer service center on Staten Island has fallen off this year, all you have to do is show up on a Thursday. That’s the day when workers there, as well as at other places where there are workers represented by the Communications Workers of America union, wear red shirts to show their solidarity. And what does it look like there?

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WNYC News

Labor Union Blues: Inside the E-ZPass Dispute

Monday, March 08, 2010

Labor disputes usually take place outside of the public spotlight: Unless they disrupt the morning commute, they usually affect too few people to make the media pay attention. But taken together, these disputes add up, and influence the cost of living as well as our own wages and working conditions.

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