I appreciate the point David Alpert is making here regarding the dropping of the construction of additional lanes, including HOT lanes, on I-95/I-395, but I really would love for the criticism of the project to distinguish between the build more lanes part and the introduce HOT lanes part. Congestion is a problem. It’s costly and wasteful and bad for the environment. And if we ever hope to really address the problem of congestion, that’s going to have to involve properly pricing roadways. Washington could build the equivalent of four more Metro systems, and if the roads were free there would still be congestion. If gas prices rise to $10 per gallon, congestion will fall — but only until electric vehicles become widespread.
And pricing roads is as important in an urban setting as it is on a highway. We want people to pay for their role in crowding roadways, and that means tolling of some kind. If we wind up demonizing HOT lanes, then we’re shooting ourselves in the foot — not least because congestion toll revenue could provide a nice source of funding for new transit capacity.
So by all means, explain the concept of induced demand to people. Just don’t knock tolling.