Capitol Hall Report – June 24, 2016 -Intelligent Ramp Metering to Assist with Road Travel Woes?

Intelligent Ramp Metering to Assist with Road Travel Woes?

Part One

Imagine a freeway system with no tolls, a 50+ percent reduction in peak hour travel times, 50 percent fewer accidents, a reasonable time for commuting to work, and more consistent mainline speeds during peak periods. Also, imagine a 17 percent reduction in harmful environmental pollutants and a reduction in fuel consumption. Some people might think they were in “Utopia” with such a system. However, this “Utopia” can be realized with the implementation of a modern “intelligent ramp metering” system. This is exciting news for Texas drivers!

A modern “intelligent ramp metering” system can reduce accidents, travel times, environmental pollutants, and fuel consumption; and the state can enjoy a return of $15 to $20 for every $1 spent on implementing this renewed highway-vehicle management technique. While “ramp metering” is not a new idea, the acquired knowledge from past implementations and technological advances now make modern “intelligent ramp metering” a very cost-effective solution to the issues associated with excessive congestion and the state’s obligation to provide an efficient and safe highway system that meets the needs of the public.

In comparison, techniques like “toll roads” and “managed lanes” attempt to reduce congestion by charging users an ever escalating user-fee. The purpose of the fee is to move cars off the “highway” and onto the community streets. Three major short comings of the “toll-road” or “managed-lane” are that they (1) discriminate against the less fortunate, (2) increase congestion, and (3) increase accidents on all roads. In contrast, ramp meters maximize the use of highway capacity while “tolled-lanes” have very poor capacity utilization and fail in cost-effectiveness.

Why Ramp Metering Works

By selectively limiting the number of vehicles entering the highway, vehicle speed can be maintained uniformly at the optimum speed for that highway. With a uniform optimum speed the maximum capacity of the highway is continuously available. The trade-off for vehicle drivers is a possible short delay in accessing the highway using ramp meters in exchange for a shorter overall commute time compared to a longer commute time without ramp meters. Ramp metering will shorten your commute time.

Why and who would oppose ramp metering

It is a thoroughly documented fact that ramp metering is an excellent cost effective technique for managing traffic. In fact, it is the only traffic management technique that has positive benefits for travel time, environment, safety, and fuel consumption. It also can be the least costly to implement. Yet, many unelected bureaucrat contractors and lobbyist aggressively oppose ramp metering.

Two major reasons for these oppositions are: 1) Reduces their power base 2) Does not generate an income stream

As we all know, revenue streams are the life blood of these who continuously seek greater power. Without the revenue stream from toll roads, many bureaucratic organizations that exist solely because toll road revenue is being collected would cease to exist. The income for a small number of contractors that make excessively large profits through their control of roadways would be significantly reduced.

Who would benefit from ramp metering

In general all Texas citizens and specifically everyone who drives on Texas highways would benefit. Ramp meters allow for lower taxes so that more money remains in the free market and thus a more positive impact on the Texas economy.

Over the next few weeks, I will be providing more information about ramp metering and will share with you the results of our discussions with TxDOT and the Texas Transportation Commission and our plan to disseminate information to the other leaders at TxDOT while we encourage them to consider better ways to build needed roads in Texas.