By Sirinya The Intern

We could be one step closer to building a carpool lane on the northbound 405 through the Sepulveda Pass, thanks to Metro and according to news reports (Daily News, Los Angeles Times).

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (known to you and me as Metro) agreed to step in with its own funding gathered from various sources to get the $1 billion dollar freeway widening project started. According to the LA Times, the state originally planned to sell $614 million dollars in bonds to pay for the project, but the state's fiscal crisis made that unfeasible.

Dave Sotero, a spokesperson at the MTA, said that the agency's financial contribution - which is on the order of $372 million dollars - will allow for the project to get kickstarted for at least 15 months.

The project is far from shovel-ready. There's a lot of engineering and design that needs to be done before a shovel hits the ground, according to the LA Times article.

This is a blog, so let me toss in my own two cents:
This is fantastic news. However, lets' not run out to the hills to celebrate quite yet. The thing about carpool lanes - especially one-lane carpool lanes that are free is that even they get filled up to capacity. You know this, even I know this (and I don't even own a car!) Some of you might be familiar with this idea called triple convergence. It's the idea that if you builld the road - particularly in a populous area like LA - the road will eventually get congested.

We (as in transportation scholars) think this happens for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that it's possible that people see that there's now more "space" to drive - and poof, people start changing their driving habits.

Transportation scholars like Brian Taylorand Marty Wachshave talked for a long time about pricing as a way to manage the supply and demand for driving on our roads, particularly freeways - and it's no secret to people in LA that our freeways get very busy. What if you could pay to get on a road at rush hour knowing that you can travel at 65 mph?

Right now, you can do this on SR-91, which connects commuters between jobs in Orange County to their homes in Riverside County. IN each direction, there are six lanes: four regular, "free" lanes and two "HOT" lanes. You can get in the lanes for a discount if you're carpooling and the toll varies based on the number of cars on the road. People make decide whether to get into the HOT lanes based on time of day and the cost.

The idea I just described is called congestion pricing, and it can be very controversial, so I don't anticipate that we will have that option when the new carpool lane opens on the 405. But I certainly can't help but wish that I could have the promise of a congestion-free, cost-"free" HOT lane to talk up to people as I try to talk to them about carpooling to work at UCLA.