Beth Callister is a member of the Bellevue City Council, Wood River Rideshare board president, and a member of the KART/PEAK bus system board.
An article published in the Express on June 21 states that an Idaho Transportation Department official indicated that "HOV lanes have lost favor in other communities" and that "an HOV project in Aspen, Colo., has run out of funds and seems to have lost community support, based on anecdotal accounts."
This is misleading information. The lack of popularity for peak-hour, high-occupancy-vehicle lanes is based on letters to the editor that, according to the former Colorado Highway 82 project engineer, represent a lack of understanding by new commuters who are not aware of the reasons the elected officials supported the solution in 1993.
Current factual HOV use data collected by the Roaring Fork Transit Agency (Aspen area) and presented to elected officials in late summer 2005 showed an 85 to 90 percent HOV compliance rate. The report was given about seven months after the last segment of the 16-mile Highway 82 four-lane, with peak-hour HOV operations, was completed.
More HOV facts are available from the Federal Highway Administration's Internet site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/operations/hovguide01.htm.
The Federal Highway Administration strongly supports HOV lanes as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option to help move people along congested urban and suburban routes. As part of an overall approach to handle the demand for travel and to address the impacts of traffic congestion, HOV lanes can be a practical option to adding more general-purpose travel lanes.
Because HOV lanes carry vehicles with a higher number of occupants, they move significantly more people during congested periods, even if the number of vehicles that use an HOV lane is lower than on the adjoining general-purpose lanes. Driver frustration with HOV lanes, perceived to be operating inefficiently, can over time result in a negative public sentiment against HOV lanes, which may potentially influence proposals to make significant operational changes to, or convert, the HOV lane to a general-purpose lane.
Agencies are encouraged to proactively manage and operate each HOV lane in a region to continually improve its performance. Proven travel demand management strategies that have been used to improve HOV system performance include: ride sharing and guaranteed-ride-home programs; telecommuting and alternate work schedules; growth management, land-use policies, and zoning ordinances; pricing; parking management; trip reduction ordinances; park-and-ride lots; and traveler information systems.
Even after they are installed, changes occur in land use, the kinds of trips people take, the times people travel, and the levels of traffic congestion, which may warrant adjustments in the operations of HOV lanes.
We have long been working on the majority of the conditions outlined by Federal Highway Administration and Idaho Transportation Department. A valley commuter bus service has been operating for four years and local jurisdictions are committed to increased transit services and long-range transit planning as demonstrated by the recent joint powers agreement signed by Ketchum, Sun Valley, Blaine County, Hailey and Bellevue, and hopefully soon Carey.
Wood River Rideshare has been providing travel demand management services for six years. These are resources readily available to facilitate the development of a successful operational system and public outreach programs to help make the transition to HOV lanes a smooth one.
There is no arguing that a significant amount of work has to be done on a regional and statewide level to ensure all of the pieces are in place to successfully implement an HOV operating system on Highway 75. This community has come a long way in six years and the Federal Highway Administration and Idaho Transportation Department have provided a tremendous opportunity in their decisions on Highway 75.
We will be able to overcome many obstacles and accomplish great things if we positively work together, improve on the experiences had in other places and make decisions based on best practices and facts.