Public entities should support the transit improvement efforts of the free market.
Moving people between Southern California and Las Vegas is in the hands
of the private sector. No question. With the cooperation from public
transportation agencies, there's a great chance multi-modal mobility for
the LA-to-Vegas corridor
will improve with the growing competition between operators in the
marketplace: XpressWest HSR, X-train, Greyhound, numerous charters, and
now the Megabus.
The Stagecoach Group has
brought the intercity coach back with multiple daily departures to
Las Vegas. Riders can board Megabus either at Los Angeles Union
Station's Patsaouras Plaza or at the Riverside Downtown Metrolink
station, two very productive choices.
Megabus also plans to operate express service to northern California
cities from Union Station.
While Megabus will operate nonstop trips, Greyhound buses will continue
to provide local intercity service between Southern California and
Vegas. Several other private buses, coaches and charters also utilize
the corridor. Expect ongoing
transit improvements and promotional fares from the marketplace;
competition will continue to grow with the implementation of Megabus and
the proposed passenger rail lines. Public entities must therefore
support the transit improvement
efforts of the free market.
Right now, the Cajon Pass portion of the I-15 freeway which links
Southern California into the high desert is heavily used and often
becomes congested during peak travel times. The San Bernardino
Associated Governments is
currently studying the feasibility of potential HOT lanes between
the 60 Freeway and Victorville. There's no report of whether SANBAG will
mandate transponders for all HOV's (better if they don't), but if
Vegas-bound buses and other 2+
or 3+ HOVs have a dedicated set of free-flowing lanes through the
traffic-choked pass, the public-private benefit would be enormous.
At the moment, LA Metro, OCTA, and the Riverside County Transportation
Commission want to mandate transponder registration on all HOVs in their
HOT lanes, including private bus line entrepreneurs who want to invest
in the LA-to-Vegas
corridor, all in the name of
automated enforcement. Does that make sense to you, the rider? After just 16 days in operation, LA Metro has handed out
a whopping 12,297 automated citations since the opening of the I-110
Metro ExpressLanes, the majority of which are likely from
non-registered HOVs and not from solo cheaters. (The Los Angeles Daily News also
featured an article on this very subject.) There's a large
possibility that a portion of the violating HOV traffic will simply
migrate back to the regular lanes in lieu of registering. Not good.
Early complaints posted on
Metro's Facebook page already indicate that the main freeway lanes
have worsened since the FasTrak mandate took place. To be fair, Metro
claims the increased congestion will go away as motorists adjust to the
rules of the road.
However, if the non-registered HOV's flock back into the congested
general purpose lanes, it will be
the I-85 HOT lane disaster all over again. The Transit Coalition
hopes this hypothesis of worsened traffic in LA does not hold true.
Otherwise precious resources will be wasted and the notion of converting
HOV lanes into
transponder-mandated HOT lanes to reduce traffic congestion is dead,
period. Metro, OCTA and RCTC will then have some explaining to do to
defend their positions.
Meanwhile, if you want better transit and lower fares between Southern
California and Las Vegas, government agencies must give the private bus
operators incentives to invest, not place a regulatory burden on the
entrepreneurial class. The
extra administrative overhead and internal costs of maintaining a HOT
lane transponder account and each of the registered buses would mean
higher fares from private bus lines. Same holds true if their buses are
stuck in traffic instead of
productively using the HOT lanes. A non-transponder HOV policy for HOT
lanes makes it more efficient for private bus carriers and commercial
HOV's to compete in the LA-to-Vegas marketplace and for riders to have a
quick and efficient ride
up and back. Better mass transit includes better services offered in the