CATS: Express toll lanes give new meaning to the word ‘express’

Number 23 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

So what makes an “expressway” an expressway, anyway?

The idea is that in driving on them, there is no slowing or stopping giving the motorist a platform on which to get from Point A to Point B in express fashion, and hence the name “expressway.” I believe this to be a satisfactory description.

I remember the Maryland highway, rather, expressway, with “expressway” actually in its title: the Jones Falls Expressway to be exact. In heading into and out of Baltimore’s central core from the Beltway (that’s a topic for another time) using Maryland Route 83 (Jones Falls Expressway), I am thoroughly convinced this road lived up to its designation of being a bona fide expressway. I can’t remember a single instance of stop-and-go traffic, that is, at least, when I drove on it. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, I just don’t recall such ever being the case.

I also need to remember that when I drove the Jones Falls Expressway, it was in the 1970s. Things may have changed considerably expressway-driving-wise since then.

The days of expressways might very well be here again. What I’m talking about is express toll lanes (ETL). And I can definitely see where this type of arrangement is far preferable to sitting in traffic.

Bicycle diamond lane
Bicycle diamond lane

Now the difference between the typical carpool or diamond or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and the ETL is that the HOV lane is free for vehicles with two or more occupants to use while the ETL is designed to allow all motorists agreeing to pay the toll to use them, whether single- or multiple-occupancy per vehicle. ETL is a form of congestion pricing.

The charges or rates, however, could be variable depending on where used and how applied. For example, during rush-hour or peak traffic demand periods, rates might increase compared to those charged at off-peak times.

What I like about this type of arrangement is that motorists using express toll lanes besides the fact that they, by and large, aren’t sitting in backed-up traffic and contributing further to congestion messes, collected monies can, presumably, be used for express toll lane and conventional highway upkeep and expansion and also, presumably, for non-road-based transit infrastructure improvement projects.

And not just that. Those using express toll lanes probably aren’t putting as much air pollution into the air (if driving a fossil-fuel-powered vehicle) due to their being on the move as opposed to what would likely be the case if sitting in traffic over an extended period of time.

If I am not mistaken, the original intent of the freeway, highway, motorway, parkway, expressway, toll-way, etc. was to provide unfettered travel from Points A to B. I now find it both interesting and ironic how, in order to accomplish the same, designating lanes specifically to allow for this is what the prescriptive solution in some regions is.

Express toll lanes: giving new meaning to the word “express.”

– Alan Kandel