Monday, October 5, 2009

Ohio Fails Again.

Ugh. My endless lamentations about how awful transportation in Ohio is never seem to come close to resolution. My complaints are founded on the lack of intercity rail, the seemingly nonexistent state commuter rail and the incredible reliance that the 7th largest state in the US has on the single-use automobile. I recognize, however, when efforts towards smoother transportation-system use are made and try to be optimistic towards these efforts.

Recently the Ohio Department of Transportation had a slight opportunity to improve highway efficiency with its E-Z Pass program for the Ohio Toll Road. Many states--including Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc.--have implemented these fast-pass lanes with grand reception and simple implementation.

But, unfortunately, Ohio fails again.

The adage Keep It Simple, One Thing at a Time wasn't heard in Ohio.

Instead Thursday October 1 they had a cash toll hike plus the startup of electronic tolling simultaneously.

And they grossly overestimated first day uptake of electronic transponders.

Initial lane allocations were based on an estimate that first day penetration of E-ZPass transponders would be 30% of traffic.

The actual percentage Thursday, Day One, turned out to be about 10%, officials said.

E-ZPass Only lanes went unused while traffic backed up at cash lanes.

Plaza superintendents scrambled to change lane modes.

At first they changed dedicated E-ZPass transponder lanes to mixed mode.

[And] then there was sign confusion.

Mixed mode lanes signed everywhere else in Inter Agency Group country CASH/E-ZPass in Ohio were signed TICKETS/E-ZPass which apparently led many cash-paying motorists not to understand they could use the lanes.

So the mixed mode lanes went underused while traffic queues grew at the cash lanes. The Turnpike Commission apparently felt they couldn't call the non-E-ZPass lanes CASH because they have payment machines that not only accept cash, but also credit/cards.

[Continued in the article...]
From a planning perspective, Ohio is rarely the forefront state leading the way in unique initiatives. A few consummate examples of states really introducing unique planning practices include Maryland's Smart Growth program, Oregon's Urban Growth Boundaries, and California's Coastal Protection Program. Ohio has nothing like these. So am I surprised when a state that never introduces new ideas fails at ones that have already been properly executed?

Unfortunately, when the state is Ohio, the answer is no.