Toll bridges: “The mental model that says traffic levels are some inexorable natural force like the tides, which must be accommodated or else, is just wrong.”

From 2010. Now he wants to toll interstates.

Joe Cortright’s latest dispatch in the “Louisville Traffic Experiment” series (below) prompted a few thoughts from Jeff Gillenwater, NAC‘s junior editor, from whom I enjoy purloining passages like this one because he’s so damned good in expressing them.

I chuckled the other day when Kentucky transportation officials said it would take a while for traffic counts to increase owing to time spent figuring out new or alternative routes. Not only did they not include people deciding to just not make the trip(s) among possible alternatives – something a lot of us pointed out would happen – but they also left out the even more obvious: all the alternative route seekers I know or have heard about are seeking to avoid tolls, not pay them.

Lots of area businesses have instructed employees who regularly traverse I-65 to cross the river at 2nd Street for all their daytime trips. It’s not like it’s crowded in the middle of the day or takes much, if any, extra time or driving. Likewise, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve had occasion lately to talk with a lot of out-of-towners who are seeking and finding non-tolled alternatives as well.

We’re nowhere near good enough at political organizing to stop bad projects like this, but we’re not entirely stupid, either.

And now the source:

The latest from the Louisville traffic experiment, by Joe Cortright (City Observatory)

Even with the free alternative closed, traffic is very light on the new I-65 bridges

Time for one of our periodic check-ins on our real world transportation pricing experiment in Louisville, Kentucky. As you recall, we’ve been watching Louisville closely, because just at the end of last year, the city started what amounts to a laboratory experiment in transportation behavior. Kentucky and Indiana build a new bridge to double the capacity of the I-65 freeway as it crosses the Ohio River near downtown Louisville. At the same time, it put tolls on the I-65 crossing, but not on the nearby Second Street Bridge, an older, four-lane highway bridge that connects Louisville to the Indiana suburbs north of the River.

As we reported in February, the initial month’s worth of data on bridge traffic shows that adding tolls (which run from $1 to $4 for cars) have caused traffic levels to fall by almost half, from about 122,000 vehicles per day to about 66,000. We showed photographs from area traffic-cams that show rush hour traffic on the tolled bridges almost empty, while traffic was fairly think on the free Second Street Bridge.

The latest phase of our experiment came this past this weekend, courtesy of “Thunder Over Louisville” a kind of combined concert, airshow and fireworks display that is held annually. To handle the big crowds the come downtown, and afford great vantage points, the city closes the Second Street Bridge. It did so on Thursday. So we looked to see how this affected traffic levels.