The REACH Task Force unanimously approved its Final Report on January 22, 1997, calling for outreach and involvement programs to teach market-based transportation concepts to the public. It specifically (some might say astonishingly) called for the "implement[ation] of HOT-lane demonstrations within the region by 1999, if feasible," and of "mid- and long-term, fair and equitable region-wide congestion and emissions-based transportation user fees." Translated from plannerese, it asked for new HOT lanes in the short run, region-wide congestion and emission charges in the longer run. It also called for feasibility studies of five candidate HOT-lane projects. REACH, 1997, pp. 3-4. It continued its analysis of HOT-lane projects through April 1998 and succeeded in getting two add-a-HOT-lane projects (but not regionwide congestion pricing) adopted in the 1998 SCAG Regional Transportation Plan (SCAG, 1998a, p. I-29). By the Year 2000, none of the proposed HOT-lane projects had come anywhere near adoption, most likely because both of the main forces for creating the Task Force had greatly receded by the late 1990's. These were: extreme shortages of public transportation funds and threatened federal sanctions to force mandatory employee ridesharing. With the EPA in full retreat, Orange County out of bankruptcy, and Los Angeles County back from the brink of bankruptcy, local governments felt free to return to their wasteful, comfortable, old tax-and-spend transportation policies, trust-funded megabus, megaroad, and megarail projects, and they did.
1. Resolution matters. After all the expensive modeling runs, it is clear that high-resolution, real-time congestion and emissions charges could spare us much more smog and congestion, at much lower cost, than any of the lower-resolution, supposedly more palatable regulations and pricing strategies (such as employee rideshare mandates or VMT charges) studied. If we had them at full scale, they could save the average household in the Basin hundreds of dollars a year in avoided costs from delay and lost health and productivity.