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May 26, 2006

Comments

Chris Prevatt

I wrote this a while ago, but it seems to be still appropriate.

While sitting in the gridlock of the 22 freeway the other day, my roommate and I began discussing the long overdue planned improvements to the 22 freeway. That inevitably led to a discussion of the value and wisdom of carpool (HOV) lanes being planned for the 22 freeway.

We both agreed that it would be better to make those lanes available to everyone since all taxpayers pay for their construction. We just couldn’t see why it is productive to allow a parent with an infant in the back seat to use the HOV lane and not someone driving alone. If the HOV lanes are designed to reduce traffic then how does an infant riding with a parent reduce traffic?

Then of course there is the proposal to allow hybrid vehicles to use the HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. Would this mean that we should change the name of the HOV lanes to Special Vehicle Lanes? And what about those of us who cannot afford to purchase a new hybrid vehicle? Is that really fair?
Then we reached a critical dilemma. If driving with an infant is ok in a HOV lane, why not open it up to pregnant women? Since we can charge someone with murder of an unborn child if the mother is murdered, then shouldn’t we start counting the unborn child as a person when driving in an HOV lane? Of course this raises the inevitable question of when does an unborn infant become a person? Is it the third trimester? If the third, then why not the second trimester, or even the first month of pregnancy? Where do we draw the line?
Now if we were to make theses changes to the HOV lane regulations, then we would of course have legal claims of discrimination on the basis of gender, since men cannot become pregnant. But since men are half of the equation, shouldn’t they also be allowed to freely use the HOV lanes. After all, men carry around the potential to create life too.

We finally reached the conclusion that HOV lanes where inherently unconstitutional and should be banned altogether as discriminatory. This is much easier and ultimately more intelligent than making the necessary changes to make them fair which would end up with the same result.

Check out more Liberal musings at TheLiberalOC.com

Chris Prevatt

Claudia is against carpools unless they give her $$$

Claudia Alvarez is the only candidate fighting carpool lanes.

She was unable to get any of the contractors to give her $$$ so she wants them stopped now.

tylerh

I am not a traffic engineer, but I'll play one on OCblog until a real on comes along...


The sad fact is that adding a lane to an already bogged multi-laned freeway does little increase traffic flow: it merely makes the parking lot wider. The reason for this is a simple: once a single lane slows down (for whatever reason), the adjacent lanes slows as well. Moreve, there are now more lanes for something to cause a slowdown, so in some cases adding lanes can actually slow down a freeway!

Moreover, there is an optimum freeway speed for getting the most number of cars past a given point: 45 mp if memory serves. Load up a freeway past the point where the drivers can go 45 mph in every lane and the number of cars whizzing past a given point plummets.

Ideally, one would have parallel segreated freeways of about three lanes each. Imagine splitting the 405 so that one could only enter or egress the fastest two lanes every five miles or so (this is done one the I-10 through the San Gabriel valley). When traffic slowed on one portion of the freeway, the other portion would keep whizzing along (but for rubbernecking -- but that's a different problem).

Segreated car pool lanes are a step towards this. A partial move, to be sure, but a step. Simply turning the carpool lane over to general traffic would only help a little bit. One has to have some way to control the number of cars allowed into that lane so that they can maintain closer-to-optimal speeds.


For whatever reason, CA has decided "carpool" is the way to go. It's not a bad idea, as most S Cal types are resisant to carpooling, and thus the lanes don't get clogged.

However, there is an even better way: tolls.

Steve Smith

No more HOV lanes, but not for the reason you think. It has nothing to do with some being cheated out of tax dollars, with traffic flow or any of those old issues.

No more HOV lanes because the whole idea of commuting to work is antiquated. Millions of people in Southern California are driving to offices when they could be doing the same work from home. And when they do, reliable studies have shown that they are more productive, happier and willing to work for less.

Telecommuting takes cars off the road, increases productivity, reduces pollution, saves billions in taxes and gives parents more time with their families because they are home when they used to be sitting in traffic.

Unfortunately, the concept of telecommuting, of using existing, easy technology to produce more for less, meets resistance from managers who need to see people working, from big construction companies who are feeding at the public trough (and making big campaign donations) and from political bureaucracies who are too myopic to solve any problem with anything other than a solution that only justifies their existence.

How much more does gas have to cost before we finally get around to testing the best possible solution to clogged freeways? I say that price has arrived. I say no tunnel, no more HOV lanes and no more freways.

Steve Smith

calwatch

I agree with tylerh (as a registered Professional Engineer (Civil)). Carpool lanes can act as virtual ramp meters much like those that dot our onramps. In addition, carpool lanes have been proven to carry more people and often more traffic than regular lanes. Carpool lanes are not underutilized in Orange County, as the most recent HOV Lane Study concludes. The jury is still out on allowing entrances and exits at all points. It's a plus for transit, because they can go in and out of the carpool lane at will. But it could cause problems when a carpool traveling 20 mph decides to switch over to the carpool lane and takes its sweet time accelerating. It also causes significant enforcement problems when someone in their SOV SUV spots a cop in their rear view mirror and attempts to slow down from 60 mph to 15 or 20 mph and hop in the regular lane to avoid the cop.

The fact is, though, that the anti-carpool lane faction never organizes well. The vanguard of the anti-carpool lane movement is Tom McClintock, and he has never been able to get traction for his crusade, even when the Republicans weren't as outnumbered as they are now. (McClintock has been railing against carpool lanes for years.) The Drivers for Highway Safety crowd gets a lot of ink in the paper but never went beyond their lawsuit in the 80's when the 55 carpool lane was built. I would love to see the anti-carpool side organize and come up with some arguments in the popular media, if only so us engineers, academics, environmentalists, bus riders, and yes, soccer moms can bury them with our arguments.

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