Saturday, August 13, 2005

California CarFooling

Carpool lanes have helped clog our California freeways for about 30 years now. In that time, I have not seen a single study of the matter that hasn't shown these lanes to be ineffective in the overall scheme of traffic movement. Yet, instead of doing away with these counter-productive lanes, the new Federal Transportation Bill has allocated 130 million dollars for an extension of the Diamond Lane between Westwood and Sherman Oaks on the 405.

Speeding along in most Southern California Diamond Lanes are: Members of a family outing; Couples on a date or other social drive; A parent with child. You get the picture, the non-driver has not left a car in the garage in order to car-pool on this little excursion to school, the soccer field or restaurant. These Diamond Lane drivers have achieved an elite status by merely escorting a friend or family member on their way. And by occupying long, empty stretches of that lane, they increase the congestion in the other lanes as well as contributing to greater fuel consumption in those stop-and-go lanes.

Adding Hybrids to the lanes is not going to add to traffic movement or improvement. A very small handful of qualified hybrid owners will now be allowed into those elite lanes. There are not nearly enough of them, however, to produce any noticeable reduction in fuel consumption.

But I guess that any boondoggle that can be promoted by specious and self-serving claims is worth any bribery a legislator can collect.


At August 13, 2005 7:30 PM, Blogger Peter said...

Your post has two assumptions:
1) That L.A. driving is typical
2) That traffic movement is the goal of high-occupancy vehicle lanes

In the SF Bay Area, there is a phenomenon called the "casual carpool," wherein commuters pick up people at designated curbsides in the East Bay, and take them to downtown San Francisco. This allows the driver to use the carpool lane, and allows the others to give up their car for a day. This is made feasible by having a downtown core that people flow into, which L.A. doesn't have.

HOV lanes are not simply about traffic movement. They are also about reduced gas consumption and emissions. And people who are engaging in activities to use less gas and give off fewer emissions are essentially rewarded with a zippier lane.

You should be wary of pointing to sources as... flimsy as the Palo Alto Daily News. The most rigorous discussion I can find:
is inconclusive, but also encouraging.

At August 16, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger BJMe said...

I scanned the report and can only see that it mostly supports exactly what I posted and refutes none of it. Nor does it refute the report in the flimsy Palo Alto Daily News. And I can't believe you stooped to such a flimsy rhetorical cheap shot that no-way enhances your argument.

Body occupancy in a lane is irrelevant. One car carrying a family of four on I-80 on Thanksgiving does not make that lane save four times more fuel than than the single passenger car plodding along beside it.

Also:1)I never assumed or implied that L.A. driving was typical. I never even referred to L.A. specifically, although I did point out the Highway Bill boondoggle between Westwood and Sherman Oaks. I described Southern California, which I am majorly familiar with, and purposely avoided any extrapolatory commentary about the Bay Area.

However, since the L.A. area has about double the freeways of the B.A., I think a commentary about this locale is relevant in itself.

Two things I like about the Bay Area HOV lanes are the 3 occupancy rule and the Rush Hour limits. But not driving there on a daily basis, I wouldn't know how to evaluate their effectiveness.

And 2) Are you stating that traffic movement is not the goal of HOV lanes? I also ventured the opinion that fuel consumption, and its emissions, is not reduced by HOV lanes. Nothing in the Gov. report refutes that opinion. Do you have some further data on that?


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