About Car Pool [a.k.a. HOV] Lanes.      rev. 11.15.2008 Back to Lessons

Excerpt from this link,

As most any big city commuter can attest, that really hasn't happened. In the rush to engineer behavior and foster environmentally friendly travel habits, planners forgot to take into account the hassles of coordinating schedules, the rather apparent observation that people who work together aren't all that likely to live close to one another, and the important psychological aspects of commuting - many people simply enjoy the cathartic "alone time" that comes with a solitary drive to work.

According to the office of California State Senator Tom McClintock, who's fighting to eliminate HOV lanes in the Golden State, the typical "diamond" lane consumes 25% of the roadway, but carries just 7% of the traffic. Consequently, 93% of the remaining traffic is confined to just 75% of the pavement.

A 1998 Gannet poll found just 4% of respondents agreed with the statement "HOV lanes work." Just 17% said they "use HOV lanes often," and 57% said they use them "almost never."

In 1997, workers on New Jersey's Route 80 forgot to reinstall the highway's HOV lanes after completing a construction project. New Jersey motorists quickly filled the lanes and reveled in quicker commute times. When the NJ DOT realized its mistake and reinstituted the restrictions, New Jersey motorists revolted.

Epiphany, 6:10 pm, 08.28.2003, driving down highway 85, southbound in rush hour traffic, near Camden Avenue, here in California:

When the Car pool Lane [the #1, or leftmost lane] is nearly empty, or has a few cars going at the posted limit or above, and the number 2 and 3 lanes are at a complete, dead stop, there is a very important message to be learned.

Car pool Lanes are a Religious Issue, not a Scientific or Economic or Ecological issue.

When two lanes of cars are moving at near-zero speed and the HOV lane is moving at the limit with an extremely light load, the HOV lane has clearly and completely been demonstrated to be a failure.

Why? Because the other two lanes aren't moving!

When a lane is created that causes other traffic to stop and is illegal for those same cars to use, you have created a self-defining failure of a system.

It is not logical or scientific or rational to create a system that establishes a lane that non-moving cars can not use. It can only be justified based on religious fervor: "I believe it is good, therefore it is good, despite visible proof to the contrary.

Given the scenario of motionless cars next to empty lanes, one can not have a discussion about maintaining the fiction of the value of car pool lanes. It's a religious argument, which, by definition, can have no end. "My belief is right!"; "No, MY belief is right!" is the way the "discussion" goes, and it goes nowhere.

Until promoters of car pool lanes admit that it's a religious and not a logical issue, this stupidity will not be removed from our lives and will traffic will not be allowed to move more freely on the highways we've paid for and are not permitted to use.

More about Car Pool Lanes......

How did this come about?
  • It seems that someone [or some group] got the idea into their head[s] that we could reduce highway congestion, not by building more roads, which was labeled as an Evil Thing, but by getting cars off the roads in the first place.
  • Many of them seem to belong to the semi-religious cult of "cars are bad" believers.
  • Why, then, is there a rumor going around that New Jersey has done away with car pool lanes and has seen improved traffic flow, as a result?
  • How could that happen, if car pool lanes are so great?
First, a look at the Basic Premise: Car pool lanes will get cars off the road.
  • HOV lanes will only get cars off the road if there are two or more licensed drivers in the car.
Insanity in California..... "What constitutes a passenger in a Car pool-lane car"?
  • The corpse in the back of a hearse?
  • The kids Mom is driving to Little League Practice?
  • A pregnant woman? [but how old must the fetus be to qualify???]
  • An inflatable doll?
  • Any one child traveling with any driver?
Here's where the brains go "out the door...."
  • The very bedrock of any argument to get cars off the road must include the concept of getting their drivers to use some other way of getting where they're trying to get.
  • An HOV vehicle absolutely does accomplish this, if and only if, there are two or more licensed drivers in the vehicle, some of whom would otherwise be tooling down the same highway in their individual cars if they weren't in the car pool vehicle!
  • It doesn't work any other way.
  • Mom driving one kid to anywhere isn't a car pool. The same number of cars would have been on the highway.
  • Mom with five kids in the car can be an HOV, but only if at least one of the kids would have been driven to the same location by someone else.
  • The corpse... yeah, right. Tell it to the judge. If the judge agrees with you, the judge should be punished for not thinking, or they should be frequently taken advantage of, for their abject stupidity.
I've watched the problem grow in California for over 20 years, and seen some solutions just waiting to be recognized....
  • If you look at a three-lane highway, with two lanes packed with cars going 25-30 miles per hour, next to a nearly-empty HOV lane with the few cars going 65 [actually 70-75, but don't tell the local constables .... ] you might be able to do the math that indicates that if you spread all of those lanes across the highway and got rid of the HOV rules altogether, you'd get more cars to their destinations quicker than you would with the HOV lanes. Go ask New Jersey about it...
  • Nearly all of the highway congestion during rush-hour driving occurs at or just before highway on-ramp merges, where slower cars are trying to blend into the traffic stream to their left. As they work their way into the "#3 Lane", cars in that lane slow down, and many try to merge left, into the #2 Lane, creating exactly the same situation, and the #2 Lane folks have nowhere to go when the #1 Lane is the HOV lane.
  • If all three lanes were available, and drivers had the smarts to use the left two lanes, merging traffic would be able to "come aboard" at or near full highway speed [ignoring for the moment certain ethnic and chronologically-enhanced drivers....], and traffic would be rolling at full speed nearly all of the time.
  • But the drivers don't have the sense to do that on their own: to keep the right lane relatively open near on-ramps. Bureaucrats don't recognize it, either, so no signs go up to encourage the behavior, and, finally, with the HOV lanes locking out a significant part of 1/3 of the available capacity of the highway, it's a losing situation for the users of the product! Is there any way to solve this "customer satisfaction issue"? Sure: start thinking and doing.
  • Leave space in the far right lane, especially when you're approaching an interchange with an on-ramp. This means, most of the time.
  • Get your legislators and "highway engineers" to listen to New Jersey, and lose the HOV lanes. The combination is a sure winner.
Have you ever driven on a highway where the HOV/Car pool Lane "Hours of Operation" are the same in both directions? Even though most of the commute traffic goes one way in the morning and the opposite way in the afternoon?

Check out Highway 280 in California, between San Jose and Palo Alto. Or Route 85, running between 280 and 101.

Yep. Same hours, both ways. Yet it only really matters in one direction in the AM and the other direction in the PM.

I guess the signs are cheaper if they're all the same, and not ordered in pairs with different hours on them....


First Rev: 04.04.2004