Unfortunately, I can’t link to the original article, but a long while back Joan Didion wrote a blockbuster piece on the creation of HOV Lanes. From Jon Last:

Caltrans decided that it would prefer to eliminate 7,800 of those vehicles—that was, literally, their precisely-stated goal—by forcing people to carpool. Thus the Diamond Lanes reserved 25 percent of the available highway space for 3 percent of the vehicles. As you might imagine, pandemonium ensued.

Traffic on the Santa Monica ground to a halt. The number of accidents increased by about 400 percent. The public flipped out. Lawsuits were filed; people scattered nails in the Diamond Lanes in protest. Apparently, people thought that Caltrans was trying to surreptitiously make their lives harder to achieve some statist social-engineering target. Why would they have ever gotten that idea?

Well, for starters, Caltrans leaned on the municipal engineer of L.A.’s surface streets. They didn’t have jurisdiction over these local roads, so they wanted him to create a “confused and congested situation” (their words) on the surface roads so that drivers would be forced onto the gridlocked freeways. And Caltrans knew that the freeways would be gridlocked, because that’s the way they wanted them.

From the other coast (and thirteen years ago), Joe Sharkey wrote:

In New Jersey, many motorists are annoyed because they’re suddenly faced with longer commutes on Routes 80 and 287 and in the newly opened stretch of the Turnpike where the HOV lanes opened in December. But often, their ire is directed at the next lane, not the highway planners.

”People punish others for using the HOV lane,” Mrs. Sanchelli said with a nervous laugh. ”In the HOV, you’re all the way over in the left. And a lot of times, they won’t let you back in. They’re brutal! Usually, I get off at the Morristown 287 exit on 80, but when they don’t let me over, I have to go down to the Lake Hiawatha exit a mile down, which throws me off by 10 to 15 minutes.”

She said she would join a real car pool but, ”I don’t know anybody around me whose hours fit. I couldn’t even car pool with my husband, who goes in at 7 A.M.”

Which really is the biggest problem with carpooling. Especially sprawling cases like Colosse where husbands and wives leave in different directions at different times. Back when I was living in Cascadia and commuting through awful traffic to get from Soundview to Enterprise City, I seriously considered looking into joining a carpooling club. But ultimately, I couldn’t because my hours varied too much. Even in jobs with more standard hours, sometimes I would want to hang around work city a while before going home. There are a whole lot of reasons that our lives cannot revolve around carpooling.

There has been a recent shift away from HOV to HOT (High-Occupancy Toll) lanes. Combining the two seems like a pretty good fit. Allowing those willing to pay more to get through quicker seems like a reasonably good “voluntary tax.” When I was working at Wildcat back in Colosse, my commute involved either driving on a toll-road or sticking to the free access road. Most of the time I did the latter, though when I was running late or in a hurry, it was really nice to have the former option. I am pretty indifferent to the notion of HOV lanes, but if we’re going to have them, stuffing them in with toll lanes seems like a good way to go.

Category: Road, Statehouse

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