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JKnight View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20 Oct 2005 at 3:45pm
I'm a Southern California Prius (and SUV) owner. I discovered this forum in researching slugging...which doesn't exist here, unfortunately. We lack the central work location that makes it work for y'all.

Anyway, I hope you don't mind the intrusion. I'm not intending to "troll" or raise hackles, but in reading the very interesting posts on this forum I wanted to introduce a point or two for your discussion.

There's some confusion about the point of HOV lanes. They began appearing in the mid-70s as a response to the gasoline shortage and the growing problem of air pollution. The government's TWIN GOALS in establishing the lanes were to reduce fuel consumption and reduce air pollution. At the time, carpooling was the only viable way to do this. Reducing congestion for some drivers was the CARROT that encouraged people to save fuel and reduce pollution; it wasn't a goal in itself.

As a means of reducing congestion, carpool lanes are only so-so. The first effect of a carpool lane is to INCREASE congestion by removing a lane from standard traffic. (Imagine if only three people carpooled...they'd get a great, uncongested lane and everyone else would be far worse off! :) ) In order for a carpool lane to actually reduce congestion, it has to operate at something close to capacity. Until that point is reached, they make congestion worse.

In San Francisco and San Diego, they discovered that carpooling maxed out well before capacity in the carpool lane was reached, even after they defined a "carpool" as two or more people in the car (including children). They decided that they needed to open the carpool lane to some solo drivers and established the FasTrak system in which drivers could buy into the carpool lane (which they redubbed the HOT lane for High Occupancy/Toll).

They also opened the lane to highly fuel efficient, low polluting vehicles that had come on the market since the 1970s. Electric cars, LPG cars, and now CERTAIN hybrids can use the HOV/HOT lane because they meet the government's goals of fuel efficiency and low emissions.

Not every hybrid qualifies. Some, like the Accord hybrid, use the technology to increase horsepower rather than fuel efficiency, so even though they are "clean air vehicles," they don't qualify for HOV/HOT lane use.

Here in SoCal, Prius owners like myself have to buy HOV lane stickers to use the HOV lane solo. Sticker sales have a "soft cap" of 50,000 (if the California Highway Patrol or Department of Transportation decide that they're clogging the HOV lanes) and a "hard cap" of 75,000 regardless. The whole program ends on January 1, 2007, unless it's extended before then.

I OFFICIALLY BOW OUT of any discussion about the propriety of letting fuel efficient, low polluting hybrids into the HOV/HOT lane! My only goal was to elucidate the governmental reasoning behind it! I will venture one opinion, however:

Calling the lanes "carpool lanes" or "HOV lanes" was a mistake. In the 1970s, that was the only solution available, and now the notion that the lanes are strictly for carpools has gotten cemented in people's minds.

The rules have to be flexible enough to allow for population changes, driving habits, new technology and so forth. What works today might not work tomorrow. Hybrids may get the boot. Carpools may be defined as four people in a car. Maybe only hydrogen-powered cars will be allowed in the future, or only hydrogen-powered carpools. Who knows? But we have to be flexible in our thinking and concentrate on WHAT WORKS, rather than letting ourselves be midled by semantics.

Thanks,

Jan


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MDC View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MDC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Oct 2005 at 3:51pm
Jan,
I see you aren't familiar with Norther Virginia's HOV lanes or HOV problems. We have separate lanes for HOV, which are currently clogged with single occupant hybrids. Without the hybrids, more commuters would get to work faster in our HOV lanes.
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VA4ver View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VA4ver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Oct 2005 at 4:16pm
Well, they aren't necessarily "clogged" with hybrids. Everytime I see a back up there's bus in front of that back up or we are approaching the hop on before Springfield or the Pentagon/14th St. Bridge. (I don't live down South so I understand in the Triangle/Dale City area it can be unsightly.

Carpooling is the answer only for the folks who are traveling to the end of the line (Pentagon, DC, etc.). The lanes were created to get the government workers in and out of the city by buses (I think that's correct) but no one wanted to ride buses so they opened it to carpoolers. Government workers.

I feel the lanes are more crowded than 5 years ago, but the population also has grown. Everywhere is more crowded! Getting rid of HOV isn't a real answer to this areas problems and it probably won't scratch the surface of the back ups on 395 as long as there's only 2 bridges into the city.

I wonder how long it will take to get OUT of the city now that there's toll booths at the end of the bridge? Boy, DC's going to hate that one! Maybe they will press for the commuter tax.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NoSUV Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Oct 2005 at 4:49pm
Jan,
You are absolutely correct. The separated lanes here are actually "express" lanes, not HOV lanes. They are currently only used for HOV, motorcycles, and designated Clean Fuel vehicles during certain hours. Some are physically separated and reverseable; some are not.
The ones on 95/395 were actually for buses only pre-1974, back in the day of following the same TWIN GOALS that you mention.
People who are advocates of free rides for commuting have forgotten the origins of why the lanes were created and the purpose they served - wanting to preserve the status quo of the 90s, but not the 70s or the progressing 2000s
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dickboyd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Oct 2005 at 8:50pm
quote:
Originally posted by NoSUV
[br]Jan,
You are absolutely correct. The separated lanes here are actually "express" lanes, not HOV lanes. They are currently only used for HOV, motorcycles, and designated Clean Fuel vehicles during certain hours. Some are physically separated and reverseable; some are not.
The ones on 95/395 were actually for buses only pre-1974, back in the day of following the same TWIN GOALS that you mention.
People who are advocates of free rides for commuting have forgotten the origins of why the lanes were created and the purpose they served - wanting to preserve the status quo of the 90s, but not the 70s or the progressing 2000s



Revisionist history perpetuated by the Reason Institute and Kozel's Road to the Future. The single data point for this claim that the reversible lanes were built as busways is NVTC's Erion's press release circa 1979. The reversible lanes were a compromise. At the time the Shirley Highway was being developed, the rules of operation, and who would set the rules were in a state of flux. The design concept was to have reversible lanes based on directional traffic studies. By the time the road was built, additional constraints were needed.

The idea was to get ALL lanes free flowing by encouraging car pools. Buses were more an afterthought, as I remember.

The Interstate was not built THROUGH DC. The original discussion to have four sets of lanes was shelved. Instead there would be three sets of lanes. Two sets of regular lanes and one set of reversible lanes. It was only during the construction phase that the reversible lanes were identified as bus lanes. During that phase, the agreement was that Virginia, DC and Public Roads (FHWA) would set the rules. The bus companies at the time did not seem to have much interest in providing buses for peak service only. Those buses were bought up by METRO, which did not seem to have much interest in providing bus service. WMATA's big push was rails.

The official word from the elected sector seems to be rail. Witness the Virginia Railway Express.

To make the original concept work, park and ride lots near the entrances to Shirley Highway would be required. The park and ride lots never materialized. Even the parking lots for the METRO stations never got built to the extent envisioned.

Congressman Stan Parris later preempted the tripartate agreement with an ammendment to the Julliete Lowe bill, which essentially gave operating control to Congress. This also changed the emphasis away from getting more passengers to emphasis on getting more drivers.

What's the big deal? So who cares if we lost the bubble on the concept of having ALL the lanes free flowing by promoting car pools?

Fill the empty seats in the cars of the drive alones before asking for more seats on buses, trains and ferries. In those days, Virginia was for Lovers. Today Virginia is for people that know how to game the system and get Congress to pillage the nation for funding for WMATA/METRO and VRE, not to mention all the bus systems operated by each local government.

Several TTI and FHWA studies of HOV picked up on the busway concept of Shirley Highway and ignored the importance of parking and promotion as methods of getting passengers.

Possibly JHK Assoctiates, a traffic consulting firm, has a more accurate picture of the history of reversible lanes and the expressway concept of the reversible lanes.

dickboyd@aol.com
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MDC View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MDC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Oct 2005 at 9:58pm
VA4ver,
If you used HOV 3 years ago you'd know what I'm talking about. If you did, and don't notice the difference, then there's nothing that can help.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Luddite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Oct 2005 at 9:05am
Here here MDC. End the exemption as planned and adjust open and close times to accommodate drivers who live farther out and we'll be back to green flag racing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VA4ver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Oct 2005 at 11:40am
I know the traffic has increased -- been commuting in the area for over 16 years! And some of the time on I66! But it has increased EVERYWHERE! HOV, regular lanes, side streets, metro trains, etc.

Kicking the hybrids off the HOV will only improve the traffic somewhat. In a NOVA dream world, HOV should be HOV-3 only -- no off-duty police, no motorcycles -- carpools and buses. There would be more entrances/exits to the HOV to make it more accessible, extend the lanes farther south and extend the hours. There would be more affordable public transportation (maybe more straight shot buses into the city -- if I had access to one I would take it) and more parking lots for commuters. Keep the cars in the 'burbs.

The dream isn't keeping in step with reality.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MDC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Oct 2005 at 11:52am
Eh, Reducing the number of cars in HOV by 20-30%, probablyly around 35-40% if you don't count the cheaters between 6-6:30, will reduce traffic back to where it was 3 years ago, and undoubtedly increase the number of ride sharing commuters. Three years ago, you would see hybrids all the time, but the delays were just "in theory" based on projections of their growth. There weren't any AM HOV delays at all three years ago. Three years ago, the only slowdowns were Metro busses on 395 and the Springfield interchange area in the afternoon. Other than that, traffic never slowed at all. Now you're lucky to stay at the speed limit for more than a few minutes at a time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote omaryak Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jan 2006 at 10:22pm
quote:
Originally posted by JKnight

As a means of reducing congestion, carpool lanes are only so-so. The first effect of a carpool lane is to INCREASE congestion by removing a lane from standard traffic.


No matter how many lanes you build, they will always fill up as long as there is no incentive to carpool or use public transit. HOV is the most efficient mode of travel, taking 2-3 cars of the road for every vehicle. On Shirley Highway, twice as many passengers are carried in the relatively congestion-free express lanes than the clogged regular lanes. Granted, SoCal doesn't have the centralized work location that the DC area benefits from, so HOT may make sense there. But even then HOV lanes could carry buses if people would use them! People are just adverse to using public transportation. If you ask me, they should pay for it by sitting in traffic.
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