Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The lonely carpool lanes …

Carpool   Once upon a time, carpooling was a common way for citizens to avoid the costs and drudgery of the daily auto commute.  Back when more jobs were in central downtowns, when more people worked regular schedules, and when fewer families had multiple cars, it was quite common for co-workers to establish a carpool to bring them to and from their 9-5 jobs.  But today, has our more fractured society left carpooling in the dust?

   From Boston comes a story about the underutilized carpool lanes in the recently opened Big Dig tunnel system.  In a city infamous for some of the worst traffic in the nation, studies have shown that some “high occupancy vehicle” lanes average only about two or three vehicles per hour, during rush hour!  Faced with a similar lack of attention, other locales have changed HOV-3 restrictions to HOV-2 restrictions, with minimal effect (other than to facilitate the use of “dummy” passengers).

  Does this criticism lead to a suggestion that Americans won’t leave their personal vehicles for more communitarian forms of transportation?  I won’t say it.  But I will suggest that encouraging carpooling probably isn’t the best way to get Americans to stop driving alone.  I suggest that dollars spent on carpool lanes would be better spent on expanding bus-only lanes in congested routes, along with a heavy investment in big parking garages at residential bus hubs.  Perhaps a better way to get Americans out of their individual cars is to allow them to drive a part of the way towards work …

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