Proposal For Those Empty Carpool Lanes

TJIC points to an article in the local Boston news that planners are shocked -- SHOCKED -- that the carpool lanes they spent tens of millions of dollar on are going unused.  I thought this was the best line:

Amazing.

I would never in a thousand years have guessed that people, -
if they have the means - prefer to commute to work on their own
schedules, in their own cars instead of in some sort of communitarian
Charlie Foxtrot where they have to coordinate schedules with their
neighbors, and have no flexibility to do errands on the way home, and
must welcome other people into their private domain.

And it's not just me - no one at all thought that people might
prefer privacy, individualism and freedom over enforced contact,
compromise, and obligation.

Quite a while ago, I made a counter-proposal for using the carpool lanes:

Several years ago, I sent in a proposal to the Arizona
Dept. of Transportation for their new HOV lanes in the Phoenix area,
though I never got a response back.  I suggested that HOV lanes
probably did not really increase carpooling, since they probably just
shifted vehicles that would have already been carrying 2+ people into
the faster lane.  Why should I get this artificial subsidy of a
dedicated lane when I am driving my kid to a soccer game but not when I
am driving myself to do productive work?  Either way, the lane is not
changing my behavior.

Anyway, I suggested that instead, AZ DOT should create a
number of special passes for exclusive use of the HOV lane.  The number
of passes should be set as the largest number that could be issued
while keeping the HOV lane moving at the speed limit at rush hour.
Maybe 5000?  Anyway, they would have the stats to set the number, and
it could be adjusted over time.  I proposed that they then auction off
these passes in a dutch auction once a year.  I posited that the
clearing price might be as high as $1000, thus raising $5,000,000 a
year that could be used for other transportation projects.

I have friends that said I was crazy, that no one would
spend $1000.  Back then, I argued it in two ways.  First, thousands of
people in town spend not $1000 but tens of thousands of dollars, in the
form of purchasing a nicer-than-basic-car, to make their driving
experience better.  In those terms, to the Mercedes or Lexus owner,
$1000 was nothing and in fact the price might go higher.  Second, if
each pass holder saved 15 minutes per commute, or 30 minutes per day
over 250 work days, they would save 125 hours of their time each year.
Bidding just $1000 for this would mean that people would have to value
their free time (since commuting generally comes out of free and family
time) at $8 an hour.  I certainly value my free time at a MUCH higher
rate than this.

  • Bill

    Great idea, but I suspect you aimed way too low on the revenue side. Phoenix could probably issue 20,000 or more passes without clogging the lanes.

  • Matthew Brown

    I personally think that voter support of carpool lanes is largely the parent vote, what with kids being automatic carpool-lane ballast. If they were serious about actually reducing car use and encouraging ride-sharing, you'd have to have two people with valid drivers' licenses in the car to avoid a ticket - or at least, two people of driving age.

    Of course, then the lanes would be embarrassingly empty.

  • Tim

    In Illinois we have toll roads not HOV lanes. In some areas we have express lanes that are separated from the rest of the highway with concrete barriers. The state has actively promoted I-Pass which is an RFID way to take your toll money. I suggested that the express lanes be regulated by an almost real time price point at it's entrance. When rush hour was on they could jack the price up to 4$ or maybe more. In the middle of the night it could be the same price as the "locals". They could use an electronic counter to determine how many people were using the express and at what price point they had purchased their right to go faster. It could make many millions of dollars here.

  • Jim Collins

    I have one small issue with this entire subject. MY TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR THE ROADS!!! I have already paid for my use of these PUBLIC roads. An HOV lane is just an attempt by politicians to kiss the backsides of the tree huggers. They don't do a damn thing to reduce pollution. Don't even get me started on toll roads. I live in Pennsylvania where our idiot Governor got the bright idea to convert I-80 into a toll road. How about Jacksonville, Florida in the late 1980's? They pass a referendum to jack the city's sales tax up to get rid of toll bridges and then collect BOTH the sales tax and tolls for several years. All of these are just a scam to take your money so that they can blow it on what ever whim they might have. When they can show me that they are managing the money that they already have competently, then they can talk about doing things like this. It will never happen.

  • TakeFive

    I see the hundreds of millions spent to build special bridges to transition the HOV lanes between freeways and am simply appalled at the waste.

    In my maginally less imperfect world, the freeway dividers would be on rollers and shift over 1 or 2 lanes depending on which side needed additional lanes.

    Yes, yes, I know, a lot of bridges and signage would have to be reworked, but use the money wasted on metrolink and other mass transit boondoggles to pay for it.

  • Max Lybbert

    /* In my maginally less imperfect world, the freeway dividers would be on rollers and shift over 1 or 2 lanes depending on which side needed additional lanes.
    */

    Actually, just before I moved out of California six years ago there was a proposal to do just that. Where I live now (North Carolina), some cities have lights -- usually near stadiums and such -- that say which direction traffic is flowing in a particular lane at a particular time. This allows them to change a six lane road to have four or five lanes flowing one direction before the big game, and four or five lanes flowing the other direction after the big game.

  • Max Lybbert

    /* Anyway, I suggested that instead, AZ DOT should create a number of special passes for exclusive use of the HOV lane. The number of passes should be set as the largest number that could be issued while keeping the HOV lane moving at the speed limit at rush hour. ... I proposed that they then auction off these passes in a dutch auction once a year. ...

    I have friends that said I was crazy, that no one would spend $1000.
    */

    The whole point of the proposal is that only a relatively small number of people would pay the clearing price, so that the former HOV lanes don't get clogged. But by driving in those lanes, "everybody benefits" much more than from the current HOV system, which was supposed to benefit everybody enough to make that project worthwhile. Of course the people paying for those passes under the proposal would likely be rich, and we all know about politics and the rich.

  • markm

    Max: Tucson has long had center lanes that change direction depending on the time of day. Tusconites call them "suicide lanes". Rolling dividers would help ensure that people don't get confused and get into a wrong-way lane.

  • Agammamon

    1. people are already complaining that some of the rich here in San Diego got extra fire fighting service through there insurance companies. The same people that thinks its unfair for you to spend your own money to protect your property when other can't at the same level are the same people that would work like hell to prevent this idea coming to fruition.

    2. On the other hand the freeways between SD and LA have a lane that is metered according to traffic density.

    3. The Coronado Bay Bridge here in SD is set up to have the dividers moved twice a day - there's 5 lanes total, 2 go each way and the middle can be moved to accomodate morning and evening traffic.

  • http://www.rudiemods.com/ rudiemods

    That's a really cute !!
    I am new to your blog and found it very
    refreshing and informative.