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HOV ain’t easy as 1-2-3

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If anyone out there knows what HOV stands for, please raise your hand.

Curious about the nebulous acronym with its questionable goals, I thought now is a good time to unearth what all the fuss is about along the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass, where the California Department of Transportation workers in little neon yellow and green vests hang out along the fringes.

I first checked the time-honored Merriam-Webster Dictionary for the definition of HOV. Nope, not there.

I then found a dinosaur in my office called the Encyclopedia Britannica covered with just a hint of dust. Nope, not there either.

So I went to the mother-of-all resources – Google. Jackpot! And there was HOV staring right at me.

HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. So simply stated, it’s the carpool lane.

But the bottom line is, the HOV lane will not, and I repeat, will not solve the burgeoning traffic congestion on the 405 Freeway, because it only works for those drivers who carpool.

Developed in partnership with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the project is officially called the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.

The additional northbound HOV lane will run 10 miles from the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) to the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101).

Hailed as “traffic relief,” (yeah, right), with a price tag of $1.34 billion, commuters are being sold a bill of goods because supposedly the extra 10-mile stretch will redefine what driving on the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass means.

Once completed in 2013, Caltrans anticipates the added lane will ease congestion and encourage people to carpool rather than drive solo.

According to the HOV Performance Program website, there are many arguments supporting the concept of the storied HOV lane, which often appears empty to those drivers in the adjacent lanes.

Their studies indicate that 10 of the 16 HOV lanes in Los Angeles County carry approximately 1,200 to 1,600 vehicles per hour during peak commute hours.

Metro’s senior Public Information Officer Dave Sotero said the new stretch of HOV lane will improve traffic flow in the adjacent lanes and will reduce the duration of congestion.

“This is the last section of HOV lane on the northbound I-405 to be built,” Sotero said. “HOV lanes already exist north of the U.S. 101 Freeway and south of the I-10 Freeway. This section fills in that gap.”

Well, to those Angelenos who don’t carpool, you are out of luck.

And yes, there could be some truth to the recent survey from “Travel + Leisure” magazine that Angelenos didn’t fare so well on the rudeness scale.

Commuters in the adjacent lanes are cranky from sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

It’s no love-fest between the abject commuter and the HOV lane.

A viable solution is light years away, but in the meantime, commuters can pack their patience in the passenger seat.

4 Comments

  1. The HOV lane is another failed social-engineering experiment. There’s already a huge incentive to carpool even without HOV lanes: saving up to 50% or more by splitting commuting costs among two or more persons. Many people can’t carpool for a variety of reasons and they’re punished because the freeway is no longer equal-access.

  2. Nathan Ma Feb 26, 2011

    I understand HOV has a good intention in trying to encourage carpool. But saving gas is by far the dominating reason for people to carpool. If two people find it convenient for them to go to work together, then they probably would carpool to save on gas. If it’s not convenient, like one person might not be reliable with time or they don’t want feel obligated to talk to the other person, then they probably wouldn’t carpool even if it means spending more on gas.
    But no two people who like to enjoy the morning commute alone would carpool because they get to use the HOV lane so they can get to work a little earlier. So exclusive use of the HOV lane is not going to push the decision to the other side, when gas saving is not incentive enough. So in reality, HOV doesn’t reduce the number of cars on the road, it just rearranges them, so a few cars get to go faster who would carpool anyway without HOV, but most cars are forced to go slower with a lower MPG. That’s worse for the environment.

    Nathan
    http://www.imperfecteconomy.com/

  3. Joseph Karr O'Connor Feb 15, 2011

    Think of the HOV lanes as placeholders for Mark VIII monorails. Mark VI monorails are in use at Walt Disney World Resort and Las Vegas. Mark VII monorails are in use at Disneyland: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland_Monorail_System

  4. Ryan Feb 15, 2011

    You went to the dictionary AND Britannica before hitting up Google? You realize Google covers both of those, right? I hope that was just something you threw in to tell a story, and not as a legit narrative.

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