Keep HOV Lanes For Carpoolers
So I get up early and wait with a line of sluggers in Prince William County to pile into a car driven by someone I don't know to get a quicker trip north in the HOV lanes. Then you tell me, Oh, sorry, today's not your day. The main line is too crowded because of an accident in DC, so we're letting the solo drivers into your carpool lane. Sure, it will slow you down and negate the incentive to carpool, but what about their needs?
We'd have issues.
This isn't a lack of sympathy for people stuck in a 23-mile backup on I-95/395 when they needed to get to work this morning. Been there often enough. And it's not a Rules Is Rules thing.
In fact, there really isn't a rule on this, says Mike Salmon, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. There have been occasions when the VDOT traffic managers have opened up the HOV lanes to all traffic, though on average, it's about once a year. One scenario is a major accident has occured along the Interstate and the HOV lanes can be used to get traffic around that point and back onto the main highway.
But it's a rare circumstance where opening the lanes to all actually does some overall good. This morning, Salmon said, when traffic backed up behind an accident at the Third Street Tunnel on I-395 in Washington, opening the lanes in Virginia would have created extra pressure on the point where the HOV and main line come together.
Traffic would have backed up in the HOV lanes, as well. "The two HOV lanes wouldn't take long to fill," he said.
So there wasn't a practical benefit that would have overwhelmed the issue of fairness to the people who form carpools so they can use the carpool lanes. That's why those lanes exist: To create an incentive to carpool.
This issue won't arise if the HOV lanes on I-95/395 are converted to HOT lanes. If they go High Occupancy or Toll, the choices will be carpool for free or pay to use them. The price of using them without having three people aboard will likely be pretty steep on a day like today, when the toll would rise along with the demand for a faster trip.
Take a stand in our poll on whether VDOT should have opened up HOV lanes in response to the delays this morning.
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