Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On The Fast Track

I used to be against carpool lanes and express lanes.  This was my reasoning.

If you’re going to force people to travel with at least one other person, then there must be a better way of doing it, such as some sort of positive reinforcement to the people engaging in it, but without being a detriment to those not doing it.  And removing one lane from a five lane freeway, which is the size of most freeways in the Los Angeles area, is a detriment to the greater public.  That’s a 20% in driving space suddenly taken away from a work force and a travel force, many of whom could not possibly commute with someone else given the insane distances that comprise Southern California. 

And then there’s another thing.  Enforcement.  Carpool lanes are extremely difficult for law enforcement to monitor.  It’s not like there are little ramps along the carpool lanes on which motorcycle officers can sit and dole out citations as single travelers pass by illegally.  I see so many drivers in the carpool lanes who are single occupants, and non-hybrid/electric vehicles, that it makes my head spin.  What a foolish plan for such a large urban area; the honor system. 

I’ve heard either John or Ken, of the “John and Ken Show” on KFI, say clearly on the air that one of them drives the carpool lanes pretty much every day as a single occupant of his vehicle.  He says that he just doesn’t care and he knows that he won’t get caught. 

There’s also the scary factor that one lane of cars (when the carpool lane isn’t jammed itself) is speeding at seventy miles per hour, while cars in the next lane are at a standstill.  Every day one hears on the radio that someone from one of those very slow lanes, usually the number one lane, has tried to sneak into the carpool lane quickly, only to be rammed from behind by a poor carpool lane driver going at posted high speeds.  Accidents such as these occur every day.  I know because I hear them on KNX News Radio each morning as I’m waking up. 

So, in short, the carpool lane system is stupid, and somewhat dangerous. 

Then, there are Express Lanes.  They’re run by FasTrak in California.  I initially hated this idea and rejected it for about the first five years that they were available.  My problem, building on most of the reasons above, is that these lanes were initially paid for by us tax payers when they were being constructed.  And then once constructed and in service, you have to pay a toll to use them.  So we are being taxed twice.  I think that’s some form of taxation without representation, isn’t it?  Anyways, I simply put these lanes out of my mind.


Until my favorite carpool lane (I’m embarrassed to admit that I did have a favorite) was transformed overnight into Express Lanes. 

You see, I live in the fair city of Burbank.  It’s a great city.  Peaceful, wonderful city council, stellar police force, fun entertainment and tasty restaurants all around. I could live here off and on for the rest of my life.  But the only thing that is missing from beautiful downtown Burbank is the beach. 

During my youth and growing into adulthood, at varying times I have lived on Malibu Beach (the real Malibu…not some of the adjacent areas they now call Malibu), Santa Monica, Venice, and Manhattan Beach.  So, sufficed it to say, I love the beach.  But it’s just too far away from the rest of my life right now for me to live in (and too expensive these days as a reasonable investment), and therefore, I have to commute to my favorite of all of these beaches, Manhattan Beach. 

I used to use my favorite carpool lanes, the elevated lanes above the 110 freeway, which have their own soaring transition lanes to the 105 in order to get to Manhattan Beach.  There is a moment when you are driving on that transition that it feels like you are flying.  The only thing that reminds you that you are not flying is the line of commercial aircraft landing lights spreading sixty miles out from the Inland Empire to LAX passing far above your head. 

But then, literally over night, these carpool lanes changed into Express Lanes.


Needing an easy egress from Burbank and ingress to Manhattan Beach, I gave the Express Lanes a try.  I got a few of the transponders for various cars that I take down to the beach, and I started using the Express Lanes.  And low and behold, I noticed something.  People can’t cheat on the Express Lanes because there are cameras and the so alluded to transponders involved.  And if a driver chooses to move onto the Express Lanes without a transponder, they promptly receive a citation in the mail. 

And the idea of paying a toll, once I have already paid for the lanes to be constructed (the double taxation thing) was softened for me by the concept that I could now set my transponder for whatever number of occupants in my vehicle that I want, and I could use the speedy Express Lanes.  I can go alone (it costs more), I can have a passenger with me (it costs less or makes the trip free depending which freeway you’re on), or I can have three or more occupants in my vehicle and it’s always free.

The easy easement of solo and group transport and the fact that the Express Lanes are self-enforcing have won me over.  Since I have grown to appreciate Express Lanes, I think that every freeway in Southern California should have at least one Express Lane.  And if they were to make all of these lanes raised up and separate from the other lanes for safety, such as sections of the 110 are, even better. 

They will never do that by the way.  It’s a pipe dream. It would be too expensive and would require that the urban planners would have thought about the greater infrastructure of the highway system very early on. And furthermore, those who run the county and state transportation systems would long ago have spent the allocated monies for such a proposition on inane distractions before those funds ever made it to the yellow ribbon being cut and the first shovel of dirt being pitched.  But one can dream.

And yet I say, "Bring on the Express Lanes for each of our Southern California freeways.  I’ll pay a farthing or two to avoid sitting in traffic."