Should carpool lanes really be opened up to all during off-peak hours? The Transit Coalition’s A Better Inland Empire transit blog answers that question. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed AB 405 by Assemblymember Mike Gatto which would have opened the segments of the carpool lanes along the 134 and 210 Freeways in Los Angeles County to solo drivers outside of commute hours. According the Press Enterprise and several other sources, AB 405 had bipartisan support, passing unanimously in the Senate and had near unanimous support in the Assembly. However, Brown in his veto message said, “Carpool lanes are especially important in Los Angeles County to reduce pollution and maximize use of freeways. We should retain the 24/7 carpool lane control.” He may have a point.
To be fair, traffic patterns on some freeways may dispute Brown’s statement even though opening the carpool lanes for single-occupant vehicles on SR-134 and I-210, even if only during off-peak hours, is very questionable. The Transit Coalition does not support opening up the carpool lanes to all road users in such a fashion. A better idea is allowing local Los Angeles officials, even if it be the local Caltrans district, to have the authority to manage the carpool occupancy requirements and enforcement periods on a corridor-by-corridor basis, since local users and traffic engineers are the ones most familiar with the traffic flow of these freeways, not Sacramento. We all remember what happened with the El Monte Busway. Some basic statewide regulations will be required, especially to prevent political abuse at the local level, but basic carpool lane management certainly should certainly be done locally. For what it’s worth, Assemblymember Gatto does represent the region, where SR-134 and a small portion of I-210 pass through.
Several major newspapers, including the Press Enterprise and the San Diego Union-Tribune, supported opening carpool lanes outside of rush hours. Both newspapers claim few cars use the lanes during free-flow hours on many California freeways. However, there are exceptions that warrant questioning and robust debate. As mentioned, history shows the I-10 El Monte Busway is such an exception. Another issue: How many high occupancy vehicles are choosing to drive in the general purpose lanes and why so? What is the just and right thing to do in cases where an accident or emergency crews are blocking the general purpose lanes? Here is a straight-talk blog post on this issue.