If transportation officials are ever going to get ahead of the freeway problem, they must start doing more than merely adding new lanes that quickly fill up with nearly empty cars but do little to ease traffic-choked freeways.
The directors of the Orange County Transit District realize that. They are seriously considering adding what they call high-occupancy-vehicle lanes to Orange County freeways. Bids for a study to develop actual designs and engineering and construction plans are now being sought.
The lanes, which would be added for use by buses and car and van pools, could accomplish two major objectives: increasing the capacity of the freeways and decreasing travel time.
The special lane now in operation on the San Bernardino Freeway (the El Monte Busway) in Los Angeles carries more people per hour in the rush hours than the other four lanes of the freeway combined, transit officials say.
Orange County could use that, especially now that ride-sharing looks as if it is finally becoming popular in the business community. Several years ago the ride-sharing computer at the Orange County Transit District was empty. Today 350 companies use it to arrange car and van pools for their employees. At one company, Pacific Bell in Orange, almost 25% of employees now share rides. In fact, private vehicle pools are expected to account for about 60% of the traffic on the special freeway lanes.
Ride-sharing vehicles and express buses could carry as many as 140,000 commuters a day, a preliminary study concluded. And the decrease in congestion could cut a commute from Tustin to John Wayne Airport by about seven minutes and chop off about 25 minutes on a trip from the airport to Brea.
There is no doubt about the need to increase the carrying capacity on some of the county's congested freeways. The county population is still growing, and within the next decade many freeways must surely be widened. Rather than just continually adding more lanes, it's good to see transportation officials looking for more innovative ways to move more people in less time.