YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Test Deserves More Time

February 09, 1986

The 90-day test of car-pool lanes on the Costa Mesa Freeway (California 55) ends later this month. Instead of allowing the test to end, the Orange County Transportation Commission should, as some people are urging, extend the trial period another nine months.

Even one year might not be enough to accurately determine how much the lane will ultimately be used, and how well it will work. But it would be a much more valid test that could help transportation officials more accurately determine how best to use the freeway lanes. The extension is also warranted according to performance reports on the express lanes gathered thus far.

Opponents of the car-pool lanes have been clamoring for the new lanes to be opened to all traffic. They contend that doing so would reduce congestion for all drivers, not just a few. They also maintain that the reserved lanes are unsafe because they put fast-moving cars alongside a lane of slower-moving or nearly stopped vehicles and invite unsafe lane changes by the motorists stuck in traffic.

The California Department of Transportation is adding reflectorized dots and raised pylons to better mark the lane separations and discourage drivers from making illegal and dangerous lane changes. And the California Highway Patrol says that it will intensify its patrolling of the car-pool lanes to cut down on violations. That could help.

What the Transportation Commission must remember is that the addition of the lanes has not added to the freeway accident rate. And travel times on the 12-mile stretch between the Riverside (California 91) and San Diego (Interstate 405) freeways, while not as good as they were when the express lanes were first opened last November, are still well below the times experienced before the lanes were opened.

To abandon them now would only bring back the congestion that was present on all lanes before the commuter lane was opened, cause the abandonment of car pools created since the new lanes opened and discourage the creation of new car-pool lanes that could make the express lanes even more efficient.

State officials argue that more time is needed to encourage commuters to change their driving habits and form car pools to use the express lanes.

The 90-day car pool experiment on the Costa Mesa Freeway expires in a few days. It deserves an extension. The Orange County Transportation Commission should be sure it gets one.

Los Angeles Times Articles