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Carpool Lanes Aid Efficiency of Freeways

Traffic Talk

December 27, 1996|JOSE CARDENAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Traffic Talk:

I am very interested in the road conditions of the county. I am mostly concerned that we have too many freeway carpool lanes being built. My main complaint is that 20%-25% of all the carpool lanes in the county are used by 1%-2% of the people.

I work in the computer field and live in Sunland. I cannot carpool with anyone because no one at my work lives within car-pooling distance to me. I think it is generally impossible for a lot of people to carpool.

Who makes the decisions regarding the construction of carpool lanes? Are there any federal funds involved?

The Bay Area has different hours for carpool lanes on weekends, when all people are allowed to drive on them.

Bruce Edelman

Sunland

Dear Bruce:

The construction of carpool lanes--in Southern California, at least--is based primarily on the concept of moving more people around efficiently.

Caltrans plans to build more carpool lanes, rather than shut down any of the existing ones, said Pat Reid, an agency spokeswoman.

Los Angeles County is already home to the nation's most extensive High Occupancy Vehicle lane program, Reid said. By 2000, Caltrans will add more lanes to virtually every freeway in the Southland.

The existing $1.6-billion carpool-lane program is geared at significantly increasing the capacity of the freeway system in a relatively short time at minimal cost, according to authorities.

Reid said carpool lanes are considered by the agency to be "very cost effective," with one mile costing between $1 million and $3 million. By comparison, one mile of regular urban freeway costs taxpayers about $100 million, she said.

The system is still evolving and still focused on moving people around more efficiently, Reid said.

Caltrans estimates that on any given day, carpool lanes carry almost half of all the people traveling on area freeways.

For example, the carpool lanes on the El Monte Busway--open since 1973--now carry as many people as three regular traffic lanes on the Santa Monica Freeway, Reid said.

Dear Traffic Talk:

I'm writing about needing a stoplight at the corner of Firmament Avenue and Ventura Boulevard. To make a left turn there is almost impossible. I called the traffic department and they did nothing. I also spoke to a government official and he said there was nothing that could be done. Doesn't the traffic department think there is enough traffic to warrant a light there?

Mollie Steinberg

Encino

Dear Mollie:

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has performed a formal study at that location and has determined that a light is needed.

Construction has been authorized, and a light should be in operation by late January, said Brian Gallagher, a spokesman for the traffic lights division of the Department of Transportation.

Traffic Talk appears Fridays in The Times Valley Edition. Readers may submit comments and questions about traffic in the Valley to Traffic Talk, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited, and no anonymous letters will be accepted. To record your comments, call (818) 772-3303. Fax letters to (818) 772-3385. E-mail questions to valley@latimes.com

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