Too many cars means that 3-per­son HOV lanes on I-66 are in­evitable

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - ROBERT THOM­SON Dr. Grid­lock also ap­pears Thurs­day in Lo­cal Liv­ing. Com­ments and ques­tions are welcome and may be used in a col­umn, along with the writer’s name and home com­mu­nity. Write Dr. Grid­lock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.

The In­ter­state 66 HOT lanes sys­tem isn’t just the big­gest high­way pro­ject un­der dis­cus­sion for the D.C. re­gion. It’s also the most com­pli­cated.

So it’s good that the state of Vir­ginia plans to hold seven public meet­ings this month to up­date peo­ple on how the plans have evolved. Big de­ci­sions are com­ing on the de­sign and fi­nanc­ing.

Be­low, a let­ter writer fo­cuses on my de­scrip­tion of how the In­ter­state 66 car­pool stan­dard will change in con­junc­tion with the cre­ation of high-oc­cu­pancy toll lanes. Go­ing from HOV2 to HOV3 will mat­ter a great deal, be­cause it will raise the bar for a free ride in the HOT lanes.

Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

You speak rather glibly of pick­ing up a third com­muter to ride free in HOT lanes. As one who drove a car­pool on I-395 High Oc­cu­pancy Ve­hi­cle lanes for many years, get­ting that third rider is much more dif­fi­cult than get­ting a sec­ond.

I would sug­gest that the is­sue would be even more im­por­tant for I- 66 trav­el­ers as the ge­o­graphic area to co­or­di­nate be­tween three car­pool­ers is po­ten­tially much larger, es­pe­cially when one in­cludes the re­gion out­side the Cap­i­tal Belt­way.

Keep­ing the re­quire­ment at HOV2 for I- 66 would be vastly prefer­able for a great many folks than HOV3. I be­lieve that the po­ten­tial dif­fi­cul­ties will be so great with HOV3, and the added daily cost high for many com­muters who can­not get into a car­pool, that, in fact, the num­ber of cars in the non-HOT lanes will not de­crease suf­fi­ciently when and if HOT lanes go into ef­fect.

I also note that, un­like HOV lanes, HOT lane re­stric­tions are in place 24/7 (to make a lit­tle more money for the pri­vate de­vel­op­ers, the public be damned).

I can’t imag­ine many three­p­er­son car­pools form­ing for offhour trips, while a par­ent and child, or a cou­ple, could travel HOV2. Granted, the non-HOT lanes are not as crowded in off hours, but they can still be con­gested.

On another note, the de­vel­op­ment of HOT lanes in this re­gion strikes me as an ex­am­ple of class war­fare. The prob­lem is con­ges­tion, and I am not con­vinced that HOT lanes solve that. Putting in faster lanes for peo­ple will­ing and able to pay, and leav­ing ev­ery­one else al­most as bad off as be­fore, is not the way demo­cratic gov­ern­ments should op­er­ate.

Dennis Chamot,


Form­ing just about any sort of a car­pool is dif­fi­cult. De­spite the ef­forts of groups such as Com­muter Con­nec­tions, the per­cent­age of com­muters who travel by car­pool or van­pool is about 7 per­cent. Com­pare that with the nearly two-thirds who drive alone.

I’ve heard from many com­muters who would like to keep HOV2 as the thresh­old for get­ting a free ride in the HOT lanes.

Even though Vir­ginia will most prob­a­bly main­tain an HOV2 free-ride stan­dard dur­ing the first few years of HOT lanes oper­a­tions in­side the Belt­way, there will come a point when peo­ple need to start look­ing for that third per­son, or share a bus ride, or pay the toll.

“We’re not start­ing from scratch,” Vir­ginia Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Aubrey Layne told me. “It’s the long-stated pol­icy that by 2020, ev­ery­thing will be HOV3 in North­ern Vir­ginia.”

There are just too many cars. Vir­ginia, like other states with HOV sys­tems, has an obli­ga­tion to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on this. The states must pro­tect the av­er­age travel times, with or with­out tolling.

So why al­low peo­ple who aren’t car­pool­ing to buy their way into the HOV lanes by con­vert­ing them to HOT lanes?

The state’s idea is that it is go­ing to use money raised through tolls to pay for the in­fra­struc­ture that will make it eas­ier for peo­ple to form car­pools or board buses, leav­ing their own cars be­hind. In fact, the state hopes to open up enough travel space on the re­designed I- 66 to draw com­muters away from some of the sec­ondary routes nearby that can’t han­dle the traf­fic.

I’m giv­ing you the short ver­sion here. Write in with more ques­tions and com­ments, and ques­tion the state of­fi­cials at these meet­ings.

On the plan for in­side the Belt­way: Mon­day at the VDOT North­ern Vir­ginia Dis­trict Of­fice, 4975 Al­liance Dr., Fair­fax; Tues­day at Mary Ellen Hen­der­son Mid­dle School cafe­te­ria, 7130 Lees­burg Pike, Falls Church; Wed­nes­day at Washington-Lee High School cafe­te­ria, 1301 N. Stafford St., Ar­ling­ton; Oct. 15 at Farmwell Sta­tion Mid­dle School cafe­te­ria, 44281 Glouces­ter Pkwy., Ashburn. All these fo­rums are 7 to 9 p.m.

On the out­side the Belt­way plan: Oct. 19 at Oak­ton High School, 2900 Sut­ton Rd., Vi­enna; Oct. 20 at the VDOT North­ern Vir­ginia Dis­trict Of­fice; Oct. 21 at Piney Branch Ele­men­tary School, 8301 Lin­ton Hall Rd., Bris­tow. All are 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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