- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2000

HOV lanes are in our best national interest

I read Michelle Malkin's "Declaration of HOV warfare" (Commentary, March 28) with interest.

Commuting woes are at the top of the list of quality-of-life issues for residents of the greater Washington metro area. Miss Malkin claims that federally mandated high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes have failed to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality; instead, they have fostered a growing national revolt against a grand social-engineering experiment designed to rob American commuters of their personal freedom.

For more than a dozen years, I had commuted about 70 miles each way to work in the city using the HOV lanes on Interstate 95. As a van pool member and HOV user, I did not take pleasure in the highway miles I logged, but I always felt I was part of a solution, rather than contributing to the growing metro area traffic problem.

Plus, I found it less trying to let someone else do most of the driving. Driving all those miles alone in a car at a slower rate of speed would have cost me a lot more personal freedom.

Miss Malkin's anti-HOV column, however, includes a fact that substantiates the value of HOV lanes. A survey by a nonpartisan California group in January concluded that a car-pool lane carries as many or more people than a regular lane on average, while running at only two-thirds of vehicle capacity. That sounds like an efficient use of transportation resources to me, particularly as the extra capacity in HOV lanes is inevitably filled-in.

Encouraging American motorists to commute in multi-occupancy vehicles is in our best national interests environmentally, fiscally, mentally and physically.

It is perfectly logical for people who do something that supports our greater regional or national good to be rewarded for it, just as it is appropriate within reason to discourage them from doing something that is not.

If the time comes in our democracy when the electorate chooses to vote out authorities who institute such measures, then I can live with that; but for the sake of area motorists, let's hope a better solution such as mass telecommuting arrives in the meantime.


Falls Church

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