Buttle's World

21 January, 2009

Life in the Socialist Lane

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 16:21

I call carpool, or HOV lanes the “socialist lane” since it’s real estate I’m paying for, taken from me at gunpoint, and given to those the government favors. For that reason i find them immoral, and hate them.

Some interesting research claims that they may have a beneficial smoothing effect on traffic.

The authors observed what they called a “smoothing effect.” Drivers were less tempted to change lanes, because there were fewer options available, and the “discharge flows” actually increased. When the carpool lane wasn’t activated, lanes saw anywhere from 9% to 13% worse performance in VPH (vehicles per hour). When considered in terms of “people hours traveled,” the activation of the carpool lane provided a benefit on the order of 30%. The authors note that if this “smoothing effect” is not observed and quantified, long highway delays might be incorrectly attributed to the carpool lane.

This is not a vindication of socialist lanes but, rather, yet another indictment of the bad driving I observe all the time. I have always believed, and data keeps bearing this out, that traffic jams are caused, or at least exacerbated, by incompetent driving more than by road capacity. Let’s hope that this isn’t used as further justification for stealing lanes. In fact:

As the authors note, it’s worth investigating how signage and striping might reduce “disruptive” lane changing. “Disruptive lane changing,” they add, “might also be reduced in some cases by sorting drivers (and vehicle classes) across lanes according to their preferred travel speeds; or in other cases by inducing a more even distribution of flows across lanes.”) We already have seen “variable speed limits” to help smooth out flow in a linear sense; maybe someday we’ll have “variable lane assignment” to smooth it out across the highway.

A commenter on the linked site makes a good point.

Is a “variable lane assignment” similar to the “no passing on the right” mandated on the German Autobahn?

If so, after having experienced the famous Germanic driving discipline first-hand, I would like to say, “yes, please”.

If drivers were trained to standards on following distance, speed and lane choice, most of our traffic jams would evaporate. Tailgating is probably the number one culprit. Pilots are required to demonstrate competence to an instructor every 24 calendar months. The same should be required of people who want to exercise the privileges of their drivers licenses.

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