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People are buying these cars?
January 7, 2005 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Hybrid cars. Car owners in the north Virginia area are apparently stocking up on hybrid cars - so much so that they are clogging up the carpool lanes they're allowed to use under state law. I can't believe they're doing it just to get a better lane, considering the purchase price on the vehicles.
posted by Leege (65 comments total)

 
Believe it:

I paid $3,000 extra for my Honda Civic Hybrid over a comparably equipped Hybrid Civic EX because I viewed it rationally as a way of buying my way onto I-395. The extra gas savings are nice, but I won't make that up unless I keep the car about 13 years, according to Consumer Reports.

Complaining about your commute is a common hobby in northern Virginia. People will do anything to gain a few extra minutes. And considering how much the houses cost, is it surprising that anyone has a few thousand extra dollars to try to beat the traffic?
posted by casu marzu at 9:03 AM on January 7, 2005


casu marzu is right. $3,000 is less than 1% of the purchase price for my house. I live in DC and don't commute, but I'd definitely consider that extra 1% to be a small price to pay when shopping for a house in the suburbs.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:07 AM on January 7, 2005


Some people just can't do right for doing wrong can they. Does it matter that people are buying these cars by the bucketload because they want to drive in the fast lane rather than wanting to be "green"?
posted by aqueousdan at 9:08 AM on January 7, 2005


Apparently, trying to do some right in the world is subject to a lot of scrutiny on MeFi today.

Hybrid enthusiasts should be pleased by this, as many analysts have always said that greener transportation will never catch on simply due to its ecological merits.
posted by trey at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2005


I guess you didn't see the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry hires a prostitute to ride with him in the HOV lane so he could get to the Dodger game on time. [Coincidentally, Larry drives a hybrid].

Part of me thinks that whatever it takes to get people out of their stinky SUVs. But at a certain point -- like now in Virginia -- they need to get back over in the main lanes.

OR the highway department could add another HOV lane.
posted by birdherder at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2005


Viper's "HOV 1" is a smack at solo motorists in carpool lanes.
Smack = intelligence here.

One thing the article fails to point out while discussing HOV3 and HOV1 lanes, is that an HOV1 can keep cars to the left of traffic merging on and off the freeway. By forcing vehicles to stay in a lane during certain points on the freeway. Unless a driver crosses the solid white lines which is a violation. So a HOV1 still has its good points here.

Wonder if the carpoolers drive SUVs which may be some of the backlash towards the Hybrids?
posted by thomcatspike at 9:18 AM on January 7, 2005


Couldn't a gas tax rebate for hybrid vehicles stimulate demand?

I'm all for green incentives, but clearly places like Northern VA (and Toronto, where I live) need HOV lanes.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2005


The ability to drive in the carpool lane is an incentive to use a hybrid car in Virginia. It's specifically designed to get more people to drive green. It sounds like it's working. What's the problem here?
posted by nomad at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2005


Part of me thinks that whatever it takes to get people out of their stinky SUVs.
You said; "people", the plural of person. More people fit in a suv than a hybrid when carpooling which could save more gas.

Any math wizards want to figure it out?
posted by thomcatspike at 9:37 AM on January 7, 2005


Apparently, trying to do some right in the world is subject to a lot of scrutiny on MeFi today.

I work in an environmental field and I'm all for proper scrutiny of new schemes. It's too easy for people who don't want to see the adoption of new paradigms slam into poorly thought out projects and have that cause complications with addressing the particular environmental problem wholesale. Scrutiny keeps us intellectually honest about the validity of new solutions. It really annoys me when I go to conferences/events and some communications type spews stuff which is demonstrably wrong. If I can pull it to pieces then so can some oil company shill. Result: Damage to the overall cause of environmental protection, either through time wasted, money wasted or credibility damaged.
posted by biffa at 9:38 AM on January 7, 2005


The problem, nomad, is that folks feel they are entitled to live wherever they want without having to make any sacrifices. They feel they can make the choice to live 20 miles outside of the city and still be guaranteed an easy, fast commute.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:40 AM on January 7, 2005


The title of this post ("People are buying these cars?") makes me think you don't live in Los Angeles, leege. There are three in Priuses my parking lot at work right now, out of a total of 60 cars. Prius dealers have reported 8 month wait lists, as have Ford dealers for the new Escape. Even Lexus, whose fan base is not known for its eco friendliness, has reported that their new hybrid is facing the highest pre-orders of any car in the history of their fleet.
posted by jonson at 9:41 AM on January 7, 2005


biffa: Point well taken. I definitely believe in scrutiny and close examination of the facts. My statement was poorly worded. Allow me to rephrase: I think that it's great more people are driving hybrids, even if their intentions aren't as pure as I'd like. If that's what it takes, however, then perhaps it's a step in the right direction. Telling someone that they can only drive a hybrid if they're doing so to save the Earth isn't going to win the hybrids any fans.

thomcatspike: I'm not sure how many people per SUV it would take to match the gas mileage of a hybrid, but I will say that most people driving to work aren't carpooling, SUV or not.
posted by trey at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2005


an interesting hummer vs. prius comparison.
posted by antimagnet at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2005


Unless a driver crosses the solid white lines which is a violation.

In Seattle, that would mean you can never enter or leave an HOV lane, which obviously isn't true.
posted by kindall at 9:47 AM on January 7, 2005


Jonson is right, I'm an Iowan. Thanks for the info.
posted by Leege at 9:50 AM on January 7, 2005


I'd buy a Hybrid anyway and if I get to drive in the carpool lane for having it, then that's a nice little bonus. I didn't think the demand for Hybrids would be breaking news to people anymore.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:54 AM on January 7, 2005


Is this "HOV" something I'd need to own a car to know about? Because I don't own a car.
posted by bshort at 9:54 AM on January 7, 2005


I'm not sure how many people per SUV it would take to match the gas mileage of a hybrid, but I will say that most people driving to work aren't carpooling, SUV or not

Well, if a Prius gets 50 mpg on the highway, and a Hummer gets 13, that would be 4 people, discounting other significant costs. This does not include the energy that goes into making such a large behemoth, or the fact that hybrids can also be used for car-pooling.

There are other pretty serious reasons for car-pooling. In a lot of places, there simply isn't enough room on the road during rush hour, and a hummer takes up twice the space of smaller car. Crowded roads are slower, more dangerous, and produce more smog. So a good comparison would have to include other factors.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:55 AM on January 7, 2005


So a good comparison would have to include other factors

including how much they drive.
posted by Bearman at 10:00 AM on January 7, 2005


Is this "HOV" something I'd need to own a car to know about?

it means you're allowed to hover over the other lanes of traffic.

...Because I don't own a car.

oh! then you probably missed the whole "mandated antigravity device" for all urban vehicles that came down last year.
posted by antimagnet at 10:01 AM on January 7, 2005


There's some good discussion on the message board referenced in the article (which is different from the one referenced by casu marzu).
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2005


In Seattle, that would mean you can never enter or leave an HOV lane, which obviously isn't true.
Kindall, in Seattle you can just zip in and out of the HOV lanes when ever you feel like it or are there physical barriers? In Dallas you can miss an exit if you don't pay attention to the HOV's specific area of merging in our out.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2005


according to one source I read today, hybrids make up 20% of the hov traffic in northern va. I find that really hard to believe.... according to those figures, only 8500 cars use the HOV lanes on I95 during rush. Preposterous.
posted by crunchland at 10:16 AM on January 7, 2005


Is this "HOV" something I'd need to own a car to know about? Because I don't own a car.
Yes, since you'll always be riding passenger style in it, making it work properly
posted by thomcatspike at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2005


The really strange thing to me is how little it takes to get into an HOV lane, and how few people can do it. In at least some parts of No. VA, you only have to have two people in the car, yet thousands and thousands of people do not qualify. That's pretty sad, really, when you consider that so many of those people are going from the same (general) area to the same (general) area.

I think the trouble with HOV lanes goes beyond people not wanting to give up the freedom to leave exactly when they want and drive to exactly where they are going. I think it also has to do with lack of community connections, maybe lack of serious connections at work. There must be some reason why it is so difficult for people to carpool.

I think it's great that hybrids have access to HOV lanes, but it seems to perpetuate a problem by addressing a symptom, rather than solve the problem in a more fundamental way. No. VA is never going to significantly improve its commute with car-centered solutions.
posted by OmieWise at 10:20 AM on January 7, 2005


The HOV lanes on I-95 in NoVa are completely seperated from other traffic via barricades - making it difficult to enter and even more difficult to exit. It's basically a second HOV highway that runs north (toward DC) in the morning and south (toward the 'burbs) in the afternoons. If it backs up, you're even more trapped than you are on the regular highway.

Eliminating the hybrid exemption for the HOV lane will help in the short term, but what NoVa really needs is better urban/suburban planning.
posted by junkbox at 10:21 AM on January 7, 2005


Todd Zywicki at Volokh blogged this, and cited this article, which lists a host of environmental drawbacks to hybrids, and claims that "in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%."
posted by trharlan at 10:24 AM on January 7, 2005


Still trying to see the problem here with people driving fuel-efficient cars.
posted by destro at 10:28 AM on January 7, 2005


Seriously, what is HOV? Is it something I'd need to own a car in America to know about? Cos...well, you know.
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:29 AM on January 7, 2005


I lived far enough away from DC that I always had to commute south by myself. I would leave work at 5:57 PM so I could jump onto the HOV lanes at 6, when they open up to general traffic. The traffic was so horrible that I gave up better paying, more innovative jobs to move away for good. (Cost of living and school were other factors, but let's not complicate the issue.)

I very much wanted a Prius while I lived there, now that I live in a city and I have to dart across busy streets, I needed something with a little more oomph.
posted by patgas at 10:32 AM on January 7, 2005


Getting more people out of guzzlers and into more efficient cars is a good thing. There will always be the bullethead set that MUST have 6000 pounds of metal around them to feel like a man but hopefully we can just breed those fools out of the species.
posted by fenriq at 10:35 AM on January 7, 2005


Here in California, hybrids are not allowed (yet) into the
HOV lanes, because we used federal money to build those
lanes, and the feds need to approve the use of hybrids in
them. So did Virginia build their own roads, without federal
money, or is California just special in some way?

Here's a quote from the San Jose Mercury News commuter
column:

A Sen. Dianne Feinstein to your rescue -- maybe. The California senator says in a couple of weeks she will introduce legislation allowing solo motorists to drive hybrids in carpool lanes. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law last year allowing owners of hybrids that get 45 miles or more per gallon to use the carpool lane, but the state bill requires congressional approval because federal money was used to build most diamond lanes. Her bill would allow states to set their own regulations for allowing hybrids in diamond lanes. If signed into law, it likely would be next year before you could use the diamond lane.

In the meantime, Ford and other carmakers whose hybrids don't meet the 45-mpg standard are fighting this change, since its hybrid Escape SUV won't get 45 mpg. So instead of building a hybrid that gets better mileage, they are fighting other car companies that are able to build vehicles many people want -- and enjoy the perk of a faster commute.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:36 AM on January 7, 2005


I think the trouble with HOV lanes goes beyond people not wanting to give up the freedom to leave exactly when they want and drive to exactly where they are going. I think it also has to do with lack of community connections, maybe lack of serious connections at work. There must be some reason why it is so difficult for people to carpool.

I think these difficulties are only going to get worse as so many jobs get better at offering flexibility and work/life balance.

I work on a 10 person team. We have one person who works in another city. Two that ordinarily come at about 6:30 in the morning so they can leave by 3:00 (but live on opposite sides of the city). They also don't typically come in on Tuesdays or Fridays, preferring to work from home. I work a 10:00 to 6:30 workday, followed by the gym on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, and an exception on Tuesdays, where I work in a different building. One of our teammates is on flex time - he works 4 10 hour days instead of 5 8s - and another is regular part time - she works 3 8s in the office, 1 8 from home and has Fridays off. The two project managers are both constantly in and out of the office, so must have their vehicles available to them throughout the day, but often don't return in the evening so couldn't accommodate a ride along.

That's eight of our ten people who couldn't readily carpool with anyone else on the team. Perhaps if I broadened my search, I'd be able to find better individual matches with others in my company, but it'd still be subject to all kinds of exceptions.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:37 AM on January 7, 2005


Is this "HOV" something I'd need to own a car to know about?

it means you're allowed to hover over the other lanes of traffic.

...Because I don't own a car.

oh! then you probably missed the whole "mandated antigravity device" for all urban vehicles that came down last year.


Precisely. This is why the speed limit is enforced by aircraft on Virginia's highways.
posted by casu marzu at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2005


Orange Goblin: High Occupancy Vehicle. Where high > 1, usually.
posted by furiousthought at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2005


My husband and I do carpool to work every day, and we STILL got turned in to the Seattle HOV "cops" for using a carpool lane without enough people.

Some HOV lanes here are three people (which we never take, having a two-seater car), but we regularly take the 2-person entrance ramp, sailing onto the freeway past a huge line of cars/SUVs with one person each, waiting to enter. I can only guess that one of them glanced over, saw us cruising by, and decided to try to get us in trouble, even though we had the right number of people. Quality folks, those.
posted by GaelFC at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2005


For anyone who was seriously asking:

HOV stands for high occupancy vehicle, and is used to designate certain lanes on busy highways, usually during rush hour, to restrict these (theoretically) faster lanes to people who carpool. HOV-2 would indicate at least two people must be in the car, and so on for any number after HOV.

If you were being facetious, well, there's the answer anyway.
posted by jennaratrix at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2005


What jacquilynne said. Carpooling is almost an anachronism in many of modern businesses. I know that my hours are all over the place (8-5, 10-7,8-9, 11-3, who knows?) and that if I want to have any kind of life, I need the flexibility to go somewhere other than home (gym/restaurant/friend's house/etc) at the end of the day. Not to mention the fact that I often have to drive to a second job site during the day.
posted by callmejay at 10:50 AM on January 7, 2005


There's no cure to the NoVA/DC traffic nightmare other than tearing everything down and rebuilding from scratch. Unlike NYC, the DC metro area was never designed for this much traffic.

One of my friends works for the Labor Dept - it takes him 1.5 hours to drive 17 miles from NoVA to DC. That's 3 hours on the road each day.
posted by exhilaration at 10:56 AM on January 7, 2005


GaelFC - how does that work? Someone just called the traffic hotline and reported your license plate #? And the cops just took their word for it??
posted by jonson at 10:58 AM on January 7, 2005


Perhaps if I broadened my search, I'd be able to find better individual matches with others in my company, but it'd still be subject to all kinds of exceptions.

In northern Virginia, you broaden your search by picking up slugs. Slugs are people who wait at some predesignated area in your suburban town. You go to that location, pick up a slug, and take the HOV lane into the city. This practice is mentioned in some of the links above. Obviously this wouldn't work for everyone in all situations but it's fairly common in NoVA. It works there because the vast majority of commuters work in government-related jobs that are all located in the same relatively small geographical area in downtown Washington, DC.
posted by casu marzu at 11:05 AM on January 7, 2005


Why don't they just set up 1 HOV-2 lane and 1 HOV-3 lane. cars with 3 people (of any type) would be able to use either, cars with 2 people and hybrid and other clean cars would be able to use the HOV-2. It might piss off other cars but would be good to the HOV crowd and maybe would increase the amount of "clean" cars while at the same time resolving the HOV problem... Granted, it would piss regular driver who drive on their own but hey, nothing's perfect :)
posted by TNLNYC at 11:07 AM on January 7, 2005


My new commute is 45 miles/day roundtrip on a road that is being converted into a freeway very, very slowly. So this means closed lanes, construction zones and lots of lights. My car gets a respectable 28 mpg, but I'm still spending way too much money on gas. I'd love to carpool but my schedule doesn't permit it. My employer does have a rideshare program but the pick-up point is a drive and the schedule is pretty inflexible. And taking the bus to work? It would require several changes and take 4 hours each way.

I would love to live in an environment where I could live/work/play all within walking distance. But in Austin the affordable housing is in the 'burbs.

There was a PEAK Oil guy on the radio the other morning that posited that when gas gets remarkably expensive we'll see a crash in the real estate market as the gated master planned suburban communities lose their value. I don't see that happening any time soon [if ever], but we Americans do need to change our 1 person per 15mpg car commuting attitude to alterna-fueled vehicles and mass transit.
posted by birdherder at 11:14 AM on January 7, 2005


It sounds very much like the greater DC area needs public transportation. Instead of building a separate HOV highway in the middle of the road, why not a railbed? Or a monorail? It's amazing the lengths cities will go to to accommodate more and more cars instead of making the investment in public transportation. I understand why carpools don't work: who can actually work a strict 9-5 schedule every single day? Not I; some days are 12-hour days, some days are 6-hour days. Sometimes I get in at 9, sometimes at 10:30. During the day & after work I'll go out; shopping, eating out, movies, what have you. I have the freedom and flexibility to come and go when and where I want, and I never drive. I don't even own a car. How is this possible? New York City's public transportation network. Yes, I understand that the 'burbs are different and you need a car there - but in most of the greater NY area, you can drive your car to a LOCAL train station then take public transit into the city. (Of course, out in those 'burbs, most stores have left the town centers and are now scattered along congested highways, making walking to the store an impossibility, but that's a whole different discussion.)
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:18 AM on January 7, 2005


Cranialtorque - I used to live in the DC area and transit was very slowly taking hold. The problem is that the state really can't use eminient domain to take the huge swaths of land that would be required to lay a comprehensive rail grid through the burbs.

That said, they're trying slowly. There's a big MetroRail (subway) extension project out into the western suburbs (Fairfax), and VRE and MARC (commuter rail) are slowly but steadily gaining in popularity.

Maybe this new gridlock will encourage more transit commuites. The best idea I've heard of for extended mass transit in the DC area is dedicated high-speed bus-only lanes - none of the problems of having to lay a rail network and then the bus can make local stops after reaching downtown.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:28 AM on January 7, 2005


destro, the problem is not that folks are driving fuel-efficient cars. The problem is that so many people are driving them that they're clogging up the HOV lanes, to the consternation of old-time carpoolers. There are, of course, strong arguments on both sides of the issue. I lean towards the environmental-impact/passenger-miles-per-emission-unit side of the argument.

And, just for reference, there are two major arteries into DC from No. VA. On I-95, the lanes are completely separate from the main lines and are one-way depending on whether it's the morning rush or the evening. And they're HOV3.

The other route is I-66. It's mostly a regular 4-lane interstate. Inside the beltway, during the morning rush, the two inbound lanes are HOV2. In the evening rush, the outbound lanes are HOV2. Outside the belway, there's an additional lane added on to the left, in both directions (it's a similar situation on I-270, which goes to the Maryland suburbs).

On both routes, a hybrid vehicle (or motorcycle) can use any lane at any time.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:28 AM on January 7, 2005


Todd Zywicki at Volokh blogged this, and cited this article, which lists a host of environmental drawbacks to hybrids, and claims that "in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%."

To put it frankly, that article is full of crap.

It's unaware of differences between hybrid types, claiming that 'battery-only' mode skews the EPA readings of the Honda and Toyota hybrids. The Honda ones have no battery only mode. It talks about lead-acid batteries in hybrids when they use NiMH. It claims that service technicians can't safely repair them. It suggests that hybrids will injure rescue personnel. The BS just goes on and on.

Somehow the article forgets to ever mention that hybrids create less pollution than other vehicles. Funny, that.

I've got an Insight that I'm quite happy with. Unfortunately, here in NC there are no HOV lanes to use, so I'm just out there stuck in gridlock with everybody else. But I'm not idling and polluting the air.

According to the article, I just bought my Insight because it "relieves consumers of both guilt and personal responsibility for the broader impact of their daily energy consumption habits."

What a bunch of idiots (or shills). I guess a SUV would have been a better choice.
posted by bitmage at 11:33 AM on January 7, 2005


The greater D.C. area actually has an extensive public transit network, which is a patchwork of dozens of transit transit agencies (WMATA, VRE, MTA, RideOn, The Bus, and Fairfax County Connector being some of the more well-known ones) operating a vast array of under- and above-ground rail, buses, vanpools, cabs, you name it. In most of the DC burbs, you can in fact, drive your car to the nearest train station and take the train into the city. And the trains are much nicer than anything going into NYC.

The problems with the system are manifold, but one of the main ones is the bickering amongst the three metropolitan area governments (Md, DC, and VA) which has led to severe underfunding of WMATA, the core transit system. More importantly, of some five or six million people in the greater Metro area, only half a million live in the District proper, which is itself pretty suburban outside the central core of the city. In short, the money and density just aren't there like they are in New York.

I'm not justifying this -- I live here and I think it sucks -- but it's not a problem that can be easily solved by just building more railways and transit. Innovative transportation solutions are being proposed all of the time (HOT, light rail, and high-speed buses are among recent proposals), but all of them are stopgap solutions to much bigger problems.
posted by casu marzu at 11:42 AM on January 7, 2005


I have a hybrid and it doesn't do anything for my commute -- except cut the cost in half since I used to get mid twenties mpg and now get high forties mpg. In NJ we got rid of our commuting lanes because they just don't work well. We opened up all the lanes to all traffic and suddenly things were better. Not great, but better.
posted by nathanrudy at 12:02 PM on January 7, 2005


Still trying to see the problem here with people driving fuel-efficient cars.


Exactly. I've always been under the impression that driving more fuel efficient cars is good for its own sake. It also didn't take long to understand that to get most people to feel the same way requires an outright bribe: tax relief, permission to travel in HOV lanes, etc. Though of course it is possible to say that these commuters aren't doing the right thing for the right reasons, I'm all for innovating ways of environmental arm twisting.

That said, MrMoonPie has a point. Maybe to offset the changes single occupant SUVs should be forced to ride surface streets.
posted by fatllama at 12:07 PM on January 7, 2005


It's interesting the hybrids are able to use the HOV lane. In Atlanta, hybrids do not qualify as alternative fueled vehicles. HOV lanes here are enforced 24 hours/day 7days/week for more than 1 passenger for everything inside "the perimeter". Mrs. Stain and I used to carpool to work (until I took a new job), now I take the train, but she misses the HOV lane (and lets me know about it).

One of our cars is currently running biodiesel, but the jury's still out as to whether or not that qualifies us for an AFV tag.
posted by Human Stain at 12:13 PM on January 7, 2005


cars with 2 people and hybrid and other clean cars would be able to use the HOV-2.
TNLNYC, that is the problem here, hybrids with one person are using the 2 person carpool lane which is making it congested. The affect here is only on the 2 person not the 3 person carpool lane. Thus, who are the ones griping.

"For every two cars, there's one hybrid," said Cora Seballos, who carpools daily from Springfield to the District. "Since September, usually the regular lanes have less traffic" than the carpool lanes. Seballos said she has to leave home a half-hour earlier because of the increased congestion.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:22 PM on January 7, 2005


If Cora Seballos added another passenger, she would have a solution.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:23 PM on January 7, 2005


If the government said that you could not live alone in an apartment, what would you think?

What if you had to finish your dinner, even if you weren't hungry?

How about reducing your time in the shower? Surely you could clean yourself faster.

These solutions all solve problems, but are obtrusive. The traffic problem is admittedly a large one, but why should we take ridiculous steps just for a temporary fix? Do people really think that we are saving fuel?

I happen to live in Virginia, and have been dealing with this HOV nonsense for years. When I do qualify to use these lanes, I can see how empty the highways are during HOV hours. When I don't, which is most of the time, I wait in line like everyone else, wasting fuel and time.

The HOV lanes are just a temporary fix for a much larger problem.

Just a small list of things that would speed up traffic more than the HOV lanes:

Ticketing those who block traffic by skipping lines and merging at the last second (see 66E at 495 every morning, and until recently 495OL to 95S)

Making the Metro system more efficient. I can drive to the office in 45 minutes, or spend 1.5 hours on the train, transferring twice. If you don't live near DC, you might not know that you have to go to DC to transfer to another rail line.

Expanding the highways. 66 Is two lanes for much of the time inside the beltway. Two lanes.

Increasing the service time of the Metro. 66 Is often busier going into DC than out of DC on Friday nights, because you can't rely on Metro being open when you are done with your night on the town.

Adding parking garages at Metro stations. One station I used to frequent, Dunn Loring/Merrifield, would fill up before 7:30 AM. The parking lot spanned acres, but was completely flat.

I pay for the highway system just as much as the next guy, if not more. But I'm being penalized because I'm not a government worker with a 9-5 job.
posted by bh at 12:36 PM on January 7, 2005


What kind of people are buying the hybrids though? Are they selling their VW Jettas and Accords or are they selling their Ford Exploreres and other SUVs? What real good comes out of this, other than the eco-friendlier folks get a park? Is this going to actually change habits and make a difference? I doubt it.
posted by Arch Stanton at 12:47 PM on January 7, 2005


Is this "HOV" something I'd need to own a car to know about?

Nope. Your bus will use the HOV lane if available even if they don't mean the number of persons requirement.

"Since September, usually the regular lanes have less traffic" than the carpool lanes

I cn't figure out if Seballos is foolish or exagerating. If the HOV lane is slower than the regular lane use the regular lane.
posted by Mitheral at 12:54 PM on January 7, 2005


What kind of people are buying the hybrids though? Are they selling their VW Jettas and Accords or are they selling their Ford Exploreres and other SUVs?

Actually, I plan on selling my 15mpg gas-guzzling little old lady car...
posted by grateful at 1:10 PM on January 7, 2005


Motorcycles, people. Motorcycles. Especially here in SoCal, where (a) it rarely rains and (b) you can go between lanes of traffic easily and legally, which more states should allow.

My commute - 11.8 miles (near Hollywood to Santa Monica)

In a car: 45 min to 1 hour
On my bike: 20 minutes

Car gas mileage: 28 ('83 Honda Accord)
Bike gas mileage: 42 ('02 Honda 919)

When it rains (like today) I take the car. If I didn't have the car, I could take the bus from right in front of my house, about an hour total transit.

Also I live in the city, so I can walk to the grocery store and many other shops. I have a hand-cart to take my laundry to the laundromat.

I put 8000 miles a year on my bike, about 3000 at most on the car. If I could afford to get my own place in Santa Monica, I would, and then my mileage would drop by about 90%.

Living the "urban" style isn't such a bad thing. If more people would try it, instead of "escaping" to the suburbs and a 40-mile one-way, 2.5 hour commute, they might find life improving in many ways... and they wouldn't drive so much!
posted by zoogleplex at 3:51 PM on January 7, 2005


motorcycles/buses/lightrail/bicycles aside, the larger problem most people here have identified (in principle) is that people work too far away from their homes. how do we fix that? i'd say that people should give up their fixation on home ownership, but that's probably not realistic.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:51 PM on January 7, 2005


I guess you didn't see the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry hires a prostitute to ride with him in the HOV lane so he could get to the Dodger game on time.

Yes, that was possibly the best episode of the season. Coincidentally, shooting the episode at the Dodgers game saved a man from being wrongly tried for murder.
posted by o0o0o at 8:38 PM on January 7, 2005


Wow, it's been cool to hear everyone's views, especially the people who are dealing with this on a regular basis...

The reason I brought it up was I thought it would have been an unusual thing to invest X amount of dollars in a hybrid just to have a better commute. However, considering some of the frustrations about commuter traffic that seem to be out there, I guess it's not that surprising.

fatllama: I agree that any decline in use of conventional cars in favor of hybrids is good no matter what the reason. The possible motivation in this case just struck me as funny, is all.

In fact, I'm supportive of anything to cut fossil fuel use - more busing, light rail, or other alternative fuel use. Out here in Iowa, ethanol use in cars gets a lot of press (since we produce a lot of that) but to be truthful I'm not sure ethanol is yet that efficient to produce.

birdherder: I agree with you that it's going to take a massive upswing in oil prices to get American industry, government, etc., off their butts and redesign our transportation and cities to fit a new world. Maybe the oil won't run out immediately, but the increased demand from China and the other Asian economies will accomplish this, I believe.
posted by Leege at 9:54 PM on January 7, 2005


GaelFC - how does that work? Someone just called the traffic hotline and reported your license plate #? And the cops just took their word for it??

Here in Seattle, there's actually a number you can call to report people violating the sanctity of the HOV lanes. On the face of it, it may be a bit odd and weirdly vigilante, but if it helps curb road rage, I'm all for it. As someone who's called in several assholes speeding around the 3-person commute lanes in their two seater sports cars, I have to admit a certain satisfaction to calling people in. Oddly enough, these folks always seem to be sporting Microsoft employee parking stickers -- correlation does not imply causation, I guess...
posted by jimray at 8:00 AM on January 8, 2005


Leege, you're right -- ethanol isn't that much more efficient. I think the best solution to utilize ethanol is as a way to use up surplus crops or supplement traditional fuels, similar to how extra electricity from power plants can be utilized in off-hours. I was recently reading an article in the Guardian about the acreage of crops necessary to replace all fossil fuel use in the UK, and it was huge. More farmland than exists in that region.

I'm not sure how the current ethanol efficiency raes. I know that there are some efforts underway to produce crops that are engineered to produce more of the right material for ethanol production. I'll have to look into any materials we have around work. (Disclaimer: I work for a company that sells corn, soybean, and other seeds. In central Iowa, oddly enough)
posted by mikeh at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2005


in Seattle you can just zip in and out of the HOV lanes when ever you feel like it or are there physical barriers?

There are solid white lines, no physical barriers. In most places there are no dashed lines for designating where you can get in or out of the lane. (One exception I'm aware of is 520 east of I-405, where the right lane is the HOV lane. Occasionally it goes dashed to indicate when you're allowed to get over to exit if you're non-HOV.) So presumably you can get in or out any time despite the solid white lines, and that's what people do.
posted by kindall at 3:20 PM on January 18, 2005


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