Saturday, October 29, 2011

The HOV Bait-and-Switch

In my discussion of the Empty Lanes attack on busways and HOV lanes, I neglected to mention that it can be part of a larger, more nefarious strategy, the HOV Bait-and-Switch. The sequence of events is the same; it is only the motivation that is different.

In both cases, a road agency builds HOV lanes, but they are not filled immediately. Solo drivers complain about wasted space, and eventually someone makes the decision to open the HOV lanes to all vehicles. This can happen with busways too.

The politicians and bureaucrats who build and maintain the roads usually express some support for the HOV lanes or busways, but that support can evaporate pretty quickly in the face of the Empty Lanes attack. And that's made me wonder if in some cases they hadn't planned it all along.

As far as I know there's never been a smoking gun to show that a highway bureaucrat suggested HOV lanes or a busway. But you'll notice that highway bureaucrats almost never suggest turning an existing lane into an HOV lane or a busway. They always want to build a new one, and somehow that new lane is always on a stretch of highway that they wanted to widen not long before, but ran into opposition on environmental or fiscal grounds. HOV lanes and busways appeal to environmentalists and fiscal conservatives, and the Empty Lanes attack is so predictable that you really have to wonder.

The transit planners are all too familiar with this pattern. It's no wonder that they never want to just open a busway without ensuring there's demand for it from day one.

1 comment:

Helen Bushnell said...

You mean, no bureaucrat in the US. Car lanes are often converted to bus lanes, bike lanes, bus/bikes lanes, and pedestrian walkways in other countries. Of course, in most of those countries a planner who could only plan highways would have a hard time finding (or keeping) a job.