To the editor: In what universe are toll roads an appropriate way of relieving congestion on public highways? The way to relieve congestion is to provide more efficient, alternative means of transportation, not to limit access to publicly funded roads based on an ability to pay. ("Caltrans to put toll lanes on 405 Freeway in Orange County," July 25)
The original proposal for carpool lanes requiring three or more passengers had merit as a way of encouraging an alternative mode of transportation that could make more efficient use of existing highways. Lanes requiring only two passengers do little to encourage carpooling and simply offer an out for drivers who happen to have a passenger.
Toll lanes introduce a class-based privilege into public transportation while doing nothing to reduce the number of cars on the road. Perhaps the elimination of an available lane will persuade lower-income drivers to use surface streets, thereby completely undermining the purpose of freeways as a means of facilitating commuting and relieving congestion on surface streets.
Richard Patterson, Los Angeles
To the editor: I drive the 405 Freeway south through Orange County daily for work. Through Seal Beach and Costa Mesa, the freeway is immensely dreadful.
The current carpool lane should be called the "cheaters lane," as there are numerous solo-driven vehicles that can be seen in the lanes without the requisite clean-air stickers. The Highway Patrol cannot possibly catch all the cheaters.
I have no idea if adding a toll lane to the 405 through Orange County would help ease the traffic or if it would be fair. But I do know that the current carpool lane setup is not fair. If a toll lane is opened, at least the cheating solo drivers would be forced to pay up.
Barbara Farren, Rancho Palos Verdes
To the editor: Last year, a study of the 110 Freeway showed that the fare-paying and carpooling drivers in the new toll lanes had better traffic, but everyone else's ride was slowed down. One reason for this was that carpoolers no longer had access to the toll lanes unless they had the foresight to buy a transponder.
So the lone driver in the gas-guzzling Hummer can pay to get to work faster while the harried mom with a car full of kids is stuck in traffic. Thus, we're creating a system of transportation haves and have-nots by not letting carpools just use what used to be carpool lanes free of charge and free of a transponder.
Road policy shouldn't just be about revenue. We need to get more cars off the road and relieve traffic for those who can't afford the toll lanes, so we must not disincentivize carpooling.
Clifford J. Tasner, North Hollywood
To the editor: The purpose of having carpool lanes is to get vehicles off the road by encouraging people to share rides. Toll lanes do no such thing and result in a worse commute because a reduction in cars is not the focus, revenue is.
"Free" lanes end up having more traffic and commutes only get better for those paying for a special privilege, not the general public.
If more revenue needs to be generated for public road work, then we should bite the bullet and let fuel taxes, shared by all drivers, rise with normal inflation rates instead of trying to keep them unrealistically lower than what's needed to maintain a healthy transportation system.