Throwing Cold Water on One Man's Notions About Car Pools

I am sick and tired of the sanctimonious tone of would-be social engineers such as Richard Ribner and his Commentary, "It'll Take More Than Regulation to Drive Us Into Car Pools" (July 12). Get a life! There must be some sort of lesson to be learned from that observation.

But rather than railing against uncontrollable agencies and their regulations, let me try to make some points about the bad science (i.e., erroneous assumptions) that go into many of these arguments.

Even if the assertion that "autos are responsible for over 60% of the pollution in Southern California's air" is in fact accurate, it has nothing to do with the number of cars or how many people are in each car! The real issue is the total amount of fuel burned, and to a lesser extent the amount lost to the atmosphere uncombusted. To wit, if all vehicles on the road always carried 50 people each, but weighed 200 tons per vehicle, it is reasonably certain there would be more air pollution than there is now.

Moreover, it is a well-known fact that stop-and-go driving burns far more fuel than a good, constant pace. And lastly, traffic worked just fine while the Olympics were in town a few years ago.

The implications are fairly obvious. People do not car pool because it is a major inconvenience which does not serve any of their needs. Get the big trucks off the roads during the peak commuting hours and everything will flow a whole lot better. Timed lights on surface streets should be the biggest priority of all the transportation bureaucracies, not sound walls, etc. Put catalytic converters on all the diesel vehicles, including those over 6,000 pounds. Encourage companies to allow "flex time" whenever possible for employees, rather than bunching everybody into a precise (8-to-5 for example) time slot.

And beware the "electric car" panacea. A battery-propelled car is simply moving the point of combustion from the automobile engine to the local power plant. The electric traction motor is a good idea, particularly when coupled with modern drive-control electronics. But why not look into fuel cells? They presently provide electrical power for the space shuttle and have been in use since before the Apollo missions.

ERIC REDEMANN, Laguna Niguel

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