Logic bumpy in carpool-lane editorial

Posted on March 03, 2007 | Type: Op-Ed | Author: Noah Clarke
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The Republic's support for allowing hybrid cars to use carpool (HOV) lanes is based on faulty logic in regard to reducing air pollution, as well as alleviating traffic congestion ("Go hybrid, not toll lanes," Editorial, Monday).

One of the best ways to reduce air pollution is for high-polluting cars to spend less time idling in traffic. So, if any car should not use the high-occupancy vehicle lane, it's hybrids. Their claim to fame is that they shut off their polluting gas engine while idling and switch to their emission-free electric motor.

Regular cars pollute much more trapped in traffic than when moving. The Sierra Club finds that an "idling vehicle emits 20 times more pollution than one traveling 32 miles per hour." If one of the goals is to improve air quality, hybrids should be the last ones let into the free-flowing HOV lanes.

A second hole in The Republic's editorial is the statement that "most (HOV) lanes are full, if not overcrowded, at rush hour. . . . (Gov. Janet) Napolitano's move to open the lanes to hybrids makes sense." If the lanes are already overcrowded, how does opening them to more cars make sense?

What would make sense is putting a pricing system in place to encourage or discourage use of these lanes. During rush hour, tolls for using an HOV lane could rise as needed to keep the lane flowing. As traffic eased, the price could fall to attract more users.

Market-based solutions like tolls, not policy gimmicks that sound good, are the way to get traffic moving.

Noah Clarke, Phoenix

The writer is an economist with the Goldwater Institute.

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