3/01/2010

03-01-10 - Car Pool Lane

For some reason I just can't bring myself to cheat in the carpool lane. It's some weird stupid sense of morality. I've been working hard most of my life to remove that behavior from my personality - following moral codes without good reason, or not wanting to disturb others. Certainly it's great to be moral, but you have to stop and think - does this action actually hurt anyone? how does the benefit to me compare to the cost to others?

If you only do that, though, you are being immature and kind of a dick. I used to think "if someone is bothered by this and there's no good reason to be bothered, fuck them" , but that's selfish and small minded and just douchey. If you know people will be bothered - and it's somewhat reasonable for them to be bothered - even if they aren't significantly hurt by it, then you should adjust your actions. For example, talking loudly in a museum doesn't really hurt anyone, it's not like we're fucking art scholars concentrating so hard on the paintings that we need absolute silence, but it's still douchey. On the other hand, talking loudly at a restaurant is perfectly fine, and if stuffy fuddy duddy mc-fuck-pants gives you a dirty look from the next table over, fuck him, he's applying an overly restrictive behavior code that you can reject.

Anyway - where does the car pool lane cheat fall in this spectrum ? I believe that it basically doesn't hurt anyone. Silly people might argue "if everyone cheated in the carpool lane it would ruin the whole purpose of the carpool lane". That's wrong on two points - 1. the carpool lane basically has no purpose to begin with; there is no strong data showing that they actually help traffic or reduce car use significantly, and 2. it's not a problem that's in danger of becoming endemic, since ticket enforcement makes it too expensive for most. Assuming you get a random occasional ticket, it's basically a toll lane to let the rich go faster, which is a perfectly reasonable thing. (Some are opposed to this kind of thing due to some misplaced egalitarian principle, the belief that rich should not have better access to services than ther poor; that is naive and just retarded. The rich will always have been services than the poor, what you should instead fight for is fairness on two fronts : 1. make sure the rich actually pay a fair price for their improved services (currently they often do not), and 2. make sure the poor have the opportunities to become rich (currently they certainly do not)).

Logically all arguments tell me I should be cheating in the car pool lane, but when the moment comes to do it, I just can't make myself. It's partly the thought of all the other cars looking over at me thinking "that fucking douche" ; I wish I could ignore that, but it does bother me. It's also the memory of all the many times I myself have looked over at carpool cheaters and thought "that fucking douche" , and I want to be in that morally superior condescending group - but of course that's just retarded self-defeating martyrdom.

ADDENDUM : Okay, I got some more info ; contrary to what certain people believe, an HOV Lane violation *is* a moving violation in WA (and in most states actually). Some insurance companies apparently do not count it against you, but some do. Apparently it's pretty easy for a lawyer to get it changed to a non-moving violation like "careless driving" (it boggles my mind that "careless driving" would not be a moving violation and not affect your insurance, but there you go). So that is a bit of a real reason to not cheat. Some states have a strict "point system" for licenses, in which case an HOV violation would either be a point or not, but WA does not have legally detailed points, rather they just report all moving violations to the insurers and let them decide how your rate should be set. Because of that it's rather hard to get solid information about what affect exactly an HOV violation or a bicycling violation or whatever would do to your rates.

13 comments:

Jim said...

I've thought about this also. The government should just make it a fixed cost rate to drive in the car pool lane instead of having cops police the car pool lane to generate the income. The problem now is that if you decide to cheat you are risking the expected value of the cost of a ticket in addition to the expected value of time it costs for getting stopped.

cbloom said...

"The problem now is that if you decide to cheat you are risking the expected value of the cost of a ticket in addition to the expected value of time it costs for getting stopped."

My guesstimate is that the probability of stops is so low that cheating is just a massive time win as well. And really the aggravation of sitting in traffic costs me half an hour of "simmer down now" time which makes it just no contest.

It's a harder decision if you're specifically in a rush to get somewhere; say you need to arrive in 10 minutes and you think that in traffic it will take you 11 minutes, but if you get stopped by a cop you will miss it for sure - should you cheat? Less clear.

Aaron said...

Some Seattle roads have just that. You can pay to use the carpool lane.

Carpool stops are usually SUPER quick (based on seeing other folks get stopped). They're usually only done by cops who have set up a trap (famously after the montlake onramp, and at the bottom of the hill on westbound 520 right before the bridge (where you come around the corner). Bang ticket and you're out of there in 5 minutes or less, so they can write more tickets. So it's really just cost.

That said, it's mostly unnecessary on your commute, right? You only have two spots where you even could cheat in the carpool lane, iirc. That short stretch of 520 westbound that you're on on the way home (not really worth it, that stretch is no longer than 15 minutes in heavy traffic provided you stay in the right lane (and usually it's more like 5 or 10)). And the montlake onramp. Both of which are the most likely to have cops trapping them (though montlake is way less likely... I see it trapped maybe 5 days a year, while the 520 trap is like 20-30 days a year). Probably neither one is really worth it.

When I lived on Eastlake, I vastly preferred taking the Arboretum onramp to Montlake. I ABHOR the montlake onramp. It feels like an eternity, and it's generally bad throughout the commute hour. The arboretum onramp takes probably just as long on average, but it feels like less, it's prettier, and less stressful (very linear, no merging stress). Time-wise it is more variable with the commute hour though. At PEAK, it'll take much longer than Montlake. But a half-hour off peak it's faster than Montlake. I'm sure you've tried it. I generally got on from here.

Marina said...

Don't forget the hate you'll get from the carpool lane users. Nothing more despisable than some single driver slowing down our lane. And I admit it, I called the tattle tale line once. Guess that makes me a douche, too.

cbloom said...

"Don't forget the hate you'll get from the carpool lane users. Nothing more despisable than some single driver slowing down our lane."

Yeah, the only negative I can see is living with the hateful glares of others. But I'm getting pretty used to that. And don't worry, I won't slow down your lane ;)

(the worst people are the singles who can't manage to fucking merge out of the 520 carpool lane and wind up stopping completely and blocking the whole lane; retards)

@ Aaron - I almost always take the 90 now, not the 520. The crucial bit for cheating is that little bit of 405 between the 520 and 90 that goes through downtown Bellevue - that stretch is jammed up almost 24 hours a day, but the carpool lane is almost always clear, and I've never seen a single cop there. You're right the 520 has a few traps on it, though I know right where they are so they're easy to avoid.

cbloom said...

"And I admit it, I called the tattle tale line once. Guess that makes me a douche, too."

BTW There's nothing at all douchey about calling the tattle line. I would do it myself if it actually did anything.

A better move is to honk and flip off the single cheaters.

You should honk and flip off everyone on a cell phone too. And everyone who runs a red light. I cannot believe all the people who run red lights around here. I literally see it every single day.

Aaron said...

No no! The right thing to do is to call the carpool lane tattle tale line on people using cell phones, driving too slow, can't merge to save their life, and running red lights.

I don't think flipping people off really works. Whenever someone flips me off I'm more likely than not to act more like a dick than less.

I get pretty good intimidation (and self-satisfaction) results from taking pictures of people though (use the flash so they know you really got them).

cbloom said...

Ooo I have an idea :

nowadays you can take someone's plate # and look up their name & address.

Do that and start sending them creepy mail like "I saw you run that red light" in newspaper cut out letters.

Hell, there should be an online service to do this; call it "intimidate.com" . You give them a license plate number and they deliver severed horse's heads to peoples homes.

Marina said...

The newspaper cutout letter idea is too funny. Maybe then they'll get scared into not being a jerk on the road.

I've had some bad experiences flipping people off, even though I did so rarely and for perfectly valid reasons. A couple have been complete psychos (following me for miles, writing things on paper and holding it up to their window) so I just curse outloud in my car these days.

BrianC said...

I believe that it basically doesn't hurt anyone. Silly people might argue "if everyone cheated in the carpool lane it would ruin the whole purpose of the carpool lane".

The 520-west before the bridge lane is a good example. If you jump into the carpool lane you're passing all those single occupancy suckers who don't cheat. Ultimately this means you are adding time to their commute in order to reduce yours. When it's slow the cheaters can add a significant delay to the non-cheaters, as the carpool lane does move faster and a lot of cheaters can jump in front of non-cheaters.

cbloom said...

"The 520-west before the bridge lane is a good example. If you jump into the carpool lane you're passing all those single occupancy suckers who don't cheat. Ultimately this means you are adding time to their commute in order to reduce yours. When it's slow the cheaters can add a significant delay to the non-cheaters, as the carpool lane does move faster and a lot of cheaters can jump in front of non-cheaters."

That's not a "good example", it's a terrible example because it's not at all what I'm talking about. That is a fucked up carpool lane in a fucked up situation and I would never cheat there. IMO that shouldn't be a carpool lane at all because it causes huge problems for merging and half the people in it are cheaters. When I say it doesn't hurt, I'm talking about situations like the jam-up of the 405 through bellevue where the carpool lane is at the far left and there is no pinch-point after the carpool. eg. I start in fast moving traffic, step into the carpool lane briefly through the fuckup zone, and then step back out into fast moving traffic once it's clear. Please explain to me how that hurts anyone except self-important stick-in-their-butt rules-mongers.

(IMO in areas like the 405 through bellevue it also shouldn't be a carpool lane, it should be an "express" bypass with no entry/exit for people who just want to take the 405 through and not get on/off the city exits).

cbloom said...

BTW I know that bit sounds like rationalizing, but I don't intend it as such. I know perfectly well that my cheating is purely for my own benefit, and I could really care less about how it affects others, because people are fucking awful and I'm sure what they're doing isn't important.

From a purely logical point of view I'm pretty sure that carpool cheating in the mechanism of "express lanes" is in fact beneficial for all. Obviously using it to jump ahead in a traffic jam is another situation entirely.

BTW my intolerance for traffic has gotten so high that I am not going in to work very much. That's probably not great for my career long term.

When I do get unlucky and hit a surprise traffic jam, my solution 90% of the time now is just to get off the freeway. I just park and take a walk by the lake. I'd rather sit around for an hour and wait for it to clear than sit in traffic for even a few minutes.

BrianC said...

That's not a "good example", it's a terrible example because it's not at all what I'm talking about. That is a fucked up carpool lane in a fucked up situation and I would never cheat there. IMO that shouldn't be a carpool lane at all because it causes huge problems for merging and half the people in it are cheaters.

It's a good example if I'm trying to show that carpool cheaters can affect others (including others that don't normally use the carpool lane.) It is somewhat of an exception in just how terible it is, and I agree with you on that.

It really shouldn't be a carpool lane at all. It should be bus only. For most of the other carpools in the region I don't think cheating is nearly as bad nor does it have nearly as much impact. And I'm definitely in favor of a separate express lane so that there aren't people changing lanes all the time.

old rants