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Is A Carpool Lane Just Money Down The Drain?

— A good story in the San Jose Mercury News used census figures to show that dramatically lower percentages of American commuters are using carpool lanes.

The percentage of American commuters that use carpool lanes has gone way down.
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Above: The percentage of American commuters that use carpool lanes has gone way down.

Across California, the percentage fell from 16.9 percent to 12 percent over the past thirty years. Nationwide the change was even more dramatic, dropping from 20 percent, in 1980, to 10.5 percent today. This has happened even though billions of of dollars have been spent to build carpool lanes and encourage their use.

Experts say the reality of urban sprawl and the disbursal of job centers out of the central city and into the suburbs have made it less practical to share rides. It’s become more practical to drive your own car.

But it’s interesting to note that while the percentage of commuters who carpool is going down, the use of carpool lanes is going up. Ironic, it seems, but easily explained by the fact that there are so many bloody cars out there.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of cars has risen by nearly 60 percent since 1980, outpacing population growth, which has gone up by only a third. This is more evidence that if it’s cheap and possible to make auto transportation individual transportation, that’s what people will do.

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