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Adding carpool lanes won’t reduce congestion on roads

Workers expand a road in Lake County. | Rob Dicker/ Sun-Times file

I hope the Sun-Times Editorial Board will reconsider support for adding carpool and/or tolled lanes (“Trains and buses come first, but don’t put a hold on better roads” — Tuesday).

These approaches can help reduce the number of single-person cars that are the main reason for congestion and crashes, but not when they are added to existing roads.

Most expressways already have enough carpools, vans and buses to fill up another lane in each direction. Adding carpool lanes thus would create more space for single-person cars in the other lanes, and you would induce far more single-person trips than carpool trips by adding carpool lanes. This defeats the purpose of carpool lanes.

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One might argue this is OK because it would relieve congestion. First, as we document in the report, induced demand will devour this additional road space over time. Second, this perspective ignores the streets that people use to get to and from the expressway. Even if you don’t believe in induced demand, these arterial roads generally aren’t being widened but are forced to carry more traffic to and from the widened expressways.

Cities have never had more and better options for reducing single-person car trips. The Chicago region has largely ignored the old standbys, like carpool lanes and workplace programs that incentivize not driving alone during rush hour.

Now we also have billions of money in private investments chomping at the bit to provide shared transportation services (Lyft Line, Via) as well as more efficient single-person transportation options (bikes, scooters, micro transit, mini cars).

We can unleash this potential by prioritizing these modes. Adding carpool lanes to expressways doesn’t do this, nor does adding tolled lanes because that also creates additional space in the other lanes for single-person cars. Converting existing lanes to carpool lanes, bus lanes, and other variations on “High Efficiency Vehicle (HEV)” lanes that don’t allow single-person cars can help usher in the next generation of urban transportation.

I’m not suggesting that single-person car trips go away entirely, but many can be gradually replaced with the right changes. There are more than 100 traffic deaths a day in the U.S. Three thousand-pound cars are 80 percent empty, sit idle 95 percent of the time, and require seas of parking and massive subsidies. It’s a bad situation that we have grown to accept because most Americans have no other choice. We can start to change that!

Ron Burke, executive director

Active Transportation Alliance

‘Keep on keeping on’

As a born Chicagoan, your editorial (“This newspaper is the ‘enemy’ of all that hurts ‘the people’” — Thursday) reminded me of the good I left 50 years ago.

It is the drive of newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times that gives me hope for the future of America. You and your compatriots across our nation continue to try to face us, the readers, with the true picture of events in your city and our country, despite the attempts by the “leaders” to destroy our exposure to the truth you all try to present to us.

My dear parents had a daily subscription to the Sun-Times. I still have in my memory your publication of Bill Mauldin’s drawing of the sorrowful Lincoln Memorial after the assassination of President Kennedy.

“Keep on keeping on.”

Tom Kane, Toronto