California Governor Slams Door on L.A. Carpool Lanes

Los Angeles drivers, sweating and steaming, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic thanks to a late-night accident, will glance to their left and see a totally open lane. Not a car or truck on it for miles.

Oh, they might see the occasional Prius, or maybe a Chevy Volt packed with enviro-friendly carpooling passengers.

But other than that, nothing but the occasional empty potato chip bag blowing down the highway or an empty Budweiser can bouncing along the pavement. No cars. No trucks. No motorcycles.

So why don’t the gridlocked L.A. drivers know enough to move to the left and get into that empty lane, beating the traffic congestion and unlocking the gridlock?

They would love to, but they can’t. State law prevents them from getting into the left lane of the freeway, which is officially the HOV or high-occupancy vehicle lane. It’s all about California Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) resolve, which rivals any barnstorming preacher worried about more souls in Heaven and more nickels in his collection plate, to defeat global warming.

Brown was an early advocate of HOV lanes. He should really be considered a pioneer. Back in 1976, during his first stint as California’s chief executive — back when he dated the singer Linda Ronstadt — Brown came up with the idea of what were dubbed Diamond Lanes.

The California Department of Transportation blocked some lanes of one of Los Angeles’ busiest traffic arteries, the 10 Freeway, to anything but carpooling vehicles and their passengers.

Even though that set of a storm of criticism from his fellow politicians and people stuck in sudden traffic jams on the 10, Brown stuck to his guns.

“The world’s resources are limited,” Brown told Dan Walters, a columnist with the Daily Bulletin in 1976.

“There is a second law of thermodynamics that cannot be repealed. Energy growth cannot be at the same rapid rate as it has been in the past. Resources are being depleted,” Brown added. “The air and the water are finite and unless we can learn to live within the limits then we’re in for severe social and biological conflict and deterioration.”

Sound familiar?

Well, that was then, this is now. And, it is not like Southern California legislators have not tried to work with Brown as they try to do their best for traffic-jammed constituents, and California’s environment.

L.A. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) has tried not once, but twice, to get the HOV lanes of Southern California’s freeways open to drivers behind the wheels of internal-combustion powered vehicles. He has even tried to placate Gov. Brown’s desire to be Greenpeace-friendly.

Gatto has only tried to get those empty HOV lanes open to single-passenger, gasoline-burning cars, trucks and motorcycles during off-peak hours, outside morning and afternoon rush hours.