HOV? Hah! Give us a break
September 12, 2006
The high-occupancy vehicle lane on Highway 82 has turned into a joke. And the situation will only become more laughable if law enforcement doesn’t step in.With school back in session, morning congestion has worsened at the entrance to Aspen. The situation at the Buttermilk bottleneck is particularly gruesome. Single-occupant vehicles crowd not only the unrestricted lane, but also the lane designated for buses and car pools, to the point where everyone is at a standstill. It can take 15 minutes or longer on bad days just to travel the short distance from the airport to Owl Creek Road, and then another 15 minutes into town. (The afternoon rush hour is ugly on Main Street, but traffic usually spreads out by the time it reaches the HOV lane.)Last week, one of our reporters counted 92 people driving alone in the so-called HOV lane in a mere 30 minutes during the morning rush hour. Since January, however, the Colorado State Patrol has cited a mere 34 people for using the HOV lane illegally.This is a daily slap in the face to all the drivers who abide the HOV law, not to mention an insult to the entire public process that led to the establishment of those lanes. Those who ride the bus or take the time to arrange car pools aren’t seeing the time-saving benefits that the HOV lane was supposed to deliver. It’s unfair.Clearly too many members of the commuting public don’t respect the HOV restrictions. Many of the drivers contacted by The Aspen Times on a recent workday morning claimed either “I’m not from here” or “I didn’t know [about the HOV lane],” but we suspect they’re simply cheaters.Of course, who can blame them when they’re stuck in traffic and there’s a (relatively) clear lane available with no cops in sight? In fact, cops have been a rare sighting at the Buttermilk merge for months.Certainly the state patrol has other matters on its hands, the daily backups on Highway 82 don’t constitute a life-and-death hazard by any means. But on the other hand, why have HOV restrictions if we’re not prepared to enforce them?Perhaps the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department could pitch in and put some of their people on HOV patrol? Whatever the solution, someone in law enforcement needs to do something about this out-of-control situation. The HOV lane needs to serve the purpose that it was designed to serve. It’s time to put a stop to cheaters who ruin the drive for hundreds of their fellow commuters every weekday morning.