BURBANK (CBSLA.com) — Commuters who have long suffered from carpool lane envy could soon find some relief if one San Fernando Valley lawmaker has his way.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) has introduced Assembly Bill 405, a measure that will create a pilot program of sorts to ease such traffic congestion by permitting single-occupancy vehicles to access the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes - also known as carpool lanes - on the 134 Freeway during non-peak hours.
A 2011 CalTrans report (PDF) indicated that the majority of HOV lanes in Southern California are not being utilized to capacity during non-peak hours, leaving single-passenger vehicles idling in slow-going or stand-still lanes.
Gatto told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the legislation is aimed at opening up those lanes to solo drivers.
Rep. Mike Gatto on HOV lanes
"We've all sat on the freeway at night or midday, and seen an accident or something that slows the right three lanes to a crawl while the carpool lane sits open and unused," Gatto said. "My AB 405 would allow better use of the carpool lane during those non-peak hours by allowing people to use it even if they don't have a traditional carpool."
Unlike Northern California, where HOV lane restrictions are in place only during peak commute hours, HOV lanes in Southern California, including those on the 134 Freeway, are restricted on a 24-hour basis, according to Gatto.
While the legislation would initially apply only to the 134 Freeway, Gatto is also overseeing an effort with state and local agencies to investigate ways to "address administratively the under-utilization of HOV lanes throughout the region."
Still, the former attorney and Loyola Law School graduate said the bill's immediate impact would likely improve the quality of life for those commuters that do not work traditional hours.
"It's hard to do much about rush hour, but this will hopefully give those who commute at other times some more time at home with their loved ones," he said.
Click here (PDF) to read the entire text of Assembly Bill 405.
for more features.