Mood: don't ask
Topic: "HOV or DOA?" (3)
HOV lanes as designed in and applicable to Washington, D.C., are a Godsend. In Atlanta, Georgia, at least six people are dead because of them. Frodo has driven them both in his motorcar, and he is a major, big-time fan of both the principle and the practice in our Nation's Capitol. He believes that the Atlanta format reflects the unsophisticated approach to design and problem-solving which characterizes people who make decisions based on who submitted the lowest bid, or which alternative will have the least impact on their personal taxes.
In Washington, HOV lanes are geared to relieve traffic congestion during peak commuting periods. An automobile with four or more passengers can enter into a single, confined, lane with concrete barriers separating it from the multiple lanes supporting auromobiles with three or fewer passengers. As a result, people line up at intersections and wait for automobiles with fewer than four inside to stop and offer them a free ride to work/home. Frodo is not arrogant enough to say that it solves all problems, but it sure has made things better than they were when Frodo faced the daunting task of commuting into the District of Columbia.
In anticipation of crowds during the 1996 Olympics, Atlanta added considerable effort to alleviate the congestion, and to allow through traffic to proceed normally. HOV lanes were added, by simply painting solid white lines on the left (outermost) lane of Interstates 20, 75, and 85 and restricting access to automobiles with at least two people, twenty-four hours a day. Nobody, as a result, ever lines up anywhere in order to be the second person in someone else's car, and vehicular traffic utilizes the lane predominantly as a high-speed passing lane.
One of the most obvious, and most dangerous, aspects of the Atlanta method is that most exits are on the right hand side of an Interstate. This means that vehicles looking to exit from an HOV lane normally will cross five or six lanes of traffic in order to go where they need to go. One of the solutions was to install several separate exits off the HOV lane itself, generally accessing well-marked and highly-travelled roads which cross over one of the Interstates.
This past Friday, early in the morning, a bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio on its way to Florida for a tournament was in the HOV lane on Interstate 75 passing through Atlanta (as, indeed, everyone must who is on their way to Hell). The driver was probably matching the speed of the traffic at 10 or 15 miles per hour greater than the posted, and unenforced, speed limit. As he approached where Northside Drive crosses the Interstate about two miles before the convergence of Interstates, known as the Connector, he became confused by the design and he went onto the exit ramp rather than staying in the HOV lane.
Six people died immediately when the bus sped through the stop sign at the Intersection of Northside Drive, struck the fencing on the far side of the bridge and flipped onto the Interstate below. Two more people remain in intensive care.
Frodo has driven that stretch of road hundreds of times in his motorcar. On more than one occasion, he has been confused by the signage and the unrestricted lanes.
Frodo also used to ride a bus full of young men travelling to other places in order to play baseball.
Perhaps these are the factors that make all of this so poignant to Frodo. It may also be the fact that the entire design, nay, the entire concept of HOV lanes in Atlanta Georgia is just plain stupid. Now, it is also deadly.