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August 29, 2005

I Have Failed to Cure This Problem I Have Made Up

Tierney knows not of what he speaks. Although, now that I think about it, in posts that start with the word "Tierney", the rest of that sentence is generally assumed. So never mind it. In any case, The Times' token libertarian (and how come no major papers need a token green on staff? Don't they reliably attract more votes than libertarians?) has aimed his non sequiturs at hybrid cars and the collision, as you would expect, claimed coherency as collateral damage.

Tierney apparently travelled to LA and rented a Prius so he could drive in our carpool lanes and write about how superior he felt. Unfortunately, that gig only works when your audience is in New York. As any Angeleno will tell you, our carpool lanes may as well not exist. Fairly often, they're worse than the other lanes (because movement in and out is restricted save for certain, small junctions). When traffic is clear -- it happened for about 10 minutes last October -- the carpool lane is, you guessed it, slower than the other lanes, as one pokey driver sets the pace for snaking line of steaming carpoolers behind him.

The fact that Tierney almost certainly lied about the experience didn't stop him from misinterpreting it. He goes on to argue that hybrids will slow down the carpool lanes, forcing more cars to idle and add to pollution. A) As mentioned, carpool lanes already crawl, B) LA is packed with traffic, wherever those hybrids are, they'd cause more of it, forcing more cars to idle and thus their placement doesn't actually make a difference C) this has nothing to do with hybrid vehicles at all, any additional cars on the road would have this effect.

Tierney's solution to his made-up problem are HOT lanes, carpool lanes that other drivers could pay to enter. Since carpool lanes are currently carpool lanes that hybrids can enter, I don't see why switching out hybrids for toll-paying drivers will make a difference, but Tierney had to awkwardly jam a free-market solution onto this somehow, and we should congratulate him for the effort. That his starting premise is wrong and his fix doesn't make sense should be quietly, courteously, ignored.


August 29, 2005 in Media | Permalink


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Aside from the fact that "idling" Prius don't. (That's the whole idea behind a hybrid.)

What an idiot.

Posted by: tzs | Aug 30, 2005 12:03:12 PM

Somehow here is an issue of toll roads. You don't have to use them. In most cases, there are alternative routes. How does this issue fit in? Is it, too, an 'awkward free market solution'?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 30, 2005 12:36:53 PM

Ezra, you're right.
And it is (initially) notable that one of the highest-profile jobs in print journalism has been given to an idiot.
But you, and we, knew this already some time ago. Why bother with this post?

Posted by: Allen K. | Aug 30, 2005 12:42:55 PM

"I don't see why switching out hybrids for toll-paying drivers will make a difference"

I figured that the idea is that it's not a 1-for-1 swap. You figure out the demand curve and charge a variable toll that would give you optimal HOT-lane usage.

But yeah, as far as I can tell the point the article is "I like markets! I'm a libertarian! I'm going to talk down to you! Yay markets!"

Posted by: ptm | Aug 30, 2005 1:12:03 PM

Here's a little info about toll roads and CA:


I didn't want to mess around with a pdf file, so there you go.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Aug 30, 2005 2:05:58 PM

Thanks for the link, Dark Avenger (You name stealing bastard), but what I was really looking for was a phliosophical answer from those who were poo-pooing the libertarian's idea of buying your way into the HOV lane. It seems to be similar only no one bitches about it.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 30, 2005 2:57:24 PM

I think only people who live in houses of less than 2,500 square feet should be allowed to drive in carpool lanes; everyone in a big house is by definition an energy hog no matter what type of car they drive.

Posted by: DBL | Aug 30, 2005 3:36:57 PM

Oh, that's easy, Fred. HOV lanes are fine, but not if you want to reduce congestion. As I said, carpool lanes, currently composed almsot solely of carpooling cars (their just aren't many hybrids on the road right now), are packed to the gills. If Tierney's problem is that adding hybrid cars overloads them, then letting others buy in will do the same. The reason? Because they're alread overloaded.

Posted by: Ezra | Aug 30, 2005 3:42:09 PM

the libertarian's idea of buying your way into the HOV lane.

The rich in this country, in addition to getting the highest standards of living in the world, also are the only ones to get to work on time! I love it!

Posted by: Adrock | Aug 30, 2005 4:55:57 PM

Is the goal egalitarianism at all costs?

So we all suffer together? What incentive would there to be rich, then? Why try?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 30, 2005 5:14:51 PM

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