Cruising Along is an ongoing weekly blog series by Bianca Sewake examining Hawai’i’s alternative modes of transportation.
I love the HOV. Yes, those lanes on the freeway that are only reserved for vehicles with two (sometimes three) or more passengers secretly make me feel like a rock star. Whenever there are people in my car, it’s like getting the VIP pass to the front of the line, bypassing everyone else.
I am no stranger to this feeling because I am no stranger to carpooling. I did it throughout high school and still carpool on occasions with family or friends. It didn’t occur to me the difference it could make in moderate to heavy traffic up until two summers ago, when I had to commute from central O‘ahu to town for an internship. Luckily, I carpooled with a friend who worked at the same place and lived near me. That same summer I also discovered the zipper lane—that makeshift contraflow lane added by moveable barriers during high-traffic hours—and felt legendary, the sun shining on us as we effortlessly zoomed down an open lane, passing people in the outer lanes who were clearly rushing and stressing out as they would go, stop, go, stop to work in traffic. To this day, I look at all the cars during congested traffic times and wonder just how many people are driving alone and could have alleviated traffic had they carpooled.
However, I know there have to be other people out here who like to get that inner rock-star feeling using that zipper lane, because according to the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Census, Hawaii ranked no. 1 in the nation for workers who carpool to work. Yet, there are still so many cars on the road because when we break down the 2012 statistics for Honolulu, there were an estimated 481,662 total workers over the age of 16 who commuted to work. Of that, 62.9 percent—or 302,799— of those workers commuted using car, truck, or van alone. Only 15.7 percent—or 75, 404—of those workers commuted by carpooling using a car, truck, or van.
Although according to the U.S. Census carpooling beat out public transportation (excluding the Taxi) and walking as methods of commuting to work, now that I know there are so many people who commute solo, I won’t be able to help but wonder how much less traffic there would be if more people decided to carpool. There are so many benefits, like saving money on gas and parking. All it requires is some flexibility, communication to confirm pick up or drop off times and locations, and determining how costs will be split. Not to mention that it can be less stressful and more fun when you have someone with you.