IMG_0604Among the personal qualities I find necessary to be in a vanpool is a mixture of patience, dedication, a sense of humor and the ability to “go with the flow.” For the 10 passengers in the UCLA Vanpool I co-drive from the West San Fernando Valley, I’ve appreciated those same qualities over the last four years while we’ve waited for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project to produce its long-promised #1 outcome—a new northbound carpool lane to close the 10-mile gap between the Santa Monica 10 freeway and Ventura 101 freeway.

The entire construction timeline, its delays and detours—all seemingly daily topics of conversation within our group--never dampened our enthusiasm to one day get to use “the carpool lane” (i.e. High Occupancy Vehicle or HOV lane) as part of our daily commute route home. When Mayor Garcetti announced during his State of the City address in April that the lane would open by the end of May, our commuting hearts beat a bit faster in anticipation.

On May 23, opening day, I bought cookies for everyone to celebrate our inaugural ride home. And we did.

In the early weeks of the new HOV lane, we’ve experienced an average daily time savings of five minutes off of a 50-minute commute home. That may not sound like much to some, but we’ll take it. I personally believe the true effect of this lane won’t be realized until this fall, when most of the remaining project deliverables are completed and ALL schools are back in session. Maybe we’ll double the time savings to 10 minutes by then? We do save at least that much each morning on the southbound side.

I did have a concern about safely “sliding over” all the way from the new carpool lane to those on the far right to transition onto the 101 Ventura Freeway--specifically when all the lanes are bumper to bumper and/or backed up ‘big time’ within the two-mile downhill grade north of Mulhollhand.

I was curious about the design standard distance that’s used to get from the HOV exits to transition roads and/or off-ramps. Specifically, does that design standard take into account traffic volumes ranging from nearly empty to bumper-to-bumper conditions?

Caltrans answered my concern: “…the HOV lane distance zoning for traffic exiting to US 101 from I-405 northbound exceeds standards. The length of the entrance into and exit from the HOV lane is 1,606 feet in this area compared to 1,320 feet which is the standard. The point of the opening of the HOV lane is 3,040 feet from the US 101 exit. The standards require 650 feet per lane that must be crossed. There are four lanes to cross, which yields a distance of 2,600 feet. The downward slope has been taken into consideration with these standards.”

All in all, the wait was worth it and we now get to pass by cars crawling in the mixed-flow lanes similar to what we do each weekday morning coming in on the southbound side. We get ‘wheely’ happy about that!