STAR-BULLETIN FILE PHOTO
The ZipperLane is removed as the Zipmobile moves a lane barrier on H-1.
ZipperLane shift decried
Politics are blamed for the state's decision to require at least three occupants per vehicle
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Motorists will have to scramble for a third person to ride in their vehicles if they want to continue legally using the ZipperLane.
Starting July 8, the minimum occupancy for the ZipperLane -- extra lanes created by contraflowing eastbound traffic in the westbound H-1 freeway lanes and Nimitz Highway from Waikele to Iwilei -- will increase to three persons from two persons, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The change is to encourage carpooling and ease congestion .
In 2005, the occupancy changed from the original minimum three-person occupancy to a two-person occupancy. But state transportation officials said the change resulted in increased congestion in the ZipperLane compared with the other lanes.
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Some motorists aren't happy with the idea of having to get a third person to commute into town legally in the faster-moving ZipperLane.
Use of ZipperLane
1998: About 2,300 motorists use the ZipperLane per day when it first opens with a minimum of three persons per vehicle.
2005: About 4,100 vehicles use it after officials lower the minimum occupancy to two persons from three persons.
Since 2005: Use of the ZipperLane decreases to about 3,800.
Source: State Department of Transportation
North Shore resident and ZipperLane commuter Dawn Unga said it will be challenging to meet the state's new requirements. "I happen to be lucky that my neighbor starts the same time as me."
The occupancy change will not reduce traffic, said Unga, a sales assistant with Morgan Stanley Investment. "It's just going to remain the same."
Unga is not alone.
State Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei-Ewa Beach) said he received several e-mails from constituents yesterday who are unhappy with the decision by the Department of Transportation, saying it will only worsen traffic in the regular lanes.
Starting July 8, the Department of Transportation will change the minimum occupancy for the H-1 freeway ZipperLane and the Nimitz Highway contraflow lane to three persons from two per vehicle.
Officials decided to make the transition in the upcoming weeks to allow motorists time to adjust before major traffic occurs in the fall with the return of thousands of students to school. The 15-mile ZipperLane is open to motorists from Waikele to Iwilei between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. weekdays.
Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said the state intended all along to require a minimum three-person occupancy lane, saying that the current minimum two-person occupancy was an experiment to see how it affected traffic.
The State Department Of Transportation wants to move more people in fewer cars in less time.
By the state's reckoning, Morioka said, the ZipperLane is more effective with the minimum three-person occupancy.
About 2,300 motorists used the ZipperLane daily when it first opened in 1998 with a minimum three-person occupancy. Figures gradually increased until 2004, when daily usage leveled off to about 3,500.
In 2005, transportation officials reduced the minimum occupancy from three to two to encourage people to use the ZipperLane and monitor the effect on the general purpose lanes. A spike of about 4,100 followed, but it slowly leveled off to 3,800, Morioka said.
Transportation officials hope carpooling -- more people moved in fewer cars and in less time -- will increase with the change, especially as gas prices approach $5 per gallon.
"Carpooling is the fastest and cheapest way to fight congestion, because all it is is someone jumping into someone else's car," Morioka said.
Eric Ryan, campaign manager for Stop Rail Now, an organization opposed to the rail transit system, said the city and the state are making it more difficult for drivers at rush hour, saying it doesn't encourage carpooling. It discourages those who already switched from being a solo driver to driving with a passenger, Ryan said.
"We have long believed that the state and the city, which have been pushing for a heavy rail system for decades, have gone out of their way to make navigating roads as difficult as possible to ensure traffic congestion is as unrelieved as possible to justify funneling available tax dollars and more in the heavy rail project," he said.
In a written statement, Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said the city has been instrumental in supporting carpooling programs for decades. Yoshioka said the city supports improving public transportation, including light rail, "which studies show is the best solution for reducing traffic congestion."
Those who violate the minimum occupancy rule face a penalty of $75 for their first offense and up to $200 for repeat offenses.