My friend, Bob Rosebrock, makes an excellent case in an article about the how the HOV lane on our freeways not only causes more traffic and congestion, but is clearly undemocratic, gives preferential treatment to a special class of drivers and denies equal access to public transportation. He calls for opening the HOV lane to all drivers on election day – November 7th to allow voters a free flow of traffic so they can make it to the polls.
I agree. Let’s all get behind opening the HOV lane to all drivers on Election Day and see how traffic is really improved. Read his article below. It makes a lot of sense.
NO VOTER LEFT BEHIND
“Freedom of the Freeway”
By Robert L. Rosebrock
Of the many privileges we enjoy as a democratic society, ‘freedom to vote’ is paramount for our country’s survival. Equally important for our personal survival is ‘freedom of movement,’ because without it we could not travel to and from work or accomplish a multitude of our endeavors, including going to the polling station to vote.
To ensure that our citizenry has accessible maneuverability, it is a primary function of government to facilitate our public freeway system so that all motorists have uniform liberty to mobilize his or her self in their pursuit of happiness. To the contrary, our individual mobility has been seriously curtailed under California’s Transportation Control Plan that was implemented more than thirty years ago. As a result, our freeway traveling is unjustly regulated with an ideological‘wall of separation’ that discriminates against millions of motorists based simply on passenger or vehicle preference.
This restrictive barrier is the preferential-treatment carpool lane, also known as the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) law, which rewards special driving privileges to motorists that have a single passenger or drive alone in a hybrid car. And for those motorists who do not or cannot conform to this doctrine, they are unfairly penalized with inferior driving conditions. Such laws are inequitable, divisive and contradictory to the basic principles of democracy and violate America’s trusted creed of “With Liberty and Justice for All.”
We must never forget that there’s a big difference between equal opportunity and equal treatment. In his book “My American Journey,” former Secretary of State General Colin Powell rightfully declared: “Equal rights and equal opportunity mean just that. They do not mean preferential treatment.” But why doesn’t our government practice this?
Protecting Our Civil Liberties
In a democracy, civil rights are granted to each person and it is government’s duty to provide equal privileges and opportunity for each member of its citizenry. According to the definition provided by www.dictionary.law.com, “Civil rights include the right to vote, the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a democratic society, such as equal access to public schools, recreation, transportation, public facilities, and housing, and equal and fair treatment by law enforcement and the courts.”
More than two centuries ago, Andrew Jackson summarized the great American ideal as “Equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none.” A half-century ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that “Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
Correspondingly, California’s state freeway system belongs to all motorists and entitles each driver with the same equal access and privileges afforded to all. Our Constitution’s 14th Amendment declares: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United State … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Separate and Unequal
The State of California has approximately 19 million motorists that drive alone in standard vehicles, either out of personal choice or absolute necessity. Yet despite these individual preferences or uncontrollable circumstances, they are unfairly separated by law and left behind in oppressive gridlock.
In a ruling prior to her recent retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that, “We rejected the notion that separate can ever be equal 50 years ago in Brown vs. Board of Education, and we refuse to resurrect it today.”
Let there be no misunderstanding; the divisive diamond lane doctrine not only defies the forbidden “separate but equal” laws of yesteryear, but it embarrassingly exceeds them with the “separate and unequal” driving conditions of today.
Freedom of Movement is a Human Right
As equal members of the human race, we each have certain human rights that are God-given. Eleanor Roosevelt declared that, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person, the neighborhood he lives in, the school or college he attends, the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
On the day of his tragic death on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was to deliver a speech that prophetically proclaimed: “It should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future.”
Ronald Reagan reminded us that, “We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Correspondingly, On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the following: Article 13. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Article 21. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
This U.N. Declaration notwithstanding, less than thirty years later California established and continues to rigidly enforce a law that controls and restricts the freedom of movement of motorists without a passenger or a hybrid car by denying them equal access onto the public-funded diamond lane.
Even though individual human and civil rights are paramount to the survival of a free and democratic society, California’s state government has established a dual-tiered system of privilege and abuse on our public-funded freeway system. Even more troubling is that ‘we the people’ allow these bureaucrats to impose this cruel injustice upon our personal lives by denying us of our equal human rights and as full citizens of the United States.
There has been much controversy about the treatment of Al Qaeda terrorist prisoners being held under the control of our Federal government at Guatanamo, Cuba. Based on various accusations, Congress passed new anti-torture laws to especially protect these terrorists, even though their devout mission is to kill every American citizen.
Since freeway motorists are technically under the control of our government, will this new anti-torture law also protect us from “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” on the freeway? Consider that our State government prejudicially segregates, detains, degrades and humiliates millions of innocent freeway motorists every day simply because they do not have a passenger or drive a hybrid car. As a result, these American motorists are held against their will and force-fed insufferable gridlock while being kept in physically stressful positions for hours in isolated and sub-standard traffic lanes.
This undignified treatment against our fellow Americans makes you wonder where the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other human rights attorneys are when we really need them. There’s an ongoing effort by the ACLU and others parties to close down Guatanamo for purported inhumane treatment to the terrorist prisoners. Among those calling for the prison to be closed is former President Jimmy Carter, who said, “The United States should shutter the detention center as an illustration that it is committed to protecting human rights.”
That’s a noble request from a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Accordingly, if we’re really serious about closing the Guantanamo camp because of ‘human rights violation’ against terrorist prisoners, then let’s get equally serious and close the HOV diamond lane for the very same reason to protect America’s solo-motorists.
During the 2003 Governor’s recall election, Arnold Schwarzenegger offered this compelling campaign pledge: “We have the capacity to create more highway capacity in just the areas where it is most needed without spending another penny. We must convert the High Occupancy Lanes to free flow lanes, so that all the taxpayers who paid for those lanes and are now sitting in traffic jams can use them.”
Make no mistake, this inspiring promise helped to get him elected. Then, like so many politicians, he failed to deliver on his pledge. To make matters worse, he signed a controversial law that unfairly grants hybrid motorists with the exceptional privilege of driving alone on the carpool lane.
Thus, with the stroke of his pen, Governor Schwarzenegger established an elitist ‘hybrid aristocracy’ on our public freeway system that creates economic injustice for those who cannot afford a hybrid car and social injustice for those who choose not to own such a vehicle.
A Vote For Equal Opportunity
Congress recently extended the federal Voting Rights Act that guarantees equal rights to all voters. Unfortunately, California voters will never have the same equal access at the voting booth until there is the same equal access on the drive to the voting booth. As long as there is a diamond lane that divides and rewards a few motorists with free-flowing driving privileges while the majority are penalized and left behind, equal voting rights will remain a fantasy.
“Freedom of the Freeway”
It’s time for Governor Schwarzenegger to honor his original pledge by opening the HOV lanes on Election Day so that all registered voters will share the same equal opportunity in their drive to the polling station as they’re entitled to at the polling station. Then leave them open, just as they were originally designed and built a half-century ago with equal access and use by all motorists alike.
Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.
The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators
and Congressmen and Government officials, but the voters of this country.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
Rosebrock is author of his soon-to-be released book, “Freedom of the Freeway.” You can write him at: RLRosebrock1@aol.com