“Stupid is As Stupid Does”

“Stupid is
Stupid Does”

© David Burton 2021

HOV Lanes

     “The phrase ‘stupid is as stupid does’ means that the actions of someone often are an indicator of their intelligence or lack thereof. It says that even if a highly intelligent person does something stupid they are still stupid. [Emphasis mine]
     “The phrase ‘stupid is as stupid does’ is a variation of an older phrase that says 'handsome is as handsome does.' The latter phrase first appeared in writing in 1862. The phrase ‘stupid is as stupid does’ became popular in 1994 when the film Forrest Gump was released and has been widely used since.” (Ref. 1)

     To prove that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts fits the meaning of this phrase, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that “The High Occupancy Vehicle lane on I-93 South in Medford and Somerville will reopen Monday, Nov. 23 {2020}.”
      - - -
     “{In order to create unnecessary work and waste money, crews} will work overnight Friday, Nov. 20 through Monday, Nov. 23 to install appropriate signs and safety measures for drivers using I-93 South. Additionally, variable message signs will be utilized to notify the traveling public of the traffic pattern change.” (Ref. 2)

     The state has rushed to do this without any comprehensive study. They are doing this because of pressure from a very small group of well-meaning, but utterly stupid citizens. "Stupid is as stupid does!"

     Just two month previous, I had complimented my home state on finally coming to its senses in eliminating the HOV lane referred to above - (Ref. 3). Ah, but this is Taxachusetts – the home of liberal and socialistic Democrats where make-work projects, outdated roads and transportation, and kowtowing to public unions and citizens groups takes precedence over meaningful study and common sense.

     As I had pointed out in my September article and in other earlier articles (Ref’s. 4, 5, 6) dating back to 2005, HOV lanes had long since ceased to serve any useful function. In fact, for reasons which I will once again enumerate, they have actually become counterproductive and are responsible for:

  • increased air pollution,
  • traffic delays,
  • higher gasoline consumption, and
  • unnecessary costs of construction and maintenance.
     So here in 2021, let me repeat what I have tried to get across for so many years: HOV lanes are largely useless, unnecessary and outdated. THEY NEED TO BE ELIMINATED!

     In abbreviated form, the following summarizes what I wrote in my previous articles on the uselessness of HOV lanes.

     “In what does not come as a shock to anyone who drives on Massachusetts’ highways, a congestion report . . . found that the few HOV lanes the state does have are ineffective because they 'do not necessarily provide sufficient travel time savings' for commuters. [Emphasis mine]
     “. . . MassDOT wants to take a more comprehensive look at its current limited network of HOV lanes - for the first time since MassDOT was preparing for the Big Dig in the early 1990s. {Some 40 years after the need for HOV lanes went away!}
     “{It’s} ‘been 30 years since MassDOT has seriously looked at the utility of high-occupancy vehicle lanes . . . A comprehensive re-thinking is long overdue.’ [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “The state’s most severe congestion occurs on I-93 . . . and that same stretch of pavement hosts the state’s fifth-worst congestion . . .” (Ref. 7)

     A major contributor to this congestion has long been the southbound HOV lane that was limited to “high occupancy vehicles” and, as a result, has been grossly underutilized during rush-hour travel into Boston!

     Thankfully, in 2020 – some 40 years late - this southbound HOV lane on I-93 was opened up to all traffic, as had other former HOV lanes to Logan International Airport and elsewhere in Massachusetts - but, so far, not on a permanent basis!

     Some 15 years ago - way back in November of 2005 - in the midst in massively expensive Big Dig project, I started to complain about HOV lanes in Massachusetts when I wrote: “I would like to ask the Big Dig and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority why is there an HOV lane in the first place? The HOV lane concept arose during the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970’s when there was a shortage of gasoline. Some of us remember the long lines at the gas stations and the rules imposed that allowed a car owner to buy gasoline only on odd or even days depending upon his/her license plate number. The HOV lane concept was developed in order to encourage ride sharing so that there would be fewer cars on the road thereby reducing gasoline consumption.
     “Today, there is no major gasoline shortage. There are no lines at gas pumps, and most importantly today, HOV lanes do not encourage ride sharing! Gasoline prices have certainly risen, but I don’t see the number of cars on the road decreasing. I also don’t see any increase in car pooling during the commuter rush hours. I challenge anyone to name one person who leaves their car at home in order to be able to ride in a ‘high speed’ lane. [Emphasis mine] There is a reason why the number of automobile occupants has been reduced to 2 to qualify for high occupancy status. The reason is that people don’t join commuter pools simply to ride in the HOV lane. People join commuter car pools whether or not they can drive in the HOV lane. The availability of the HOV lane is totally irrelevant today.
     “What the HOV lane currently does is to increase gasoline consumption, inconvenience the majority of commuters and increase atmospheric pollution. [Emphasis mine] During commuter rush hour, the HOV lane is unavailable to the majority of commuters, resulting in fewer lanes to carry the increased commuter traffic. This causes commuters to crawl along in rush hour traffic, burning additional fuel and slowing down their commutes to work or to home while the HOV lane is virtually empty. When a breakdown occurs in the HOV lane, traffic in the HOV lane must come to a halt since there is no way to exit the HOV lane, again resulting in additional fuel consumption and more delays for HOV lane drivers. When a breakdown occurs in the non-HOV lanes, traffic must slow down or halt there, since there is no way to use the HOV lane, again resulting in additional fuel consumption and more delays.
     “Instead of sticking to responses to a problem that existed 30 years ago, it would behoove our Big Dig and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority personnel (as well other state and federal officials) to bring their thinking and planning into the 21st century. If they don’t think conditions in 2005 are different from those in 1972, let them conduct a quick study or review to determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of HOV lanes. They just might find that it makes much greater sense to take the HOV lanes and add them to the other non-HOV travel lanes. By so doing, they will likely find that such a step will reduce gas consumption, speed up commuting traffic and eliminate the costs of maintaining separate HOV lanes. I also suspect that they will find that road safety is improved, since drivers will not have to worry about running into Jersey barriers or about other drivers switching lanes to get into or out of HOV lanes.” (Ref. 6)

     Back in 2007, the waste associated with Massachusetts’ underutilized HOV lanes was reported in a Boston Globe article.

     “They are like quiet country roads, rising and banking, then dipping out of view, the serenity broken by nothing more than the occasional vehicle cruising through the soft turns. Traffic is so sparse that motorists - the few that there are - usually can't see the car ahead.
     “Yet these are anything but rural byways. Rather, they are the little-known and seldom used high-occupancy vehicle lanes . . . curving in and out of the city not far from the skyscrapers of South Station. When they were opened two years ago, with their very own tunnel under the Fort Point Channel, state officials predicted they would change the way Boston area drivers commute to work.
     "They've done nothing of the sort. [Emphasis mine]
     “The roads sit largely unheralded and unused . . .
     “Even during rush hour, traffic is sparse. A Globe reporter, watching the commute for an hour one morning, counted 181 cars and buses, or about three cars a minute, in the northbound I-93 lane, which takes vehicles either to South Station or toward Logan Airport. The southbound lane, which drivers can access near the Massachusetts Turnpike interchange, carried 122 cars and buses - about two per minute - during the same period.
     “. . . far fewer commuters are using the lanes than the 1,600 cars an hour {about 27 per minute} they were designed to accommodate.
      - - -
     “But for now it's a quarter-billion-dollar engineering curiosity - a lonely carpool lane used largely by buses, taxicabs, and limousines. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “The high-occupancy vehicle lanes were conceived nearly two decades ago {around 1987} to allow the Big Dig to meet state and federal clean-air rules by encouraging shared commutes. At the time, traffic planners believed Americans would carpool in droves if given an incentive, such as special-access lanes, and fewer cars would mean less pollution. But by the time the Boston lanes opened, many of those same engineers had concluded that HOV lanes did little to ease traffic gridlock. [Emphasis mine]
     “{Scant attention has been} paid to the lanes. . . The Federal Highway Administration does not require states to keep track of HOV lane use unless local planners want to open them to solo drivers.
     “Turnpike statistics . . . show the lanes carried an average of 59 to 167 vehicles per hour during the month of September {far less than the lanes’ 1,600 cars an hour capacity}. . .
     “General lanes . . . carry 10 to 20 times as many vehicles, on average. . .” (Ref. 8)

     I updated my call for an end to HOV lanes in July 2016, when I wrote: “Heading south from Boston on I-95 at rush hour, we are faced with a parking lot of ‘high-speed’ interstate highway. However, on this same highway lies a strip of virtually empty concrete known as the ‘High Occupancy Vehicle’ (HOV) lane, which is noteworthy for the very few ‘high occupancy’ vehicles actually using it. The question that needs to be asked is ‘If I and hundreds of thousands of motorists can see the utter uselessness of the HOV lanes, why can't the so-called transportation experts being paid by the taxpayers of Massachusetts come to the same conclusion?’ Isn’t it their responsibility to determine such facts and to take appropriate action?” (Ref. 5)

     In December of 2018, I wrote, “I’ve railed long and hard against the stupid, worse than useless, and totally outdated High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes that dot major highways in the United States and in Massachusetts in particular. But still, now nearly 50 years after they were conceptualized, and more than 40 years after their need ended, HOV lanes still exist on our highways. They continue to burden taxpayers with the cost of maintaining and upgrading them and they continue to vex the American driver.” (Ref. 4) Like too many government projects, outdated and useless programs never seem to die.

     So, here we are in 2021 and, in those famous words of Forest Gump: “Stupid is as Stupid Does”. Spoken like a true citizen of that great and forward-looking Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

  1. Stupid Is As Stupid Does: What Does this Funny Idiom Mean?, 7esl.com, 29 November 2019.
  2. MassDOT Deal Will Reopen I-93 HOV Lane In Medford, Somerville, Alex Newman, Patch, 19 November 2020.
  3. Like Rip Van Winkle, Massachusetts Eventually Wakes Up - Maybe, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu; Article 436,
    18 September 2020.
  4. HOV Stupidity Never Dies, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 345, 20 December 2018.
  5. Useless HOV Lanes Will Outlive Us All, David Burton, Sonofeliyahu.com; Article 258, 21 July 2016.
  6. Outdated and thoughtless traffic planning, David Burton, Sonofeliyahu.com; Article 07, 1 November 2005.
  7. Single Drivers Taking Over Mass. Carpool Lanes, Colin A. Young,
    boston.cbslocal.com/2019/09/12/carpool-lanes-hov-massachusetts-boston-traffic Accessed 22 March 2019.
  8. The roads less traveled: Built to ease traffic, HOV lanes are largely unused, Noah Bierman, Boston Globe,
    28 October 2007.


11 February 2021 {Article_460; State_22}    
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