Carpool proponent wants better toll rules
Engineer Michael Cullen knows a thing or two about the way stuff moves. After all, the Southern Union Company employee has overseen the transportation of fossil fuels for his entire career.“I am responsible for supporting operations on 20,000 miles of gas pipelines for four different pipelines,” said Cullen, an engineer with the company for 36 years. To get to work efficiently, Cullen has commuted to work for two decades with groups of employees in a carpool. “I run a vanpool with 11 passengers that commutes 80 miles a day from The Woodlands to the Galleria and back,” Cullen said. The carpooling veteran is concerned about the state of Houston’s highways and their accommodations for group commuters. “The community seems to be going out of its way to make group commuting more difficult,” Cullen said. “The best example is the new HOT lanes that only jam up the HOV lanes such that it is not much different than driving in the main lanes.” Houston’s High Occupancy Toll lanes allow all vehicles, even those with only one occupant, to use the carpool, or high occupancy volume HOV lanes, if they pay a small toll. Cullen said this action is deterring motorists from taking advantage of the pluses that group commuting has to offer. “I just see this as being detrimental to encouraging people to join car, van and bus pools,” Cullen said. “On the other hand, if someone is already willing to burn up a car just to commute to work, they probably see the HOT lanes as just a normal expense of commuting.” In addition to easing commute-related stress and stress on your wallet, carpooling is also environmentally friendly because it decreases the number of vehicles on the road, which lessens air pollution. Cullen urges the city to re-think its position on allowing regular vehicles to pay to use the carpool lanes. “In due time, there will be more and more individual riders paying to use the HOV lanes,” Cullen said. “Eventually, they will be no different than the main lanes. The good news is that I’ll be retired before that happens on I-45 North,” he laughed. ABOUT MICHAEL CULLEN AGE: 60 OCCUPATION: Engineer and group commuting advocate COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Woodlands resident FAST FACT: Cullen sings in his church’s choir.
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