NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Opening "HOV" Lanes To Single-Occupant Vehicles

April 29, 1999

Several cities have already opened their High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) highway lanes to cars with only one occupant -- for a toll charge. A number of other regions are studying the move, which provides certain benefits, according to a study from the Reason Public Policy Institute.

  • HOV lanes -- which are toll-free and reserved for carpools, mass transit and emergency vehicles -- are often underutilized.
  • Allowing lone motorists to use the lanes for a fee would reduce congestion on general purpose lanes.
  • Converting HOV lanes so they could accept tolls is not an expensive process -- and with new technology utilizing non-stop collections through windshield-mounted transponder tags, motorists would be freed of the need to stop at toll booths.
  • In fact, conversion from HOV to HOT lanes, as they are called, usually pays for itself.

To quantify the effect HOT lanes have had on congestion, the authors cite a recent study by California Polytechnic Institute, which demonstrates that the HOT lanes in Orange County, Calif., have contributed to a doubling in average rush-hour speeds in general purpose lanes. At the same time, HOT lanes have helped reduce morning peak-period congestion from four hours to less than three.

As of early 1999, two such projects were in operation in California and one in Texas. Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis and Phoenix are reportedly studying the feasibility of HOT lanes.

Source: Robert W. Poole, Jr. and C. Kenneth Orski, "Building a Case for HOT Lanes: A New Approach to Reducing Urban Highway Congestion," Policy Study 257, April 1999, Reason Public Policy Institute, 3415 So. Sepulveda Boulevard, Suite 400, Los Angeles, Calif. 90034, (310) 391-2245.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues