NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 10, 2005

Many states are converting their high-occupancy vehicles lanes (which permit cars with two or more occupants) to high-occupancy toll lanes in order to ease congestion.

High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are designed to encourage car-pooling by allowing only vehicles with more than one occupant to use them. However, in many areas where most people drive alone, HOV lanes are underutilized. As a result, these lanes are being converted into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes for drivers who are willing to pay.

HOT lanes provide revenues for states and convenience for drivers:

  • As cars become more fuel-efficient, federal gas tax revenues are flat; furthermore, the tax, which has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, is not tied to inflation, leaving states in need of highway funds.
  • Converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes raises additional revenue and is a cheaper way to ease traffic congestion than building new lanes.
  • Advances in technology make toll collection easier and more expedient for drivers as well; electronic toll tags allow drivers to pass through booths without stopping.

In San Diego, HOT lanes have been in used since 1998. Drivers are charged varying fees at different times of day depending on that amount of traffic congestion. San Diego county's I-15 HOT lanes cost anywhere from 50 cents to 4 dollars.

Next month, Minnesota's HOV lanes along I-394 will become HOT lanes. HOT lanes are also being considered along several roads in Baltimore, Orlando, Denver, Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Last month, officials in Virginia announced plans for private contractors to build two HOT lanes in each direction along I-495 that connects the suburbs around Washington, D.C.

Source: Larry Copeland, "Solo in Car-Pool Lane? That's Hot," USA Today, May 9, 2005.

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