NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 1, 2005

High-occupancy vehicle lanes, which were originally meant as an incentive for carpoolers to travel with ease, are now becoming as clogged as their neighboring freeway lanes, says John Tierney of the New York Times.

In particular, many localities are allowing single-occupant hybrid cars into the lanes, contributing to further congestion. In Virginia, the car-pool lanes, where hybrids are allowed, are becoming so clogged that legislatures are considering their banishment. Even without hybrids, California's car-pool lanes are congested.

The answer, says Tierney, is high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, which would benefit everyone:

  • HOT lanes would be free of charge for car pools, jitneys or buses, but would be available to other drivers willing to pay a toll that would vary with demand.
  • Drivers who paid for a quicker commute in the HOT lane would leave the other lanes less congested for those who chose not to pay.
  • Hybrids could receive an incentive as well, such as a reduced toll for using HOT lanes, but a more efficient incentive would be to charge vehicles according to their weight; heavier vehicles take longer to break and need more road space.

Ultimately, HOT lanes could handle a greater capacity than today's car pool lanes, says Tierney.

Source: John Tierney, "The Road to Hell is Clogged with Righteous Hybrids," New York Times, August 30, 2005.

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