NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Controversial HOT Lanes Spread Nationally

December 6, 2012

Highway lanes that charge cars rising tolls as traffic increases are becoming the future for the United States' clogged urban expressways. A dozen now operate across the nation and another 18 are under development, says USA Today.

  • The so-called "dynamic pricing" lanes have just come to two of the biggest and most congested metro areas, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
  • They join Atlanta, another notoriously congested city, and other metro areas where the roads -- many called HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes because carpoolers ride free -- are growing in popularity after a rocky start.
  • They also are planned or under construction on congested urban corridors from Seattle to El Paso, Dallas, Baltimore and other cities.

Projects such as the ones in Los Angeles and northern Virginia near Washington, which rolled out last month, likely represent the future of urban tolling because they allow transportation planners to get more mileage out of the existing highway system, experts say.

Some opponents criticize them as "Lexus lanes" -- serving the wealthy while leaving others stuck in traffic. Others oppose the lanes because they're on highways that motorists have already paid for with gas taxes and because the lanes are often turned over to private operators.

These toll lanes offer commuters congestion relief by using technology to adjust pricing constantly. Tolls rise as more people use the lanes and drop as demand falls. Carpools, bus riders and motorcyclists use the lanes for free.

Source: Larry Copeland and Paul Overberg, "Controversial HOT Lanes Spread Nationally," USA Today, December 4, 2012.


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