NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

High Occupancy Toll Lanes Ease Congestion

September 26, 2003

Turning underused High Occupancy Vehicle lanes into High Occupancy Toll, or HOT lanes, presents an opportunity for new road capacity to be built without raising taxes or cutting programs, says Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute. For motorists, it means congestion-free trips.

A HOT lane allows single-occupant vehicles to use the lane in exchange for paying a toll which varies in price based on how congested the lane is. Simply put, drivers stuck in the traffic jam of general purpose lanes will finally have the option to use a lane guaranteed to be congestion-free.

How can HOT lanes be guaranteed to be congestion-free?

  • As more drivers choose to use the HOT lane, price of the toll increases, thereby discouraging additional drivers from choosing it.
  • The toll on the I-15 HOT lanes in San Diego changes every few minutes, with the price shown on electronic signs; since traffic moves at full speed in the HOT lane, the speed of carpools and buses is unaffected.
  • Commuters using the HOT lanes, whether bus riders, carpoolers or single occupants, will never be slowed down by toll booths; instead, tolls are collected electronically via windshield-mounted transponders.

Because there is a variable toll on the HOT lanes, individual drivers make an "on-the-spot" decision as to whether paying the current toll rate warrants the benefit of a congestion-free trip. As demonstrated by HOT lanes elsewhere in the United States, the variable toll ensures that the demand for the facility is managed, such that congestion never occurs in the HOT lanes, says Caldara.

Source: Jon Caldara, "You Cannot Avoid Traffic"...and Other Myths: High Occupancy Toll Lanes Guarantee a Congestion Free Choice," Issue Backgrounder Number 2003-D, July 10, 2003, Independence Institute.


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