Carpooling Lanes: More People in Less Space (Part 1)

By Lucrecia Rivera, May, 2014


A High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or Carpool lane is a highway lane restricted to vehicles with a minimum occupancy, usually two passengers. The concept is “move more people with less traffic”, and yes, they must be people!

Children count as people, but neither pets, unborn infants, or inflatable dolls count as an occupant. In 2007, Trooper Tony Brock pulled over a man for cruising on the highway carpool lane with a dolled-up mannequin as his fellow rider. "You name it, I've seen it," said Brock. Carpool cheaters tend to get more imaginative when the traffic worsens and the weather heats up.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is responsible for HOV lane enforcement. Once a monitor detects violation, district personnel will notify local area CHP of the need for heightened enforcement in a particular HOV corridor. HOV lane violation tickets carry a $490 fine, and fines may be higher for repeat offenders.

If you drive a Green vehicle , such as an Electric or plug-in hybrid, you are eligible to use the carpool lane as a single occupant (although carpooling is still encouraged!). Upon purchasing a Qualified vehicle and completing the Application form & you will be given a special sticker by the DMV. Carpool trips can be planned using the HOV Lanes map.


Why are HOV lanes important?

Besides saving time, HOV lanes manage demand by increasing person movement capacity in congested freeway corridors. In other words, they encourage carpooling, vanpooling and bus use. More people per vehicle means lower travel costs (fuel, tolls), fewer carbon emissions, and reduced stress for everyone on the road. This is why authorities encourage carpooling, especially during periods of dense pollution and high fuel prices. Unfortunately, trends in carpool commuting have declined in the U.S. since 1980, which is mainly attributed to the fall of gas prices.

How americans get to work

"How do American's get to work ?" , by Shiva Koohi via U.S Census Bureau
Looking at carpool lanes today, one might ask: Are HOV lanes really effective?... they look pretty empty most of the time.Actually, carpool lanes carry, on average, three times more people than adjacent lanes.
So even when they might seem empty, it does not mean they are being underutilized. For example, carpool lanes in Los Angeles County are gaining popularity and often reach their maximum operating capacity, proving their usefulness and effectiveness.
In some highway segments with less carpooling, single occupant vehicles can pay a toll to access HOV lanes. Join us next week for more information on High Occupancy Toll lanes.





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