Would you pay 25 cents a mile to drive in the carpool lane? A coin is being thrown around as an option for drivers to pay when driving on Hwy 85 or 101 in a few years. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is proposing HOT lanes—not “hot” as in temperature but rather HOT as in High Occupancy Toll lanes.
We currently have High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, also known as carpool lanes. A HOT lane would allow single drivers to drive in an existing carpool lane for a fee of 25 cents a mile (less then it costs to run a Humvee based on miles per gallon). An additional lane may be created next to the “fast” lane, therefore having two lanes for carpoolers and those who pay a fee.
The idea is to apply a Fastrak device to the windshield of a car that stores the financial amount somewhat like a gift card and would electronically transmit data and debit the drivers Fastrak account. (Fastrak is currently used for those who commute using bridges in the Bay Area.)
HOT lanes are currently in operation in San Diego, Orange County and Houston. They are also being implemented in Minneapolis, Denver and Tampa and more cities are considering it.
Drivers would be allowed to enter and exit the HOT lane(s) at certain points. The pricing could be dynamic, being equated to the amount of traffic: less traffic and lower price per mile driven vs. more traffic and higher price per mile driven.
As you can imagine, there are many opinions about HOT lanes. One complaint is that those who live farther south would have to pay more, creating geographic inequity. For example, the idea is that Highway 85 would have HOT lanes the entire length from south San Jose to Mountain View and 101 would start in south San Jose/Morgan Hill and go to around Redwood City. Others would argue that the working poor commute longer distances for employment—yet another equity issue with HOT lanes.
Implementation has been in the works for the Bay Area for several years with the passing of Assembly bills and feasibility studies. Public outreach will soon begin with approval going before the VTA board in Fall 2008, with a final implementation set for 2012.
So, what do you think?
Are you game for another fee?
Is market pricing a good way to manage moving cars?
Will HOT lanes get people on to mass transit?
It is difficult to enforce carpool lanes today, so can we expect the same for HOT lanes?
How do those who must commute to work every day feel about paying to drive in HOT lanes?