Gulf Fwy. HOV Lanes Now Accepting Toll-Paying Single Drivers

Today is the first day of the new HOT lane on the Gulf Freeway. It's actually not a brand-new lane, but a new use for the existing HOV lane. The difference here is the letter "T," for toll. Commuters who can't, or don't want to carpool can now pay for the privilege of driving solo in the HOV lane during the morning and afternoon rush.

Houston is following the lead of cities like Atlanta and San Diego that have opened their carpool lanes to single drivers.  METRO's Jerome Gray says the authority realized the local HOV lanes weren't handling quite as many vehicles as they were designed to.

"So the whole idea is during some non-peak period, when those HOV lanes do not have as much traffic, you're able to pay a toll — anywhere from a dollar to $4.50 — to ride in the HOV lane."

There are signs at the entrances showing drivers what lane they need to use, depending on whether they have passengers.  Picking the right lane is how the system knows whether to charge a driver's EZ Tag or Hot Lane Toll Tag. Gray says METRO understands that some drivers might make mistakes.

"People should not fear, at this early stage, that there'll be severe consequences for tolls and the like for any types of violations, because we're taking that into consideration."

Gray says the lanes will be restricted to carpools only from 7-8 in the morning, and 4-6 in the afternoon. Right now, the Gulf Freeway is the only HOV lane that accepts toll-paying single drivers.  The rest of the Houston's HOV lanes are scheduled to be brought into the system by this time next year.

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David Pitman

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