When the new High-Occupancy Toll lanes open on I-85 this summer, buses, motorcycles and Alternate Fuel Vehicles may travel at no charge, as can vehicles with three or more occupants. Single- and double-occupant vehicles may choose to use the lane for a variably priced toll.
Georgia’s current high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes allow free passage to vehicles with two or more occupants (even if the second occupant is an infant), transit buses, motorcycles and as well as AFVs. It’s high time they were put to better use — and a network of HOT lanes is a great use.
Still, it’s a mystery to me why a lane aimed at reducing congestion would offer free access to AFVs, no matter how many occupants. If you want to reduce pollution, just say so. But giving AFVs free passage does not promote mobility. Plus, because they pay little or no gas tax because of their fuel efficiency, the “user pays” concept falls by the wayside.
This waste of space should end. Apparently, even the Obama Administration is acknowledging this. In his excellent Surface Transportation Innovations news letter, Bob Poole of the Reason Foundation says the “leaked” draft of the Administration reauthorization bill contains a provision that would eliminate free access for “low emission and energy efficient vehicles” from HOV lanes, “restoring the original intent of such lanes to improve person and vehicle throughput.”