High Occupancy/Toll Lanes: Phasing in Conjestion Pricing a Lane at a Time
Reason Foundation, Policy Study No. 170, November 1993
21 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2003
A consensus is emerging among transportation economists that the best way to deal with freeway congestion is to charge for driving during peak hours. The main barrier to implementation is political: drastic change is politically unpopular. This paper proposes a way of overcoming the political obstacles by phasing in congestion pricing over a period of many years. The proposal involves modifying the current concept of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. Current HOV lanes are not very effective at reducing traffic; 43 percent of car-poolers are members of the same household. They cost everyone but serve few drivers. We propose replacing HOV lanes with HOT lanes: High Occupancy/Toll lanes. A HOT lane would give free passage to three-occupant vehicles (HOV3s) but permit all others to pay a peak-hour toll for access. This would utilize more of the lane's capacity, demonstrate congestion pricing on a wide scale, and generate revenues to pay for HOT lane construction. In cases where the choice is between a HOT lane or no additional lane, the HOT-lane option also promotes ridesharing.
Keywords: HOT lanes, congestion pricing, retrofitting, status-quo bias
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