All You Need To Know About Carpool Lanes
Carpool lanes, or HOV Lanes (for High Occupancy Vehicles) can make your commute a breeze. Each state has its own rules about who can use them. We list a few here, but go to your state’s Department of Transportation website to learn more.
By Holly Reich
Don’t Try This At Home
Last December, one Washington state driver put a skeleton in the front seat of his car so he could drive in the HOV lane (for High Occupancy Vehicles). True, his front-seat partner, a plastic skeleton dressed in a white sweatshirt, had a seat belt on. Nice try, but according to the law, a HOV passenger has to be alive. The driver, who was also speeding at 82-miles per hour and making reckless lane changes, got tickets for speed, unsafe lane changes and the HOV violation. Clever? Not so much.
HOV lanes, also called carpool lanes, are useful on major highways for commuters who have two (and – in some more restrictive cities – three) or more people in their vehicle. Some states, like New York and California, have very specific qualifications for one-person vehicles in HOV lanes (people who drive electric cars) while other states have less stringent rules.
Mile High Drivers
Colorado allows vehicles with more than one person, including motorcycles and buses, to use the HOV lane toll-free. Also included are vehicles with two or more people (living and not pre-birth – sorry pregnant gals), emergency vehicles (law enforcement, fire, emergency medical), motorcycles, buses and alternative fuel vehicles with an AF (Air Force) license plate.
The Bay State
The Massachusetts HOV Program is for vehicles less than 2.5 tons (this includes most passenger cars) with two or more occupants. Motorcycles, even with one rider, can use the lanes, as can buses. In addition, the MassHighway HOV Program promotes ridesharing through other sources, including 25 park-and-ride lots and MassRIDES, a statewide ridesharing program that connects commuters to bus, vanpool and carpool support services.
The Big “D” Loves to Drive the Carpool Lane
Dallas promotes ridesharing through a network of carpool lanes, allowing commuters to whiz past freeway traffic jams. DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) claims that over 145,000 commuters use the HOV lanes each weekday.
Cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles with two or more people are eligible to use the lanes. Hybrid vehicles with single occupants are not allowed in HOV lanes.
Bright Headlights, Big City
New York’s Clean Pass Program allows vehicles with two or more occupants into the carpool lane, and just a few low-emission, energy-efficient, single occupancy vehicles along the 40-mile Long Island Expressway (LIE) HOV lanes.
The following 2012 cars have been added to the list of eligible vehicles for single-occupant use: Chevrolet Volt, model year 2012 with E, F, G, or H in the 5th position of the VIN (that’s your car’s Vehicle Identification Number – located on the uppermost part of your dashboard, near the windshield); Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), model year 2012; Mitsubishi i-MiEV, model year 2012; Nissan Leaf, model year 2011 – 2012; and Toyota Prius Hybrid, model year 2004 – 2012. To note: The 2011 – 2012 Honda Civic hybrid, 2010 – 2012 Honda Insight and 2012 Toyota Prius V do not meet the fuel economy requirements of the program and therefore do not qualify.
The Left Coast Goes Green
In California, the use of carpool lanes by one occupant vehicles requires a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The eligible car list has been updated with the 2012 versions of Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Civic GX CNG, Mitsubishi i-Miev Electric, Nissan Leaf SL, Leaf SV Electric and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.