Here’s some lessons in how NOT to implement HOV (high occupancy vehicle a.k.a. “car pool” lanes):
About a couple of years back the Ontario provincial government built two sets of HOV lanes on the 400-series highways around the Greater Toronto Area. I happen to travel on one of those highways on a daily basis. The HOV lane is the left-most lane and has no physical barriers between it and the adjoining (the so-called “passing lane”) lane. There is a solid divider line between it and the passing lane, which becomes a dotted line as you approach or leave exit/access ramps.
What are my issues with the implementation?
1. Very few eligible drivers use it – Less than 1/4 of vehicles with more than one occupant will use it. This is likely because of the subsequent issues…
2. The lack of physical barriers means that people will enter or exit it at will even though they are not supposed to. This creates a number of “near miss” situations with people trying to enter or exit the HOV lane from the passing lane.
3. Police will regularly stop people that are illegally using the HOV lanes. While I believe that such behavior should be disciplined, human nature comes into play and all lanes leading up to the stopped vehicle grind to a halt. Also, because the police will either halt the vehicle in the HOV lane OR direct them across all lanes of traffic to the rightmost lane, further delays occur. There are less intrusive ways of detecting such compliance issues that would cause less “rubbernecking”.
As a result of these issues, the passing lane is quite often the slowest lane of traffic as opposed to the fastest.
While I applaud the primary intention of implementing these HOV lanes (which is to reduce the environmental “footprint” of traffic), the opposite effect is occuring. Given the low utilization (even during rush hours), there is a greater degree of non-HOV lane users idling their engines due to issues 2-3 above. This in turn, creates more environmental pollution.
It would be an interesting exercise to see whether traffic flow and pollution would be improved by temporarily making these HOV lanes “free” for all drivers (effectively turning the HOV lane into the passing lane)…