High occupancy/toll and express toll lanes

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FasTrak high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes at 91 Express Lanes, at Orange County, California.

A high-occupancy toll lane (or HOT lane) is a type of traffic lane or roadway that is available to high-occupancy vehicles and other exempt vehicles without charge; other vehicles being required to pay a variable fee that is adjusted in response to demand. Unlike toll roads, drivers have an option to use general purpose lanes, on which a fee is not charged. The concept developed from high-occupancy vehicle lane systems in order to increase utilisation of the available capacity.

Some system are reversible, operating in one direction during the morning commute and in the reverse direction during the evening commute. The fee, which is displayed prominently at entry points to the lanes, is adjusted in response to demand to regulate the traffic volume and thereby provided a guaranteed minimum traffic speed and level of service.[1][2][3] It is typically collected using and electronic toll collection systems, automatic number plate recognition or at manned toll booths. Exempt vehicles typically include those with at least two, three or four occupants, those that use approved alternative fuels, motorcycles, transit vehicles and emergency vehicles.[4] An express toll lane operates along similar lines, with the exception that high-occupancy are also required to pay the fee. Most implementations are currently in the USA.


The first practical implementation was California's formerly private toll 91 Express Lanes, in Orange County, California, in 1995, followed in 1996 by Interstate 15 north of San Diego.[5][6] According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, by 2012 there were 294 corridor-miles of HOT/Express lanes in operation in the United States and 163 corridor-miles under construction.[7]

HOT lanes were added to Highway 1 in Israel in 2011.[8]


An in-vehicle FasTrak transponder allowing the driver to set the occupancy level of the vehicle that is then used to determine the appropriate fee.

HOT lanes and ETLs require single-occupant vehicles to pay a toll that varies based on demand, called congestion pricing. The tolls change throughout the day according to real-time traffic conditions, which is intended to manage the number of cars in the lanes to keep them less congested.[9][10]

In the Los Angeles Metro ExpressLanes HOT system, special "switchable" transponders are used on which the driver of a vehicle indicates the number of occupants (including him or herself) by setting a switch on the transponder. Based on the setting of this switch, the electronic toll collection system automatically determines whether or not a toll should be charged, also taking into account variable HOV restrictions (such as HOV being considered three or more occupants during peak hours and two or more occupants at all other times).[11][12] For enforcement, a beacon light near the receiver lights when a transponder is scanned. The light indicates to highway patrol troopers the setting of the occupancy switch of a car's transponder, and the car can then be visually checked to see if there are more or fewer people in the car than indicated on the transponder.[13]

Funding and construction[edit]

Implementation of these systems can be prohibitively expensive, due to the initial construction required—particularly with regard to providing access to and from the express toll lanes at interchanges. However, the long-term benefits—the decrease in delay to motorists and increased funding for the transportation agency—may outweigh the costs. To offset costs of construction, many transportation agencies lease public roads to a private institution. As a result, construction may be partially or fully funded by the private institution, which receives all of the income from tolling for a specified period of time.[14][15]


Because HOT lanes and ETLs are often constructed within the existing road space, they are criticized as being an environmental tax or perk for the rich ("Lexus lanes").[citation needed] Supporters of HOT lanes note that being encouraging the use transit and ride sharing they reduce demand and provide a benefit for all, also that the rich have many ways to ease their commute, such as buying a home closer to where they work.[16]

Few existing highways in North America are 100% ETL,[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ FAQ - VA I-495 HOT Lanes Retrieved October 6, 2009
  2. ^ Brookings Institution economic study on HOT Lanes
  3. ^ MD I-95 Express Toll Lanes Retrieved October 6, 2009
  4. ^ "Exempt Vehicles". 
  5. ^ Dave Downey (2007-01-07). "The HOT lane hype". The North County Times. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  6. ^ Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "High-Occupancy-Vehicle (HOV) and High-Occupancy/Toll (HOT) Lanes: Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  7. ^ Urban Land Institute (ULI) (2013). "When the Road Price Is Right – Land Use, Tolls, and Congestion Pricing". Urban Land Institute. Retrieved 2013-04-09.  See Figure 2, pp.6
  8. ^ "Tel Aviv toll road starting to win over skeptics". 
  9. ^ Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance
  10. ^ Golden Gate Bridge for variable toll
  11. ^ "FAQs: FasTrak". Metro ExpressLanes. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  12. ^ "FAQs: Driving Metro ExpressLanes". Metro ExpressLanes. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ Metro ExpressLanes: Rules of the Road (YouTube). Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. July 24, 2012. 2 minutes in. 
  14. ^ About I-495 HOT Lanes Retrieved August 31, 2009
  15. ^ A Guide for HOT Lane Development (FHWA, 2003)
  16. ^ MTC Planning - HOV/HOT Lanes Retrieved October 6, 2009

External links[edit]