The ultimate goal of UDOT’s carpool lanes is to maximize efficiency, and maybe even clean the air, but the lanes are now getting piled up with single drivers who are paying to use the lane.
The other day, I read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune concerning High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. The article was about a man who had just purchased a Tesla–an electric-powered vehicle that can get up to 306 miles with one charge.
This new fuel-efficient car owner was excited for the ability to use his car in the HOV lane. However, he was disappointed and angry when he found he was unable to purchase the necessary clean-air or “C” decal. The reason? The legislature had placed limits on the number of clean air decals that could be sold and that limit had been reached.
Toll payers can pay a fee to use express lanes, even if they’re driving solo (decals were initially created to fill the express lanes; not enough people carpooled to occupy them). Because of the now-overcrowded lanes, lawmakers denied Votaw the right to use the lanes with just one person in his Tesla.
It’s obvious that air quality is a huge problem here in our valley, so why do lawmakers want to limit people who are using efficient transportation?
To answer this question, one must first ask why the legislature established the HOV lane in the first place. According to the UDOT website, some of the benefits of using a carpool lane include maximizing efficiency by reducing driving time and the number of vehicles on the freeway.
If the purpose of creating HOV lanes is to reward carpoolers with faster transportation time without too much congestion, Utah lawmakers should limit the number of toll payers allowed in express lanes and define carpooling as two or more adults sharing the same vehicle.
This change would reduce the number of people in HOV lanes and even motivate some to carpool or purchase fuel-efficient cars. Rather than denying Votaw the right to use carpool lanes because of limited clean air decals, the legislature should allow him to drive alone in his clean air car in the HOV lane and reduce the number of single-driving toll payers in order to promote more efficient ways of traveling.