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HOV Hybrids, Nationwide?
Jamais Cascio, 11 Feb 05

We didn't note California's passing of a law awhile back allowing hybrid vehicles to drive in carpool (High Occupancy Vehicle, or HOV) lanes with just a single occupant. While a nice gesture, it was ultimately a pointless one -- because Federal money underwrites HOV lanes, they control the rules, and the US Department of Transportation has so far been unwilling to bend the law to allow solo hybrid drivers in (with the exception of Virginia, in 2000). That may change, if a bill introduced by car alarm magnate/current Republican legislator Darrel Issa passes. The bill would allow states to set their own rules for HOV lanes, which means that as more states pick up the idea (Arizona, Connecticut and Georgia are considering rules similar to California's), a hybrid driver could eventually be able to drive in carpool lanes from sea to shining sea.

Or maybe not -- as always, the devil is in the details. California's rule, for example, requires a sticker, and only 75,000 will be authorized. This is to avoid overcrowding of carpool lanes, which apparently has been a problem in Virginia. And the California law also only applies to vehicles getting greater than 45 miles per gallon -- Insights, Hybrid Civics, and Priuses, , Hybrid Accords, Hybrid Escapes, and other upscale hybrids, no -- something that US automakers have complained about. Missouri legislators have written a bill which would open up the HOV lanes to any hybrid which gets 10% better mileage than a standard version vehicle. This may make Ford happy, but would definitely result in crowded carpool lanes, and seems like an awfully low bar to meet.

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The reason Issa is pushing for state control of Federal HOV lanes is the ongoing push by the Reason Foundation and their allies for inaccurately-named "HOT lanes". Here in Minnesota the state is going to allow SOVs into the HOV lanes for a small, variable electronic toll.

It's a coordinated campaign. Use of this phrase:
is usually a tip off that it's an astroturf, not grassroots, movement.

HOT lanes are about as bad as ideas get, corrupting the whole notion of "congestion pricing" etc.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 11 Feb 05

Bleah. Thanks for the heads-up, Joseph. I figured that if Issa was involved, there was something unpleasant going on, but I wasn't sure what the angle was.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 11 Feb 05

...and once the carpool lanes get clogged, a lot of the incentive to carpool goes away.

Posted by: jet on 11 Feb 05

small potatoes. our scope on the larger issue of fossil energy consumption is still in a massive state of denial.

Posted by: Fran Battaglia on 12 Feb 05



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