The issue of congestion is one of the challenges that have continued to face many nations and the United States is not an exception. Congestion in the roads presents a challenge that has influenced timely movement of people as well as goods. Coupled with the demands of life, many people have cars, which are primary means of moving from one point to another. Whether at school or work, the use of cars is a necessity, and for this reason, many people have their own cars. Whereas the use of vehicles cannot be avoided, problems of congestion have affected the use of vehicle on the highways, especially in areas with high population. Despite this, several efforts have been established to mitigate the effect of congestion. High occupancy vehicle lanes have been in use for some time and these lanes are now being converted into then high occupancy toll lanes. Because of the ineffectiveness of high occupancy vehicle lanes during due to congestions or when their utilization is low, many of these lanes are been converted to high occupancy toll lanes that would allow single occupancy vehicle to use them when there is vacancy by paying a toll thereby reducing congestion in the freeways.
This paper will discuss the implementation of the HOV lanes, as well as identify the issue that has affected the efficiency of this system of public road transportation. In addition, the role of HOT lanes will be discussed with regard to its effectiveness in reducing the issues that have affected HOV lanes. Ultimately, the paper will point out the reasons that have motivated the movement transition of high occupancy vehicle lanes to the new HOT lanes such as the I-95 HOT lane in Miami.
The high occupancy vehicle lanes
Throughout the United States, many states have seen the need to reduce congestion of their road. To do this, high occupancy vehicle lanes have been built to ease the congestion of vehicles. High occupancy vehicle lanes facilities were built to provide car users with means of travelling from one point to another faster. The only price to be paid was the pooling of cars that made motorist to share their cars and travel in groups. This way, the number of road users can reduces drastically and allow other road to be decongested. With this being the underlying factor for the establishment of high occupancy vehicle facilities, many of the high occupancy vehicle lanes were built during the 1980s (Downs, 2004, p112). With many people travelling with the cars to work or other places of interest, it was necessary to develop new way of traveling that had little reduced the congestion of other road users. This is the main factor that underscored the introduction of the high occupancy vehicle lanes.
High occupancy vehicle lanes are special lanes in the freeway that are used by vehicles, which carry a stated minimum number of people. A minimum number of people differ from one State to another, but is central to the reduction of congestions of the free. The idea of riders using buses, motorcycle, or carpooling is one of the driving forces that have fueled the implementation of the high occupancy vehicle lanes. Through the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes, people can share a vehicle to work and this will translate to less congestion in the general purpose way. Because of this, the overall volume of cars in the general purpose road will be reduced easing the effect of congestion in the road.
According to Lomberg (2003, p. 8), the tendency of passengers to drive alone has been the single factor that has caused many traffic congestions. Because of this, the use of high occupancy vehicle is meant to provide road users with relief to given that the high occupancy lanes can provide user with faster alternatives to reach their destinations. With people travelling in groups able to reach their destination quickly, it is argued that many of the solo drivers will get encouraged and turn to carpooling or vanpooling in order for them also to take advantage of the quick movement of the high occupancy vehicle lanes (Down, 2004, p. 110). Therefore many states have implemented the high occupancy vehicle lanes in order to promote decongestion of the general purpose lanes.
There are various ways that have been used to implement the high occupancy vehicle lanes. One of this ways is to create new lanes adjacent to the existing lanes to be used by vehicles that meet the high occupancy vehicle lanes requirements. In some cases too, shoulder space in the roads can be turned into new lanes that will be used to make the high occupancy vehicle lanes. Another approach of implementing the high occupancy vehicle lanes is to create new lanes adjacent to the general purpose lanes. Regardless of the approach used, the main aim of high occupancy vehicle lanes has been to draw vehicles from the general purpose by encouraging carpooling or solo drivers to pay toll. Through the sharing of vehicle and using buses, passengers have been able to move faster even during peak times, when the general purpose lanes are moving at slower rates.
The implementation of the high occupancy vehicle lanes has been a story of success and failure in many parts of the United States. In some States, the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes has led to significant ease of congestion. For instance, it has been reported that the number of people willing to carpool have declined over years and this has had a significant impact on the popularity of the of the high occupancy vehicle lanes (OECD, 2010, p. 237). Whereas some areas have states have benefited from the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes, the public has expressed its concern over the underutilization of the high occupancy vehicle lanes. In some cases, the high occupancy vehicle lanes have been designated as general lanes after motorist voiced their concern over their underuse.
The debate on the efficiency of the high occupancy vehicle lanes is one the driving forces that has fueled the need to move existing high occupancy vehicle lanes to high occupancy toll lanes. Whereas there are a number of factors that have reinforced the shift to high occupancy toll lanes, most of these factors are related to the ineffectiveness of the high occupancy vehicle lanes despite their expected role in reducing traffic congestion. With many existing high occupancy vehicle lanes being underutilized the need to resolve this issue as well as promote the use of other lanes has been in the rise. This has been the main reason that many of the high occupancy vehicle lanes in the United States being transformed into to high occupancy vehicles that allow other motorist with less occupants to use the high occupancy vehicles lanes. This way, the high occupancy vehicle lanes that remain underused will become handy when the general lanes are not in use (Morgenstern Portney, 2004).
Implementation of the high occupancy toll lanes
The failure of the high occupancy lanes in curbing traffic congestion is one of the reasons that prompted the transition to the high occupancy toll lanes. As confirmed by Morgenstern and Portney (2004), the use of the high occupation toll lane has helped in reducing the pressure from congestion as solo drivers are wooed into the high occupancy toll lanes. Despite the need to pay some toll in order to be allowed to use these lanes, some solo drivers will still move to the less busy high occupancy toll lanes thereby decreasing the congestion in the general purpose lanes. Because of this, many solo motorists have been able to avoid traffic congestion in time when the high occupancy toll lanes are not fully utilized.
The introduction of the I-95 high occupancy toll is an exemplary move that demonstrates the potential that people have seen in the new lanes. As compared to the high occupancy vehicle, buses and carpools can share the lanes especially when the lanes are not being fully utilized. As a result, the under used high occupancy lanes can find use, and at the same time relieving the general lanes from congestion. The success of this approach will see the excess capacity of the high occupancy vehicle lanes being put into use thereby reducing cases where other drivers see the lane as being underutilized by other motorist such as bus drivers, carpoolers or vanpoolers who are meant to use it for free (Downs, 2004, p. 113).
The use of high occupancy vehicle lane is welcome to uses of the high occupancy vehicle as well as solo drives. This new lanes can be utilized by the named users though solo drivers will be required to pay some fee. Depending on the level of occupancy of the high occupancy toll, solo drivers will be required to pay a certain toll that varies depending on some factors. For instance, solo drivers may pay high amount of toll especially when there are fewer number of vacancy left in the high occupancy toll lanes. This strategy is used to discourage users from using the high occupancy toll lanes at peak hours. During the non-peak times, the amount of toll payable may be less, and because of this, many solo drivers can pay for it thereby decongesting the general lanes.
The implementation of high occupancy toll lanes has been regarded as a new approach to providing solution to congestion in areas prone to heavy traffic jams. In areas such as Virginia, the implementation of the high occupancy lanes been done with an aim of reducing the congestion in residential areas. With the implementation of the high occupancy toll lanes, resident around Virginia have been able to avoid using the general purpose in time of congestion (Saleh Summer, 2009, p. 173). Instead, many of them have managed to use the high occupancy toll lanes by paying a specified toll. Based on this arrangement, congestion has been reduced in a cost effective way that has enabled the resident and carpoolers, transit riders and other vanpoolers to have flexible transport arrangements that reduce incidence of congestion in the general lanes, and promoting full utilization of the high occupancy toll lanes. In addition, new areas have been accessed through the use of the high occupancy toll lanes.
There are many reasons, which contributed to the implementation of the I-95 high occupancy lane. The need to provide residents with new and better means of travelling was a key factor in implementing the lanes. Other than the general purpose lane, residents had the opportunity to use the high occupancy toll lanes for a fee especially when they have little time to travel. Instead of relying on the general purpose lanes alone, resident have a choice of using the high occupancy lanes if they can afford to pay the required toll. This lane is particular handy when solo drivers who cannot carpool have a need to move along the freeway within a short time. This is a real benefit to the residents of the community around the high occupancy toll lanes.
Another reason for the implementation of the high occupancy toll lanes has been attributed to it ability to increase the capacity of roads (Downs, 2004, p.114). In cases where new lanes are built for use as high occupancy toll lanes, the capacities of the roads have been increased. Through this, the numbers of spaces in the lanes have been increased. As a result, both carpooler or vanpooler and solo drivers have being given relief from congestion that would otherwise affect their movements.
The implementation of the high occupancy toll lanes is characterized by the operations that ensure the success of the lanes in use. Whereas the users of the I-95 high occupancy toll lanes such as buses, carpooler or van pooler are required to pay nothing, solo drivers who opt to use this lane are required to pay a variable amount of toll. The aim of using the toll is to keep the traffic flowing at least in the high occupancy toll lanes. When there is little congestion in this lane, solo drivers will be required to pay little amount of toll. In contrast, solo drivers may pay higher toll in case the high occupancy lane has vacancy that can be utilized during peak hours. This balance is necessary to make traffic flow along the high occupancy toll lanes, as well as the general purpose lanes.
In order to ensure that traffic flow well in the high occupancy toll lanes, sensors are installed in the road. These sensors are then used to provide information about the flow of car in the lanes. Based on this information, it is possible for the management of the high occupancy toll lanes to be done in the best way possible. In addition, the I-95 has a series of electronic signs that are used to provide road users such as solo drivers with information on amount of toll to be paid by. The benefit of this stems from the awareness that solo drivers who will be able to make proper decisions based on the amount of toll being levied for the use of the (Karlson, 2007, p. 117). The use of I-95 lanes has become easier with solo drivers who can receive notifications in advance on the payment of the toll.
When solo drivers use the high occupancy toll lanes, no cash is used to pay for the toll fell. Instead, solo drivers will be required to pay for their tool through the use of EZ-pass or other similar transponders. The I-95 high occupancy lanes have more space, which can allow violators to be taken aside in case they have no transponders fitted in their car. In times when the solo drivers have enough people on board their cars, the shield feature of the transponders can be turned on and this will allow the drivers to avoid paying the toll (Karlson, 2007, p. 120). This is only the case when the drivers have enough people while using the high occupancy toll lanes. Through the use of other enforcement techniques such as video surveillance, the implementation of the I-95 high occupancy toll lanes has been made successful.
Evidently, the implementation of the high occupancy lanes has been of great benefit to the road users of areas such as Virginia. This move has been motivated by the shortcomings of the high occupancy vehicle lanes, which continued to remain under used even when congestion was still a problem in the general purpose lane. Because of the under use of high occupancy vehicle lanes especially during the non-peak hours, these lanes could not mitigate the effect of congestion. For this reason, the high occupation toll lane was implemented to allow solo drivers to use the less congested lanes by paying a variable tool. Because of the implementation of the high occupancy toll lane, the level of congestion has been reduced in the general purpose lanes given that solo drivers can pay a toll in order to use it when there is vacancy.
With transponders fitted in their cars, solo drivers can pay the required toll electronically and even switch it when they are carpooling. This implementation of the I-95 lane has also been made possible through the use of electronic signs, video surveillance and sensors on the road. This equipment has made it possible for congestion to be reduced in the areas around Virginia, not to mention opening other new areas. The success of the I-95 high occupancy toll lane underscores the importance of sharing freeway resources for the purpose of reducing congestion on the high ways (Karlson, 2007, p. 158).