It was back in July that transportation planners with the North Central Texas of Governments first floated the idea of upping the threshold for vehicles using HOV lanes from two occupants to three. The proposal was then taken to the driving public to see what they thought.
They didn't like it, at least not the ones who actually use the lanes. Even though planners explained that keeping the lanes at two-plus would cause anger and chaos if, say, a vehicle traveling free on LBJ would suddenly find itself in one of the new managed lanes (where only three-occupant vehicles get a discount), they responded with an emphatic "Hell, no."
So the NCTCOG responded by backing off its original proposal, albeit in exceedingly complicated fashion.
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Don Lamers, a senior project manager at the Council of Governments, explains that, after public meetings and extensive discussions with the Regional Transportation Council, it was decided that existing HOV lanes should remain free for two-occupant vehicles. Single-occupant vehicles will be able to pay a toll to use the lanes.
To make the system work, NCTCOG will have to put in place some other changes. To make sure HOV lane speeds stay above 50 mph, there will need to be electronic speed monitoring, which will tell the NTTA-operated tolling system in real-time when to raise tolls for single-occupant vehicles.
Also, everyone who wants to use the HOV lanes will need a toll tag. Planners are working to develop an app where drivers can select on a given day or week that they will be traveling with a passenger or paying the toll.
If all this sounds ridiculously complicated, that's because it is. But Lamers said that's the only way it can work. His agency is already implementing a public education campaign to alert drivers to the changes. The RTC will vote on the new proposal November 8.