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HOT lanes

Here come the HOT lanes

Metro's HOV system

Those of you who commute from the ‘burbs into the central core will have new options for how to get there, if you don’t mind spending a few bucks.

Solo drivers willing to pay extra to breeze through heavy traffic could get their chance soon, with Metro expected to start opening its high-occupancy toll lanes early this year.

Metro officials had previously projected a January start to the high-occupancy toll lanes but now say they don’t have a specific date, agency spokesman Jerome Gray said Friday by email.

“We are undergoing final testing of the infrastructure,” Gray said. “In addition, we are completing the integration of the toll processing with HCTRA (Harris County Toll Road Authority). Once that is complete we should be ready to go.”

The Metro board approved this change in November. There have been HOT lanes on the Katy Freeway since 2009 – they call them managed lanes, but it’s the same thing with lower tolls. The thing I’ve always wondered about is how they know whom to toll, and whom to ticket if they’ve neither a tag or enough passengers.

Metro’s tolls will apply only to drivers with no passengers who opt to use the HOV lanes for a price. Single-occupant vehicles will enter the lane through a designated path that allows tolling.

Vehicles with at least two occupants will not be charged a toll.

Booth attendants will monitor the number of passengers in vehicles entering the HOT lanes, and Metro police will patrol the lanes.

Violators who evade the toll will be assessed a $75 fine, while “occupancy violators” (solo drivers who use the lanes when they are designated for HOV use only) will be issued a citation requiring a court appearance.

More on that is here. Maybe it works simpler than it sounds. Anyone have experience with the Katy lanes? Hair Balls has more.

Get them while they’re HOT

Metro is set to open its HOV lanes to single occupancy vehicles, but you’ll pay for the privilege if you choose it.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority board Thursday set a range of tolls from $1 to $10, depending on the time of day, for its new high-occupancy toll lanes. The first such lanes are scheduled to open in January in the Gulf Freeway’s existing high-occupancy vehicle lanes between Dixie Farm Road and Dowling Street.

Metro officials said they hadn’t yet worked out a detailed schedule of tolls. They said it was unlikely that tolls would reach the maximum of $10 when the service begins, but the agency reserves the right to charge that much if necessary to manage traffic congestion.

Metro’s maximum tolls will be significantly higher than those charged by the Harris County Toll Road Authority on its Katy Freeway managed lanes, which also charge solo drivers for access. The Katy Freeway tolls range from 30 cents on weekends to $1.60 at certain peak hours.

Only vehicles without passengers will be charged – those that would have qualified for the HOV lanes as before will still get to use them for free. I hope this raises a bunch of money, and I hope that money is then used on transit.