Fear of driving toward more HOV violations | AspenTimes.com

Fear of driving toward more HOV violations

The Colorado Department of Transportation wants to hand out 2,000 permits to owners of hybrid-electric cars, enabling them to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes on state highways. We hope CDOT changes its mind, because this is bad policy that only will further compromise the HOV lanes on Highway 82.

There are an estimated 13,000 hybrid vehicles in the state of Colorado. The plan is to invite applications from the owners of those vehicles for 2,000 HOV permits, which will be awarded through a lottery later in the year.

Already our local HOV lanes ” which are supposed to accommodate only buses and carpools ” have become a valleywide joke because of a lack of enforcement. Every weekday, hundreds of single-occupant vehicles crowd the HOV lane in order to pass the law-abiding drivers in the other lane. These single-occupant scofflaws violate the HOV restriction with impunity because they know there’s little, if any, enforcement by local or state police agencies.

So, seemingly to add insult to injury, the state now plans to let hybrid drivers use the carpool lane, even if they only contain one person. Why? Presumably to reward hybrid drivers for purchasing and driving vehicles that get extraordinary mileage and pollute less.

We, too, applaud hybrid drivers for making an environmentally conscious choice, but CDOT is moving the wrong direction by allowing hybrids in HOV lanes.

First, this only will increase cynicism about the HOV restrictions and anger nonhybrid drivers who follow the rules.

Second, the permits essentially would encourage hybrid drivers not to carpool. What purpose is served by this? It’s like rewarding an avid recycler by allowing them to litter: “Since you’ve done something commendable, we’re going to allow you to do something else that’s not.”

A CDOT spokeswoman recently told The Aspen Times that Highway 82’s HOV lanes have “excess capacity,” but added that this extra space might not always be there.

We agree. We also thought the whole idea of excess capacity in the HOV lane was to give carpools and mass transit an advantage over single-occupant vehicles.

Why clutter the lanes and confuse people by selecting one kind of automobile for special treatment?

We fear this plan will open the door to even more HOV violations, and thus erode local incentives to carpool and use public transit. More single-occupant vehicles mean more traffic congestion. What’s needed on Highway 82 is a solid system of carrots and sticks to get more people out of their cars, coupled with regular enforcement of HOV restrictions.

What’s not needed is more single-occupant cars in the HOV lane. We urge CDOT to chuck this bad idea.

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