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MTC Updates Master Plan for Bay Areaís Network of Carpool Lanes
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MTC Updates Master Plan for Bay Area's Network of Carpool Lanes

To help ensure that high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on Bay Area freeways and expressways achieve their dual goal of relieving congestion and reducing emissions, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has released its Draft 2002 High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lane Master Plan Update for public review and comment. The full Commission was scheduled to adopt the plan at its meeting on Wednesday, February 26.

Also known as carpool lanes or diamond lanes, the Bay Area's network of HOV lanes has grown more than five-fold since 1990 to nearly 350 miles. Using input from more than 5,000 respondents to an online survey conducted in December 2002 and January 2003 - plus a license plate survey of some 1,300 carpool lane users -- the Draft HOV Master Plan Update recommends a multi--tiered investment program that would add as many as 387 new miles of carpool lanes around the region by 2025, construct freeway-to-freeway carpool lane connectors, build new ramps to provide direct access to and from carpool lanes, add several major express bus stations to freeway medians, and build more than a dozen other express bus/park-and-ride stations around the Bay Area. More than half the funding for these projects already has been committed in the long-term Regional Transportation Plan or the near-term 2003 Transportation Improvement Program.

In addition to these capital investments, the Draft HOV Master Plan Update recommends improving enforcement of carpool lane requirements, expanding express bus services so HOV lanes carry more people, and taking a look at opening Interstate 80 carpool lanes to mixed-flow traffic headed in the off-peak direction during morning and evening commute periods.

Carpool lanes tend to arouse strong feelings among Bay Area motorists. While one-third of surveyed respondents strongly oppose carpool lanes on the region's freeways, 57 percent support them - and the figure climbs to 85 percent among those who use the lanes at least two or three times per week.

Despite the difference in views on the current use of carpool lanes, planners forecast that many of the Bay Area's HOV lanes will become filled to capacity between 2010 and 2025. Strategies for dealing with the crush at that time might include further increases in express bus service and HOV enforcement, more metering lights and HOV bypasses at freeway onramps, or raising carpool requirements from two to three or more occupants (the level currently in effect along the Interstate 80 corridor). But public opinion is strongly against any proposal to raise carpool eligibility thresholds anytime soon. When asked the question, "Would you be willing to see the vehicle occupancy requirements raised to three or more people if it meant you could speed up your trip?," a resounding 64 percent of survey respondents said, "No."

To view the complete Draft 2002 HOV Lane Master Plan Update, visit the MTC web site at