Friday, January 28, 2011

HOV Lanes, Save Time on Your Commute

The Texas Transportation Institute has just completed its annual Urban Mobility study.  This is a nationwide study that looks at population, freeway and arterial street miles traveled, public transportation, fuel and personal costs to determine how long we spend in "Rush Hour" traffic.  As you all have probably guessed San Antonio has moved up the ladder of congested cities over the years, from a ranking of 34 in 1984 to 32 in 2009. 

But what's really interesting is back in 1988 we actually had more traffic congestion than we have now with a ranking of the 28th most congested city.  So what happened? The number of freeway lane and arterial street miles went up between 1988 and 2009 (48% more freeway lanes and 29% more arterial street miles), but the number of vehicles miles traveled went up by 102% on freeways and 61% on arterial streets.  So we are way behind on building enough streets.  But in 1988 we didn't have the TxDOT "Smart Highway System".  This system of cameras and highway instant warning signs helps TxDOT to manage traffic by letting commuters know about congestion ahead and getting service vehicles and police out to the scenes of accidents more quickly. 

So if the cameras and warning signs can make such a difference, what if we added HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes to the mix.  In Houston (where they need all the time savings they can get) the 2.2 million HOV lane miles save Houstonians 2.8 million hours in traffic, and in Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington, where HOV lanes are relatively new, the 390,000 HOV lane miles save 433,000 hours in traffic.  New lanes wouldn't even have to be added to the highways, they would just need to be striped and signs would need to be posted, much cheaper and faster than building new lanes.  Wouldn't you like to save more time on your commute?

For more information on HOV lanes, check out this post.


  1. HOV is totally inappropriate use of resources. Many times, the HOV lane is empty or sparse, when the other two lanes are congested or much slower. I understand HOV has a good intention in trying to encourage carpool. But saving gas is by far the dominating reason for people to carpool. If two people find it convenient for them to go to work together, then they probably would carpool to save on gas. If it’s not convenient, like one person might not be reliable with time or they don’t want feel obligated to talk to the other person, then they probably wouldn’t carpool even if it means spending more on gas.
    But no two people who like to enjoy the morning commute alone would carpool because they get to use the HOV lane so they can get to work a little earlier. So exclusive use of the HOV lane is not going to push the decision to the other side, when gas saving is not incentive enough. So in reality, HOV doesn’t reduce the number of cars on the road, it just rearranges them, so a few cars get to go faster who would carpool anyway without HOV, but most cars are forced to go slower with a lower MPG. That’s worse for the environment.

  2. I agree that there is some argument about the effectiveness of HOV lanes. But in a city where most travel is done by car and the prospect of having effective mass transit is off in the future, HOV lanes are an inexpensive way to free up the traffic and encourage carpooling. Check out this post for the positive effects of new HOV lanes in Dallas/Ft. Worth.