Are Hybrid Cars in Danger of Losing Carpool Lane?

In an attempt to reduce congestion on the freeway, Caltrans wants to raise the fine for solo passengers who get nabbed in the carpool lane, and especially for those who put a dummy in the passenger seat. Right now, with court fees, the fine is about $500. Caltrans has not yet said what they would raise it so.

A Caltrans study found that during the evening rush hour nearly one-third of carpool-lane miles do not meet federal minimum standards, which require that the lanes flow at speeds of 45 mph or faster at rush hour.

The speeds are far lower on some major Southern California routes, including portions of the 405 Freeway from the South Bay through Orange County as well as the 5 and 210 freeways. Local officials say the 91 Freeway carpool lanes connecting Orange County and the Inland Empire can slow to 10 mph during rush hour, with portions of the 55 and 57 freeways doing even worse.

Although officials said they had no plans to kick solo hybrid car drivers off the carpool lanes, it’s not out of the question.

“Hybrid vehicles will continue to be allowed to operate on the HOV lane system,” said Director Will Kempton. “Only when no other steps work to reduce congestion, it may be necessary to prohibit single-occupant hybrid vehicles from extremely congested HOV segments.”