By on April 29, 2018

California has been bending over backward to encourage commuters to adopt zero-emission vehicles. Los Angeles County even went so far as to offer EV drivers the opportunity to become certified to access the express lane, even when riding solo, free of charge. This immediately caused issues and transportation officials announced on Thursday they were going to have to eliminate the program to reduce congestion.

Apparently, giving zero-emission vehicles free access to the carpool lane created an influx of traffic that it was no longer able to meet the federally mandated minimum speed of 45 mph during peak hours. Officials had become concerned after over two-thirds of California’s HOV lanes couldn’t maintain the minimum speed in 2016. However, that’s not entirely the fault of EVs. Drivers who have opted to pay for use of the toll lanes without passengers now account for around half of its daily traffic, pushing it past capacity. LA is worried that frequent slowdowns has resulted in commuters becoming less interested in buses and carpooling. 

The proposal to begin charging electric vehicles to use the express lane nearly passed unanimously. Only Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted against the plan, who claimed it had nothing to do with the environment. “We ought to simply admit that we really want to convert this to a toll lane, and we don’t really care about clean air … that all of the things that we adopted HOV lanes for in the first place, we’d like to abandon,” she said.

If more traffic in the lane results in idle buses and less people using mass transit, allowing EVs to ride free isn’t helping. However, allowing single-occupant vehicles to continue paying to use HOV lanes when they’re already full isn’t much of a solution either. Kuehl wants to see pay lanes eliminated entirely, prohibiting all access by lone motorists.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said qualifying EVs with stickers would still be eligible for a 15-percent discount per trip. But they would no longer be able to ride free without passengers.

Although, none of this will matter much since LA County is pretty sure a large portion of drivers are abusing the system. Actively policing HOV lanes in rush-hour traffic is next to impossible. In fact, the Transit Authority’s current system actually had EV drivers using their FasTrak transponder devices to perpetually indicate they had three or more people in the car to avoid paying the toll — something which any driver could attempt if they were brave enough.

While the freeway camera systems would be able to spot a liar if this continued, plenty of drivers already cross into HOV lanes late to avoid cameras or have illegally tinted windows. Things like riding with mannequins or dolls in baby seats also aren’t uncommon. The California Highway Patrol reports dozens of cases involving false passengers every single year. It’s estimated that up to 30 percent of cars in the carpool lane during rush hour aren’t supposed to be there.


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22 Comments on “Los Angeles Finally Snubs Electric Vehicles, Clean Air Cars Have to Pay for HOV Lane...”

  • avatar

    California roads in general are a nightmare which has predictably led to these results where everyone is a stressed driver. With all that extra gas tax money you think they could better plan for future growth but no such luck. Driving around san diego I saw many poor road design choices which caused unnecessary bottlenecks every day, not to mention traffic light mismanagement and actual removal of traffic lights all over town in favor of four way stops and other nonsense making things worse and worse. Then there is the trolley system which in itself is a nightmare to heavy navy base traffic on 28th and 32nd because they werent smart enough to elevate it when they redid the stops a few years back.

    A lot can be done in the short term to fix a lot of these problems, including many more alternating one way streets, eliminating turns across traffic in favor of looping around the block, longer lights so in heavy traffic you dont get as bad of cumalative backup as longer lights help reduce wasted time due to stop and go affect, fixing highway merge points which are a tremendous problem, lowering rush hour traffic speed limits with variable speed limits signs during rush hour, more through traffic protected lanes to help reduce merging cumulative backups, etc.

  • avatar

    HOV Lane’s are the biggest joke imaginable! Here in Minneapolis that use three lanes worth of space to run one HOV lane which reverses during the different rush hours.

    With the cost of the barriers and the controls, they probably could just put two additional Lanes running in each Direction. It makes me infinitely angry to see our federal government wasting money like this.

    Furthermore, the lanes are confusing and easy to get trapped in if you are not paying attention. Typical government action.

    • 0 avatar

      Silly roadway designs are typically that way because of funding. MNDOT was probably able to get federal funding to build a separate HOV lane, but unable to get the same dollars to just put in more lanes.

    • 0 avatar

      Went with my parents to a 50th-anniversary celebration to MSP in September, 2016, in the Plymouth area. Came through downtown just after evening rush and thought I’d jump into the HOV lane on I-94. Followed my nav’s directions, and it seemed like the ramp went on forever! Then I realized that there was very little traffic on the other side of the barrier, and that traffic was clipping along faster than I was!

      Didn’t make that mistake again on the way out; went around to the south, by the airport, as there was a Vikings game downtown, and I wanted to avoid that traffic.

  • avatar

    I live in Los Angeles and drive the freeways. I would guess that every fifth car I see in the Car Pool lane has neither the required two occupants nor is hybrid/electric/natural gas powered. If California would EVER enforce its vehicle laws, like not blocking intersections on red lights, traffic might actually move as planned. I propose we change the state motto from “Eureka” to “Land of Excuses”.

  • avatar

    The general idea is to force people into mass transit by making driving as expensive and miserable as possible. The money for roads is diverted. They still have a ways to go in turning the screws, since mass transit is so deeply hated by most, despite all the money wasted on it in SoCal.

    Maybe Jerry Brown’s 80 billion dollar “bullet” train will be the exception when it is finally completed. Too bad none of us will live long enough to see it.

    • 0 avatar

      Monorail Man is going to take his $80 billion + overruns and disappear to Shelbyville once the train is finished.

      High speed rail works in the Northeast or Europe or Japan. Doesn’t work in California. Geology + not enough density + for lots of people a high speed train still won’t be competitive versus car or plane, whether on cost or time.

      That money should’ve been spent on SF-SoCal commuter trains, buses and roads.

      Californians can’t blame Trump for their own literal train wreck.

    • 0 avatar

      $80 billion? The latest estimates put the real total above $100 billion. Remember, when the voters were presented with this, we were told it was estimated to cost $40 billion.

      This is California’s big dig, just much more expensive and will service much fewer people.

  • avatar

    Ms Kuehl seems to be the only honest commisioner there. Politicians are afraid of being seen as raising taxes for fear of not getting elected. So instead they cut services, create fees, borow and tax those who don’t vote etc etc

  • avatar

    It’s “buses.”

  • avatar

    I love it when social engineers are hoisted on the petard of consequences they failed to foresee.

  • avatar

    I’ve been going to LA several times a year for the last 25 years. 15 years ago, I just stopped driving out there. I either had an employee pick me up (wasteful), or a cab (outrageous $$), then finally UBER arrived.

    I never understood how people described the distance to another place – “oh, it’s only 30 minutes from here”. That means it’s probably 3-5 miles away but you have to get on the freeway. Way different from where I live, people will actually say “it’s about 15 miles away”, so you could pretty much figure it was 20-30 minutes of travel time.

    And it’s that way 24-7, never ends. I remember a trip one morning on the 405, and I almost pooped my pants by my employee’s maniac diving in and out of the HOV, from 80 to 20 mph, and it was no big deal to him. Folks with 2-hour commutes each way, now which driver got stoned before he left the house, I’m done.

    And as someone mentioned above, oh yeah, CA is really gonna love that way over budget train from LA to SF. Now the homeless will be able to get a occasional change of scenery.

  • avatar

    Californians fully deserve the Government and traffic they have.

    • 0 avatar


      Totally agree. Among the highest taxed population in the country, and consistently incompetent, destructive government. California voters are masochists.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not that we’re masochists.

        There are too many Californians who are financially illiterate. The stuff we talk about here – 84 month car loans, people buying or leasing new when they can’t afford to do so, people swapping cars too often, etc – goes double for the foolishness of the electorate in the Golden State.

    • 0 avatar

      Crediting California politics to California voters is giving our election theater way too much credit. California didn’t ask for the third world invasion that drowned them, the one time that they were asked (Prop 187 in 1994) they voted against it in a landslide, and the federal courts overturned that election literally three days later.

      They’re along for the banking cartel’s ride just like the rest of us are.

  • avatar

    Solution to California traffic.
    Move to South Dakota.

  • avatar

    >California has been bending over backward to encourage commuters to adopt zero-emission vehicles.


    California has been bending over commuters in order to force adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    “We ought to simply admit that we really want to convert this to a toll lane, and we don’t really care about clean air … that all of the things that we adopted HOV lanes for in the first place, we’d like to abandon,” she said.

    She’s right, you know. Once you allow people to pay for the access, you give up any pretense on it not being about generating income rather than serving any other purpose.

    Recently Interstate 66 in my home state went from HOV-2 only inside the Beltway during morning and afternoon rush to HOV or toll lanes during the rush hours, while at the same time extending the times of rush hour. It’s been well publicized when the variable tolls become exorbitant due to congestion. At its face it was about enforcing the rules since so many cheaters would use the road with impunity. But in reality it sure seems like it is opening the road up to the rich so they will be less inconvenience when they want to get in and out of DC.

  • avatar

    For those outside of CA, you have to understand population density is the problem here and you won’t get cheap solution for local traffic problem.

    The original reason for EV able to do HOV lane, is because those lane were pretty empty during rush hours. People will blame politicians because they are empty and wasting space. How do you get that to fill up? Well, at the time hybrid was an innovation so they might as well give its access as a freebie, killing 2 birds in 1 stone.

    Then hybrid becomes cheap, so now let’s make it CNG, EV, and plug in. But they totally didn’t realize it will be so popular so fast, and so cheap. So now we suddenly have too many EVs involved. Now the same people complains that HOV lane is filled up and useless. Yup, the same people complains about everything unless it is perfect.

    If I remember right 2019 is when EV getting on HOV lane for free ends. By then I think they would have to switch it to toll lane or partial toll lane, and people will pay for it. $5 to cross a bridge daily hasn’t stopped people from crossing it, nor will $5 to cut down your commute time for 20 mins each way.

    You just can’t expect LA to be like Dakota, its density is going to get closer to NY and most other international cities. That’s just how things will be.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure, but LA has remarkably few freeways for a city its size and population. The obvious solution to improve HOV lane utilization in a responsible way is car-pooling. The same technology Uber uses to combine riders going in roughly the same direction for UberPOP could be applied by the metro transit agency.

  • avatar

    According to the LA Times (quoting numbers from the Metro Transportation authority), zero-emission vehicles amount to 6% of the traffic in the Express lanes. I don’t suppose that kicking the EVs out will result in much improvement. If they were to require a 3+ person carpool and actually enforce the regulations that they do have – as seen on CA Hwy 91 in Orange and Riverside Counties – then there would be a significant improvement…and the EVs could stay.

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