Potential Impact of Exempt Vehicles on HOV Lanes
CHAPTER THREE—HOV EXEMPTIONS FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY VEHICLES
HOV Facilities and Environmentally Friendly Vehicles
Efforts have also been underway at the federal and state levels for many years to reduce vehicle-generated air pollution and to improve vehicle fuel efficiency. These activities focus on both increasing the fuel efficiency and reducing emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles and developing and introducing alternative-fueled vehicles. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, as codified in Section 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 88 outlined the clean-fuel vehicle program, the specific requirements for ILEVs, and incentives for the purchase of ILEVs (12).
Section 40 Part 88 CFR authorized fleet vehicle ILEVs to use HOV facilities without meeting vehicle-occupancy requirements as one way of encouraging the purchase and use of these vehicles. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), Section 1216 (a)(5), allowed states to expand this authorization to include individually owned ILEVs, in addition to ILEVs that were part of a vehicle fleet. Title 23, Chapter 1, Subchapter I, Section 102(a)(1) of the U.S. Code codifies the ILEV provision (13). This provision was scheduled expired on September 30, 2003, with the expiration of TEA-21. This date has been extended with the extension of TEA-21. States may revoke ILEV access to HOV lanes if the state determines such action is necessary. The FHWA Program Guidance on HOV lanes provides further direction to states interested in allowing ILEVs access to HOV facilities (1).
ILEVs were defined by the EPA in 1993 as vehicles meeting specific LEV exhaust emission standards and having low levels of evaporative emissions. The EPA established the ILEV category in recognition that some technologies and clean fuels have inherently lower emissions of the primary ozone precursors than typical clean-fuel vehicles. Qualifying vehicles are primarily those powered by CNG, LPG, LNG, hydrogen, ethane, methane, solar, and battery-electricity. To date, no gasoline-powered vehicle has qualified as an ILEV. Since the ILEV concept was a federal initiative, the EPA governed program requirements, certifications, labeling, and other regulatory provisions. The ILEV program is no longer an active EPA initiative. The ILEV emission standards are part of the Tier I standards. The EPA Tier II standards are being phased in from 2004 through 2007.
Section 1610 of the Administration 2004 SAFETEA reauthorization proposal includes a number of elements relating to the use of HOV lanes by exempt vehicles. The section is intended to provide greater flexibility to state and local agencies to improve the reliability and performance of HOV lanes. The main elements related to the use of HOV lanes by environmentally friendly and other exempt vehicles are summarized below (14).
- Clarifies language to exclude bicycles from the potential exempt user groups of freeway HOV lanes.
- Clarifies language that motorcycles are not considered single-occupant vehicles and are allowed to use HOV lanes.
- Allows the TEA-21 expiration date of September 30, 2003 for ILEVs use of HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements to stand. Language notes that EPA is no longer promoting programs providing such incentives for the purchase and use of ILEVs.
- Adds new subsection that would provide responsible state and local agencies with the option of allowing low-emission and fuel-efficient vehicles to use HOV facilities under specific conditions. The type of vehicles that may be allowed and the provisions that must be followed to ensure that these vehicles do not seriously degrade operation of an HOV lane are outlined. Low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles are defined as vehicles that both meet EPA's Tier II standards for light-duty vehicles and have an EPA fuel efficiency rating of at least 45 mpg on highways. Agencies are required to establish programs that define how qualifying vehicles will be selected, certified, and labeled. The program must also include ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and reporting on the performance of the HOV lane and procedures to limit use by these vehicles to ensure operation of the lane does not become degraded.
- Allows agencies to charge vehicles not meeting occupancy requirements a toll for use of an HOV lane if certain requirements are met. Agencies are required to establish programs that address vehicle selection, tolling, enforcement, ongoing monitoring to ensure the operation of the HOV lane does not degrade, and procedures to restrict use if the HOV lanes become too congested.
- Allows deadheading or not in-service designated public transportation vehicles to use HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements. Designated public transportation vehicles are defined in Section 12141 of Title 42 United States Code (USC) as vehicles owned and operated by a public entity or that are operating under contract to a public entity that provide the general public with general or special service on a regular and continuing basis. This definition excludes privately owned buses, school buses, taxicabs, and non-profit organization vehicles from using an HOV lane if they do not meet occupancy requirements. Agencies must establish programs for designation and labeling eligible vehicles, monitoring use, and restricting use if the HOV lanes become too congested.
- Establishes requirements agencies must follow if exempt vehicles are allowed to use HOV facilities. The requirements include establishing and maintaining an ongoing performance monitoring, evaluation, and reporting program. Agencies are required to discontinue exempt vehicle use if an HOV facility becomes seriously degraded. An HOV lane is defined as seriously degraded if it fails to maintain a peak-period minimum average operating speed of at least 45 miles per hour (mph) 90 percent of the time over a consecutive six-month period.
At least 10 states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Texas, Utah, and Virginia – approved legislation allowing ILEVs or other environmentally friendly vehicles to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum occupancy requirements. Although the terminology differs, most descriptions of ILEVs and environmentally friendly vehicles in the legislation either reference federal guidelines or appear to be in keeping with federal requirements. The legislation in Texas has not been implemented. Thus, nine of the 20 states with freeway HOV lanes currently allow ILEVs to use the HOV facilities without meeting minimum-occupancy requirements.
Subsequent legislation in five states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, and Georgia – added hybrids to the list of vehicles allowed to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum occupancy levels if allowed or approved by federal law or federal agency regulations. Arizona made an official request to FHWA, which was denied since it did not meet federal law.
The situation in Virginia is a little different in that legislation was first approved in 1993 establishing a clean special fuel license plate and defining the types of vehicles qualified to obtain the special plates. Legislation in 1994 allowed vehicles with the special fuel license plates to use HOV lanes in the state without meeting the minimum occupancy requirements. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, in consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, allowed owners of hybrid vehicles to obtain special clean fuel license plates when hybrid vehicles became available in the early 2000s, thus granting them an exemption to use the HOV lanes in the state. Contrary to federal legislation, Virginia is the only state currently allowing hybrid vehicles to access HOV lanes.
The main elements of the legislation in the 10 states, including the types of vehicles allowed to use the HOV lanes, the termination date of the exemption, and the requirements for stickers, decals, or special license plates are provided in Appendix C. Information on each state is highlighted in this section.
California. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) first adopted low-emission vehicle (LEV) regulations in 1990. The first LEV standards were in place from 1990 to 2003. Although slightly different than the federal LEV standards, vehicles meeting the California LEV designation included dedicated CNG, Li Polymer battery (LPB), and LEVs. The super-ultra low-emission vehicle (SULEV) standards became effective in November 1999, with the LEV II amendments.
The use of HOV lanes by ILEV and environmentally friendly vehicles is addressed in two pieces of legislation. The first, approved in 1999, allows SULEVs to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum-occupancy requirements (15). The second, approved in September 2004, extends the HOV exemption to hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles meeting the state's Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT PZEV) standard and have a 45 mph or greater fuel economy highway rating. Extending the exemption to hybrid and other vehicles meeting these criteria would only occur if the federal government acts to approve use by these types of vehicles, however (16). Information on the implementation of the 1999 legislation is presented next, followed by a summary of the new legislation.
Assembly Bill (AB) 71 was approved in 1999 and became effective on January 1, 2000. AB 71 allows low-emission vehicles to use the HOV facilities in the state without meeting the minimum-occupancy requirements. The purpose of the bill was to encourage the early deployment of cleaner vehicles by allowing access to the HOV facilities.
The legislation provided direction to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in developing and implementing the process and procedures governing the program. As summarized next, these procedures included identifying exempt vehicles, administering the program, and monitoring use by these vehicles (17, 18).
From July 1, 2000 through December 31, 2003 vehicles meeting California's ULEV standards for exhaust emissions and federal ILEV standards were allowed to use HOV facilities in the state without meeting the minimum-occupancy requirements. Beginning January 1, 2004 and continuing through December 31, 2007, only vehicles meeting the state's SULEV standards and the federal ILEV standards are allowed to access the HOV facilities without meeting the occupancy requirements. Information provided on the DMV website and the registration form specifically notes that hybrids and other vehicles powered by fuel other than CNG and CPG do not qualify for the HOV exemption. Electric vehicles are prohibited as they do not meet needed speed requirements.
Individuals must register their vehicles with the DMV and must affix the California Clean Air vehicle decals to their vehicles. There are three decals that must be placed on a vehicle. One decal must be located on the back of a vehicle and one decal must be located on both sides of the back of a vehicle. Each decal has a unique number.
The DMV maintains a list of the makes and models of vehicles that qualify for the exemption. Approximately 98 makes and models qualified under the ULEV requirement. The number of qualifying vehicles dropped to approximately 49 makes and models under the more stringent SULEV guidelines.
Information from the DMV indicates that approximately 5,371 vehicles registered for the SULEV decal between July, 2000 and May, 2004 (19). As highlighted in Table 3, the majority of these vehicles are located in counties in the large urban areas of the state, with over half in Los Angeles County. For the most part, these counties are also those with HOV lanes in the state.
|County||Number of Decals||Percentage of Total|
*Hybrid vehicles do not meet the SULEV standards.
No major studies have been conducted on the use of HOV lanes by SULEVs in the state. The ongoing monitoring of the HOV lanes by Caltrans has not captured the number of these types of vehicles using the HOV lanes.
Legislation approved in September 2004 expands the definition of exempt vehicles to include hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles meeting the following standards (16).
- A vehicle that meets the state's SULEV standard for exhaust emissions and the federal ILEV evaporative emission standard.
- A vehicle that was produced during the 2004 model year or earlier and meets the state's ULEV standard for exhaust emissions and the federal ILEV standard.
- A hybrid vehicle or an alternative fuel vehicle that meets the state's AT PZEV standard for criteria pollutant emissions and has a 45 mpg or greater fuel economy highway rating.
- A hybrid vehicle that was produced during the 2004 model year or earlier and has a 45 mph or greater fuel economy highway rating, and meets the state's SULEV, or PZEV standards.
Allowing the hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles as defined in the second and third bullets would occur only if the federal government acts to approve the use of HOV lanes by these types of vehicles without meeting minimum occupancy requirements.
The legislation requires CARB to publish and maintain a list of vehicles, including hybrids that meet the defined criteria. It also prohibits the DMV from issuing more than 75,000 clean air vehicle decals to hybrid vehicles. Further, it requires the DMV to stop issuing decals to hybrids if Caltrans makes a specific determination after 50,000 decals have been issued.
The 1999 legislation allowed the governor to revoke the exemption for individual HOV lanes or portions of HOV lanes during periods of peak congestion based on a finding from Caltrans that the HOV lane or a portion of the lane exceeds a level of service (LOS) C and that the operation or projected operation of the exempt vehicles will significantly increase congestion. The 2004 legislation transfers this responsibility to Caltrans and provides further direction on factors the department must consider in making a determination to restrict low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles from using HOV lanes. In addition to the previously described criteria, Caltrans is directed to examine the following elements when 50,000 decals have been issued to hybrid-related vehicles.
- For lanes that are nearing capacity, Caltrans shall make the determination in no longer than 90 days.
- For lanes that are not nearing capacity, Caltrans shall make a determination in not longer than 180 days.
- In making the determination that significant HOV breakdown has occurred, Caltrans shall consider the following factors in the HOV lane:
- reduction in level of service;
- sustained stop-and-go service;
- slower than average speed than the adjacent mixed flow lanes; and
- consistent increase in travel time.
If Caltrans determines that a significant breakdown of the HOV lanes has occurred throughout the state, it shall notify the DMV, which will discontinue issuing decals to hybrids and related vehicles. The finding must also demonstrate that other means of alleviating the congestion are not feasible. Other possible methods noted include reducing the use of the HOV lane by non-eligible vehicles, increasing occupancy requirements, or adding capacity.
The 1999 legislation requires that if the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), serving as the San Francisco Bay Area Toll Authority, provides toll free and reduced-rate passage on its toll bridges to HOVs, it must also provide the same free or reduced rates to ULEVs or SULEVS. The 2004 legislation adds hybrids to the vehicles obtaining free or reduced rates and includes other provisions related to electronic toll collection (ETC) for these vehicles.
Virginia. State legislation approved in 1993 (20) established a clean special fuel license plate for special fuel vehicles. The legislation defines clean special fuel to mean any product or energy source used to propel a highway vehicle, the use of which, compared to conventional gasoline or reformulated gasoline, results in lower emissions of oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide or particulates or any combination thereof. The term includes compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, hythane (a combination of compressed natural gas and hydrogen), and electricity. The legislation does not specifically mention the EPA ILEV requirements.
State legislation approved in 1994 (21) allows vehicles with clean special fuel license plates to use the HOV lanes in Virginia without meeting the minimum-occupancy requirements. Subsequent legislation in 1996, 1999, and 2003 extended the sunset date, which is currently July 1, 2006 (22, 23, 24). The following types of fuels are identified on the VDOT website as qualifying for the required clean special fuel license plates.
- Compressed Natural Gas
- Liquefied Natural Gas
- Liquefied Petroleum Gas
- Combination of two types of clean special fuels
In 2000, hybrid vehicles became available in the state and the Virginia DMV was requested to determine if these vehicles were eligible for clean special fuel vehicle license plates. The DMV, in consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, initially determined hybrids were not eligible for the clean special fuel license plates. After several citizens approached their state legislators about the issue, however, the determination was reversed. Currently, hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Honda Civic are included on the list of vehicles eligible for clean special fuel license plates (25).
Only vehicles with clean special fuel license plates are authorized to use the HOV lanes in Virginia without meeting the occupancy requirements. An individual must apply to the Virginia DMV for the special plates. A vehicle owner must submit the application and documentation to the DMV headquarters Special License Plate and Consignment Center. Staff at the Center reviews the application and documentation and determines if the vehicle qualifies for the clean special fuel license plate. The special plates and an invoice are sent to the owner of qualifying vehicles. Figure 3 illustrates the Virginia clean special fuel license plate.
Figure 3. Virginia Clean Special Fuel License Plate.
The number of clean special fuel license plates issued annually in Virginia from 1994 through 2004 is shown in Table 4. As of October 2004, a total of 10,413 clean special fuel license plates had been issued in the state. In the six years from 1994 and 1999, a total of 78 clean special fuel license plates were issued. In the almost five years from 2000 to October 2004, with hybrids qualifying for the HOV exemption, a total of 10,335 clean special fuel license plates were issued (2, 25). As described next, this increase is directly attributed to hybrid vehicle owners applying for the special clean fuel license plates.
Table 5 presents the number of clean special fuel license plates issued to different types of clean fuel vehicles. Hybrid vehicles comprise the vast majority of the license plates issued, accounting for almost 95 percent of the total. In comparison, no other type of low-emission or energy-efficient vehicle comprises more than 1.3 percent of the total.
|Year||Number of License Plates Issues|
|1994 - 1999||78|
|Type of Clean Fuel Vehicle||Number of Special License Plates Issued||Percentage|
|Liquefied Petroleum Gas||8||0.15%|
*Through March 2004
The issuance of clean special fuel vehicle license plates can also be tracked by county and city. Between 1994 and March 2004, the vast majority of the clean special fuel vehicle plates were issued in counties and cities in northern Virginia. Clean special fuel plates issued to vehicles in Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudon, Prince William, Stafford, King George, and Spotsylvania Counties – which are all in northern Virginia and are served by the I-95, I-395, I-66, and Dulles Toll Road HOV lanes – account for approximately 93 percent of the total clean special fuel license plates issued in the state. Some 2 percent of the clean special fuel license plates were issued to vehicles in the Newport News/Norfolk area, the other location in the state with HOV lanes (2).
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (WASHCOG) has an ongoing program for monitoring and reporting on the use of HOV facilities in northern Virginia. Vehicle and vehicle-occupancy counts are conducted twice a year, along with other data collection activities. Since the fall of 2003, the number of vehicles with clean special fuel license plates has been included in the counts, with field data collection personnel counting license plates at specific points along the HOV lanes.
The results from the ongoing monitoring program indicate that owners of vehicles with clean special fuel license plates are using the HOV lanes in northern Virginia. In the fall of 2003, clean special fuel vehicles accounted for between 2 percent and 12 percent of the HOV volumes during the peak-periods on the different HOV facilities in Northern Virginia. Counts from six days in October, 2004 indicate that clean special fuel vehicles accounted for between 11 percent and 17 percent of the vehicles in the HOV lanes on I-95 during the 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. peak-period in the northbound direction. These percentages translate into between some 844 and 1,422 vehicles with clean special fuel license plates using the HOV lanes during the three hour period and the corresponding total vehicle volumes in the HOV lane ranged from 7,994 to 8,450. Some six percent to seven percent, or 552 to 725 vehicles with clean special fuel license plates, were recorded in the HOV lanes at Glebe Road Station on I-395 inside the Beltway during three days in September 2004 during the same 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. peak-period (25).
In 2003 an HOV Enforcement Task Force was established by the Virginia Secretaries of Transportation and Public Safety. The Task Force was formed in response to growing concerns from numerous groups related to enforcement of the HOV lane restrictions in northern Virginia. The HOV Enforcement Task Force is composed of representatives from state, regional, and local transportation and enforcement agencies. The Task Force issued reports in 2003 and 2005 examining a number of issues associated with the HOV lanes in northern Virginia. These issues include use of the HOV lanes by vehicles with clean special fuel license plates, use by law enforcement personnel traveling in their personal vehicles, vehicles entering the HOV lanes just prior to the restricted time periods, the fines and penalties for HOV lane violations, and other concerns. The Task Force recommendations addressing the HOV exemption for vehicles with clean special fuel license plates are summarized below. The recommendations relating to law enforcement vehicles are described in Chapter Four.
The first report issued by the Task Force in August 2003 recommended that the clean special fuel vehicles license plate exemption not be extended from the current expiration day of July 1, 2006, pending the outcome of the federal reauthorization and the completion of the Transportation Research Council's regional value pricing program study (2). The second report, which was issued in January 2005 included analysis of additional traffic counts and clean special fuel vehicle use of the HOV lanes. As noted previously, these counts indicated that the number of clean special fuel vehicles using the I-95 HOV lanes are causing the lanes to operate at unacceptable levels of service. The report also noted that Virginia is second to California in the number of hybrid vehicles sold and that the number of hybrid models available and the sales of hybrid vehicles are projects to continue to increase (25).
Based on this information, the second Task Force report contains the following recommendations related to the use of HOV lanes by vehicles with clean special fuel license plates.
Manage, both now and in the future, the number of clean special fuel plates issues as follows:
For now –
- The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) should adopt the SULEV standard for eligible hybrid vehicles, or equivalent state or federal emission standards, in order to help determine which hybrid vehicles quality for clean special fuel license plates, thereby maximizing the environmental benefits of such vehicles.
- Oppose any extension of Virginia's clean special fuel license plate HOV occupancy exemption, which expires July 1, 2006.
- Eliminate the government-owned clean special fuel vehicles exemption specified under Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3.
- Allow clean special fuel vehicles license registrations to be valid for one year only (no multi-year registrations).
For future consideration, as necessary –
- Increase occupancy levels for hybrid vehicles.
- Increase the issuance fee for clean special fuel vehicle license plates from $10 per year to at least $500 per year (about $2 per day per commute, assuming 250 business days each year) and share the funds with law enforcement, to further their HOV enforcement efforts, and with VDOT to help maintain HOV facilities.
- Limit the hours that vehicles registered with clean special fuel vehicles license plates can enter HOV lanes exempt from occupancy requirements.
- Limit the number of vehicles registered with clean special fuel vehicle license plates that can be exempt to a set number and register then via lottery process.
- One or more combinations of the above options (25).
In addition, the Task Force recommended that a plan be developed detailing actions required in the event the HOV lanes reach capacity. Managing the expectations of hybrid owners and purchasers related to the 2006 exemption expiration date was identified to be included in the plan (25).
Arizona. Legislation approved in 1997 (26) allows alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum-occupancy requirements. Legislation passed in 1999 (27) added requirements relating to providing proof that a vehicle qualifies as an AFV, including that it meets federal low, inherently low, ultralow, or zero emission standards.
Legislation approved in 2001 (28) allows hybrid vehicles to use HOV lanes without meeting the minimum-occupancy requirements based on approval from the federal government. The legislation defines a hybrid vehicle as a factory-manufactured vehicle that satisfies all of the following criteria.
- Combines two or more power train technologies to product a vehicle with significantly lower fuel consumption than the average of its class.
- Exhibits the storage of kinetic energy by use of regenerative braking and batteries or capacitors, and the stored energy is used to assist or provide full acceleration of the vehicle.
- Allows a portion of the energy to be supplied from an internal combustion engine or fuel cell for vehicle acceleration and to store electrical energy on board.
- Obtains all energy required to operate from storage fuel tanks placed onboard the vehicle.
- Has been approved by the EPA as meeting, at a minimum, the EPA ULEV standard pursuant to 40 Code of Federal Regulations Section 88, 104-94.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) submitted a request to FHWA to include hybrid vehicles in the exempt group for HOV use. The request was not approved by FHWA since hybrids are not allowed under TEA-21 (29).
Colorado. Legislation adopted in 1998 (30) allows ILEVs meeting EPA standards to use HOV lanes in the state without meeting the minimum-occupancy requirements. Qualifying vehicles are required to display CDOT developed circular bright orange stickers to the front windshield, the front driver's side view mirror, or the front bumper.
The legislation further requires CDOT, in consultation with the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) and local authorities, to monitor use by ILEVs as part of their periodic levels of service evaluations. CDOT or other authorities may restrict or eliminate HOV lane use by ILEVs if it is determined that ILEVs are causing significant decrease in the LOS for HOVs. The legislation specifies that if the U.S. Secretary of Transportation makes a formal determination that allowing ILEVs to use HOV lanes would disqualify the state from receiving federal funds, the use shall be terminated.
Legislation passed in 2003 (31) allows hybrid vehicles, along with ILEVs, to use HOV lanes without meeting the minimum-occupancy requirements. The legislation states that allowing hybrid vehicles to use HOV lanes shall apply only if such exemption does not affect the receipt of federal funds and does not violate any federal laws or regulations. Since federal law does not currently allow hybrids in HOV lanes, this provision has not been implemented in Colorado.
Florida. Legislation approved in 2003 (32) allows ILEVs that are certified and labeled in accordance with federal regulations to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum-occupancy levels. Based on legislative direction, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles established a process to issue a decal and a registration certificate on an annual basis to owners of ILEVs for HOV lane access. ILEV owners must complete an application for an HOV decal to a county tax collector office. No visual inspection of the ILEV is required. The legislation allows hybrid vehicles to use the HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements based on federal authorization.
FDOT sponsored a study in 2002 examining the potential influence of the anticipated ILEV legislation on the I-95 HOV lanes. The study found that ILEVs currently make up a very small portion of the vehicle fleet in Florida and therefore would not impact HOV lane performance. The study also concluded that based on limited experience in other states, allowing ILEVs to use HOV lanes provides an incentive for the purchase of these vehicles, but not enough to affect HOV lane performance. The study further noted that the number of ILEVs in the state should not increase significantly based on current definitions, but that the zero-evaporative emission regulations could have a significant impact on ILEV sales and thus use of HOV lanes in the future (10).
Georgia. Legislation approved in 1997 (33) allows alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements. Vehicles much meet the EPA ILEV standards. Legislation approved in 2003 (34) added hybrid vehicles to the alternative fuel vehicles allowed to use HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements based on approval through either federal legislative action or regulatory action by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Georgia Department of Transportation's (GDOT) web page with HOV information notes that hybrid vehicles do not qualify for the occupancy exemption. To use the HOV lanes, owners of alternatively fueled vehicles must obtain an alternative fuel license plate. An owner must complete a vehicle request form, stating the type of fuel used to propel the vehicle. No inspection of the vehicle is required.
Hawaii. Legislation approved in 1997 (35) provided a number of incentives for electric vehicle ownership. These incentives included use of HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements, free parking at meters, and exemption from motor vehicle registration fees. Legislation was considered in 2000 that would have included alternative fuel vehicles meeting federal standards in these exemptions. This bill was not approved by the legislature, however.
Maryland. Legislation in 2003 (36) allows ILEVs to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum requirements. The legislation directed the Motor Vehicle Administration, the State Highway Administration, and the Department of State Police to develop a specific permit and registration process. An ILEV vehicle, which must have an emission sticker under the hood identifying it as an approved ILEV, must pass a visual inspection at a Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program state. In 2003, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Authority reported that only nine of the 500 registered ILEVs in the state had received a permit to use the HOV lanes (36).
Texas. Legislation approved in 2001 (37) allows vehicles displaying a low-emission vehicle insignia to use HOV lanes without meeting occupancy requirements. Vehicles eligible for the insignia must meet federal ILEV or ULEV emissions standards. This provision was part of a larger effort to encourage the purchase these types of vehicles. This provision and other incentives were never implemented due to changing priorities in the state.
Utah. Legislation approved in 2001 (38) allows vehicles with clean fuel special group license plates to use HOV lanes without meeting minimum-occupancy requirements. The exemption is scheduled to expire December 31, 2005. To quality for a clean fuel license plate, a vehicle must meet EPA standards. An applicant must annually obtain a clean fuel vehicle permit. As of the fall of 2004, there were approximately 659 active vehicle registrations with clean fuel license plates in the state. This figure includes alternatively fueled vehicles in agency fleets. Approximately 40 clean fuel special license plates have been issued annually over the past few years (39).
Influence of HOV Exemption on Purchase of Environmentally Friendly Vehicles
Very little information is currently available concerning the influence of HOV exemptions on the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles. No major surveys of vehicle owners or other related research has been conducted. As noted in the previous discussion of the situation in Virginia, it does appear that the ability to use the HOV lanes in the state may be a factor in the decision to purchase a hybrid vehicle.
Considering HOV Exemption for Environmentally Friendly Vehicles
A number of issues should be examined by state departments of transportation, transit agencies, and other agencies responsible for the operation of HOV facilities if consideration is being given to allowing access to environmentally friendly vehicles. These issues range from transportation goals and policies to implementation and operation and enforcement.
The following 12 key issues or steps should be considered. First, the FHWA Program Guidance should be reviewed to help determine if excess capacity exists on an HOV facility and to identify specific data and data analysis needs. Second, the goals and objectives of the HOV facilities should be reviewed relating to environmentally friendly vehicles. Third, potential equity issues should be examined. Fourth, the types of environmentally friendly vehicles to be allowed should be analyzed. Fifth, the potential growth in the number of these vehicles should be assessed. Sixth, the impact of these vehicles on the operation of the HOV lanes should be examined. Seventh, a program to identify and register the allowed vehicles should be developed. Eight, policies and procedures, including real-time proactive management strategies, should be established addressing the steps that will be taken to restrict or limit use by the exempt vehicles if the HOV facility becomes too congested. Ninth, a public information program explaining the reasons and the elements of the program should be developed and implemented. Tenth, an enforcement program should be developed and implemented. Eleventh, the air quality benefits of allowing environmentally friendly vehicles to use an HOV lane should be estimated. Finally, an ongoing program for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on the performance of the HOV facility should be developed and implemented.
Review FHWA Program Guidance on HOV Operations. A review of the FHWA Program Guidance represents the first step in considering environmentally friendly vehicle access to HOV lanes. This review can help determine if excess capacity exists on an HOV facility and can identify the specific information needs and data analysis requirements to meet FHWA guidance.
Review HOV Facilities Goals and Objectives. The second step in considering environmentally friendly vehicle access to HOV lanes is to review the goals and objectives associated with the HOV facility. As noted previously, most HOV lanes are intended to help manage congestion in heavily-traveled corridors by moving more people rather than moving more vehicles. HOV lanes also preserve future freeway capacity by increasing vehicle-occupancy rates. Reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality levels may be secondary goals of an HOV project.
Allowing single-occupant, environmentally friendly vehicles access to an HOV lane may not meet the current primary goals of most HOV facilities. Encouraging the purchase and use of environmentally friendly vehicles is an appropriate goal/objective for states and other jurisdictions, however. Revisions to current goals and objectives of the HOV facilities in an area may be needed to ensure there is a clear understanding and agreement of why environmentally friendly vehicles are being allowed to use the HOV lanes. Measures of effectiveness (MOEs) should also be developed in relationship to the new goals and objectives. These MOEs should become part of the ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and reporting program described later.
Examine Potential Equity Issues. One issue that may arise with consideration of HOV exemptions for environmentally friendly vehicles is social equity. This issue focuses on the ability of all segments of society to purchase environmentally friendly vehicles and thus be able to take advantage of the HOV exemption. Equity concerns have been raised about value pricing projects. The experience with these projects seems to indicate that individuals in all income levels, including lower-income ranges, pay to use the priced lanes when they need to use the lanes. Some socio-economic groups may not have the ability to purchase a new environmentally friendly vehicle, however. This issue may need to be examined in more detail when HOV exemptions for environmentally friendly vehicles are being considered.
Identify Allowable Environmentally Friendly Vehicles. If it is determined that allowing environmentally friendly vehicles meets existing HOV goals and objectives, or if the current goals and objectives are modified to include these vehicles, the next step is to identify the specific types of environmentally friendly vehicles that will be allowed. The current federal guidelines are presented in Chapter Three. These may be modified based on the outcome of the reauthorization process.
Assess Potential Growth in Environmentally Friendly Vehicles. In examining HOV exemptions for environmentally friendly vehicles, consideration should be given to possible growth in the purchase and use of these vehicles. As noted in Chapter Three, information from the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center can be used to estimate the number of current alternative fueled vehicles and the projected growth by state and region. Additional information may be available from state departments of transportation or motor vehicle divisions. This information can be used to develop a general indication of the potential growth in environmentally friendly vehicle purchases in a state and possibly in a specific area.
Examine Impact of Environmentally Friendly Vehicles on HOV Lane Operation. After the type of environmentally friendly vehicles and the potential growth in the use of these vehicles have been identified, the next step is to assess what impact adding these vehicles to an HOV lane will have on the operation of the HOV facility. As discussed in Chapter Three, a logical approach is to examine current HOV lane vehicle volumes, and add the estimated use by the allowed environmentally friendly vehicles.
Develop and Implement Programs to Identify, Register, and Designate Environmentally Friendly Vehicles. This step involves developing and implementing a program to identify, register, and designate environmentally friendly vehicles. Legislation in the 10 states with HOV exemptions for these vehicles typically provides direction to the state agencies responsible for developing and administering the registration program. Typically, the state DMV is given responsibility for licensing or registering the special vehicles. The state department of transportation, state law enforcement, and state air quality agency may also be directed to conduct certain activities or coordinate with other agencies. Currently, four states – Arizona, Georgia, Utah, and Virginia – have special license plates for alternative fueled vehicles. Stickers or decals are used in the other states. To aid with monitoring and enforcement efforts, well as public perception, ensuring that whatever markings are used are easily visible is important.
Establish Policies, Procedures, and Steps to be Taken to Limit or Restrict Use by Environmentally Friendly Vehicles if HOV Lanes Become Too Congested. The Administration's SAFETEA reauthorization proposal includes language requiring states to establish policies and procedures to govern limiting or restricting HOV exemptions for low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles if their use results in congesting the HOV lanes. Elements to consider in establishing these policies and procedures include defining the level of congestion, identifying the steps to be taken, and identifying the responsible agencies or groups. Real-time proactive management strategies should be part of the ongoing monitoring process.
Develop and Implement Public Information Program. This step involves developing and implementing a public information program. This program should explain why the HOV exemption is being provided to environmentally friendly vehicles, the registration process, fines for violating the requirements, and the policies and procedures for limiting or restricting access. A variety of methods can be used to disseminate this information. These techniques include press releases, news stories, public service announcements, brochures, websites, and other information dissemination methods.
Develop and Implement Enforcement Programs. This step involves developing and implementing enforcement elements associated with the exempt vehicles. Ensuring that funding is available for enforcement is an important part of this step. These efforts should build on the existing enforcement program for the specific HOV facilities. Special efforts that may be undertaken include publicizing the penalty for violating the requirements, outreach to the judicial system, extra enforcement when the exemptions are first introduced, and additional spot enforcement. As noted previously, ensuring that the method used to designate a qualifying vehicle is clearly visible to law enforcement officials and other drivers is important. The No Excuses campaign in northern Virginia provides some good examples of the types of activities that can be undertaken. The No Excuses campaign focuses on reducing violators in the HOV lanes in northern Virginia. The campaign, which was implemented in mid-2003, includes a number of elements. These elements included posting information the VDOT HOV website, additional signing, press releases, public service announcements, and other communication efforts. At the same time, the fines for violating HOV lanes requirements in northern Virginia were increased, and for the first time, violators also receive demerit points on their driving record. The new structure increased fines for the second, third, and fourth offenses. Fines for the first and second offense are $50 and $200 respectively, and $39 for court costs. Fines for the third and fourth offense increases to $500 and $1,000 respectively, $39 for court costs, and three demerit points (2, 25).
Analyze Potential Air Quality Benefits. This step focused on examining the potential air quality benefits from allowing environmentally friendly vehicles to use HOV lanes in an area. A number of different models and techniques can be used for this assessment.
Develop and Implement Ongoing Program for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting use of HOV Lanes by Environmentally Friendly Vehicles. This step involves developing and implementing an ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and reporting program on the use of the HOV lanes by environmentally friendly vehicles. These efforts should build on and enhance the current HOV performance monitoring program in an area. Guidance on developing and implementing HOV performance monitoring, evaluating, and reporting programs is available in the National Cooperative Research Program (NCHRP) HOV Manual (6) and the forthcoming HOV Monitoring, Evaluating, and Reporting Handbook.
Issues to Consider to Enforce HOV Exemptions for Environmentally Friendly Vehicles
A number of issues may need to be considered in enforcing HOV exemptions for environmentally friendly vehicles. These issues include clearly communicating the rules and regulations on HOV access by these types of vehicles, and outreach to the judicial system to help ensure that citations will be upheld. Other potential issues include adding and funding extra enforcement personnel and using advanced technologies to assist with real-time monitoring, management, and enforcement. Finally, the fact that the exemption may be terminated at some point in the future should be communicated to commuters, travelers, and the public.
Clearly Communicate Regulations and Fines. The regulations for use of the HOV facilities by environmentally friendly vehicles and the penalties for violating these regulations should be clearly communicated to commuters and travelers in the corridors and the general public. A variety of methods can be used to communicate the regulations and penalties. These methods include press releases, news stories, public service announcements, and websites. In addition, signing in the corridor should be updated to include this new information.
Outreach to Judicial System. Experience with regular HOV enforcement efforts shows that ensuring that the judicial system is aware of and understands the regulations and fines is important to upholding citations. Extra outreach may be needed with judges and other groups to explain the exemption regulations and the fines and citations associated with violating the regulations.
Extra Enforcement. Extra enforcement may be needed with HOV exemptions. Approaches to consider include extra enforcement after the introduction of the exemption policies and periodic spot enforcement activities. Funding for extra enforcement personnel may be an issue in many areas.
Use of Advanced Technologies to Assist with Enforcement. Many areas continue to explore ways to use advanced technologies to assist with HOV enforcement. There may be opportunities to use advanced technologies, such as those associated with vehicle license plate recognition, to enhance HOV exemption policies for environmentally friendly vehicles.
Communicate Potential that Exemption May Be Terminated. Numerous methods are available for communicating the possibility that access to HOV lanes by environmentally friendly vehicles or other exempt vehicles may be terminated in the future or in real-time as operating conditions warrant. Potential communication methods should be targeted to the public at large, to travelers in corridors with HOV lanes, and to owners of the exempt vehicles. Press releases, news stories, public service announcements, and websites can be used to communicate with the general public. Drive time radio updates, highway advisory radio (HAR), stories in neighborhood newspapers, billboards, bus signs, and other techniques may be appropriate.