Would HOV lanes work well in Colorado Springs?

       One of the proposals in the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Environ-mental Assessment (EA) is to create high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, one in either direction, between Briargate Parkway and the Martin Luther King Bypass. The first in the region, the lanes would “reduce congestion” by allowing a special lane for mass transit buses and vehicles carrying two or more people during busy traffic times, according to the EA.
       The CDOT EA argues that HOV lanes would “attract most of the existing carpools from the general purpose lanes, and would also provide an incentive for solo drivers to form new carpools.”
       There is not universal agreement on these beliefs. An organization called the Modern Transit Society (MTS), which professes to favor mass transit and better air quality, states on its web site that HOV lanes have the opposite of the desired effect. The result is generally “casual carpooling” (just friends or family, not people working at the same location); meanwhile, the number of solo drivers increases because HOV lanes create more room in the regular lanes, the site states.
        The EA also states that the HOV lanes “will provide a travel speed and time savings advantage for transit users (up to one minute per mile traveled in the HOV lane), and may provide an incentive for Springs Transit to modify certain routes to take advantage of this facility.”
       However, the EA notes elsewhere, mass-transit use in Colorado Springs has dropped over the years, and only two bus routes currently use the interstate. “Today's publicly owned fleet of 67 buses represents little change over the fleet of 51 buses operated privately more than four decades ago,” the document states. “In fact, since the city has grown in area and population, the number of buses operated per capita has declined by 80 percent since 1960 [not counting demand-responsive paratransit services for elderly and disabled persons].”
       “The only two bus routes that currently use I-25 are Route #91 (Union Express) and Route #94 (Monument Express)…. In 2003, CDOT completed construction of a new Park-and- Ride lot east of I-25 at the Fountain Interchange (Exit 128), south of the EA study area. Due to recent service cuts, this lot currently does not receive any transit service.”
        The Chesapeake Bay Foundation of Maryland is another entity questioning the carpooling benefits of HOV, although it supports HOV lanes if they are for buses only.
       Yet another view is expressed by the Reason Public Policy Institute, which says on its web site that the answer is not HOVs but charging tolls to drivers in regular lanes.
       In the Denver area, HOV lanes have been implemented during peak-use times of the day on I-25, US 85 and Highway 36 for cars with two or more passengers, buses, motorcycles and permitted vehicles with alternative fuels.
        HOV regulation issues are not addressed in the EA. The State of Washington web site describes its “HERO” program, which “encourages the legal use of HOV lanes by providing a safe and appropriate means for people to report HOV lane violators and by providing information to drivers.” According to the site, “In the year 2000, the HERO education program received nearly 44,000 citizen reports of HOV violations, an increase of 6 percent over 1999… (There were) 3,500 warnings and 9,000 tickets.”

Westside Pioneer article