Metro, please fix the HOV pricing and hoursThis has been a long time in coming. The first HOV to HOT conversion has opened on 45S, allowing single-occupant vehicles to pay more to join the buses, vans, and HOV cars in the underutilized lane. The other HOV lanes will make the same conversion over the next year. This is a fantastic amenity for the city. Yes, few people will want to lay out the money on daily basis, but at least you will have the option to use it when you really need it: to catch a flight, to pick up your child before late fees kick in, to attend an important meeting or event when you're running late - whatever.
The other benefit: top executives at downtown firms who can afford the high tolls will feel better about keeping their companies downtown, instead of pulling an Exxon and consolidating everything to a far suburban campus. That keeps Houston's core, and tax base, healthier.
But there is a major flaw:
Inbound lanes will be available to solo drivers Monday through Friday, between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., except for the 7-8 a.m. hour when the lanes will remain open only to drivers with passengers due to anticipated heavy congestion, Metro said.
Outbound HOT lanes will be available weekdays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., except between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.This is a major problem. First, it removes the option right when people might most need it at the peak of rush hour. Second, it just pisses off the previously mentioned executives, pretty much on a daily basis. Third, if you're running a few minutes late around 7am/4pm (or a few minutes early around 8am/6pm), you just went from a $4.50 toll to a $170 ticket and a court date! That's just vicious. I understand capacity is tight at those hours, but why not just price it appropriately to keep demand down, even if that's $20 each way? $20 will certainly sting if I miss my timing, but it's a heck of a lot better than $170 citation and a court date. And just wait until the first accidents happen as people slam on their brakes - or even back up! - to avoid entering the lanes when they're closed (not unlike what happened at the red-light camera intersections).
Solo drivers who try to avoid paying the HOT lane toll face a $75 penalty. Single drivers who use HOT lanes when designated for HOV use only will be issued a citation and required to appear in court. The current fine is $170.
Metro, you've got a great thing going here. Just tweak the hours/pricing a little bit and you've got a home run.