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Starts Jan. 6

METRO raises tolls and tightens carpool restrictions to get HOV traffic moving

METRO Houston toll lane and HOV lane December 2013
METRO will enact a new pricing structure for solo drivers on its high-occupancy lanes along I-45, US-59 and US-290. Houston METRO/Facebook

Commuters on Houston's busy HOV lanes will see major changes in the new year as METRO attempts to rein in morning traffic with price hikes and tighter restrictions on carpool use.

Starting Monday, solo drivers will pay as much as $2.25 more to use high-occupancy lanes along I-45, US-290 and US-59 during weekday mornings. Carpoolers and motorcyclists — who ride for free on the lanes during specified hours — will enjoy a slighter larger HOV travel window.

Solo drivers will pay as much as $2.25 more to use high-occupancy lanes during the  morning rush hour.

“The lanes are first and foremost HOV lanes and we don’t want to compromise the benefit of the HOV system for those who ride the bus, vanpool or carpool,” interim METRO president and CEO Tom Lambert said in a statement.

Speeds along these high-occupancy lanes have declined steadily in recent years, METRO officials told the Houston Chronicle in November.

For example, average morning speeds along the I-45 lanes south of downtown have remained below 45 miles per hour since April 2012, one month after the route opened to solo drivers. All the while, usage has nearly doubled.

“[Toll] lanes were created to fill in the additional capacity and give the public another mobility option, which it will continue to do," Lambert noted. "But we need to tweak the system to ensure traffic flows smoothly.”

METRO hopes to free up congestion on it HOV lanes with the following:
  • Corridors along I-45, US-290 and US-59 will be restricted to carpool-only traffic a half hour earlier, running from 6:30 to 8 a.m.
  • The 3+ carpool requirement for US-290 will start 15 minutes earlier, in place from 6:30 to 8 a.m.
  • Southbound tolls on I-45 and US-59 will increase from $4.50 to $6.50 from 6 to 6:30 a.m.
  • Tolls on US 290 and I-45 North will increase from $5 to $7.00 from 6 to 6:30 a.m.
  • Tolls on US-59 North will increase from $2.25 to $4.50 from 6 to 6:30 a.m.

All changes take effect Jan. 6, 2014. For more information visit METRO's HOV/HOT site or contact 713-462-5263.

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