DALLAS — If you carpool, you might need to make some new friends at work. There's a proposal to restrict access to HOV lanes across Dallas to vehicles with three or more people — unless smaller loads are willing to pay.
The proposed change stems from the expansion to LBJ Freeway now under construction. When that major rebuilding project is complete, the express HOV lanes will be "3-plus," meaning only vehicles with three or more people inside will get access.
That's completely incompatible with every other HOV lane in Dallas.
"We will have all this confusion: 2-plus lanes feeding 3-plus lanes. People wondering, 'Why is this 2-plus, why is this 3-plus?'" asked North Central Texas Council Of Governments Director of Transportation Michael Morris.
One option is to make HOV lanes everywhere 3-plus — and not everyone is happy about that.
"I disagree," said commuter Gary Brown, who lives in Rockwall. "My wife and daughter use it every day."
They commute from Rockwall to Irving, two of the 97,500 people who use the HOV lanes on weekdays, according to DART's latest estimate from May 2012.
If the change is approved, Brown's family would no longer qualify. "It stinks," he said.
Morris said Brown isn't alone in his view, but a lot of other people see the potential for a faster commute. "We're hearing kind of the opposite from the public," he said.
Part of the motivation behind the proposal is air quality. More people in fewer cars means less pollution.
But it's also motivated by money: If the Regional Transportation Commission votes to change all the HOV lanes to 3-plus, they would then sell the space created by the change. Cars with fewer occupants — even single drivers — would be permitted to use the HOV lanes system-wide for a fee.
"There's a lot of people saying, 'I'd love to be able to buy my way into that lane and get to where I'm going as fast as possible,'" Morris said.
He stressed they are early in the discussion stage. After a round of public comments, the RTC will vote, Morris said.
"But this won't be decided in the next 30, 60, or even 90 days," he added.