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Allowing solo drivers of hybrids to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes is a popular policy tool to encourage commuters to drive low-emission vehicles, but new research by economist Antonio Bento shows the shift in carpool lane rules can backfire 

Save Sane Lanes for Carpoolers

September 11, 2014

20140911-HOV-600x298.jpg

Allowing solo drivers of hybrids to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes is a popular policy tool to encourage commuters to drive low-emission vehicles, but new research by economist Antonio Bento shows the shift in carpool lane rules can backfire.

In the hope of reducing overall auto emissions, nine states already permit single-occupant hybrids in HOV lanes, but at least in high-traffic metro areas like Los Angeles, increases in air pollution and HOV lane congestion outweigh the lower emissions from hybrids. In a paper in American Economic Journal, Bento and his coauthors conclude:

Even if these vehicles were truly zero emission, promoting their adoption at the expense of exacerbating congestion will still generate substantial welfare losses. In contrast, promoting the use of buses in HOV lanes, although a far less celebrated technology, may represent a win-win in terms of pollution and congestion.

Bento’s empirical assessments of environmental policy have been supported by the Atkinson Center’s Academic Venture Fund and Rapid Response Fund. His study of HOV lanes is attracting news coverage in the Rochester Business Journal and other outlets.

Read more in the Rochester Business Journal.