Urban Options - HOV - Carpool Lanes - High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes

High Occupancy Vehicle or Carpool/Diamond Lanes were created in the 1970s as an answer to traffic congestion and as a way to encourage people to carpool. Depending on the freeway, some carpool lanes require two or three people to a car. Where three people in a car is required, two-seater trucks and cars can also use the diamond lane. Motorcycles and buses can usually use the diamond lanes in all locations.

In some areas of the state, diamond lanes work very well, but in other areas some say they are not as effective. A study by the California Legislative Analyst's Office says the evidence to date is mixed about the success of diamond lanes, but the westbound diamond lanes leading up to and onto the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bride stands out as working extremely well.

Some alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) are now able to use diamond lanes. Assembly Bill 71 (Cunneen, Statutes of 1999, Chapter 330) was signed into law in July of 1999. Since July 1, 2000, the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or access ramps could be used by certain AFVs, regardless of vehicle occupancy or ownership, until December 31, 2003.

Starting January 1, 2004, this authorization will only apply to super ultra-low-emission vehicles until December 31, 2007.

Recent enactment of the 2005 Federal Transportation Bill allows California to fully implement Assembly Bill 2628. AB 2628, signed into law on September 23, 2004, limits single occupant HOV lane access to super-clean advanced technology vehicles. Vehicles must meet one of the following four combinations of standards to qualify for the single occupant HOV lane sticker (issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles):

Option 1 Vehicles certified to both the California Super Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (SULEV) and the Federal Inherently Low-Emission Vehicle (ILEV) emissions standards.
Option 2 Pre-2005 model year vehicles certified to both the California Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) and the Federal ILEV emissions standards.
Option 3 Hybrid and alternative fueled vehicles certified to the California Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (ATPZEV) emissions standard and having a United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Highway fuel economy rating greater than 45 MPG.
Option 4 Pre-2005 model year hybrid vehicles certified to the California ULEV emissions standard and having a USEPA Highway fuel economy rating greater than 45 MPG.

For a list of the vehicles that qualify, please go to: www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm