Actual data on HOT lane use discredit the “Lexus Lane” critique. Studies of the SR
91 Express Lanes indicate a statistically significant correlation between
income and frequency of toll lane use.9
While the data indicate the proportions of commuters who choose the Express
Lanes increase with income, commuters of all income levels use the lanes. High
income individuals (those with annual incomes greater than $100,000) utilize
the toll lanes at greater rates than lower income individuals, but lower and
moderate income individuals also make substantial use of the toll lanes.
Although roughly one-quarter of the motorists in the toll lanes at any given
time are in the top income bracket, data demonstrate that the majority are low
and middle-income motorists. The benefits of the HOT lane are enjoyed widely at
all income levels.
Lower income motorists may use the HOT lane periodically,
when circumstances dictate that the reliability of their trip time is more
important than under ordinary circumstances – for example, when critical
appointments loom, or when day care facilities charge fees for late pick-up of
children. The same applies to self-employed contractors and other small
business people, who must make appointments on time or risk lost business.
I-15 Express Lane Survey
An 800-person telephone survey of I-15 Express Lane users completed in the
summer and fall of 2001 demonstrates that motorists of all income levels
recognize the benefits of HOT lanes. The following survey results show that the
equity concerns are not shared by actual HOT lane users and other motorists in San Diego:
91 percent of those surveyed think that travel time savings
options provided by the I-15 Express Lanes are a “good idea”;
66 percent of drivers who do not use them support the I-15
73 percent of non-HOT lane users agree that the HOT lane
reduces congestion in the corridor;
89 percent of I-15 users support the extension of the
The extension of the Express Lanes was the top choice of
both HOT lane users and non-users for reducing congestion in the corridor; and
80 percent of the lowest income motorists using the I-15
corridor agreed with the statement that, “People who drive alone should be able
to use the I-15 Express Lanes for a fee.” Despite equity concerns that have
been raised in locations without HOT lanes, low income users in San Diego were more
likely to support the statement than the highest income users.
As demonstrated by surveys conducted in Washington,
Minnesota and Florida, a majority of motorists in many
congested areas would be willing to pay to avoid congestion, with no
statistical correlation evident between income levels and willingness to pay.
Public Support For The HOT Lane Concept
As in San Diego,
public opinion research conducted around the country demonstrates that the
public understands the value of pricing concepts and that a majority of motorists
in many congested areas would be willing to pay for improved travel
conditions. These results demonstrate that the public may be more willing
than its political leaders to support HOT lane projects.
Federal Highways Department, Guide to HOT lane development, Chapter 4.