Car Share Lanes Waste Capacity

23 February 2008

Wider introduction of US style car share lanes in the UK may backfire by reducing potential road capacity, according to the AA.

Policing of these HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes is also problematic.

  • In Leeds it is estimated that at least 10 per cent of drivers abuse the system.
  • In the USA drivers have resorted to using blow up dolls or picking up hitchhikers (slugs) or students charging to be passengers, in order to beat the system.

Current UK HOV schemes

In the UK there are only short stretches operating near Bristol and in Leeds. Others are due to open shortly in Birmingham, West Yorkshire (M606 to eastbound M62, and Hertfordshire (M1 junctions 7 -10).

60% of journeys are single occupancy

Currently about 60 per cent of journeys in the UK are single occupancy. Commenting, Edmund King AA president said, "In theory car share lanes make sense but in practice they are underused and abused. Hence they waste road capacity and are a nightmare to enforce.

Slugs and snails

"In the US they have had problems with Snails and Slugs. Snails are the slow coach drivers who clog up the HOVs and Slugs are hitch-hikers or students that often charge to be a passenger."

HOV lanes can work in certain situations

AA analysis shows that HOV lanes can work where they link dense residential areas with business districts but in order to get benefits of free flow traffic, the lanes need to run for a long distance.

Flexible working

Ironically more flexible working in the UK to avoid peak traffic congestion makes it much harder for UK residents to match their travel demands with their neighbours.

Bus lanes

The AA does believe that some under-used bus lanes could be more effective if car-sharers were also allowed to use them.

Camera enforcement

In terms of enforcement a new type of 'Cyclops' camera that claims it can detect how many passengers are in the car is being tested but the AA believes that this technology is still a long way off being 100 per cent effective.

HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes

King continued, "Often it is more effective for companies to encourage car sharing amongst staff rather than highway authorities designate lanes where they want us to car share. In practice the lanes just get used by those who would have been sharing anyway and therefore do not reduce congestion. In studies in the Bay area of California they found that HOV lanes were wasting road capacity so now they have been changed to HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes where you travel free if accompanied by a passenger but pay a toll if you want to drive alone."

AA Public Affairs - the Voice of UK Motorists


23 February 2008