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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lexus lanes are smart urban planning

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I-85 HOT lane just the beginning photo
The HOV lanes have now become toll lanes on I-85 between Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett and Chamblee Tucker Road in DeKalb, although cars with three or more people can use them for free.

By Clark Howard

I have ruffled some feathers in the past when I've discussed so-called Lexus lanes. These lanes on the freeway are toll roads that you must pay to access. The benefit to doing so is that you're guaranteed a speed limit ride -- for a price.

Orange County is the pioneer of Lexus lanes. They also use dynamic-demand pricing (aka congestion pricing) based on traffic. When traffic is light, you may pay just 50 cents to use a road. But during rush hour, you may pay up to $6.

The question is, "Are Lexus lanes elitist and harmful to the public?" I don't believe they are, and a joint study from UCLA and USC a couple of years ago supported my belief. Researchers found that the road was paid for by those who use it -- a logical presumption, but one supported when they actually crunched the numbers.

The idea of roads being free is misleading. You have "freeways" that cost millions to build and maintain. It just seems like a free ride because there are no toll-booths.

In my estimation, Lexus lanes are smart urban planning and can help reduce congestion.

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