LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The end of a California program, that granted access to carpool lanes by solo drivers of qualifying hybrid cars, has slowed traffic for everyone, according to research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Hybrid cars, with the yellow “Access OK” stickers, first appeared in California’s carpool lanes in 2005 as part of an incentive for drivers to buy low emission vehicles. That program ended on July 1, affecting some 85,000 vehicles.

One might assume that after the program’s end, traffic in the carpool lanes would lighten, while traffic in other lanes would become more congested, but transportation engineers at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) found otherwise.

“Our results show that everybody is worse off with the program’s ending,” said Michael Cassidy, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Drivers of low-emission vehicles are worse off, drivers in the regular lanes are worse off, and drivers in the carpool lanes are worse off. Nobody wins.”

The study found that moving hybrids out of carpool lanes slowed the general flow of traffic, as one might expect. However, the speed of the carpool lanes are influenced by the speed of adjacent lanes, the researchers said.

When the hybrids were moved out of the carpool lanes, they slowed the general traffic flow, which then slowed the flow of the carpool lanes, according to the study.

“As vehicles move out of the carpool lane and into a regular lane, they have to slow down to match the speed of the congested lane,” explained Kitae Jang, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering. “Likewise, as cars from a slow-moving regular lane try to slip into a carpool lane, they can take time to pick up speed, which also slows down the carpool lane vehicles.”

A new proposed program for 2012, that would allow 40,000 super-clean plug-in-hybrids or hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine vehicles to use carpool lanes, is awaiting federal approval.

But researchers at UC Berkeley do not believe it will be enough to relieve the congestion.

Comments (14)
  1. wain says:

    Maybe they should just cancel HOV lane, open to all. By the way it’s time for state officials to start spending our money wisely and update the feaking freeways. they collect so much money every years from all things car related.

  2. Will says:

    Can’t they just give them a road of their own… I can’t stand these little cars..

    1. mitchiep2 says:

      The biggest problem in the carpool lane is not the prius. It is all the people that drive in the carpool lane illegally, go in and out where they are not supposed to. These people create a accident waiting to happen. They go in and out on double yellow lines. There are alot of prople that drive the carpool lane all by themselves all day long! This is the problem!!!!!

      1. chow5810 says:

        where do you live? the only ones I ever see doing this are cops!!! the prius appears to be a problem all over the road because of the type of people that drive them, the I am better than everyone else, this is my road, elitist type. the prius owners are the most oblivious drivers lacking any road etiquette. you are right that the prius is not necessarily the problem with carpool lanes, the existence of the lane is the problem.

  3. Stelios says:

    This research obviously proves that the carpool lane concept is idiotic–and yet we constantly pour money into it.


    No carpool lane period. No carpool tickets. It will end the sham!

  5. RonM says:

    “When the hybrids were moved out of the carpool lanes, they slowed the general traffic flow, which then slowed the flow of the carpool lanes, according to the study.”
    The OBVIOUS solution-Eliminate HOV lanes, then ALL traffic flows at the same speed.
    Problem Solved(except to the whining Liberals).

    1. Jon says:

      Pray tell, what do liberals have to do with carpool lanes?

  6. uhoh says:

    These people that drive these Hybrids in the car pool lane slow up traffic. Alos, what happened to this cell phone law?

  7. chow says:

    we voted the carpool lanes down & they did it anyway. now here is a “study” confirming that these lanes do nothing for the commuter!!! well, except keep our money tied up in an inflated budget & tickets for “violators”. thanks geniuses!

  8. Truth says:

    Get rid of carpool lanes. They are worthless. Put it on the ballot “Repeal Carpool Lanes!” Open all lanes up to releave congestion.

  9. Lisa Andrade says:

    Well, the carpool lane is what we call the “Family Lane”. Why should someone that has a car full of kids and family members be allowed to travel in a FREE, fast private lane while the “working Joe/Jose” is stuck in traffic?

    Very unfair!

  10. Trish says:

    No one even mentioned how dangerous it is to a freeway to have a gardners truck crossing in front of you on the way to the car pool lane! I have almost been killed several times. Get rid of the car pool lanes and keep the gardners in the slow lane where they should stay!

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