HOV/HOT lane confusion can get costly if you're in the wrong

August 7, 2013 8:35:37 PM PDT
There's a warning for Houston drivers using HOV/HOT lanes. If you're carpooling with one or more passengers, there's a chance you could be charged a fee during your commute.

One driver tells us he's been charged to use the HOV/HOT lanes up to $5 a day, which adds up quickly. But was it a mistake with the equipment or driver error?

Gary Carter carpools a few days a week.

"I have a coworker that rides with me so there's two of us," Carter said.

Carter takes the HOV/HOT lane on 290, entering at West Little York. But ever since METRO started charging single-passenger vehicles to use the lane, Carter noticed something with his EZ Tag account.

"I found out I was being charged $5 everyday going out the HOV," Carter said.

From May to August, Carter's account accrued $115 in tolls.

"The fact that this thing is reading my car when I'm not even in that lane, it's bound to be reading other people's," Carter said.

"How the HOT lanes work -- single drivers need to pass though the toll lane, which reads your tag and charges you. If you're a single occupant, you can pay a toll to ride on the HOV lane. That's the basic, simple premise of it," METRO's Jerome Grey said.

We ran tests with our vehicle, to see if METRO's equipment would read our tag. After three runs through the lane, we accrued no toll charges.

When we spoke to Carter after our interview, it was discovered that is was driver error. He says the toll signs at Little York are difficult to see, with trees blocking the signs from his view.

Adding to the confusion, the toll lane is on the left at the entrance, but on the highway, the tolls lanes are on the right.

"This is the first time we've had a case where someone has gone through the toll lane 22 times, almost two-dozen times, perhaps not realizing that they were going through the toll lane as opposed to the HOV lane," Grey said.

After we spoke with METRO and explained what happened, they were able to refund all of Carter's money. But it's something they can't do all the time.

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