Bill would open carpool lanes to solo drivers

AB 405 is aimed at relieving traffic jams

City News Service | 9/10/2013, 6:06 p.m.
For just a few hours out of the day, lone drivers on Los Angeles freeways will get to cruise in ...

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — For just a few hours out of the day, lone drivers on Los Angeles freeways will get to cruise in carpool lanes without fear of being ticketed under a bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

The Assembly approved the bill today on a 69-1 vote, a day after the bill was passed unanimously in the Senate. The governor must take action on the bill by Oct. 13. If signed, the law would take effect July 1, 2014.

AB 405 is aimed at relieving traffic jams, according to its author, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles.

“There is no reason for drivers to be stuck in traffic when a midday or late-night accident or mysterious slowing clogs the rightmost freeway lanes, while the carpool lane sits empty,” Gatto said.

“AB 405 is a cost-effective and common-sense way to ease unnecessary congestion, while still promoting ride-sharing and carpooling during the busiest travel hours,” he said.

The fine for being ticketed for driving in a carpool lane while alone is about $340.

The bill paves the way for solo drivers to use carpool lanes during off-peak hours on select freeways, specifically the Ventura (134) Freeway between Studio City and Pasadena; the Foothill (210) Freeway from Pasadena to Glendora; and any other parts of the Los Angeles County freeway system the state Department of Transportation decides to include in the program.

The bill gives Caltrans the authority to set “off-peak” hours.

According to Gatto, Caltrans has already relaxed restrictions on Northern California carpool lanes, operating them as such only on the weekdays and during peak hours.

Another Gatto bill, AB 184, would double the statute of limitations for hit-and-run accidents. It also cleared the Assembly today and is headed to governor’s desk.

Under the bill, law enforcement officials have six years, instead of three, to catch perpetrators in hit-and-run cases.

Gatto said there has been an “epidemic” of drivers taking off after hitting someone, leaving them for dead.