A highway lane that is normally restricted during rush hour to vehicles carrying multiple passengers, but that can also be used for a fee by single-occupant vehicles.
Traffic costs American taxpayers and drivers an estimated $78 billion annually in lost wages and gasoline. Time-of-day pricing could make a serious dent in this waste. The technology is available, in the form of electronic toll collection and license plate photo identification. But sometimes politics are way behind the science.
What's so unpopular about charging more for a service during a period of peak demand? We accept such pricing by airlines, resorts, movie theaters and phone companies. But the concept offends much of the driving public, who resent "Lexus lanes" for the rich.
Chana R. Schoenberger," Stop and Go," Forbes, May 13, 2002
In San Diego County, officials will soon open a "Lexus lane," so called because solo drivers mostly luxury car owners, critics say can buy their way into less-congested car-pool lanes.
Richard Simon, "Street Smart," Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1995
The Lexus lane idea began with something called an HOV lane or high-occupancy vehicle lane. First seen in the late 70s but now a standard feature in most high-traffic cities, an HOV lane is restricted during rush hour to vehicles with multiple occupants. (Stories of drivers propping up dummies in the passenger seat are head-shakingly common. Then there's the phenomenon of slugging: Qualifying for an HOV lane by picking up one or two extra passengers who are waiting in designated slug lines.) The HOV lane then became the HOT high-occupancy toll lane, which meant that buses, taxis, and the car-pool set where free to use the lane in rush hour, but driver-only vehicles had to pay a toll. (Charging a fee to use a road or highway during peak traffic times is known as congestion pricing or time-of-day pricing.) Within minutes (one presumes) of the announcement of the first HOT lane, critics charged that this type of lane would benefit only those who could afford to pay the toll, and the epithetical term Lexus lane was tossed out in disgust. (Note to would-be neologists: If you want a phrase to take up residence in the language, use alliteration; "BMW lane" just doesn't trip off the tongue as lightly.)