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Partners for Climate Protection

High occupancy toll lanes

High occupancy toll (HOT) lanes are a specialized type of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. Unlike standard HOV lanes, where use is restricted to vehicles with at least two occupants, HOT lanes are accessible by single-occupancy vehicles that pay a toll, while vehicles with two or more occupants use them for free. HOT lanes typically use an automated toll system. HOT programs can use congestion pricing, and motorists are informed of the current price, usually through electronic billboards.


Highway corridors, with or without existing HOV lanes; potential revenue source for public transit improvements.


  • Revenues can be used for transit infrastructure and tied to land use planning that supports transit-oriented development.
  • Maximizes use of existing HOV lanes and avoids new highway construction.
  • A supplementary revenue source for public transit operating in HOV lanes.
  • Increased public appetite for toll roads; a 2011 Leger Marketing study found that half of those surveyed would be willing to pay tolls if it eased gridlock and shortened their commute.
  • An opportunity to partner with the private sector.

Barriers and challenges

  • Potential to increase single-occupant car use by making more road capacity available.
  • Lanes can be viewed as a luxury item for those who can afford to pay.
  • The necessary technology and any new infrastructure can be expensive; additional funds may be required for enforcement.
  • Less Canadian experience and expertise in implementing HOT lanes.
  • If video recognition is used, misread license plates  must be double-checked manually; leading to additional costs, fraud cases, or even wrongful charges.

Resources and notes

Municipal examples

  • The Golden Ears Bridge, owned and operated by TransLink in Metro Vancouver, BC, spans the Fraser River and connects Langley with Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. It uses an electronic tolling system and aims to cover the $808 million construction costs.
  • The A25 toll bridge connects Laval with Montréal and is operated by a private consortium. The $207 million project will save the province about $226 million since the consortium assumes any cost overruns.
  • In Minneapolis, MN, a 12-kilometre HOV lane conversion was completed in May 2005. The project costs U.S. $1.2 million annually to operate, a large portion of which is recouped through the tolls collected.
  • The San Diego, CA, 13-kilometre HOT express lanes offer a pay-per-use system that has generated U.S. $1.3‒ $2.5 million in revenue that has been used for system operating and maintenance and customer service costs; and to fund two major bus routes operating in the corridor.

Page Updated: 18/09/2015