Today was my first venture into NoVa after the 495 Express Lanes opened up back on November 19th. The HOT (High Occupancy Transportation) lanes are Express Lanes both directions on 495, on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway, providing faster, more direct options for high-occupancy vehicles and toll-paying customers. These lanes will hopefully provide greater control over your commute on the Beltway.
Hard to gage the effectiveness of the lanes considering 1) it was 2 days before Thanksgiving and traffic in general was light, 2) lanes southbound on 495 were still closed because of slight traffic pattern “tweaking”, and 3) can't effectively use the lanes b/c I don't go far enough southbound on 495.
But generally speaking, here are my thoughts on the whole HOT lanes thing:
- It's pretty darn confusing. Not only do you HAVE to have an EZPass but if you're an HOV, you need a DIFFERENT EZPass Flex and switch it back and forth when you have more than 3 people in your car. This way, EZPass won't charge you extra. WHAAAA??? Exactly, confusing.
- Pricing not fixed. According to www.495expresslanes.com, toll prices are based on demand and is difficult to predict exactly what the tolls are at any given time. They project an AVERAGE trip costs between $3 and $6. WHAAAA???? Imagine reporting those tolls to your employer, nightmare.
- Signage. Signage and traffic patterns are to blame for several accidents according to the Washington Post. I can't wait to explain this whole HOT thing to my first out of town guest!
Hey, these are just my thoughts...you be the judge, this makes total sense right?
VDOT boasts "control over your commute" but my question is, what about after the end of the northbound Express lanes? It's still a crapshoot over the bridge and into Maryland, how do I control my commute then?