Here’s what San Antonio has to say about all these new HOV lanes

A stock photo of the HOV lane (High Occupancy Vehicle) road sign in California, USA.

A stock photo of the HOV lane (High Occupancy Vehicle) road sign in California, USA.

LPETTET/Getty Images/iStockphoto

As the announcement came that new lanes designated for multiple passengers and motorcycles are starting to crop up around San Antonio, residents quickly chimed in, sharing frustration, excitement, and plans to circumvent the rules of the road. The introduction of high-occupancy vehicle lanes in San Antonio is a relatively new concept — perhaps an outdated one, in fact — and local drivers have lots of thoughts about them.

Some HOV lanes have existed in San Antonio and its neighboring towns for a while, including a long stretch of I-10 from The Rim to near Fair Oaks Ranch and along the newly expanded section of U.S. 281 in the Stone Oak area. However, with so much construction and highway expansion underway, there’s going to be several new HOV lanes operating across the Alamo City, and some folks just aren’t thrilled by the idea.

“Like it’s really going to make a difference,” Facebook user Lauren Celeste wrote. “Traffic is still going to be backed up for hours.”

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This sentiment was echoed by many social media users, but others said the HOV lane running a considerable length of I-10 on the far Northside is used erratic drivers ignoring speed limits. A trip between San Antonio to Boerne during peak rush hour times certainly reveals a host of single-passenger vehicles zooming down the interstate, using the HOV lane as more of a high-speed lane rather than a dedicated lane for carpoolers.

“People treat the HOV lane on I-10 like the lane you drive in if you need to go 95 mph. By yourself,” Katie Moore Shumate commented on the MySA story announcing the incoming HOV lanes. “I can’t tell you how many motorcycles I’ve seen in that lane. Cops need to enforce its use or it’s useless.”

While what Shumate is saying about the HOV lanes headed to and from the Hill Country along I-10 being underregulated could be fair, it’s worth noting that Texas law does allow motorcycles to utilize the HOV lane. However, who is responsible for regulating the use of the HOV lanes anyway?

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Well, Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Jennifer Serold told MySA enforcement and monitoring is left to local law enforcement while VIA Metro Transit is responsible for managing the lanes.

“SAPD enforces all traffic laws within the City of San Antonio. Consequences for violating HOV rules are determined by the municipal court,” a San Antonio Police Department spokesperson told MySA, opting to stay pretty vague on the details.

A search of traffic violations in the San Antonio municipal court shows it’ll cost a driver $284 if they’re caught misusing the HOV lanes. But some San Antonio residents already have a plan in place to avoid the pricey traffic violation.

“I’m gonna start putting those big store display dolls in my car so I can use HOV Lanes,” Anthony Hernandez said on Facebook. Another user, posting a photo of a hoodie filled with wooden blocks, said he’d found his new driving companion.

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This certainly isn’t a new concept. Back in 2017, a Harris County constable let drivers know they were cracking down on drivers using dummies and mannequins in their passenger seat to take advantage of those faster-flowing HOV lanes. There’s a host of news stories over the past decade of similar incidents occurring around Texas.

“Precinct 5 toll road deputies are cracking down on dummies,” Ted Heap, Precinct 5 constable in Harris County, wrote on Facebook back in 2017. “Deputies found this mannequin in the front passenger seat of a vehicle flying through the HOV lane. This mannequin may have saved the driver on time and a $3.20 toll fee today, but it will cost her a day of work for court and up to $150 in legal fines.”

While many on social media took to criticizing the introduction of HOV lanes across the city, calling them antiquated or misused, some took to Facebook to defend the lanes designed to encourage carpooling and to reduce the number of drivers on the road.

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“Not sure who you are referring to as slow drivers, but typically those who make that comment want to go well above the speed limit,” Johnny Dawson wrote, responding to another user who said carpooling isn’t always an option and “slow drivers” should stick to the right lanes. “If that’s you, may I suggest you leave earlier so you don’t have to endanger everyone else with your erratic driving.”

Overall, the response to the introduction of HOV lanes to the Alamo City was a resounding “Meh.” But there were people both fully on board and fully opposed, while others already have plans in place to act up.

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