LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — One City of Las Vegas leader is calling the carpool lanes on valley freeways a complete waste of time, energy and taxpayer money and says he has spoken to state lawmakers to get rid of the lanes.
You either love them or hate them and a lot of people have been getting tickets for driving solo in the high occupancy vehicle lanes, in traffic parlance, or HOV lanes, for short.
There are currently about 23 miles of carpool lanes around the valley, which includes the I-15 corridor from Silverado Ranch Boulevard to the Spaghetti Bowl and on US 95 from Ann Road to the Spaghetti Bowl.
Since their introduction 9 months ago, reaction has been mixed to say the least.
The lanes are reserved for vehicles carrying 2 or more people, motorcycle riders, RTC buses with or without passengers, and emergency vehicles with or without emergency lights activated.
The restrictions are enforced 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Violators face fines, but whether they stick depends on where the driver is caught.
"This is a complete waste of time, energy and taxpayer dollars," said Las Vegas City Ward 4 Councilman Stavros Anthony.
The HOV lanes have drawn the ire of Las Vegas City Leaders as recently as July 2019.
City leaders sent a resolution to state department officials to relax restrictions on the lanes to allow more drivers to speed up traffic.
The request was not granted.
13 Investigates has obtained new numbers from the City of Las Vegas which shows over a six month period from May 2018 to December 2018, the city saw almost 500 guilty carpool lane violator cases, which was 94 percent of all tickets written with the city's jurisdiction.
The carpool lanes considered under the city's jurisdiction run from Ann Road to the Spaghetti Bowl on US 95 and I-15 from the Spaghetti Bowl to roughly Sahara Avenue.
"It's basically no points [on your driving record], there's administrative costs of about $70 dollars and then it's dismissed," explained Councilman Anthony.
"We've decided that HOV lane enforcement is not that important to the City of Las Vegas and we don't want to hammer people for wanting to drive in the HOV lanes to get to work, to get to school on time while traffic is backed up," added Anthony.
The Nevada Department of Transportation admits there have been no studies on the lane usage but traffic has been tracked through a network of freeway cameras and sensors.
A spokesperson said travel times through the I-15 corridor have gone down and HOV lane usage has gone up since the lanes were introduced.
"We are encouraged by the early amount of usership," said Tony Illia, spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Transportation.
"More and more drivers seem to be using them and we expect that to continue as people realize the benefits of using them," added Ilia.
There are changes coming to the lanes for the future.
Current plans call for the lanes to be extended to be beltway and extended along the 215 Southern Beltway from the Summerlin Parkway all the way to the US 93, US 95, 515 in Henderson, and from the Spaghetti Bowl to the same interchange in Henderson.
"We are trying to think outside-of-the-box and avail ourselves of every tool possible," said Illia.
"Southern Nevada is expected to see another 800,000 residents over the next decade and last year we have 43 million visitors, of which 2/3 drive so that's a heavy strain on our traffic infrastructure system," explained Illia.
NDOT plans to add 7 more traffic breaks in the solid double white lines which are illegal to cross by summer 2020.
Those breaks will allow drivers to exit and enter the lanes legally at:
1.) I-15 northbound, just south of Sahara Avenue,
2) I-15 northbound between Sahara Avenue and Charleston Boulevard,
3) I-15 southbound, just south of Sahara Avenue;
4) I-15 southbound, just south of the 215 Beltway;
5) U.S. Highway 95 northbound between the Spaghetti Bowl and MLK;
6) U.S. Highway 95 northbound at Craig Road
7) U.S. Highway 95 southbound at Cheyenne Road
"The whole reason for the HOV lanes were put in was for social engineering," said Anthony.
"They are trying to force people to carpool and that is not going to happen today and that is not going to happen 10 years from now," added Anthony.
Coucilman Anthony said he has talked with some state lawmakers who are thinking about changing state regulations to outlaw the lanes all together.
The soonest that could happen is the next legislative session in 2020.
Currently, only the Nevada Board of Transportation, chaired by Governor Steve Sisolak can change the carpool hours of operations.