Car pool lanes are abundant in the state of Colorado, and they’re responsible for greatly helping out most of the state’s drivers. Car pool lanes allow vehicles with multiple occupants to bypass regular traffic, as cars with a single occupant are not allowed in the car pool lanes. Even during times of heavy traffic, car pool lanes normally operate at a standard freeway speed.
Car pool lanes encourage coworkers, family members, and friends to carpool, which not only saves time and gas money, but helps remove vehicles from the road. Fewer cars on the road means less traffic for others, fewer carbon emissions in the air, and less damage to the road (and therefore less highway repair costs for taxpayers). Carpooling is a responsible choice, but also one that always beats the alternative: traffic.
As with all traffic laws, it’s extremely important that you follow the carpool rules when using the car pool lane. Thankfully, the Colorado car pool lane rules are straightforward and simple.
Where are the car pool lanes?
Car pool lanes can be found on nearly all of Colorado’s major freeways. The car pool lane is always at the far left end of the freeway, next to the oncoming traffic or the road barrier. Most of the car pool lanes are pre-existing normal lanes that become car pool lanes during specific segments, though a few exist solely for carpooling. These car pool lanes will sometimes detach from the main freeway, but will quickly meet up with the adjacent roads again. Some exits are available from the car pool lane, while other times you will have to merge to the standard right lane in order to exit the freeway.
Car pool lanes are marked by freeway signs that say either car pool or HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle). They’re also signaled on both signs and highway paint with diamonds symbols. On the US 36 and I-25 freeways, the car pool lanes are also the ExpressToll express lanes. In express lanes, single passenger drivers with an ExpressToll account and pass can drive for a small fee. These areas will be marked with both a car pool lane sign, and an ExpressToll sign.
What are the basic car pool lane rules?
In Colorado, you must have a minimum of two occupants in your car to drive in the car pool lane. Even though car pool lanes were created to encourage carpooling among workers, it doesn’t matter if the second occupant in your car is a fellow employee or not; even an infant counts as a second occupant in the car pool lane.
Most car pool lanes in Colorado are open around the clock, though some are only open during peak traffic hours (rush hours on weekdays). These car pool lanes become all-access lanes during non-peak hours. Be sure to check the car pool signs, as they will tell you all of the rules of the car pool lane.
It is common for car pool lanes to have solid white or yellow lines separating the lane from the all-access lanes. When a car pool lane has a solid line, you cannot enter or exit the lane. This is to maintain a steady flow of traffic within the car pool lane, which maximizes both speed and efficiency. Car pool lanes that do this have checkered lines every few miles so that you can merge into or out of the lane when you need to.
Car pool lanes that are also express lanes are a little bit trickier. Even if you only use the express lanes when you are carpooling, you will need to create an ExpressToll lane and get a switchable transponder. The total cost of this is $35 dollars ($15 for the transponder, and $20 which will be put into your ExpressToll account), and used whenever you are charged for using the express lane. With a switchable transponder, you can switch between express mode and HOV mode, so that you are not charged when you are carpooling. While these transponders aid carpoolers in many ways, there has justifiably been a lot of backlash over the fact that drivers have to spend $35 to start carpooling on two of Colorado’s most popular freeways.
Starting in 2017, the express lanes will also require a minimum of three occupants, rather than two, for all carpoolers.
What vehicles are allowed in the car pool lanes?
In addition to passenger cars carrying at least two people, motorcycles are also allowed on Colorado car pool lanes, even with just one rider. Allowing the motorcycles to drive in the car pool lane is much safer than having them in bumper to bumper traffic, and since they are small and fast they do not create additional traffic in the car pool lanes.
ILEV (Inherently Low Emission Vehicles) cars with single occupants are also allowed in select car pool lanes, as long as they have a permit. While the number of permits are limited, you can apply for one from the Colorado Department of Transportation if you have a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. However, the ILEV exemption is only for certain freeways, so be sure to carefully read the car pool signs before entering the lane.
Any vehicle that cannot safely or legally drive at the standard freeway speed cannot be in the car pool lane, no matter how many occupants they have. This includes RVs, trucks with large items in tow, and motorcycles with trailers. However, emergency vehicles, city buses, and tow trucks that are in the act of service are exempt from this. If you are pulled over for driving a vehicle that cannot maintain the freeway speed in the car pool line, you will likely be given a warning rather than a ticket, since the rule is not explicitly stated on the car pool lane signs.
What are the car pool lane violation penalties?
The penalty for violating the car pool lane rules in Colorado can vary depending on the freeway that you are on. The fines start at $115, which is much lower than most states, but they can be significantly higher than that. Repeat offenders will usually receive higher fines, and face potential license suspension as well.
Drivers who illegally enter or exit the car pool line by crossing through a solid white or yellow line will receive a standard illegal lane merge ticket.
Drivers who attempt to trick police or highway patrol officers by using a mannequin, cut out, or dummy as a pretend second occupant will possibly face high fines, and potentially even jail time.
Even though many Colorado residents are upset that they have to pay a fee to use the express lane car pool lanes, carpooling is still a great way to save both time and money. As long as you abide by all the rules, you can get straight to enjoying all of the benefits that the Colorado car pool lanes have to offer.