Paying Money to Get Home Quicker

MIAMI (AP) - Would weary commuters pay cash to get home, say, a half-hour earlier?

In gridlocked cities like Miami and Houston and Salt Lake City, the answer is turning out to be yes. That's what High Occupancy Toll lanes -- or HOT lanes -- are all about. Drivers pay extra to zip past traffic stuck in the slower "local" lanes.

One Miami-area commuter used to spend several hours a week stuck in traffic on Interstate 95. Now he and his fellow drivers can pay anywhere from 25 cents to as much as $6.20 to use a new express lane at or above 45 to 50 miles per hour, guaranteed.

The lanes have been criticized by some as "Lexus Lanes" because of the cost. But in Miami and elsewhere, the lanes are free for carpoolers, motorcyclists, hybrid owners and buses.

A U.S. Department of Transportation official says HOT lanes are hot. He says every major city with traffic congestion either has a HOT lane or is getting one in five years.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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