ARLINGTON — A radical change is coming for North Texas drivers who rely on high-occupancy-vehicle-lane discounts.
Currently, drivers with TollTags can register their cars as high-occupancy vehicles, which gives them a 50-percent discount on the region’s tolled lanes and makes LBJ East toll lanes free. About 2 million vehicles use the discount annually.
The new rewards program will eliminate that upfront discount. Instead, drivers will receive the same savings in the form of an e-credit, Visa prepaid cards, cash or direct deposit.
And when the program launches in the spring, HOV violators won’t be ticketed anymore. Drivers would instead face warnings and, eventually, suspension or loss of their TollTag.
“Enforcement would be handled by the app itself,” said Ken Kirkpatrick, an attorney for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “That’s unlike what the North Texas Tollway Authority would do to enforce its toll system. They use the legal system. And there are costs associated with that.”
NCTCOG has spent $4 million to develop and test the program. The council plans to put another $20 million into implementation over the next 10 years — and that doesn’t count the cost of rewards.
But the council will save on court costs and will scrap its $1.5 million annual deal with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office to enforce HOV lanes.
The Drive On TEXpress phone app that drivers use to register for discounts will go away, too. So will the 15-minute wait between the time a user registers for HOV discounts and the time they can actually drive in the HOV lanes.