Commuting 101: Becoming Fluent in Traffic Talk

Signs for Interstate 66 spell out requirements for using HOV lanes.
Signs for Interstate 66 spell out requirements for using HOV lanes. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
Thursday, April 26, 2007

HOV (high occupancy vehicle), or carpool, lanes are reserved for carpools, vanpools, buses and motorcycles during weekday morning and evenin g rush hours. They are designated either HOV-2 (two or more passengers required) or HOV-3 (three or more passengers), which means there must be at least that many people in a vehicle during the posted carpool lane hours.

In the Northern Virginia area, there are carpool lanes on interstates 66, 95 and 395 (Shirley Highway) and the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267). In Maryland, carpool lanes are found on Interstate 270 and Route 50.

Virginia allows solo drivers of hybrid vehicles to use carpool lanes if the vehicles were registered before July 1, 2006, but only the carpool lanes of I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road if the registration occurred on or after that date. Maryland does not grant special HOV status to hybrid vehicles.

For HOV hours and information on enforcement, go to the following Web sites:

· In Virginia,

· In Maryland, Click on "Transportation."

Information can also be found at and

E-ZPass is a toll collection program that allows drivers traveling in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts to pay tolls electronically using a device mounted on their windshields. For information or to sign up for E-ZPass in Maryland, call 888-321-6824 or go to In Virginia, go to or call 877-762-7824 or 703-391-7630.

Smart Tag is an electronic toll program operating in Virginia, including on the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Greenway. The tags also work on toll roads in states that accept E-ZPass. Virginia eventually will phase out the Smart Tag name and use only the E-ZPass name.

For information or to sign up for Smart Tag or an E-ZPass, call 877-762-7824 or 703-391-7630 or go to

"Slugging" is a term used by commuters along the Shirley Highway/Interstate 395/Interstate 95 corridor of Northern Virginia traveling into and out of downtown Washington and the Pentagon. Commuters wait in line at designated locations and are picked up by other commuters who want to use the HOV lanes but lack the required number of riders. For information on slugging and slug line locations, go to or

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