Commuting 101: Becoming Fluent in Traffic Talk

Thursday, April 24, 2008

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

In Northern Virginia, 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 on I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road; and if the vehicles were registered before July 1, 2006, they can be used on the HOV lanes on I-95 and I-395 as well. 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 "Departments," then "Public Works and Transportation" and then "Commuter Services."

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, call 877-762-7824 or 703-391-7630 or go to

Slugging is a term used by commuters along the Shirley Highway/I-395/I-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 lack the required number of riders for the HOV lanes. For information on slugging and slug line locations, go to or

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