The Aug. 1 Close to Home article "HOV: Never Worked, Won't Work. Can't We Get Rid of It?" is wrong. High-occupancy-vehicle lanes work.

The number of people who use these lanes increases every year. HOV lanes help us manage congestion and attain our clean-air goals as they provide a time-saving incentive for people to share rides.

On a typical morning, the two HOV lanes on Interstate 95 carry more people from 6 to 9 a.m. than the three regular lanes -- and in about one-third the number of vehicles. Outside the Beltway during the morning rush hour, the HOV lanes carry more than 19,000 people; inside the Beltway they carry more than 29,000 people.

According to our 2003 HOV survey of more than 1,800 commuters in Northern Virginia, 84 percent support HOV lanes and 73 percent agree that even if they can't use them, HOV lanes relieve congestion and improve air quality. Our regional bus services also rely on HOV lanes.

Park-and-ride lot use is another indicator of the success of HOV lanes. During the past five years, the Virginia Department of Transportation has added nearly 5,000 park-and-ride spaces along I-95 south of Springfield, making it easier for commuters to take the bus or pick up carpoolers for the HOV lanes. Many of those lots are at capacity by 7 a.m.

To ensure the benefits of HOV lanes are protected, the Virginia State Police has stepped up enforcement. Violators now face stiffer fines and, for the first time, demerit points on their driving record. Under a new law, the fine is $50 for a first offense, $200 for a second, $500 for a third and $1,000 for a fourth. In addition third- and fourth-time violators will receive three demerit points on their driving records.

HOV lanes aren't a panacea for our transportation woes but clearly are a critical tool in reducing the number of cars on the road.

GENE HULL

Acting District Administrator

Northern Virginia District

Virginia Department of Transportation

Chantilly