You can’t use the Zipper Lane if you’re the only one in the car, but that could change.
House Bill 148, introduced by Rep. Gregg Takayama, D, Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades, would allow single-occupant vehicles to use the Zipper Lane for a $1 fee.
The Zipper Lane is open from 5:30 to 9 a.m. on weekdays, and right now, only vehicles with at least two people can use it.
The state tells us on average, about 6,000 vehicles a day use the Zipper Lane.
Takayama says currently the Zipper Lane is underutilized, but with this bill, he believes it will alleviate the morning rush and add money to the state Highway Fund.
“You watch the morning news shows and watch the traffic segments and you can’t help but notice that on many days, the H-1 Freeway is clogged in the morning coming into town that the Zipper Lanes are free and clear,” Takayama said.
As for how the state would collect the fee from drivers, Takayama says he thinks using an electronic sensor on the driver’s windshield would work, similar to toll systems currently being used on the mainland.
“The sensor goes on the windshield, they drive through the toll collection area, it clicks on one time, and at the end of the month, or end of the week, they pay whatever they owe,” Takayama said. “We could do something similar here in Hawaii. I’m sure there are ways that we can both implement it and enforce it.”
“So you’re not thinking of a toll booth or anything like that?” KHON2 asked.
“It wouldn’t have to be a toll booth, I don’t think. I think there are lots of modern electronic ways of collecting it,” he replied. “This proposal is a way to make more use of Zipper Lanes to a degree that they are not being used now.”
Back in August, the state Department of Transportation expanded the Zipper Lane to two lanes, increasing capacity by 20 percent or an additional 1,700 vehicles per hour.
The question now, would drivers use it for a fee?
“I think that would be a good idea here, so you are able to use the Zipper Lane for people that need to commute those distances instead of being stuck in traffic,” said Kenny Whiting of Ewa.
Others who carpool think the proposed plan could backfire.
“Well, you are going to block up the Zipper Lane. We are going to have just as much traffic on the Zipper Lane as we will on the freeway,” said Fern Delos Santos of Kapolei.
We asked Takayama, would allowing single-occupant vehicles discourage carpooling?
“We certainly don’t want to discourage people from carpooling and from using the Zipper Lanes the way it was intended, but that’s why you charge single-occupant vehicles a nominal fee to use it,” he responded.
If passed, the bill would give the Department of Transportation time to set up a pilot project and report back in the next Legislative session.