State High Occupany Vehicle Lane Policy. Current law allows the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and local authorities to reserve portions of the highway under their jurisdiction as high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for the following users:
WSDOT's administrative code currently allows all the possible exemptions into the lanes, with private transportation provider vehicles' capacity set at 16 passengers instead of 8. They also allow officially marked and on-duty law enforcement and fire department vehicles into the HOV lanes.
The 2020 supplemental transportation budget established an HOV lane access pilot program that provides additional access to HOV lanes by:
Federal High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Policy. Federal HOV guidelines apply to federal-aid highways and while not a mandate, the Federal Highway Administration can tie federal funding decisions to compliance with federal guidelines. Federal occupancy and use exemption guidelines for HOV lanes include:
The bill as referred to committee not considered.
A for-hire nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) vehicle is defined as a vehicle that is for-hire, to provide non-emergency medical transportation, including for life-sustaining transportation purposes, to meet the medical transportation needs of individuals traveling to medical practices and clinics, cancer centers, dialysis facilities, hospitals, and other care providers.
WSDOT and local governments are given authority to allow for-hire NEMT vehicles into their HOV lanes when in use for medical purposes regardless of whether they are carrying the specified number of passengers.
The Department of Licensing (DOL) and WSDOT are directed to create an application for a $5 HOV-exempt decal, including:
DOL is given rulemaking authority to implement the provisions in consultation with WSDOT.
The owner of a for-hire NEMT vehicle may apply to DOL or other agent appointed by DOL for the decal, which must be displayed on the rear of the NEMT vehicle. The decals are not renewable, and may be used until the vehicle is no longer used as a for-hire NEMT.
PRO: This is a simple bill that helps solve the problem of NEMT vehicles being late to pick up passengers due to traffic, which results in making patients wait and potentially delay or miss their appointments. When patients have to wait it can mean more people taking up hospital beds or congregating in waiting rooms. This bill would allow NEMT vehicles to aid more clients. This vulnerable community deserves the convenience of using the HOV lanes, and should not be left behind.
OTHER: This bill is related to a former bill to allow wheelchair-accessible taxicabs into the HOV lanes that got pushback from WSDOT due to HOV lane congestion and ended up as a pilot program in a budget proviso. People relying on these vehicles are going to cancer treatments, dialysis, or other medical appointments.