HOV lane ‘HERO’ program comes to an end


After 37 years, the “764-HERO” Program intended to educate travelers on proper use of high occupancy vehicle and ferry lanes, has been retired. Funding for the program will be reallocated for safety improvements and traffic operations.

The Washington State Department of Transportation began the HERO Program in 1984 to educate HOV lane violators on the purpose, rules and benefits of these freeway lanes. The program’s goal was to encourage travelers to self-enforce HOV lane rules in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. It was expanded in 2010 to include the Washington State Ferries waiting lanes.

Under the HERO Program, travelers were encouraged to call 877-764-HERO to report HOV lane violators and ferry line cutters. WSDOT then mailed educational materials to the registered owner of the vehicle. These efforts helped influence compliance when HOV lanes were relatively new on Washington highways.   

According to a Washington State Department of Transportation annoncement, the program — which officially ended Sept. 22 — has served its purpose because most travelers are familiar with how HOV lanes and ferry queuing operates. Enforcement of violations is a function of the Washington State Patrol. WSP will continue to issue tickets for lane violations and ferry line cutting, based on historic data about trouble areas.

Over the next few months, WSDOT maintenance crews will begin removing the “764-HERO” signs established across the counties and gradually replace them with signs informing travelers of the fine for improperly using the HOV lanes. Additionally, the 1-877-764-HERO phone number to report lane violators will remain active through mid-November, but callers will hear a recorded message about the end of the program and will not be able to leave a message.

The program costs about $120,000 per biennium to operate. These funds will be reallocated to traffic operations and safety improvements.

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