It is a temptation many drivers on Staten Island cannot overcome: riding in lanes designated for passengers with three or more people, even though they are driving alone. Now, the abuse has become so rampant that it has some on the island asking whether traffic cameras could help the problem. Borough Reporter Amanda Farinacci has the details.
The signs are clearly marked: only cars with 3 or more passengers are permitted to use an HOV lane during rush hours.
And yet — riding from Staten Island to Manhattan Wednesday morning — we saw plenty of drivers in that lane, flouting the rules.
"They shouldn't do it," said one driver. "They shouldn't. It's disrespectful to the people that respect it."
"It does make me angry if I look over to the HOV lane, and people like, one person's there," said another.
The Staten Island Expressway has had an HOV lane since 2015.
It was recently extended over the Verrazano Bridge — so it's now possible to ride in the same lane from Staten Island through Brooklyn, all the way to the Battery Tunnel.
The lane is supposed to encourage people to share cars or take buses, thus easing congestion and reducing travel times.
But we found at least one solo driver who doesn't see anything wrong in misusing it:
"If that bridge is crowded, and the buses are not there, why not," she said. "I mean, it's there!"
That woman is lucky.
Since January, 2,776 tickets for HOV lane abuses have been issued by the NYPD.
State police have given out 300 more since October.
And since the HOV lane opened on the Verrazano Bridge last month, bridge cops have given out 80 tickets.
"The effectiveness of the HOV lane is reduced when the HOV lane is filled with cars that have fewer than three passengers," said Borough President James Oddo. "We have to figure out a better way to enforce."
The Borough President thinks traffic cameras could help.
But Staten Islanders — notorious for their dislike of the speed cameras deployed over the last three years — are not so sure:
"If you wanna catch somebody, you should be there to catch somebody," said one driver. "No cameras. It's invading people's privacy."
"I'm not really a fan of having cameras for everything," said another. "But that type of thing, if that's the only way they're going to catch people, then yea."
If officials act on the idea of installing traffic cameras on the HOV lane, it's not something that would happen overnight.
Doing so would require legislative action.