There are signs posted along the route giving the hours the carpool lane is in effect, and the rules which apply.
The lanes are also called "diamond" lanes because the pavement is painted at intervals with a diamond shape, ..... <>Edited: 8 years ago
Here is the info from the official California Department of Transportation website -- somebody at DOT has a bit of a sense of humor, at least:
"What's an HOV lane?
A. "High Occupancy Vehicle" lane, or car-pool lane. Each vehicle that travels on an HOV lane must carry the minimum number of people posted at the entrance signs. Usually that means at least two people, or in some cases three people. Each child counts as an occupant, but pets, infants still in the womb, inflatable dolls or ghosts do not (we've heard 'em all). Violators are subject to a minimum $381 fine. Exceptions: Motorcycles, even those carrying just one person, are allowed to use the HOV lanes. Some HOV lanes are in operation only during certain hours, which are posted. Outside of those hours, they may be used by all vehicles."
There are big signs above the HOV lanes announcing times of access, restrictions, etcetera. Note that it's important to make sure you exit the lane only where you're supposed to (you'll see the signs and the broken double yellow or white lines ). So -- make sure of your exit off the freeway and give yourself plenty of time.
Inyogirl makes an important point about getting into and out of the car pool lanes only at designated places. Solid yellow lines are not to be crossed!
Another thing to note that surprised me when I moved to California is that motorcycles are allowed to "split lanes." That means they can share a lane with other cars and pass you between the lanes, too. It is very unnerving when it first happens and requires a lot of attention on the part of people in cars and trucks.
Also note, we have toll roads, and something called the "91 Express Lanes", this one can catch people off guard. You MUST have a pre-paid Transponder to enter the lanes, even if you are a "carpool". Once you get into it, there is no way to get out, and they take photos of license plates. If you don't have a transponder, they will send a bill to the car owner (I presume the rental car company), who will then just charge to your credit card on file for the fine. The other toll roads have two options, straight through with a transponder, or pull over to the special toll lanes marked on the far right and pay the fee of a few dollars. Once again, fail to pay the cash toll, you will get a ticket that the rental car company will pay for you....
For what it's worth, I understand if one goes through a toll without paying, the toll may be paid within a certain time period online without penalty.
But the notice goes to the Rental Car Company, and they only get so many warnings, and they don't fight/dispute it, just follow the contract and charge you. Usually over $100, and can be over $500....
An indivdual car owner with his/her first violation usually is less, and is based on the license plate number of the vehicle/and the owner on record. (A owner with multiple cars on file doesn't get the break that a single car owner gets)
Also, they don't waive the penalty, what they do is apply it towards a transponder....
"What speed can you go?"
The speed posted is usually 65 mph on freeways. However, go with the flow of traffic, which may be higher speeds than that in some places, and slower in other places due to traffic.
It is very easy to avoid the few toll roads in Orange County.
You don't have to worry about them.
You don't have to use them to get around.
We never do!
Make use of the car pool lanes, we always do. Many times we have driven along at speed while the other lanes are at a stand still. I am amazed at how many cars on the road do only have the driver in them.
When we rented in Dallas, there are many toll roads in the area and the rental comp offer toll use for only a few dollars (plus the actual fee, if you use the roads) I have never seen them offered in Los Angeles so I asume they must be very few and far between.
Thank you all for your helpful information