Ask A Trooper: Traveling down the HOV lanes in the Twin Cities

Published 7:58 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

By Sgt. Troy Christianson

Question: I read your column in the newspaper but don’t think I’ve seen this question. When traveling in the Twin Cities with the required number of passengers in your car, can you use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes?  Do you need to have a transponder set to carpool or some setting to indicate you meet the minimum number of passengers? I often have enough passengers but no transponder.

Answer: I have not had this question in my “Ask a Trooper” article before. The answer is yes, you can use it as you described. I think the topic of HOV lanes or the E-ZPass lanes would be helpful for others. E-ZPass Minnesota is a strategy to move more people during busy weekday commutes. E-ZPass lanes move more people by providing a designated lane that is free for buses, motorcycles, and vehicles with two or more people including children and infants (HOV two or more). Solo drivers pay a fee when they choose to use E-ZPass during peak hours in Minnesota.

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Outside of peak hours, all motorists can use the E-ZPass lanes. When the overhead sign says, “Open to all traffic,” the lanes are free for all drivers — which is 90% of the time.

How to use E-ZPass lanes

• Solid double white lines, and dashed double white lines, separate Minnesota E-ZPass lanes from general lanes. It is always illegal to cross solid double white lines.

• HOV bypass entrance ramps are restricted to carpools, vanpools, buses and motorcycles. It is illegal for solo motorists with an E-ZPass tag to use HOV bypass entrance ramps.

• Overhead signs alert you to the entry and exit locations for E-ZPass lanes. You may only enter and exit E-ZPass lanes where there are dashed double white lines.

• Overhead digital signs display the current fee. The price you see is the price you pay for your trip.

•Your E-ZPass tag is read electronically, and the posted amount is automatically deducted from your E-ZPass account balance.

If you need more information you can go to

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at,