How to Navigate Our Poorly Labeled Special-Use Lanes


As a California transplant, I am confused over the specific-use lanes on U.S. 95 and Interstate 15. What are they for and how do they work?

I’m with you, and it appears as the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Nevada Highway Patrol have conspired to make the situation worse. I’ll try to sort it out.

The far-left lanes on U.S. 95 between Downtown and the northwest are high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Unlike California’s entrance-and-exit controlled “carpool lanes,” however, ours are separated from the regular flow of traffic by a continuous, single solid white line that can be crossed at any place by a driver using their indicator. Reserved for vehicles carrying two or more passengers during specified hours (5-10 a.m. and 2-7 p.m.), the not-so-secret secret is that outside those hours, any vehicle can use the lanes. That makes them hard to enforce.

The “express” lanes along Interstate 15 are trickier. Awesome in theory but terrible in practice, they often invite danger because of selfish driver behavior, poor signage and what seems to be little enforcement. Intended to quickly move traffic from the city center to and from the far south end of the Valley, the express lanes are separated from traffic flow by two solid white lines that drivers are not supposed to cross. Initially, the express lanes shuttled vehicles from Sahara Avenue all the way to Russell Road with no exit. Now the solid lines break at Tropicana Avenue and Russell, prompting exit swerves across five merging lanes. Worse, without much enforcement and no scary fee-warning signs, many drivers exit when and wherever they want, solid lines be damned.

My favorite movie by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey is still Dazed and Confused. Did Las Vegas have any party spots like the one in the film?

Oh, boy, did we! But instead of the woods, ours were, naturally, in the desert. Two places stand out in particular: those living east of the Strip partied at “the Caves” near the base of Frenchman Mountain. Or so I hear. Those of us west of the Strip popped our ice-and-beer filled trunks at the infamous “Top of Sahara”—a dirt road that led into the pitch-black desert just west of Rainbow Boulevard. Much like the scene in the movie, there was beer, a few fights, and lots of making out (although, inexplicably, we called it “scamming”). In this instance, kids, you are probably better off trying this at home.