Answers to your questions about MnPASS

Dec. 13, 2017

Photo of a mannequin that was used as a passenger for the MnPASS lane.
Photo: To answer your question, no, a mannequin does not count as a passenger for the MnPASS lane. And as you can see, she’s sad that her driver tried to pass her off as one.

MnPASS is a program of our colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), but it’s often State Patrol that enforces MnPASS laws. Recently, when we posted something about MnPASS on our Facebook page, a lot of you had questions, so we’re addressing them here with help from Lieutenants Tiffani Nielson and Paul Stricker.

Commercial vehicles

Q: Large commercial vehicles that have more than two axles and weigh more than 26,000 pounds are discouraged from using the MnPASS lanes during peak-travel times and will not be assigned a MnPASS tag. So... does that mean as long as there are two or more people in the vehicle they can still use the lane, but it’s just discouraged? 

A: That is correct. Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with two or more occupants can use the lane per the federal and state guidelines, but doing so is discouraged. MnPASS will not issue a transponder to a CMV, but there is no statute that prohibits them from using the lanes as long as they have two or more occupants.


Q: Why are buses allowed to drive in MnPASS lanes more slowly than the vehicles to their right, or even more slowly than the posted minimum speed limit? 

A: Buses drive at speeds that are safe for the operation of the bus and its passengers. They must take into account weather, road conditions, traffic conditions and other factors. They do not drive more slowly to just drive more slowly; they must operate under safe conditions at all times.

Children in the car

Q: Does being pregnant qualify a person to drive in the HOV lane?  

A: No, there must be at least two people in the vehicle.

Q: If I’m driving in the HOV lane with my baby in the car, how does law enforcement know the baby is there?

A: If law enforcement cannot see the baby, the driver will be stopped to verify they are in compliance.  They make every attempt to see if a child is in the car, but if they are unable to verify it, they will stop the vehicle and confirm the number of occupants.

Q: I heard if you have children in car seats and law enforcement behind you wants you to stop, the kids should show their hands and wave, and that would stop you from pulling the car over. Is that true?

A: If that was the reason for the stop, then yes, that would be fine.  But if there was another reason – say, if there was a moving violation – law enforcement would make the traffic stop. 

MnPASS transponders

Q: Will the MnPASS only be read if it is mounted on the windshield? If there are two people are in the car, should we put the pass in the glove compartment to avoid getting deducted? 

A: There are two types of transponders. One is a sticker tag, and it is charged no matter what and cannot be removed from the windshield or the radio-frequency identification (RFID) will be damaged and the tag will no longer be useable. The second type of transponder is switchable.  If there is only one person in the vehicle, the slider needs to be in the MnPASS mode so proper tolls can be deducted. If there is at least one passenger in the car, you can move the slider over to the HOV 2+ mode so that the lane use is free and no charges will occur.

Q: How do you know whether a car has a MnPASS or not? I move mine from car to car so it’s on the dash, not in the window. 

A: You can swap your transponder between cars as long as it is mounted properly. The transponder needs to be mounted on the windshield as outlined in the MnPASS contract and state statute 160.93. If it is not properly mounted, that is a violation, and the vehicle is subject to being stopped. If law enforcement does not see the transponder properly mounted on the windshield, they have probable cause to stop your vehicle.