The signs were everywhere where HOV lanes were on Washington’s freeways. Call 764-HEROES to report violators to carpool lanes, they said.
The public outreach program launched in 1984 became so interwoven with Puget Sound’s road system that it spilled over into pop culture, giving its name to the Seattle-based indie rock group, 764-HEROES.
The group broke up in 2002, and the state Department of Transportation announced this week that it was ending the HOV violation reporting program.
“The program has served its purpose because most travelers are familiar with how HOV lanes and ferry queues work,” the WSDOT said on its website.
The program relied on drivers in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties to call the number when they spotted an offender and left the license plate number of the offending vehicle. WSDOT would then send educational materials, not tickets, to the registered owner.
In 2010, the program was expanded to include ferry track cutters.
The program was still getting results in February when it received 780 reports from the public via phone calls and emails. As of February 2020, that number was 2,167.
“It was never an enforcement tool,” WSDOT spokesman Bart Treece said. “It has exceeded its usefulness. VMO is nothing new.
764-HERO, the group, were formed in 1995 by John Atkins and Polly Johnson and took their name after being suggested by a friend, according to a biography on allmusic.com.
The group was not the only group in the Northwest to have their name prominently, but not intentionally, on highway signs in the region. Sleater-Kinney is both a successful rock band Olympia riot grrrl (founded by Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss) and exit 108 on I-5 in the Lacey area.
Over the next few months, WSDOT will be phasing out 764-HERO panels. Washington State Patrol HOV and ferry line enforcement remains in effect. Cutting the ferry line can result in a $ 139 ticket, according to the WSP.