Real data show that reserving a lane for carpools on congested freeways induces a smoothing effect that is characterized by significantly higher bottleneck discharge flows (capacities) in adjacent lanes. The effect is reproducible across days and freeway sites: it was observed, without exception, in all cases tested. Predicted by an earlier theory, the effect arises because disruptive vehicle lane changing diminishes in the presence of a carpool lane. We therefore conjecture that smoothing can also be induced by other means that would reduce lane changing. The benefits can be large. Queueing analysis shows that the smoothing effect greatly reduces the times spent by people and vehicles in queues. For example, by ignoring the smoothing effect at one of the sites we analyzed one would predict that its carpool lane increased both the people-hours and the vehicle-hours traveled by well over 300%. In reality, the carpool lane reduced both measures due to smoothing. The effect is so significant that even a severely underused carpool lane can in some instances increase a freeway bottleneck's total discharge flow. This happens for the site we analyzed when carpool demand is as low as 1200 vph. (C) Published by Elsevier Ltd.