5,000th account opened for Metro ExpressLanes

Here is the news release from Metro:

Reaching a significant milestone in an innovative project to ease traffic congestion on two of Los Angeles County’s busiest freeways, Metro today celebrated the opening of the 5,000th FasTrak® account for traveling on the Metro ExpressLanes when they open on the I-110 Harbor Freeway in the Fall and on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway in early 2013.

Metro ExpressLanes is a one-year demonstration project to expand the capacity along 11 miles of the 110 Harbor Freeway (between Adams Boulevard and the 91 freeway) and 14 miles of the 10 San Bernardino Freeway (between Alameda Street and the 605) by turning the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes into HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes that allow solo drivers to use the carpool lanes by paying a toll.

Carpools, vanpools, motorcycles and buses will continue to travel for free in the lanes, and all drivers will need a transponder to use the Metro ExpressLanes. The project began offering the transponders to the general public on July 25. Since then, more than 5,000 FasTrak® accounts have been opened and FasTrak® transponders sent to the account holders so they can take advantage of the Metro ExpressLanes.

“Reaching this milestone so quickly demonstrates the strong public interest in Metro ExpressLanes and the traffic congestion relief it promises to those who travel on two of our county’s busiest freeways,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “We urge everyone to beat the rush and apply now for a FasTrak® account so they’ll be ready to take advantage of the Metro ExpressLanes when they open this fall on the Harbor Freeway and early next year on the San Bernardino Freeway.”

There are several options for opening a Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak® account and obtaining a transponder, including:

Visiting www.metroexpresslanes.net

Calling 511 and saying “ExpressLanes”

Visiting walk-in centers at 500 W. 190th Street in Gardena or at El Monte Station, 3501 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte

Mailing an application, which is available online, to Metro ExpressLanes, PO Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247

The costs vary depending on payment methods, but drivers who open their accounts with a credit or debit card will pay $40 and the transponder deposit will be waived. The $40 will be applied to any tolls incurred while driving solo on the Metro ExpressLanes. There is a minimum balance threshold of $10.

Discounts are available. Members of the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) can open a Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak® account at a discounted price of $32 by visiting www.AAA.com.

In a first for an ExpressLanes project, low-income commuters can receive a $25 toll credit when setting up an Equity Plan account and the transponder deposit will be waived. They must reside in Los Angeles County and have an annual income below $37,061 for a family of three. There is a limit of one Equity Plan account per household.

Metro ExpressLanes also is the first in the state to offer switchable transponders that enable drivers to indicate whether one, two or three or more people are riding in the vehicle. By switching the indicator to correctly record the number of people in the car, carpools and vanpools can travel for free on Metro ExpressLanes. The Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak® transponders also can be used on all toll roads in California.

For now, the carpool lanes are still operating until the conversion to Metro ExpressLanes, so drivers cannot use FasTrak® on the 110 Harbor Freeway until the ExpressLanes open in the fall and on the San Bernardino Freeway when the ExpressLanes open next year. In preparation for the opening of the 110 Harbor Freeway ExpressLanes, equipment is being installed and tested, so carpoolers with a FasTrak® transponder may hear a beep when traveling in the HOV lane. This means the equipment has detected the transponder but no tolls are being assessed and no information is being transmitted.

When tolling begins on the Metro ExpressLanes, the tolls will vary depending on traffic. To avoid traffic back-ups, sensors will be used to measure congestion in the Metro ExpressLanes and will increase the toll from 25 cents a mile to a maximum of $1.40 a mile as more vehicles enter the Metro ExpressLanes. Net toll revenues will be reinvested in transit and carpool lane improvements in the corridor where generated.

The Metro ExpressLanes project also seeks to reduce congestion by adding 59 more clean fuel buses and 100 vanpools to the routes. It will expand and update transit facilities and improve downtown parking.

A first in the nation, Metro ExpressLanes will link transit usage with toll credits by offering transit riders a $5 toll credit for every 32 one-way bus trips taken along the route. Another first is a Loyalty Program that will reward carpoolers and vanpoolers for taking Metro ExpressLanes by entering them into drawings for free gas cards each month that they use Metro ExpressLanes.

The Metro ExpressLanes program is a $290 million project, primarily funded by a $210 million congestion reduction demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“By improving traffic and redistributing traffic across all the lanes of the freeway, this project holds the promise of improved travel times in these corridors—whether or not you travel in the Metro ExpressLanes,” said Leahy. “As we have seen in other states, shifting solo drivers into the ExpressLanes helps improve the flow of traffic throughout the freeway, and that’s good news for anyone who will be driving along the 110 and 10 freeways where the Metro ExpressLanes are located.”

 

5 replies

  1. Not mentioned is the $3/month “account maintenance” charge if you don’t use the lanes 4x/month. For occasional single-occupancy users, you pay if you use the lane and you pay if you don’t.

    I have a motorcycle, which qualifies me to use the lanes free. That sets up the strange situation that I don’t pay for the lanes if I do use them but I do pay for the lanes if I don’t use them. Kafka is laughing.

    I submitted a comment via the Express Lanes site but got back nothing but some pasted boilerplate that did not respond to what I wrote.

    Overall, I’m very disappointed in the execution the project.

  2. I voiced the same concerns, and I suspect that the monthly maintenance charge might be “out of Metro’s hands” during the one-year trial period (perhaps due to some requirement from FasTrak or the feds, or something). That said, I also suspect the newly announced carpool reward program is intended to help mitigate the inconvenience of being charged that fee. As to whether folks will consider that sufficient mitigation, time will tell. (I’d prefer to see Metro offer a monthly account credit to balance it out.)

    Overall, I’d prefer to see any “account maintenance charges” factored directly into toll prices rather than implemented as a surcharge. Adjusting the toll prices will make the system more transparent, equitable, and discourage carpoolers from making unnecessary trips to achieve the 4-trip monthly minimum.

  3. The FasTrak account maintenance fees are just another “gotcha fees” that are really just hidden taxes. Fork over $2 every three years for TAP because they expire and no way to get your funds back, fork over $3 every month for FasTrak if you don’t use it that often, same government tactic to find new ways to steal more money away from hard working Americans.