ExpressLanes FAQ, part one — 10 days and counting until Los Angeles County’s first congestion pricing project opens.

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We’re now 10 days from the opening of the ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway between Adams Boulevard and the Artesia Transit Center. The project is posting a top 10 of frequently-asked questions until then. Here’s part one; we’ll do our best to answer any remaining questions on our comments board.

Also, I know that many readers have complained about the FasTrak maintenance fee of $3 per month for those who use the ExpressLanes three or fewer times each month. As the FAQ says, those fees do not begin until after ExpressLanes opens on the 10 freeway early next year.

7 replies

  1. I don’t think the fee starting later makes it any better… it’s not like infrequent users are going to get an account just to test it for a few months and then ditch the account when the fee starts.

    Also… doesn’t seem necessary to make motorcycles get a FasTrak if it should ALWAYS be set in the 3+ mode.

    Too many unnecessary barriers to entry on this project.

  2. Just wanted to add one more thought… according to this study (page 7, from 2008), between 27,000 and 28,000 vehicles use the 110 HOV lanes in a single direction each day (I’m only showing the figures for one direction rather than total, because I’ll assume each vehicle makes a return trip).

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/hov/docs/2008%20HOV%20ANNUAL%20REPORT.pdf

    Trumpeting the fact that 20,000 transponders have been given out is not that great. Even assuming that every single one of those transponders was going to be used on the 110 only and not the 10 freeway AND that every single one of those transponders is going to a current carpooler and not someone who plans to pay, there will be 8,000 carpoolers immediately locked out of the lanes each day.

    Of course, many of those transponders are probably to people who will mainly use the 10 freeway and not the 110, many will go to single occupancy drivers who plan to pay, and many will go to drivers who won’t necessarily be on the lane every day. That means you’ll have a far higher number of current carpool vehicles whose access will be cut off.

    I like the idea of these HOT lanes… but I don’t like this implementation.

  3. The honor system probably will not work because some driver will push the three-person button to dodge the toll fees. I think that the best way to implement this project is to take a picture of every car. Then send a bill to each vehicle owner at the end of the month similar to red light tickets. This way no transponders will be necessary.

  4. The issue with the no transponder solution is that it makes it a lot harder to enforce. Here’s an article from the North County Times on how big a bear it is to enforce the I-15 Express Lanes – http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/sdcounty/crime-officers-face-unique-challenges-along-i–express-lanes/article_1613ac63-63f4-51ea-9702-b15c79931e8b.html – and add the fact that, on I-10 at least, since the buffer zone is now used as an additional lane, there is little if any space on the freeway to pull someone over; the only option is for the officer to force the offender to exit. I fully support Metro’s decision on this one.

    As far as the administrative fees, I wish they had done it in a manner where it is counted quarterly, as many USC and Cal State students (some of the target audience for this road) leave during breaks and therefore cannot drive during the time they are gone. But there are so many ways to avoid the fee that it starts to get silly.

  5. Ivan,

    “I think that the best way to implement this project is to take a picture of every car. Then send a bill to each vehicle owner at the end of the month similar to red light tickets. This way no transponders will be necessary.”

    Except this idea now requires maintenance of cameras, maintenance of a bigger database to store high resolution photos, maintenance of a database to access DMV records, cost of printing out of photos, ink or color toner, cost of paper, envelopes, and cost of raising first class postage fees. None of this is free either.

    Going back to topic, the monthly maintenance fee has to go. It’s like punishing those who have TAP cards with $3 every month if they don’t use the bus more than a specified time each month.

  6. calwatch: Good point on the 10, I guess, with there being no space to pull someone over… but otherwise how is this enforcement any more difficult than the current carpool lane enforcement?

    Now with the toll lanes, officers only have to watch at specific locations instead of at any random point along the corridor… see a single driver? Does the light flash showing they’ve paid? Great. See a single driver with no light flash? Time to pull them over.