Here is the full transcript from the live web chat with ExpressLanes Executive Officer Stephanie Wiggins from last Friday about Metro’s ExpressLanes project, which opens on the 110 freeway on Saturday. To get a FasTrak transponder to use the lanes — and everyone who uses the lanes must have one — please click here.
Questions are in bold.
Good morning Stephanie! Thanks for joining us today to answer questions about ExpressLanes. This is a new thing for Los Angeles but we gather it’s pretty common in other parts of the country/world. Can you name a few other cities that are using ExpressLanes and how they are working out?
Great question! ExpressLanes, also known as High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, are working well in 14 cities in the U.S., including San Diego, Orange County, Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Miami. It takes a while for the public to adjust to the new system but they typically like ExpressLanes once they start using them. ExpressLanes benefit everyone by providing reduced travel times, improved air quality, and more frequent transit service.
Several people have told me they have driven on the stretch of the 110 that will soon become express lanes. But they have been ticketed and cited for being in those lanes without the transponders prior to the lanes turning into express. Are these tickets valid being that they were issued before Nov 10? thanks. Ginger Chan
Ginger, The 110 ExpressLanes are not in operation until November 10. However, if commuters are driving alone in the 110 HOV lanes today, they are in violation of the minimum occupancy requirement and could receive a citation. To confirm the validity of the ticket they should contact the CHP.
My question is on behalf of drivers with passengers who now use the carpool lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways a few times a year and would not have reason to use a FasTrak transponder on a regular basis. Once the Metro ExpressLanes program, I will lose the ability to travel on this carpool lane without a transponder, even if I have a passenger in the car. It does not make financial sense to spend money up front for a transponder and pay the monthly account fee just to use these lanes a few times a year. I therefore believe this program discriminates against occasional carpoolers, taking away their privilege to use a previously designated carpool lane. Please respond, Howard Fine
You make a good point. It doesn’t make sense for everyone to get a transponder but it’s your choice. If you think you would use it enough or even if you just want to have maximum flexibility, then it’s a good idea. There are some people who probably won’t want to. But keep in mind the goal of the program is better air quality and a better commute for as many people as we can possibly manage it. We’re focused on a better Los Angeles and we’re testing this program to see if it helps.
Serious concern to convert a car pool lane to a toll lane. Many of us have already established car pool partners, or have purchased vehicles which comply with car pool rules, only to have this forced on us. You should continue to allow free car pool use. Michael G. Ross MD, MPH
Hi Michael. In other cities with HOT lanes the feedback has been pretty positive … once the program is established and everyone is used to it. They seem to like the flexibility, knowing they can use the lane even when their carpool partner is sick. They also like the rewards … things like carpool loyalty programs where they get a gas card as an incentive. (We’re doing something similar here). But again, everyone will have to decide for him or herself if they work. And I just want to invite everyone to give this a chance.
Hello, I saw how this is taking place, but what I wanted to ask is that after the conversion project is complete on I-110 and I-10, do you know if they plan to convert I-105 carpool lanes into Express Lanes? Reason I had this question is because I-105 has a direct carpool lane interchange that leads into the I-110 Express Lanes and I have the impression that it would make sense if there is some plan of converting the I-105 carpool lanes into Express Lanes too. Mr. Andrew Wang
Hi Andrew, thank you for your interest and feedback. At this time the Metro Board is only committed to completing the Metro ExpressLanes Demonstration Program on the I-10 and I-110 freeways. After the demonstration period ends, Metro and Caltrans will evaluate the performance of these lanes which will help determine if ExpressLanes can be expanded in LA County. Stay tuned.
Hi Stephanie, My name is Michael, and I run a small taxi business with less than 4 cars (TCP licensed). We also have LAX transponder, can we use the same transponder if possible? If not, is there a special account that i should signup for? Thank you in advance. Michael Song
Hi Michael, The LAX transponder cannot be used on the ExpressLanes. To open an account and receive transponders, visit www.metroexpresslanes.net.
What are the anticipated (estimated) single-occupancy tolls for the 110 Expressway during these periods: Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 12:noon and 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
It will vary. It will depend on the level of traffic at the time as well as your entry or exit points. However, electronic signage will tell motorists the current toll amounts in effect prior to entering the ExpressLanes. For more information visit www.metroexpresslanes.net.
Is there any noise/beep change in transponders when you drop past the minimum balance? (will it still beep when you have no money?)Is texting option available? (to check balance anytime, to receive courtesy alert)Can you deposit/transfer funds anytime to use immediately? If not, what is the wait period? (although unsafe… can you be driving in toll lane and add needed funds by mobile banking?) Jason
Hi Jason, No. There is no noise or beep in the transponder to indicate a minimum balance. When your account reaches the minimum balance your credit card is charged to replenish your account. Customers also have access to their account balance 24/7 online.
Texting is not available at this time. You can deposit/transfer funds to your account at any time.
Why are electric vehicles going to be charged to go in the HOV lane, when we were promised that we would have HOV lane access until 1/1/15? It is not easy owning an electric vehicle and I think we still deserve that perk for being an early adopter of a new technology. At minimum, I think it would be fair to have a reduced rate or be assured that after the demonstration period is over, electric vehicles will be allowed to rise at no charge again. Sharon Hauptman
When we begin, solo drivers of alternative fuel vehicles will be treated like all other solo vehicles in the Metro ExpressLanes during the demonstration period. Driving alone in an alternative fuel vehicles helps reduce pollution, but it does not reduce congestion. The objective of moving more people into the ExpressLanes = fewer people in the general purpose lanes = better traffic flow and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants for everyone. However, the Governor recently signed a law that will allow toll-free access for white and green sticker vehicles to the Metro ExpressLanes after March 1, 2014.
If a member of my carpool has already signed up for a fast track can the other cars in our carpool be added now? Or is it too late?
Yes. They can be added at any time to an existing FasTrak account at www.metroexpresslanes.net.
Will a recording be available for people who miss it? I hope so. — Hector Huezo
The Live Chat transcript will be posted later this afternoon.
How will you make sure the new ExpressLanes won’t become too occupied with solo drivers and slow the lanes down? Thank you, Danielle Gobstopper
Hi Danielle, If the average speeds in the ExpressLanes fall below 45 mph the message on the electronic signs will change to “HOV Only” to alert solo drivers not to enter the ExpressLanes until speeds climb back to 45 mph or faster. Solo drivers already in the ExpressLanes will be able to complete their trip.
Did you mean to say “after March 1, 2014”? At best “until” that date would be better but maybe you meant 2013. and there hasn’t been an update in over 5 minutes and i know we’ve submitted questions. we only have an hour to get through all this.
Sorry. We’re having technical difficulties. But in answer to your question, yes, the 2014 date is correct.
Why is there a monthly maintenance fee?
The maintenance fee covers the cost to maintain the customer account. However, most customers will not be charged the fee because it is automatically waived with 4 one way trips per month, any combination of carpool/vanpool, as a solo driver, on a motorcycle, or taking eligible transit. The fee is also automatically waived for Equity Plan accounts. The monthly maintenance fee will not go into effect until the 10 ExpressLanes open in early 2013.
Can you tell us when the ExpressLanes program will come to the 14 mile portion of the 10 Freeway?
Thank you. The 10 ExpressLanes will open in the late January/early February time frame. Visit www.metroexpresslanes.net for notification of an official opening date.
Hi Stephanie, thank you for opening this forum to us. So drivers who have passengers in their cars CAN currently use the HOV lanes, correct? Some people told me they are seeing cameras flash when they currently take the carpool lanes, what are these flashes they are seeing? thanks, Ginger Chan
Hi Ginger, To your first question, yes. Drivers are probably seeing the enforcement beacon lights that are currently being tested in preparation for the opening of the 110 ExpressLanes on November 10th.
Hi, Steve Scauzillo from the SGVN here. Do you know when the 10 Freeway program will be up and running? Is there testing going on there?
Hi Steve, The 10 ExpressLanes are slated for early 2013. Testing will begin before the end of the year.
Can we transfer the balance from our current Fastrak account to the new transponder?
No. Your existing FasTrak will work on the new Metro ExpressLanes to pay a toll. However, if you want to travel toll-free a Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak is required. To open a Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak account please visit our website at www.metroexpresslanes.net.
Can you really expect everyone to have a FasTrak to use the lane? What kind of outreach has been done to make sure everyone is informed?
Everyone will need a FasTrak to use the lane. A FasTrak is required because the system needs an automated way to distinguish between toll-free vehicles and solo drivers.
Hello Ms. Wiggins: I created an acct and received my transponder. Can I use the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on the I-110 Harbor Freeway before the Nov 10th launch date? What about the HOT lanes on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway before its launch date? Thank you, Frederick Rutherford
Hi Frederick, Thanks for setting up your Metro ExpressLanes account. Until the Metro ExpressLanes open on the I-110 and I-10, these lanes will be HOV lanes only and you can use them only if you qualify as an eligible carpool. But you can already use your Metro ExpressLanes transponder on any other toll facility in the State of California.
My partner and I take the 110 on average about once a month or so to go to LAX. I’ve read that if we get a transponder and use the Express Lane fewer than four times in a month, we get billed. Is there any way that we can still use these lanes without paying a monthly fee, or should we just plan on taking an unnecessary trip each month to get up to four uses? Kenny
While there is a $3 monthly account maintenance fee, most customers will not be charged the fee because it can be easily waived with a minimum of four one-way trips on the ExpressLanes or if you enroll in the Equity Plan, which is open to L.A. County residents with an annual household income for a family of three, at or below $37,060.
Stephanie, The comment that I would like to make is that it is not very clear on a person having a FasTrak for Orange County (91 Fwy) and to get set-up for the Los Angeles County. At first, I thought that I had to have two sets of Transponders and when I called, I was getting different answers each time that I phoned and even when I stopped by the office. There needs to be better clarification for this. I ended up getting the transponder for L.A. and then cancelled the one for Orange County and mailed back in.
I apologize for the confusion. We recently updated our Frequently Asked Questions section on the web to provide more clarity. The 91 Express Lanes FasTrak transponder can be used to pay a toll on the Metro ExpressLanes. However, for toll free access on the Metro ExpressLanes the switchable transponder is needed. It was fine for you to open a Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak account and cancel your 91 Express Lanes account because you will be able to use your Metro ExpressLanes switchable transponder on any toll facility in California, including the 91 Express Lanes. If friends ask, let them know they can obtain a switchable transponder by opening an account with the Metro ExpressLanes. But it is recommended that they only maintain one FasTrak account based upon the toll facilities they use the most. We recommend that customers contact their current issuing agency for information about closing their FasTrak account prior to opening an account with Metro ExpressLanes.
The requirement for transponders even for cars and vans with 2, 3, or more seems problematic. Tourists and occasional downtown visitors coming to sports/music venues will be unable to use the carpool lanes (or get tickets when they are confused). But especially with a planned football stadium, routes to downtown will be clogged.
And for those people with single position transponders, they will get charged full rate even with multiple passengers. Couldn’t this be handled via photos or fear of being pulled over? arun baheti
We are working with rental car companies to provide transponders for rental cars so tourists and out-of-town visitors will have access to the lanes. In addition, a standard FasTrak transponder – issued by other FasTrak facilities in CA – can be used to pay a toll on the Metro ExpressLanes. However, for toll free access to the Metro ExpressLanes a switchable transponder is needed. You can obtain a switchable transponder by opening an account with the Metro ExpressLanes.
Hello, As a motorcyclist I’m curious to know why motorcycles would be required to purchase a transponder. From what I understand there would never be a situation where a motorcycle would be assessed a toll. Is it really necessary for me to purchase one to use the lanes? Thanks, Amir
Hi Amir, Great question! You are correct that all motorists, including motorcycles traveling on the Metro ExpressLanes are required to have a FasTrak transponder. However, motorcycles, eligible carpools and vanpools with a FasTrak will not be charged a toll to use the Metro ExpressLanes. The Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by setting the switch on the transponder to the appropriate setting (1, 2, 3+). Motorcycles should always set the transponder to the 3+ position and keep the transponder in a secure location such as in a pocket or bag.
Many Angelenos enjoy using the HOV lanes to cut down on commute times when carpooling. The new terms of the Metro ExpressLanes project details a minimum monthly requirement for use to avoid a service fee. This essentially eliminates the free use of these HOV lanes for people who infrequently utilize these lanes but enjoy their use nonetheless. This will alienate many LA drivers and will possibly lead to even more congestion. I am opposed to this initiative as are likely many other Angelenos.
Our hope is that this one-year pilot program will work well for everyone and actually end up improving traffic. The goal is to benefit all of our region by encouraging more use by carpools, vanpools, and transit riders. And for those motorists where driving alone is their only option, they now have a choice to pay a toll for a faster trip. Worth noting: We also have a Transit Rewards Program, the first of its kind in the nation, to encourage people to take a bus instead of drive. If you use your registered TAP card on transit that operates on the I-10 or I-110 ExpressLanes, you can earn $5 in toll credits (that will be applied to your FasTrak account) for every 32 one-way trips during peak hours. Those transit trips also count toward waiving the $3 monthly account maintenance fee. And, as I’ve said, you can set up an account to share with friends or family members.
What if the “demonstration” project is a success? By what criteria will it become a permanent addition to our transportation system?
Great question! A rigorous evaluation is required. Metro and Caltrans are required to report back to the U.S. Department of Transportation, state legislature and general public on the performance of the program at the end of the one-year demonstration period. Key performance measures include: Are travel times reduced and average vehicle speeds increased in the Metro ExpressLanes and general purpose lanes? (travel time savings, average vehicle speed) How many drivers shift from driving alone to using carpools, transit and/or Metro vanpools? (mode shift) Is the efficiency of all lanes increased by moving more people on the Metro ExpressLanes in a specified period of time? (person throughput) Is transportation access improved for low-income commuters? (surveys, credit redemption, transit ridership) Are air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions reduced? Are arterial streets impacted by this project? If the demonstration project is determined to be a success it may be extended beyond the pilot period.
I have driven a 12 passenger vanpool and have used the Vanpool lane on the harbor fwy for many years. Is it true that it is not FREE for vanpools? I understand that there is an account maintenance fee $$$$ that will be charged to the account each month that I setup with a $40 deposit to get the transponder. If that is true why do you advertise it as free for vanpools?
Vanpools with a FasTrak will not be charged a toll to use the lanes. The Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by setting the switch on the transponder to the appropriate setting (1, 2, 3+).
The FasTrak transponder will also enable vanpoolers to benefit from the Carpool Loyalty Program. This video link provides a quick overview of the new Carpool Loyalty Program for the ExpressLanes: (http://youtu.be/fz9BJACR7yE)
How do you check on car pool occupants ??? If they are really car pooling…??? Driving on the car pool lanes on a daily basis — we see people driving alone…
Jose J AbadSantos
Thank you for your question. The Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by setting the switch on the transponder to the appropriate setting. When traveling on the Metro ExpressLanes, a beacon light will indicate the transponder occupancy setting. The beacon light is visible to the additional CHP officers who will perform a visual verification of the vehicle occupancy and cite non-compliant drivers. If a driver uses the Metro ExpressLanes without a valid transponder a photo of the vehicle license plate will be taken and the registered owner of the vehicle will be issued a toll evasion violation notice. Here’s more infornation.
As I mentioned, the Governor recently signed a law which will allow toll-free access for white and green sticker vehicles to the Metro ExpressLanes after March 1, 2014.
I see that vanpools and carpools will need to get a transponder and single uses as well. Here is my question. If you sometimes I have a 2nd person in the car with me, but sometimes I don’t. How does the transponder know that, and how do I handle it so I can still use the HOT lane. Please let me know ASAP. Thank you,
Sincerely, Chris Egebjerg
Great question! The Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by setting the switch on the transponder to the appropriate setting. When you enter the Metro ExpressLanes an antenna will read the transponder. For solo drivers who choose to use the ExpressLanes the correct toll amount will be automatically deducted from their FasTrak account based upon the toll amounts displayed. For those vehicles that are carpooling and meet the minimum occupancy requirements, no toll will be deducted from their account.
I purchased (4) transponders from AAA, but every time I attempt to open account, it asks for me to deposit $40. I am under the impression that I already purchased the transponders for $32 each but that each have $40 credit on it. How do I register my AAA transponder without having to deposit another $40 deposit. Please let me know. Leslie Severin Forrest
Thanks for contacting me, and sorry to hear you are having trouble. In order to register your transponders visit our website at www.metroexpresslanes.net, click on the “Open an Account” tab, then click on “Register Your FasTrak® Transponder” on the left-hand side of the page, and follow the prompts. When following the prompts, you will not be required to provide another $40 deposit. Please let us know if you have any questions. Our Customer Service representatives can be reached 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, Monday – Friday; 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, Saturday: By Phone at 511 and say “ExpressLanes”
In Person at designated Walk-In Centers: Harbor Gateway, 500 W 190th St, Gardena or El Monte, 3501 Santa Anita Ave, El Monte
Besides the Carpools and vanpools, can you give us the complete list of all other private or government individuals, agencies and groups that also will not be charged for a transponder.
Just to clarify: All motorists traveling in the Metro ExpressLanes will be required to have a prepaid FasTrak transponder. However eligible carpools, motorcycles, and vanpools with a FasTrak® will not be charged a toll to use the lanes. All buses are exempt from the FasTrak transponder requirement and will not be charged a toll. Emergency vehicles do not need a transponder but they are coordinating with Metro ahead of time to ensure Metro has license plate information for their vehicles. That said, if an emergency vehicle were to receive a violation notice, they would simply let Metro know about the incident and it would be waived.
Hello- How would you know if there is another passenger in the car, especially if it’s a baby or toddler, or if it’s only the driver? Since every car will use the same device – Fastrack transponder. Question #2 – is there a $100 deposit (or any other amount of deposit) required to open a Fasttrack account? Thank you!
Regards, Desi Freeman
Excellent questions! The Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by moving the switch on the transponder to the setting that reflects the number of people in the car. When you enter the Metro ExpressLanes an antenna will read the transponder. Visual monitoring by CHP will also help enforce legal use of the lanes. The pre-paid amount to open a FasTrak account is $40 with a credit or debit card. The transponder deposit ($25) is waived. Should you choose to use the lanes as a toll-paying customer the toll would be deducted from the $40 pre-paid toll balance. Any remaining toll balance will be refunded to you when your account is closed in good standing and the transponder is returned in good working order. For low-income commuters the fee is $15. Click here for more info.
Why hasn’t the on-line FasTrak Entry and Exit Location Map been Corrected. On the I-110 (Harbor Fwy) 39th Street is shown as an Exit Only yet it will be both an Entrance and Exit point. Jefferson Blvd. is shown as an Entrance point yet there is no access to the freeway at all from Jefferson. And, by the way, Jefferson is to the north of USC, not to the South as shown on the map. Exhibition Blvd. is to the south of USC and does have access to the regular lanes of the I-110, but not the carpool/Express Lanes. Perhaps you should have your map maker drive around the area.
Hi Mel, The locations listed on the Metro Expresslanes FasTrak entry and exit location map are approximations based on their locations relative to the arterial network. They are not meant to indicate freeway on and off ramps but locations where drivers would actually exit or enter the ExpressLanes, not the on/off ramps of freeway mainline.
What are you doing for those that purchased the Chevy volt and received the right to use the diamond lane? If two people are not charged, why are we? Is this just a class action lawsuit waiting to happen? Sincerely, David L. Rice
Hi David, Solo drivers of alternative fuel vehicles, like the Chevy volt, will be treated like all other solo vehicles in the Metro ExpressLanes during the demonstration period. However, as I mentioned, the Governor recently signed a law that will allow toll-free access for white and green sticker vehicles to the Metro ExpressLanes after March 1, 2014.
How much will the transformer cost and how much will tolls cost? I had a transformer in Florida. It cost $25. I don’t remember how much the tolls were. They would take a set amount of money, your choice, from your checking account. Every time you used the transponder, it would reduce the total taken. If you only let them take $10, it would be used up quicker and they would have to take money more often from your checking. If you don’t have a transponder, you have to stop at the toll booths and have the exact change, which you usually don’t have, and it also would take extra time. Can I use my old transponder from Florida, if I find it!
Hi Joyce, Unfortunately, your transponder from Florida will not work in California. The pre-paid amount to open a FasTrak account is $40 with a credit card. Should you choose to use the lanes as a toll-paying customer the toll would be deducted from the $40 pre-paid toll balance. Once your account falls below $10, your credit card is automatically charged another $40 to help prevent your account from becoming negative. Tolls will vary depending upon time of day but will range from 25 cents to $1.40 per mile.
do not think opening the lanes up to solo drivers for pay is not wise!
Thank you for your comment.
Why am I required to pay for a transponder for a demonstration project?
Unless you want to use the ExpressLanes, you don’t need a transponder but a FasTrak is required for all vehicles (including motorcycles, carpools, and vanpools) using the HOT lanes because the toll system does not distinguish between a solo driver and a motorcycle/eligible carpool/vanpool.
How does the machine that deducts money know if you have a carpool? Can it count the kids who are lower than the seat? I’d like to know about the technology and about its record of safety testing with infants and young children. Will you give me a transponder for free if I am a carpooler? What if you get into the lane by mistake and you have no transponder? Lastly, why should only people with money be able to drive to their destinations quickly? Kim Miller
Great questions! As I’ve said, prior to starting your trip, the Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by moving the switch on the transponder to the correct setting. In order for the Metro ExpressLanes to operate efficiently, a combination of visual monitoring by California Highway Patrol (CHP) vehicles, photo enforcement and FasTrak® will be used to ensure legal use of the ExpressLanes. This video explains the CHP-enforced rules of the road. If you get into the lane by mistake without a transponder, a photo will be taken of your license plate and the registered owner of the vehicle will be issued a toll evasion violation notice. The initial notice will include a $25 penalty. If the notice is not paid within 30 days, an additional delinquent penalty of $30 will be assessed. There will be a short grace period when the Metro ExpressLanes first open, too.
I’m not understanding the reason for the Fas Trak lane on the 110 fwy and the carpool lanes. We have to cross over the fas trak lane to get to the carpool lanes so can you tell me the advantage of this and if we get an account for the fas trak are we paying to get in the carpool lane as well. Thank you. Iris Johnson
Just to clarify. Starting November 10, 2012 both high occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes on the I-110 Harbor Transitway will be converted into Metro ExpressLanes. Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak transponders are available now. You can sign-up for a FasTrak: Online at www.metroexpresslanes.net and also in person at Walk-In Centers: Harbor Gateway, 500 W 190th St, Gardena; El Monte, 3501 Santa Anita Ave, El Monte; by mail to P.O. Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247 or by phone at 511 and say ExpressLanes. For AAA members, there is a 20% one-time discount if you sign up online and validate your AAA membership at www.aaa.com/metroexpresslanes, or you can visit any AAA branch office in Southern California.
I have a 91express. Can I use the same one for all this other freeways?
Thanks for your question. Yes, your existing 91 FasTrak transponder can be used to pay a toll on the Metro ExpressLanes (I-110 and I-10). However, for toll free access on the Metro ExpressLanes a switchable transponder is needed. You can obtain a switchable transponder by opening an account with the Metro ExpressLanes.
You are not required to maintain two separate accounts. It is recommended that you only maintain one FasTrak account based upon the toll facilities you use the most. Please contact your current issuing agency for information about closing your FasTrak account prior to opening an account with Metro ExpressLanes. Also, please note: Metro ExpressLanes switchable transponders can be used on any toll facility in California.