30 thoughts on “Here’s the Metro staff report explaining the FasTrak account maintenance fee for the ExpressLanes

  1. Pingback: Metro Responds to FastTrack Criticism: Removing Monthly Fee Opens Budget Hole, Encourages People Outside L.A. County to Purchase, Not Use, Transponders | Streetsblog Los Angeles

  2. David Guzman,

    Locals are the only ones that use our freeways.

    What about people living in San Diego? How about drivers from out of state? From Mexico? From Canada? Rental car owners who flew in from LAX or other LA area airports? How are you going to force a transponder for these people?

    How do you enforce a situation like 70 year old grandma and grandpa who flew in from Seattle, renting a car at Hertz, punching in how to get to their grandkids’ place on their Garmin GPS device, and then ends up driving in the carpool lane which they don’t know it needs a transponder?

    You just can’t. The fee has to go. There are just too many situations that make this minimum usage per month or else a $3 fee applies not worth the hassle.

  3. CJ Johnson,

    Maybe I’m not completely understanding but, Isn’t that the point, why would people who are only going to be here for a week or so need a transponder.

    This statement doesn’t make any sense either,
    “How do you enforce a situation like 70 year old grandma and grandpa who flew in from Seattle, renting a car at Hertz, punching in how to get to their grandkids’ place on their Garmin GPS device, and then ends up driving in the carpool lane which they don’t know it needs a transponder?”

    Whether the $3 fee is removed they will still be charged for driving on the Express Lane, although in that scenario I’m not sure who will be charged, either Hertz or the Grandparents.

    The $3 fee isn’t for people who drive in on accident, its for infrequent users.

    For people that are out of state wouldn’t that be the same issue as other FasTrak locations, I know in other states they have HOT/Toll lanes. As long as you enter the HOT lane correctly shouldn’t the sign inform the user that there is FasTrak, unless people are not understanding the FasTrak or cutting the line.

  4. Yaroslavsky is absolutely right – we should at least waive fees for the first six months after implementation of the I-10 lanes, to gather data about how much of a free rider problem there is. If it is significant, then impose the fee, much like how San Diego did on the I-15 lanes. But there is likely to be more hassle for people who open and close accounts in order to avoid the fee, for example college students who take jobs elsewhere during the summer, or snowbirds. Is it cost effective for someone to close the account in May or June only to reopen it again in September or October? I don’t think so.

  5. Let’s go back to the start here. The carpool lanes were built with public funds as carpools. Changing them into express lanes has taken a public facility and made it into a revenue generator. It needs to be understood that is the primary goal, not traffic abatement, along with conducting an experiment in social behavior to determine the amount people will pay to avoid congestion.
    As part of the process to fund this transfer from the public access to fee-based, it was stated repeatedly by proponents that car pool access would be maintained and would be free. The imposition of a monthly fee reverses that promise, and as a result has created an incursion onto public access.
    There are two ways to rectify this breach of promise: either waive the monthly fee, which is obviously no more than an auxiliary revenue generator (not withstanding the slippery calculations Metro has offered). Or simply waive the requirement for a transponder for carpools, which places enforcement back in its previous status of officer-enforced observation. That should be a no-brainer.
    Metro needs to step away from this ill-advised action and restore the public’s access to the carpool lanes, as they were originally created and funded.

  6. Here’s the difference between LACMTA’s implementation of the FasTrak vs all of the other agencies in the state:

    All of the other toll agencies have cash lanes for everyone w/o transponders to use, (or carpools can travel for free in the case of the I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego, w/o a transponder.) With MetroExpress Lanes, carpools cannot get their monthly transponder fees waived unless they use it enough times with the cost of a transponder to get the monthly fee.

    Thus the monthly fee will penalize anyone who occasionally has the rare second rider in their car. Not everyone who drives on the freeway is going to the workplace and thus Metro ExpressLanes only benefits those drivers who routinely travel with more than one person, on weekdays. For those who use the freeways to get around on the weekend or families who make occasional trips on freeways served by the two ExpressLanes projects, these groups of people will be adversely affected. These groups of people would think twice about getting a transponder, due to the monthly maintenance fee, given such discretionary trips.

    I’m an unemployed, internship-less graduate student who has a FasTrak transponder issued from the only agency that does not charge a monthly maintenance fee. I specifically use that specific FasTrak transponder b/c I appreciate the freedom of using the transponder anywhere in the state (although I do not have the ability to select the number of occupants in my vehicle for Metro ExpressLanes use.) I drive to all corners of the state in hopes of finding a job (and have been unsuccessful in such efforts thus far.)

    The cash fares for tolls are higher at most toll crossings w/o a transponder, which isn’t the case for Metro ExpressLanes.

    I’ve been looking for a job for a good few years, but all I have been able to land in the past are temporary, budgeted positions without benefits.

  7. I read the staff report. There are several key issues and alternatives they have conveniently overlooked.
    1. The adverse impact on traffic with the current policy: Have you taken a look at the 110 on the weekends? The traffic is stop and go in the regular lanes, filled with high occupancy vehicles, while the express lanes are empty. Obviously, these travelers are not buying into the program, most likely because of the transponder cost and monthly fee. This is worsening traffic congestion and air quality. Moreover, it is adversely impacting quality of life in L.A.
    2. Who is adversely affected by the current policy: Non-commuters, including seniors and others that live close to their work/school, are the ones that will be most likely to pay the monthly fee for their infrequent use of the express lanes. However, these are the people that should be rewarded for not clogging the freeways daily. Only government bureaucrats could see non-commuters as a drain on the freeway system that need to be charged. The staff report suggests that traffic congestion is not reduced by non-commuters. How illogical! People like my family chose to live near our work so we would not have to commute on the freeways daily. Instead, we just use them for occasional outings. Non-commuters should be rewarded, not punished, for not clogging the freeways daily.
    As it stands, Metro has set up a very expensive program so that a few solo drivers who are willing to pay can use these lanes. Who wins? Who loses?

    Alternatives Metro should consider:
    1. Do not require transponders for carpoolers and motorcycles. If one only uses the express lanes as a carpool or motorcycle, there is no need for a transponder (and the associated fees of maintaining it).

    2. Do not require fastrak transponders during non-peak hours. Virtually no one is using the express lanes late at night and on the weekends anyway. Just use the old carpool system during the off-peak hours.

  8. The staff report states that Metro expects to net only $8-10 million annually from the Expresslanes; however, $7 million of that is the monthly fees paid by infrequent users of the system. In other words, without charging the infrequent users a monthly fee, Expresslanes won’t make any money. Therefore, the bulk of proceeds would come from drivers who infrequently use the Expresslanes. That makes no sense to me. Expresslanes created an incentive for solo drivers to use these lanes. The monthly fee should be born by the one using the system more, but who are not reducing traffic congestion or air pollution.
    Also, Metro spent $250 million dollars create this program, but expects to net only $8-$10 million ($7million of such from infrequent users). Therein lies the problem. The system is seriously flawed.

  9. I have to agree with the people above. I am not a regular commute. I only use the 110 carpool lanes when I’m going to LAX, which is only a few times a year. The monthly fee effectively means that regardless of how many people are in my car, I’m not allowed to use the carpool lane any more.

    This is just plain wrong.

    They point to other similar projects. But the San Diego express lanes only require transponders for single drivers. Carpools are allowed to use the lanes without a transponder. So that means that occasional users can use them as long as they have multiple occupants in the vehicle. This is clearly how the lanes here should be administered.

  10. To avoid paying the fee, I’m just going to drive back and forth on the lane once a month. That will add to traffic and air pollution. Just another example of providing a service for the rich single driver. I though this was government for the people by the people.

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