The Metro ExpressLanes pilot project released its first performance report on Wednesday, offering a statistical look at how the project is faring on the 110 freeway. The ExpressLanes on the 10 just opened in mid-February and those lanes will be evaluated in future reports.
Metro and Caltrans officials stress that the data is preliminary and subject to change. That said, the agency is also keenly aware that public interest in the ExpressLanes is high and Metro wants to get data to the public as quickly as possible. The report is posted below. The main takeaways:
•Travel speeds in the ExpressLanes on the 110 have exceeded an average of 45 miles per hour 100 percent of the time during peak periods from the opening in early November through the end of February. Average speeds in the northbound ExpressLanes are 10 miles per hour faster during the morning peak period from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. than speeds measured before the ExpressLanes opened.
•The number of vehicles using the 110 ExpressLanes at the end of February was about 96 percent of the total that used the lanes before the toll lanes debuted in November. The number has been steadily rising since the ExpressLanes opened.
•Average speeds in the general lanes during peak periods have dropped when compared to speeds measured in December 2011 although they have started to improve. One caveat here: Metro knows that Dec. 2011 is not an ideal baseline because average speeds in December are usually skewed by the holiday season. The agency is crunching more data.
•Of private vehicles that used the lanes, 60 percent were carpoolers and 40 percent were solo drivers. The obvious conclusion here: more carpoolers used the 110 HOV lanes before they were converted to ExpressLanes. And thus this reminder: carpoolers do not have to pay a toll on the 110, although all vehicles must have transponders with one exception: motorcycles with standard state license plates.
•The bottom line on the speed issue: as more vehicles move to the ExpressLanes and take advantage of the extra capacity there, Metro staff expects speeds in the general lanes to improve. But as Metro staff also say, it will take some time to accomplish this.
•The Silver Line's on-time percentage increased to 77.5 percent in February compared to 68.9 percent last October, the month before the ExpressLanes opened.
•Of the more than 1.9 million trips taken on the 110 ExpressLanes since Jan. 10 — when a 60-day grace period ended — about 133,000 motorists who used the lanes without the required transponder have received notices for payment of the toll. The average amount of those notices is $1.39.
•As of this week, about 125,000 FasTrak transponders have been issued.Some important context that I think is important to consider: The ExpressLanes are a one-year test project that were largely funded with a $210-million grant from the federal government. Under President George W. Bush grants were made to five other regions for similar projects to test the concept of congestion pricing to help speed up traffic.
The money in Los Angeles County went to much more than just opening the ExpressLanes. Metro, for example, purchased 59 new buses (47 of which operate on the 110 ExpressLanes), widened the Adams Boulevard off-ramp from the 110, rebuilt the El Monte Station and made a number of other key improvements in the 10 and 110 corridor.
As a condition of keeping the money, Metro must show that speeds in the ExpressLanes average 45 mph at least 90 percent of the time in peak periods — as stated above, that's been accomplished thus far.The U.S. Department of Transportation has also hired the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit research firm, to conduct evaluations of the six congestion pricing projects after they have been operating for at least one year. Battelle will be evaluating each project on its own merits — i.e. the before and after — as well as comparing the projects to one another.
That independent evaluation won't be issued until mid-2014. In the meantime, Metro will be releasing preliminary performance reports such as the one below in order to provide everyone a general idea of how the ExpressLanes are doing.
For those interested in getting a transponder in order to use the ExpressLanes, please click here.