Metro Board to consider extending ExpressLanes on 10 and 110 freeways beyond January 2015

One key issue that the Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider at their meeting on Thursday: whether to continue tolling as part of the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways beyond January 15 of next year.

Some quick background: Metro received a $210.6-million federal grant in 2008 to use on transportation improvements in the 10 and 110 corridors. That included trying theExpressLanes for a year-long pilot period to determine if there might be a better way to manage traffic on both freeways. The lanes have proven to be popular with more than 253,000 transponders issued — far more than Metro originally anticipated. (Here is the ExpressLanes home page, including information on how to get a transponder).

The Metro staff report on the issue is above (pdf here). The report also includes a technical memo from the Federal Highway Administration that offers a preliminary analysis of the ExpressLanes, as well as some statistics. Excerpt:

Although preliminary, the results described in this report suggest that the LACRD projects are accomplishing many of their goals and objectives. Consistent with other new HOV/HOT conversion projects,the congestion data analysis shows degradation in travel times and travel speeds performance during the initial deployment period on some portions of the I-10 and I-110.

However, consistent with other sites, the same facilities are showing an upward trend in travel time reductions and increases in speed in the later portions of the pilot period. The tolling analysis findings indicate that the number of trips on the ExpressLanes (by all groups) continued to increase over the course of the demonstration period, partially demonstrated by the increase in gross revenue from toll-paying vehicles.

The many incentive programs proved to be successful with almost $13,000 in toll credits issued to Transit Rewards Program account holders and over $100,000 in toll transponder credits issued to over 4,000 LA County households enrolled in the Equity Plan. In addition, the ExpressLanes program surpassed several of its goals including enrolling over 100 new Metro-registered vanpools and issuing over 253,000 transponders by the end of the demonstration period.

Transit analysis findings indicate that Silver Line ridership increased largely due to CRD-funded service. The entire line (bothI-110 and 1-10) showed a 27 percent increase in monthly boardings after the new service was added with an additional 15 percent increase post-tolling. When surveyed, a third of new riders said they drove alone prior to the increased services and 48 percent of riders agreed that tolling has improved their travel. Additionally, the surveys showed an overall good level of customer satisfaction with transit services.

 

One other point worth considering from the Metro staff report: a more thorough analysis of the ExpressLanes is also being done and Metro intends to use the information to make any improvements necessary to make the ExpressLanes work better.

As a related item, the Metro Board is also scheduled to consider a motion by Metro Board Member Gloria Molina that would permanently waive the $3 account maintenance fee for infrequent users and instead substitute a $1 monthly fee on all accounts.

 

14 replies

  1. I hope people email and contact the Board – boardsecretary@metro.net – to oppose the Molina motion. The new fee jeopardize reauthorization of the Express Lanes as the State Legislature is required to authorize Express Lanes to continue past 2015. With State attention focused on Metro already such as through the Holden bill reorganizing the Board, it is a poor idea to further antagonize state legislators who took a political leap of faith to support this project.

    This fee was not vetted with public input and is a unilateral imposition of fees on not just daily single occupancy drivers, but also carpoolers who did not pay ANY fee for the lane previously, transit users who use the Express Lanes accounts to generate toll credits for occasional use of the busway, as well as low income users who currently have toll free access through the equity plan. Also, Express Lanes are part of the Regional Transportation Plan. Forcing carpoolers out of the Express Lanes with the proposed Molina fee, where currently they travel for free, could jeopardize air quality conformity and at the minimum would need to be modeled for compliance with the Air Quality Management Plan and Federal Transportation Improvement Plan. None of this modeling has occurred.

    If Metro does not wish to continue granting waivers then there was a fee set prior to creation of Express Lanes (the $3 infrequent user fee) which was adopted and approved through a public process considering all input. Creating a new fee is not on the table, unless a full public participation process is created and all technical studies related to imposition of new fees on previously fee-free users are completed.

  2. Notice how Supervisor Molina sneakingly uses the words “permanently waive the $3 account maintenance fee for infrequent users” yet places a gotcha by ending it with “…and instead substitute a $1 monthly fee on ALL accounts.”

    Don’t politicians have anything better to do than concoct more BS bogus “fees” out of their rear-end? All it does is jeopardize the success of the ExpressLanes which is doing great, far beating everyone’s expectations.

    Metro is making far more money out the ExpressLanes than the original estimate. If it’s going to cost $1 to recuperate the costs of all the ExpressLanes account, that should be eaten up by Metro themselves. Even then, with those costs involved, Metro is still beating the original ExpressLanes estimate. It’s a cost of doing business, no more than how the supermarket has to eat up the cost of all processing fees whenever people buy groceries with their debit or credit card.

    Stop trying to pass the buck. Or maybe Supervisor Molina has another agenda like using tacking on those extra $1 fees to everyone so she could pocket all the money for herself!

    Never trust a politician. The three senators booted off the CA State Senate for bribery, voter fraud, and illegal arms trafficking should be a good warning to never trust a politician, no matter what their position is.

  3. I have yet to sign up for Express Lanes because of the possibility that the $3 fee would be reinstated. A $1 monthly fee would ensure that I would never sign up, ever.

  4. Besides, where is Supervisor Molina getting her figures from that annual revenues of the ExpressLanes is $16 million?

    ZevWeb reported last October that the ExpressLanes had already generated $20 MILLION BY LAST OCTOBER:

    http://zev.lacounty.gov/news/transportation/car/as-toll-roads-thrive-fee-still-nixed

    “By the end of last month, the ExpressLanes already had generated more than $20 million in gross revenues, well ahead of the $18 million to $20 million anticipated by the project’s conclusion.”

    It’s doing a lot better than $16 million. It reached $20 million by last October. If that was last October, what’s the total revenue ExpressLanes has recovered so far to the end of the pilot phase?

  5. Glad to read Metro is considering extending the Express Lanes. Hopefully, once the 405 Supervia Pass project is complete Metro will consider turning the 405 Fwy carpool lanes into Express Lanes. The 405 FWY Express Lanes should go from the 101 to the 605.

  6. The Metro staff report says “the current tolling operation has generated more than $34 million in gross toll revenues during the pilot period (November 2012 — February 2014)” (page 6 of the linked Metro staff report pdf).

    Metro even admits in the same financial impact section that “continuation of the toll operations does not require an ongoing public subsidy.”

    Why on earth would Molina would even file a motion to risk all the money that the ExpressLanes is generating by charging every transponder user a $1 monthly fee? How does this make any sense? The ExpressLanes has proven itself that it’s a huge money maker for a cash strapped agency like Metro. It charges drivers fairly by how far they travel, it comes with no strings attached like bogus maintenance fees, and it’s generated $34 million a year in the first year alone, in a trial phase for that matter, far greater than anyone anticipated!

    We don’t need any more stupid government studies on this matter.

    The Board members should stop dilly-dallying and just make the waiver permanent. No fees, period. Zip, zilch, nada. Forever. Never talk about this idea again.

    And now expand the ExpressLanes idea to every single HOV lane in the region. Start with the 405.

    Is this so hard to figure out?

  7. Metro also has a public comments summary from the ExpressLanes public input they’ve done so far:

    http://media.metro.net/projects_studies/expresslanes/images/public_reports_comments_log_04-2014.pdf

    http://media.metro.net/projects_studies/expresslanes/images/public_reports_hearing_transcripts.pdf

    In those pdfs, if you do a search of the keywords “maintenance fee,” you can see that there are numerous comments all over the two pdf files that many are generally in support of the ExpressLanes project provided that Metro gets rid of the maintenance fee.

    I think the people have spoken clearly about the maintenance fee subject matter. If you want to make ExpressLanes a success, get rid of it pronto.

  8. Keeping the usage fee on people who don’t use the Express Lanes that month means that these occasional users are encouraged to drive in the toll lanes more; otherwise, they lose a bit of change. That’s good reinforcement to use this system. Keep it the way it is.

  9. If any maintenance fee comes back, even a $1, I’m cancelling my transponder. It’s either waive the fee and keep making money for years to come or re-instate the maintenance fee and lose out on millions in guaranteed revenue from those who decide to cancel the transponder because we refuse to pay a single dime for unfair, unjust and unsubstantiated fees.

    As one of the poster above said, stop trying to pass these fees off to the users. The Metro staff report says Metro has made over $30 million a year from the pilot phase, more than double what was originally estimated. You have to pay Xerox certain amounts of money per every FasTrak account? That’s you’re problem that you signed up for whatever contract you had with Xerox. You’re the ones who signed it, you deal with it, so suck it up!

  10. Gee Steve – Couldn’t you find one damning thing to say about the Express Lanes. Seems thing to be all hunky dorey from your description. Why no mention of the known unpopularity of the lanes and the argument that these lanes were stolen from previous tax-funded measures?

  11. This failed program has inconvenienced thousands of drivers for the benefit of a few solo drivers able and willing to pay for use of carpool lanes. Even weekend traffic on the 110 is stalled as multi-occupant cars sit in the general lanes while the express lanes are virtually empty. Please vote to stop this program!

  12. How about some provision for people who only use the lanes once in a while. I use them maybe 5-10 times a year, and almost always there are several people in the car, so there’s no toll. I should pay a dollar a month for that? The San Diego Express lanes allow carpools in at all times, and they don’t require a transponder if you have two or more people. How hard could it be to do the same here?