ExpressLanes on 10 and 110 freeways to be continued beyond next January

The Metro Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to continue the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways beyond January of 2015. The Board also voted to charge a $1 monthly maintenance fee on all ExpressLanes accounts to help cover costs of operating the lanes but chose to exempt those with equity accounts.

In order for the ExpressLanes to continue beyond January, a second step is required: a state bill that is pending in Sacramento (SB 1298) must also be approved.

The vote followed the release of a federal preliminary analysis this week that found that the ExpressLanes met many of their goals since initially launching on the 110 freeway in Nov. 2012 followed by the opening of the lanes on the 10 freeway in Feb. 2013. In particular, Metro officials noted that commuters who shifted from the general lanes on both freeways to the toll lanes enjoyed a speedier commute; users saw an average peak period travel time savings of 17.11 and 13.86 minutes on the 10 freeway and 12.80 and 7.81 minutes on the 110 for the morning and afternoon peak periods, respectively.

Ridership in the Silver Line — which uses the ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 — also increased 27 percent.

One item that generated discussion was the maintenance fee. When the ExpressLanes began, there was a $3 account maintenance fee for those who used the lanes three or fewer times each month. After complaints from customers that the fee served as deterrent to sign up for an account, the Metro Board decided to waive that fee last spring.

Still, Metro must pay its concessionaire $3 for each transponder issued. Metro Board Member Gloria Molina authored the motion calling for the $1 fee for all users as a way to regain $2.3 million of that cost, saying she wants to see as much of the money generated by tolls (about $18 to $20 million during the pilot period, twice what was expected) to be reinvested into transportation improvements in the 10 and 110 corridors.

Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky said he was against the $1 fee but said it was an improvement on the $3 fee.

Metro officials say that they anticipate improving marketing, outreach, education and enforcement efforts along the ExpressLanes. Most of those who testified publicly asked the Board to extend the ExpressLanes program. Several Board Member also said that they are interested in expanding the toll lanes to other freeways in the future, although the only plans on the table are for eight miles of toll lanes in the Santa Clarita Valley on the 5 freeway.

In order to use the ExpressLanes, all users must have a transponder. To learn more about opening an account, please visit the ExpressLanes homepage.

The news release from Metro is after the jump.

The news release:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board today approved the continuation of the Metro ExpressLanes along the I-110 and I-10 freeways following a successful one-year demonstration period that concluded in February 2014.

In partnership with Caltrans, Metro serves as the lead agency for the 110 and 10 ExpressLanes program. February 23, 2014 marked the completion of the federal grant requirement of 12 months of concurrent toll operation of the Metro ExpressLanes. The pilot program converted the existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on portions of the 110 and 10 freeways.

Preliminary evaluation of the Metro ExpressLanes pilot program by an outside independent firm retained by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that the ExpressLanes are accomplishing many of their goals and objectives.

Their analysis shows that while there was some degradation in travel times and travel speed performance during the initial start-up period along both corridors, there has been an upward trend in travel time reductions and increases in speed as the one-year program progressed.

The full report noted users receiving the greatest potential benefit from the ExpressLanes are single-occupant vehicle drivers that did not meet the HOV occupancy requirements in the pre-deployment period, but can now pay a toll to ride in the ExpressLanes. According to the congestion analysis, these users saw an average peak period travel time savings of 17.11 and 13.86 minutes on the I-10 and 12.80 and 7.81 minutes on the I-110 for the morning and afternoon peak periods, respectively.

FHWA evaluation showed that peak hour vehicle throughput in the ExpressLanes increased in the post-deployment period and transit ridership increased by 15 percent in the post deployment period. In addition, transit riders, general purpose lane users, and HOV users who remained in the same user group from pre-deployment to post-deployment of the ExpressLanes experienced no major changes.

In terms of congestion reduction, travel times decreased in the morning peak period for the I-10 ExpressLanes and the I-10 general purpose lanes in the morning, the most congested time of the day. The general purpose lanes in the evening peak periods showed an increase of travel time due to the new construction of the HOV lanes in the eastbound direction.

On the I-110 ExpressLanes, travel times increased in the morning peak period and marginally decreased in the general purpose lanes. The general purpose lanes in the evening peak period show an increase of travel time, however, the trend shows a continued decline from the initial deployment period.

Ridership on the Metro Silver Line buses that took advantage of the ExpressLanes along both corridors increased 27 percent after new service was added with an additional 15 percent increase post-tolling. Bus travel times on both the 10 and 110 ExpressLanes improved during the morning peak period and there were a total of 117 new vanpools created during the one-year period surpassing the goal of 100 new vanpools.

Average ExpressLanes travel speeds during peak periods along both corridors remained above 45 miles-per-hour at least 90 percent of the time during the pilot period. In addition, public acceptance of the program was high with a total of 259,524 transponders issued by Metro during the pilot period exceeding the agency’s goal of 100,000 transponders issued.

The report also noted that more than $18 million in net toll revenues were generated, exceeding the initial forecast of $8 million to $10 million. This indicator of sustainability ensures that the toll operation does not require an ongoing public subsidy.

Metro’s introduction of the first of its kind discount for low-income commuters was noted, with the enrollment of more than 4,000 Los Angeles County households in the Equity Plan and more than $100,000 in toll credits issued.

Metro ExpressLanes opened along the I-110 Harbor Freeway in November 2012 between Adams Boulevard and the State Route 91 Freeway and on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 Freeway in February 2013 as part of a one year pilot Congestion Reduction Demonstration Project funded by a $210 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Under Metro’s ExpressLanes program, the minimum toll per mile is $0.25 and the maximum toll per mile is $1.40. The general purpose lanes are not tolled. Carpools, vanpools, publically and privately operated buses, and motorcycles travel toll-free. The goal of the program is to leverage pricing for sustainable change that creates travel time savings, increases trip reliability, creates cost savings, and improves air quality.

Now that the federal demonstration period is complete, the Metro Board approved continuation of the Metro ExpressLanes beyond the current tolling authority expiration date of January 15, 2015. Metro is currently supporting legislation in Sacramento that will extend its tolling authority beyond that date.

For additional information in the Metro ExpressLanes program, visit metro.net/expresslanes.

9 replies

  1. “Still, Metro must pay its concessionaire $3 for each transponder issued.”

    Metro has to pay electricity for those digital signs on the MetroExpress Lanes too. Is there going to be an electricity recovery fee? Or how about those cameras? Will there be a camera maintenance fee? CHP officers write up tickets for those who use the lanes illegally. I take there will be a CHP outsourcing fee in the future as well? That’s where this is leading to – more BS fees for everything “because we have to recuperate the cost.”

    Stop nickel and diming us like banks. One dollar fee per month for all account holders is basically another way of levying a hidden tax when these are just cost of doing business.

    Molina has just jeopardized the success of the ExpressLanes because of her motion. It was making over $34 million dollars, double what was expected, now she is risking everything that the ExpressLanes has made so she can recover $2.3 million.

    Let’s see how she likes it when the ExpressLanes revenue drops because of the mass return of the transponders because the people will not stand for unjust fees. I’m returning my transponder this weekend and if they ask a reason why I’m returning it,n, I’ll say it’s because of the Molina tax!

  2. The fee makes sense, but only if as many HOV lanes as possible around the county are converted to ExpressLanes. That said, if this is going to be a long-term thing, Metro should seriously consider bringing transponder operations in-house to avoid situations like this. Or design the contract better – say, giving the transponder operator a share of tolls rather than a flat fee, so they have an incentive to get as many people as possible using the lanes.

  3. How to return your transponder
    https://www.metroexpresslanes.net/en/faq/fastrak.shtml

    How do I return my transponder(s)?
    Transponder(s) can be returned by mail to the Metro ExpressLanes Customer Service Center or returned in person at one of our walk in centers. Please provide your name, contact phone number/email and Metro ExpressLanes account number when you return the transponder. If your transponder was issued by a toll operator other than the Metro ExpressLanes, please return your transponder to the Agency indicated on the transponder.

    Place to return transponder:
    Harbor Gateway FasTrak Walk In Center
    500 West 190th Street
    Gardena, CA 90248
    Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-1pm

    El Monte FasTrak Walk In Center
    3501 Santa Anita Avenue
    El Monte, CA 91731
    Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-1pm

    Mail it in:
    Metro ExpressLanes Customer Service Center
    PO Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247

    When you return it, do it fast because as soon as this news breaks out, there will be a long lines of people who refuse to let government set stupid fees without any valid or good reason other than we have to “pay its concessionaire $3 for each transponder issued.” Metro’s the one that signed the contract so it’s Metro’s problem to deal with, not the taxpayers. If they don’t like it, move ExpressLanes operations in-house.

  4. This is great news! The increase in the Silver Line ridership and the additional 117 new Vanpools makes the ExpressLanes a worthy project. When will the 405 get its ExpressLanes. The money earned could go toward the Sepulveda Pass tunnel and/or the light rail project from the Valley to LAX..

  5. Metro has shown time and time again that they are incapable of conducting business or making good contracts.

    I paid for the transponder.
    I pay tolls whenever I want to use the ExpressLanes.

    Now why should there be any sort of “maintenance fee” for the sake of deducting money from my ExpressLanes account?

    Besides, where did Metro even get this “it’s costing us $3 per account to pay a third party company to run ExpressLanes” figure from in the first place?

    Is it going to cost $3 per account to run a computer server? Or is it based on amount of electrical power that is used by the server CPUs everytime there’s a transaction made? And precisely how many accounts did they base it on to rationalize the $3 fee? If the initial idea was based on 100,000 transponders but they signed up 2.5 times more than that, shouldn’t then the price per account go down by economies of scale?

    I’m with everyone else here. Any notion of “maintenance fee” is only a gateway to more nonsensical fees to steal from the taxpayers. Besides, as the Metro fare hike has shown, there’s no guarantee that the maintenance fee is going to remain at $1 either. They can raise the fee whenever they feel like it.

    Bye-bye Metro. Hope you like all those transponders in your warehouse that gets returned and the being stuck with the bill for the ExpressLanes that no one will use, all for the sake of being cheapskates to tack on $1 to everyone.

    You gotta learn that there’s a limit to passing the buck to the people and there are things that you have to suck up as a cost of doing business.

  6. When will Metro update the Metro ExpressLanes website to note that the $1 maintenance fee will now be levied to all FasTrak accounts?

    https://www.metroexpresslanes.net/en/home/index.shtml

    Nothing there as of today at 3:00 PM about this, only a word that says “Attention L.A. County Residents, the monthly account maintenance fee is waived until April 30th, 2014.”

    No mention that the fee waiver is eliminated, the $3 fee if you don’t use it 4 times a month is gone but instead it’s now going to cost $1 fee every month to every transponder user with no exceptions.

    Or are you planning to sneak this up onto everyone when they get their bill?

  7. It must be really easy to be a politician or bureaucrat to come up with arbitrary fees for everything.

    So there’s a maintenance fee for ExpressLanes because Metro has to pay Xerox $3 per account.

    Let me think of other ways to rape taxpayers:

    1. Metro labor union benefits surcharge

    2. Freeway roadside assistance recovery fee because it costs money to send out Metro trucks to cars that breakdown to maintain those freeways

    3. City of Los Angeles tourism assessment charge because those who come visit LA all must use the freeway somehow to get to the interesting sights all over LA

    4. It costs money to run the bathrooms at Metro HQ for Metro employees to use so we’ll tack on a Metro water bill excise fee to ExpressLanes users

    5. Oh I know, how about passing along environmental fees to people who breathe air in California because the air quality regulations are maintained by the State of CA’s tough smog inspection regulations, and it costs money to run the servers at the DMV for smog inspection data so we need to place a fee to run those servers too.

    6. Metro has to buy tires for their buses, maybe we can pass along tire replacement costs to taxpayers too somehow? We can relate it to the ExpressLanes because of the increased passengers on the Silver Line, which add to more weight to the buses, therefore causes more strain on the tires of those buses!

    See, I can become a politician or bureaucrat easily. Now can you give me a six figure income for being one, from taxpayer dollars of course?

  8. Just one of the many fees to come. This is the government. All they know how to do is tax us. Our taxes paid for the carpool lanes. Now they waste so much money they need to tax us some more. Looking at taxing the carpoolers going home to Santa Clarita on those newly complete carpool lanes. Soon all freeways will become tollroads. $210 million to start this program pilot. It will take over 10 years to pay out. This was never a pilot. Metro would never have cancelled it. Now they are encouraging single riders, more smog. $210 million to save a couple minutes. Life changing.