How We Roll, Feb. 25: Metro responds to ExpressLanes editorial

Metro sent the following letter to the Daily News about their recent editorial on the Metro ExpressLanes:

A recent editorial citing problems on the Metro ExpressLanes paints a distorted picture of the success of the toll lanes. To date, more than 520,000 transponders have been issued for the Metro ExpressLanes operating on both the Harbor Freeway and the San Bernardino Freeway. If anything, we are a victim of our own success.

Carpools could always use the lanes toll free and since the implementation of the ExpressLanes, more than 100 new van pools have been created to take advantage of the lanes. Equally important to note is the increase of bus usage, particularly as seen with the growing ridership on the Metro Silver Line which operates on the ExpressLanes saving commuters time and money in the daily commutes.

Based on data from the Caltrans system, the ExpressLanes speeds are consistently higher than speeds on the general purpose lanes which explains the growing usage of the ExpressLanes. As we strive to maintain a 45 MPH speed on the lanes, in recent months, we have noticed that speeds, during morning peak periods on the north bound Harbor Freeway ExpressLanes has bogged down.

The beauty of the system is the ability to close those lanes to solo drivers until speeds pick back up. Additional CHP enforcement has been implemented to enforce the rules of using the ExpressLanes, with motorist violating those rules subject to a fine of up to $400.

The net revenue generated by tolls paid is used for transportation improvements along the corridors of the ExpressLanes. We are changing commuter behavior by providing a choice to commuters. The Metro ExpressLanes offer us the ability to monitor the infrastructure and better manage it.

ExpressLanes are just one tool in the transportation tool box to keep the region moving. With price adjustments to encourage solo drivers to perhaps use the lanes in non-peak periods and constant monitoring and enforcement, ExpressLanes are providing the needed mechanism of easing traffic for all drivers and transit users.

From the Dept. of Transit Oriented Hockey: 

How are you getting to the @lakings game? #GoMetro Exit Blue/Expo Pico Station to get to STAPLES Center!

A video posted by Metro (@metrolosangeles) on

The Kings are clinging to a two-point lead over the Ducks and the hideous, awful Duck uniforms. The trading deadline is Monday — will be interesting to see if the Kings make a move. My vote: stand pat or don’t give up too much for a rental player.

Source readers are smart and savvy about commute times: I asked readers yesterday to guess how long it took me to drive from Santa Monica to Pasadena during the afternoon rush hour on Tuesday. I’m impressed that 57 percent knew that 1 hour, 38 minutes sounded suspiciously fast and three hours seemed a little tall-talesish even by L.A. standards. If not for a beer league hockey game Tuesday evening, the HH option was very, very close to happening.


California lowers gas tax (The Hill) 

The Board of Equalization voted 3-2 on Wednesday to lower the gas tax 2.2 cents per gallon, from 30 cents to 27.8 cent. Not a huge cut, but perhaps reflective of the fact that gas prices in California are higher than much of the rest of the nation due to the special blend of gasoline used here (to combat smog).

Current national average according to AAA: $1.71.

Current California average: $2.30.

Current Texas average: $1.51. Holy longhorn.

Expo Line or Tan Line? (AHBE Lab) 

With the arrival of the Expo Line in Santa Monica this spring — exact date to be announced later today — this post argues that the teal color of the Expo Line on maps and signage is too similar to the blue color used for the Expo Line. Tan would be a better choice given that tan is associated with the beach.

Not going to happen, people. Keep in mind that the names and colors of Metro Rail lines will get some type of overhaul after the Regional Connector project is finished. The reason: the Connector will tie together the Blue, Expo and Gold lines in downtown Los Angeles.

The result: one light rail will run from Santa Monica to East Los Angeles. The other light rail line will run from Azusa to Long Beach. As a result, the current color scheme won’t work.

Attentive readers know that Metro released a proposal last year for renaming and recoloring the lines last year, but no action has been taken thus far, given that we’re still a few years from the Connector being finished.

New Metro CEO talks transportation with Patt Morrison (KPCC AirTalk) 

Among the topics discussed with Metro’s Phil Washington: ridership (shocker!), cell/wifi service in the subway and the staff proposal for a pilot parking fee program at nine Metro Rail stations.

Long Beach voters to consider sales tax, bond measure (Press Telegram) 

It’s official: the June ballot in L.B. will include a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for infrastructure and police and an $850-million bond measure. That could make things interesting for other ballot measures.

Lots more development near transit (Urbanize LA)

This new building proposed for 7th Street on the west side of the 110 Freeway, about a half-mile from 7th/Metro Center.

This new building proposed for 7th Street on the west side of the 110 Freeway, about a half-mile from 7th/Metro Center.

Instead of pointing to any particular post, I’ll just say check out the Urbanize LA home page — most of the projects on the front page are near the Metro Rail network, with new buildings planned for South Park, City West (i.e. the west side of the 110 freeway in DTLA, MacArthur Park and Hollywood.

The most elusive piece of land in Los Angeles (Curbed LA)

A view of the Piggyback Yards from Source World HQ last year. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A view of the Piggyback Yards from Source World HQ last year. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The post summarizes an L.A. Business Journal article which is behind a pay wall. The gist of it: although many people desire the sprawling Union Pacific Piggyback rail yards east of the L.A. River in DTLA, the UP is in no hurry to sell until they get a good price and a suitable replacement location.

The second demand strikes me as the more difficult part given there aren’t huge tracts of land left near UP tracks in So Cal for this sort of facility. That said, it’s pretty easy to imagine other uses of the current years, given that the new Los Angeles Historic Park sits across the L.A. River and the yards aren’t impossibly far from Union Station — the region’s transit hub.

Recent How We Rolls: 

Feb. 24: how long does it take to drive from Santa Monica to Pasadena during the afternoon rush hour?

Feb. 23: how many readers have used ride-hailing to get to and from Metro stations? And, a new bike path to connect the Duarte/City of Hope station to the San Gabriel River Bikeway.

Feb. 22: another L.A. rail dreams map, sales tax increase proposal in Long Beach.

Feb. 19: is there funding to get the bullet train to either Nor Cal or So Cal?

Feb. 18: of density, traffic and transit in Los Angeles and elsewhere.



8 replies

  1. Toll lanes are the way to reduce traffic. Duh, make driving more expensive and people drive less. Problem is, when most people say they want less traffic what they really mean is they want other people to drive less so it’s easier for them to drive 😉

  2. It seems to me that we taxpayers are being asked by METRO to rely more on Caltrans than the Daily News. However, I for one think Caltrans has a bigger stake in the Lexus Lanes than the Daily News has in selling papers on just this one story. How about METRO being open to an investigation on the issue by a neutral party? The days of the taxpayers trusting, in a knee-jerk fashion, any governmental body with the truth are long past. That’s the message Donald Trump is running on, like him or not.

  3. The current color scheme will work just fine after the Regional Connector:

    Blue – Long Beach-Azusa
    Gold – Santa Monica-East L.A.

  4. Before coming to Metro I had the pleasure of being a consultant for ELP Advisors working on the possible redevelopment of Piggyback Yard.

    I completely agree Steve that the price of the parcel would be steep, but the biggest costs/obstacles would be the relocation of UP and the soil remediation necessary for land that has seen a century of industrial use. That being said, I still look forward to a day where that parcel might be used for park space, mixed-income housing, and live/work space for the Cleantech Corridor.

    On a side note, if you have never been to the Brewery Artwalk just north of the parcel, I could not recommend it enough. The next one is held April 2-3 and the 76 bus will drop you off right at the entrance.

    Matthew Kridler
    Metro Research

  5. As someone who correctly sets the indicator on my transponder the lack of visible enforcement of the “self-declaration” switch is disconcerting. The first few months, I would occasionally see a CHP vehicle parked in the shoulder westbound on I-10 at Baldwin, or on the one lane section west of I-710. I haven’t seen them in months, and I drive the corridor several times each week. Sure the camera will ticket you if you don’t have a transponder, but if you have a transponder and just set it to 3 you can drive toll free until you get a ticket. With tolls of $15 there is incentive to cheat occasionally.

    Ideally you would have some sort of high tech solution like infrared cameras or similar to detect an additional body in the vehicle, since it is also very difficult to enforce these lanes in the dark.

  6. As a sliver line passengers, I really disappointed that expresslanes are being crowded during rush hours. Inexpensive toll and insufficient restrictions make drivers abuse the expresslanes, and eventually slow down the average of travel speed on it. I strongly suggest Metro to enhance the toll by at least 50% and restrictions to encourage drivers using transit services instead of driving along the freeway. If Metro keep conniving drivers using toll lanes, buses and vehicles will stuck together on freeway as well as commuters would consider to drive more since express buses cannot help them save time to travel. Another thing is to increase the penalty from $15 to $100 or more for drivers who cheats illegally while they use the expresslanes, as well as confiscate trucks transponder since they are not permitted to use toll lanes. One time I experienced that the bus used emergency break on expresslanes because the idiot truck driver drove too close to my bus.