Board OKs motion asking for study of carpool lane occupancies and ExpressLanes expansion

This motion approved today by the Metro Board is only asking for a study. But the topics are certainly noteworthy to many of us: how many people should be in cars that are allowed to use carpool (HOV) lanes in Los Angeles County and where might it make sense to improve and/or add tolled carpool lanes (i.e. ExpressLanes).

I can’t emphasize enough that this is only a study. It doesn’t change anything. But given our region’s endemic traffic and likely population growth, these are always topics of interest.

Here is the text of the motion:

MOTION BY FASANA, DUPONT-WALKER, HAHN AND SOLIS AS AMENDED BY BOWEN on ITEM 5 that the Board direct the CEO to: A.

Explore options to improve existing High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes in Los Angeles County, including:

1. Conduct a Performance Impact Study to explore raising the minimum occupancy requirement, where justified, from two-person to three-person for HOV lanes in LA County, in particular on the HOV corridors that are considered degraded;

2. Coordinate with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to evaluate any safety and compliance impacts from raising the minimum occupancy requirement;

3. TDM strategies; mode shift incentives; dynamic work hours; Active Traffic Management and ITS B. Explore options to expand and improve ExpressLanes, including but not limited to the following:

1. Develop an acceleration strategy for constructing first- and second-tier projects outlined in the MTA Countywide ExpressLanes Strategic Plan;

2. Collaborate between Los Angeles and Orange Counties on a region-wide approach to delivering ExpressLanes projects;

3. Coordinate with Caltrans on an I-105 ExpressLanes advance improvement project to update and improve lane configuration to discourage car weaving on I-105 between I-405 and I-605;

4. Report back on congestion demand management strategies on degraded general purpose lanes in Los Angeles County, including but not limited to pricing;

5. Report back on a process and implementation plan to ensure exempt vehicles pay their fair share of ExpressLanes costs;

6. Report back on status of program that will identify and deter scofflaws in the ExpressLanes, including individuals who set the transponder to HOV while driving alone;

7. Recommend options to use toll revenue on existing facilities to advance the above studies;

Categories: Policy & Funding

24 replies

    • I Live the idea of expanding express lanes. They make sense. aside form funding road improvements we should also try to expand transit with proceeds not indefinitely but as needed. Money should NEVER go outside of transportation though.

  1. Also perhaps it’s time to get some state action on removing the decal-authorized ‘clean air’ single-occupant vehicles from HOV lanes since a fairly high percentage of car owners in LA qualify for and/or have these, which reduces the benefit for carpoolers, and thus reduces the incentive to actually carpool.

    • I completely agree with no longer allowing ‘clean air’ single-occupant vehicles in the HOV lanes. These vehicles are already clean emission so having them sit in regular lane traffic has no negative environmental consequences. 2+ persons should be allowed HOV lane access like any other carpool, or single person pay-to-use with Fast Track.

  2. There is a simple strategy to employ; one which should have been in place and strictly enforced since car pool lanes were introduced in California. Define a “car pool” as a vehicle with two or more LICENSED DRIVERS. A licensed driver will be most likely to have his or her own car. If they are sharing a ride with another licensed driver, that insures there will be one less vehicle on the road. A parent driving one or more children (not licensed drivers) to an event DOES NOT remove a vehicle from the road, and should not be allowed in the car pool lane.

    • Except how can you practically provide proof of this on the exterior of the vehicle, such that a CHP officer can see how many licensed drivers are in the car as it passes by a the promised 45 MPH or higher?

      Giant Driver’s License replicas attached to the rear bumper?

      Will I not be able to use the HOV when transporting visitors to and from a location we’d like to get to if they do not hold California Driver’s Licenses?

  3. I could not agree with J L more! This has been my complaint ever since SOV hybrids were allowed to use the HOV lanes. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is the major contribution to congestion in the HOV lanes. On most freeways, the HOV lanes move no faster than the GP lanes during peak times (the 405 and 210 are especially bad).

    The proposal to make some lanes HOV3 is not the right solution because it will force a large number of vehicles out of the HOV lanes and may generate a political backlash to prohibit HOV lanes altogether, as happened in the 1970s experiment with HOV3 lanes on the Santa Monica Fwy.

    On freeways where HOV congestion is recurring, a second lane should added and the two HOV lanes should be converted to Express Lanes. Priorities should be the 405 (between the 101 and 105), 210 (east of the 134), 105, and 57 (coordinate with OCTA).

    • Correct. Everyone could see from a mile away that this abuse would occur. Nearly a third of the cars are scofflaws.

      • Even more! Metro ought to release the data on how many vehicles travel for free because they are using the paper “Dealer Plates” and are therefore undetectable by the license plate readers in the Express Lanes. I am guessing the 30% number rises to 40% or higher if they are included.

  4. I’ve long been frustrated that there is no enforcement of more than one person in HOV lane cars (nor of illegal and dangerous crossing of the double line between access points). Simple enforcement could make a material difference in HOV lane congestion.

  5. Please Stop giving free toll for express lanes drivers. Seriously, many drivers are dishonest and often cheat the toll while driving alone. Also the express lanes are getting more and more crowded recently, including slow down and even stopped traffic occurring every rush hour. Metro should increase the toll (from currently $0.30-$1.25 to $1.75-$3.5 per mile) and force every single driver to pay the same toll to use it. If the traffic do not improve, it should increase it every year or quarter. The main solution to solve traffic is to force people give up their car and use rideshare/ transit/ carpool in order to reduce the amount of vehicle on the streets and freeways. Meanwhile, Metro, Foothill transit and other multiple transit agencies should improve their commuter express services. I believe if driving becomes more costly than using transit, people will eventually use more transit services.

    • You are completely right on! We have a road network that can be expanded, but the number of vehicles continues to increase. The only reasonable way to prevent this is to put a accurate value on the road space. If we did this, then there would be a substantial shift to van/shuttle/bus services as they would be able to move around on uncongested roads.

    • I agree, especially on the El Monte Busway which was meant to be a Bus-Only Facility before being usurped by the Car Culture for use as first an HOV and now an HOT.

  6. Once again the bogus toll-road project continues to ignore the rationale for the project’s existence in the first place while, at the same time, proving what many of us feared all along would come to pass: that the plan was nothing more than the beginning of an extensive, expensive toll-road system, regardless of traffic benefits.

    It’s important to note that these roads (110 Fwy from the I-105 to south of downtown and the El Monte Busway) had already been constructed as HOV lanes. The proposal to convert them to toll roads was designed to increase the traffic flow on adjacent freeway lanes, and we were promised studies to validate the results before the project moved from “test phase” to permanent. Either no studies were performed or the results were buried because, of course, traffic flow on the freeway lanes has not improved at all. The other promised benefit, a new bus terminal adjacent to the Gold Line tracks at Union Station, seems to have evaporated, as it doesn’t even show up in the list of Metro Transit Projects.

    Many of us who expressed profound skepticism about this project also predicted that all it would do is create so-called “Lexus Lanes” — lanes only available for those who can afford to pay the tolls. Now Metro will “study,” among other things, whether to increase the number of carpool occupants from two to three people; “report back on congestion demand management strategies on degraded general purpose lanes in Los Angeles County, including but not limited to pricing;” (whatever that last phrase means); and “collaborate between Los Angeles and Orange Counties on a region-wide approach to delivering Express Lanes projects.”

    What this means, of course, is finding more ways to extract more money from drivers without any indication that the original concepts are been met (which, of course, they have not).

    As to the issue of “status of program that will identify and deter scofflaws in the ExpressLanes, including individuals who set the transponder to HOV while driving alone” — nothing has changed from the time that HOV lanes were first implemented. Until there are traffic police in HOV lanes checking rigorously on this issue, little — if anything — will change. As with the issue of gates on MetroRail stations, expensive technology can only do so much to cut down on scofflaws. It takes people to police people.

  7. The Lexus lanes have just made traffic worse for everyone. On the 10 fwy, make one lane HOV and give back the other lane to regular traffic.

  8. Data collected on the oldest SoCal facility, the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County, have consistently shown that the number of people served in the corridor increases with more use of the Express Lanes and that the GP lanes have not suffered but have been improved compared to alternatives without the lanes. Also, the “Lexus Lane” argument holds no water whatsoever: data consistently shows that cars of all types and people of all income levels use the lanes. The lanes allow people to pay in money rather than in time. And, that money is used to fund improvements in transit and even the expansion of GP lanes in some cases.

    http://media.metro.net/projects_studies/expresslanes/images/fhwahop08040.pdf

    https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/congestionpricing/value_pricing/pubs_reports/projectreports/sr91_expresslanes.htm

    https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08040/fhwahop08040.pdf

    https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08040/cp_prim5_04.htm — excerpt below:

    Annual household income of SR-91 peak-period travelers in 1999.
    21% earned >$100K.
    37% earned $60-$100K
    23% earned $40-$60K
    19% earned <$40K,

    • I totally agree with you Mark. However, I don’t agree with Metro’s approach. Our road system starting exceeding max capacity years ago. Now we have way to much latent demand for road space then we could ever build our way out of. And Metro’s approach is to try to satisfy that latent demand instead of putting a hard cap of car use. Metro will only support building new lanes to existing freeways and tolling them to pay for the construction. I believe a better approach would be to start pricing/rationing the road space in order to cap the total number of cars allowed to circulate at any given period of time.

  9. The public has to wake up to the fact that we have a finite amount of road space, and more vehicles entering that space every day. Metro is trying to deal with that stark reality without causing a public revolution. The only solution is to fix the number of vehicles to what the roads were designed to accommodate. This would require the public to shift from being stuck in traffic in their single-passenger car, to ride-sharing on a fast moving van/shuttle/bus. The only way to make this shift happen is to congestion price all roads. This form of pricing will lead to the following:
    1) All vehicles including vans/shuttles/buses will move uncongested.
    2) Less single-ride Uber, more Uberpool, Ubervans, Ubershuttles
    3) A much larger network of private transit services.
    4) A lot more services that are on-demand.
    5) Frequent road-based transit service (under 5 minutes), and many more connections.
    6) Much greater incentive to move to automated vehicles/systems.