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-110and 1-10) showed a 27 percent increase in monthly hoardings after the new service was added with an additional 15 percent increase post-tolling. Whens surveyed, a third of new riders said they drove alone prior to the increased services and 48 percent of riders agreed that tolling has improves 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.

 

4.4 miles of new carpool lanes officially opened on 10 freeway between 605 and Puente Ave.

Caltrans and Metro on Thursday morning officially dedicated 2.2 miles of HOV lanes in both directions on the 10 freeway between the 605 freeway and Puente Avenue in Baldwin Park.

The lanes cost $180 million.

“As the transportation funding authority for Los Angeles County, Metro programmed $192 million for completion of this first of three segments of the I-10 carpool lanes,” said Diane DuBois, the chair of Metro’s Board of Directors. “We are pleased Caltrans delivered this project under the programmed budget. Metro also has programmed the funds for the remaining two HOV lane segments for a total of $560 million.”

The project is the first of three segments that will provide one continuous carpool lane on the 10 freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the boundary with San Bernardino County.

Here is the most recent version of Caltrans’ map showing HOV lanes in Los Angeles County:

LA County HOV System Status 09_2012

 

Metro releases latest report with preliminary data on ExpressLanes’ performance on 10 and 110 freeways

ExpressLanes Performance Update-Prelim Report, July 2013

The Metro ExpressLanes pilot project publicly released its second performance report Monday morning, offering a statistical look at how the project is faring on the 10 and 110 freeways. This is a follow-up to the first report, released in March.

I’ll offer the same caveat we did in March: Metro and Caltrans officials stress that the data is preliminary and subject to change. The U.S. Department of Transportation has hired the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit research firm, to conduct a full and thorough evaluation of the ExpressLanes and their overall effectiveness after they’ve been opened at least one year.

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.

A few highlights from the new Metro report:

•In April, the average speed in the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway was 64 mph during the weekday morning peak commute between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. The average speed in the ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway was 65 mph.

•In April, the average speed of the general lanes on the 110 was 48.3 mph during the same morning peak commute. In April 2012 before the ExpressLanes opened, the average speed was 48.4 mph. The average speed of the general lanes on the 10 freeway was 51.6 mph between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.; the average speed for the general lanes before the ExpressLanes opened is still being evaluated.

•Average work week trips were 57,256 on the 110 ExpressLanes in late April, exceeding the average volume of about 54,000 trips before the ExpressLanes opened. On the 10, the average work week trips were 24,613 at the end of April. That’s 88 percent below the pre-opening average volume of 28,000 but Metro expects the number of trips in the ExpressLanes to continue rising and exceed the pre-opening volumes sometime later this year.

•On the 110, 59 percent of those using the ExpressLanes are carpoolers and 41 percent are solo drivers. On the 10, users are 57 percent carpoolers and 43 percent solo drivers.

•There were 152,787 FasTrak transponders issued through the end of April.  As of June, the number has grown to 180,901. Some of those transponders are being used in multiple vehicles.

•Account holders by house income bracket are evenly distributed: 8.5 percent make less than $35,000, 19.9 percent make $35,000 to $49,000, 35.6 percent make $50,000 to $74,999, 21.3 percent make $75,000 to $99,000, 12.2 percent make $100,000 to $149,999 and 2.4 percent make over $150,000. In other words, it’s pretty much a bell curve and suggests the notion that the ExpressLanes are “Lexus Lanes” — i.e. only used by those with very high incomes — is not correct.

•Transit ridership on the bus routes using the 110 freeway was 14,137 boardings in April 2013. In April 2012– it was 12,920. In addition, there have been 58 new vanpools formed to use both corridors.

For those interested in getting a transponder in order to use the ExpressLanes, please click here. Through Labor Day, tolls during non-peak hours have been lowered to as low as 15 cents per mile, 10 cents lower than the usual base toll of 25 cents per mile.

Any thoughts on the ExpressLanes, Source readers? Please feel free to comment — and please keep comments brief and to the point so that other readers will actually read them!

One mile of new traffic lane added to the 405 project

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New traffic lane on I-405. Photo credit: Ned Racine

Metro, Caltrans and Kiewit have opened another one-mile section of new freeway lane on the I-405 between Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, making good on a promise to continue opening parts of the freeway improvements project as soon as they’re ready for public use.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, the project opened a 1.7-mile section of additional lane between the I-10 and Santa Monica Boulevard to help ease traffic flows for drivers navigating through the I-10/I-405 interchange. See this earlier Source post for details.

This latest lane opening now officially extends nearly three (3) miles – one-third of the overall 10-mile freeway widening project. The No. 1 lane closest to the freeway median will continue to operate as a general purpose lane until the contractor can later convert it to an HOV lane.

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Reminder: why Election Day matters in Los Angeles if you care about transportation

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Click above to find your polling place.

As you may have heard, there’s a runoff Tuesday in Los Angeles to elect the next mayor of the second-largest city in the nation — a city with about 3.8 million inhabitants and some well-known transportation challenges.

I ran the following post on March 4, the day before the primary election in Los Angeles. I’m running it again today as a reminder to vote in tomorrow’s mayoral election between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel because whichever succeeds Antonio Villaraigosa will likely have a hand in many important transportation decisions, including project acceleration, the future of congestion pricing projects, the construction of five rail projects and possible changes in Metro’s fare structure in the future.

Look up your polling place here.

Metro is a county agency and is overseen by a 13 member Board of Directors who serve as the deciders on most significant issues. The Mayor of Los Angeles gets a seat on that board and gets to fill three other seats with his appointees.

A majority of the Metro Board — i.e. seven votes — is required to approve most items. Four of those seven votes are controlled by the Los Angeles mayor. That means that the mayor controls more than half the votes needed to approve items that have impacts across Los Angeles County and the region.

Here are some items that are likely to confront the Metro Board in the next four or so years, meaning they’re items likely to confront the lucky soul (if luck is the right word) who becomes the next mayor of the City of Angels and/or Parking Lots:

•There is the not-so-tiny issue of whether to accelerate the building of Measure R projects and, if so, how best to pay for it and which transit and road projects are included. The next mayor may also choose to use their bully pulpit to persuade Congress to adopt the full America Fast Forward program, which would greatly expand funding for transportation projects.

•Although Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said there will be no changes to Metro’s fares in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, he also said it’s an issue that will likely have to be revisited sooner rather than later in order to help Metro keep up with its expenses.

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First preliminary report issued on performance of ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway

The ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway. Photo by Metro.

 

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.

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ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway: so far, so good

The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway opened early Saturday morning and thus far all has been going well. A few interesting stats:

•Speeds in the ExpressLanes through this morning’s commute remained above 45 miles per hour 100 percent of the time.

•The average toll to use the entire 14 miles of the ExpressLanes during peak periods has been $4.19. The maximum thus far was $5.15 for the westbound 605.

•Sixty-seven percent of the private vehicles that used the ExpressLanes during the Monday morning peak period were carpools with three or more occupants or two-person carpools. However, two-person carpools pay a toll during the peak period. So the ratio of toll-free to toll-payers was 52 percent HOV 3+ carpoolers to 48 percent single occupant vehicles and carpools with two people.

•The traffic volume in the ExpressLanes on the 10 on Monday morning was 99 percent of what it was on Monday, Feb. 4, the previous non-holiday Monday.

Remember, every vehicle that uses the ExpressLanes on the 10 or 110 freeway needs a FasTrak transponder — with the exception of buses and motorcycles with standard California license plates. You can order a transponder online by clicking here.

If you obtained a transponder through AAA, Costco or Albertson’s, click here to complete the registration process.

Officials hold event for ExpressLanes opening on 10 freeway tonight

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at this morning's event. At right is Duarte Councilman and Metro Board Member John Fasana, who served as M.C. for the event. From left that's Metro CEO Art Leahy, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez and Rep. Judy Chu. Also present for the event but not in this photo were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at this morning’s event. At right is Duarte Councilman and Metro Board Member John Fasana, who served as M.C. for the event. From left that’s Metro CEO Art Leahy, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez and Rep. Judy Chu. Also present for the event but not in this photo were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

A look at the soon-to-be ExpressLanes on the eastbound 10 freeway. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro.

A look at the soon-to-be ExpressLanes on the eastbound 10 freeway. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro.

With clear skies above and a sound weather forecast, everything looks like a go for the ExpressLanes on the I-10 to officially begin at 12:01 a.m. tonight.

Or to put it another way, if you want to use the lanes after midnight tonight, you need to have a transponder in your vehicle — unless you’re on a motorcycle with a standard California license plate. Many more details about the ExpressLanes can be found on our earlier post.

As for the press event today at El Monte Station, the many public officials on hand ran through those details and said repeatedly that they believe the new ExpressLanes will add capacity to the 10 freeway and speed up trips for motorists. Rep. Judy Chu pointed out the new lanes on the 10 will help carpoolers, transit users, single motorists who are willing to pay a toll and even those who would use the general lanes.

Perhaps the boldest prediction came from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “We’re going to take advantage of the fact that this region is willing to try new things,” he said. “…One day we’re going to have HOT lanes throughout the region.”

Obviously, the future is not written in stone and the ExpressLanes are a one-year experiment, largely funded by the federal government. As the year proceeds, Metro officials say they are going to keep tinkering with the program to give the ExpressLanes the best chance to succeed.

Countdown to I-10 Metro ExpressLanes: understanding the differences between the 10 and the 110 ExpressLanes

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The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway are scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, weather permitting. While the concept is the same as the existing ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway, there are some similarities and differences.

The big similarity: if you plan to use the lanes in a private vehicle (i.e., not a bus), you will need to have a FasTrak transponder. They can be obtained online at www.metroexpresslanes.net, through AAA or at Costco and Albertsons. If you get a transponder at AAA, Costco or Albertsons, please click here to complete the registration process.

ExpressLanes staff put together this handy list to help explain those differences:

•The 10 and the 110 corridors have different minimum occupancy requirements as a carpool lane that do not change for the conversion to ExpressLanes. The 110 allows vehicles with two or more people to travel toll-free 24/7; however the 10 allows three or more passengers to travel toll free 24/7.

Two person carpools using the 10 ExpressLanes pay a toll during rush hour (Monday through Friday 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m. -7:00 p.m.) but are not charged a toll during non-rush hour (Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m.to 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and weekends). The overhead electronic signs will make it clear when tolls for two person carpoolers are in effect.

•The average toll will likely be different due to the differences in length and space available to toll payers. The 10 is longer (14 miles from Alameda Street in downtown L.A. to the 605 freeway in El Monte) and the 110 is shorter (11 miles from Adams Boulevard in downtown L.A. to the 91 freeway).

Metro has also added a second ExpressLane on the 10 (between the 605 and the 710) to provide nine new miles in each direction; the 110 already had two lanes in each direction for eight of its 11 miles. This lane is added through re-striping and did not take away any general purpose lanes.

•The number of entry and exit points are different:  the 10 ExpressLanes has four entrance points westbound and three entrance points eastbound while the 110 ExpressLanes has four entrance points northbound and six entrance points southbound. The exit and entry points are shown on the above map.

Metro ExpressLanes is an exciting new endeavor. But like all new undertakings, it will take some time to become familiar with how it works, and it will take time before we experience the full benefits and rewards of this new traffic flow improvement project. We expect to see traffic flow enhancements and congestion reduction as the project progresses over time along with some immediate advantages such as new and more frequent transit service. Participant-adoption, and on-going feedback as a vital partner in this program will ensure its success as well as an improved travel experience for all commuters between the 110 and 10 freeways to downtown Los Angeles.