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.