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.

Continue reading

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.

Motorcycles no longer need FasTrak transponders to use ExpressLanes

The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway are scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, weather permitting. There is a press event Friday morning at the new El Monte Station — adjacent to the ExpressLanes — but I wanted to put the word out early that motorcycles no longer need FasTrak transponders to use the lanes; motorcycles use the lanes for free.

Those who have opened motorcycle only accounts will be notified by email and issued refunds when they return the transponder.

Why do motorcycles no longer need transponders? The toll system on the ExpressLanes is automated. A software update to the system now allows cameras to recognize standard motorcycle license plates — thus ensuring they won't receive a notice for not having a transponder.

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

130214_Toll_Entry_Map

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.

Metro Board takes no action on motion to eliminate maintenance fee for ExpressLane accounts

The Metro Board agreed to hold a motion for 60 days — until the March Board meeting — by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky that proposes to eliminate the $3 monthly maintenance fee on FasTrak accounts that use the ExpressLanes three or fewer times per month. This will give Metro staff time to collect more data about the number of infrequent users of the ExpressLanes.

It is important to note that the fee has yet to take effect — it will begin when the ExpressLanes open on the 10 freeway on Feb. 23.

Metro staff told the Board that of the approximately 81,000 transponders issued so far, about half have not yet used the ExpressLanes. Staff believes that some of those numbers are due to motorists getting transponders in preparation of the ExpressLanes opening on the 10.

Here is an earlier post with a Metro staff report on the issue.

 

ExpressLanes to open on 10 freeway on Feb. 23

wpid-photo-jan-24-2013-1116-am

Here’s the news release from Metro:

More than 80,000 FasTrak® ExpressLanes Transponders Issued; Numerous Discounts Offered

Metro ExpressLanes to Debut Along 14 miles of the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway on Saturday, February 23

Following on the heels of the successful opening late last year of 11-miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the Harbor Freeway and with more than 80,000 Fastrak® ExpressLanes transponders now issued, Metro plans to open an additional 14 miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 23, 2013, weather permitting.

For the past couple of months, motorists have been seeing messages on the giant display message boards along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway in preparation for the opening of the Metro ExpressLanes.

“We are excited to announce the opening date and want to encourage San Gabriel Valley commuters to get their FasTrak® transponders now so they will be ready to enjoy all the benefits of the ExpressLanes when the lanes open on the 10 freeway in February,” said Duarte Councilmember and Metro Board Member John Fasana. “With the successful opening of the I-110 ExpressLanes, we look forward to seeing how the I-10 ExpressLanes will reduce traffic congestion in the San Gabriel Valley.”

The ExpressLanes program seeks to reduce congestion by improving travel choices in the two corridors. Carpools, vanpools, and motorcycles will travel toll free. All motorists will need a FasTrak® transponder to travel in the ExpressLanes.

Metro, in partnership with Caltrans, is embarking on a one-year demonstration program that converts 11 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the I-110 (Harbor Freeway) between the 91 Freeway and Adams Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles and 14 miles on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway (El Monte Busway) between Union Station/Alameda Street and the I-605 Freeway to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes that allow solo drivers to use the lanes for a toll. The Harbor Freeway ExpressLanes opened to the public on Nov. 10, 2012.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Nov. 14

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

How L.A.’s first toll road could help reduce traffic (KCET So Cal Connected)

A nice look at the new ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

ExpressLanes open on the 110; media finds grumbling but not hysteria (L.A. Streetsblog)

Editor Damien Newton provides some nice perspective on the ExpressLanes, pointing out that solo drivers now have an option to buy a congestion-free commute — an option not previously on the table. He says that carpoolers have a legitimate complaint because they need to get a transponder to use the lanes for free — but he says that will likely prove to be a minor annoyance. In short, similar lanes have been a lot more controversial in other regions than they have been here. Interesting.

From the Valley to downtown by bike (L.A. Times)

In this op-ed, long-time Los Angeles River activist Lewis MacAdams lauds a deal between the L.A. City Council and NBC Universal that will provide space for one mile of bike path between Universal Studios and the river. That’s good, but MacAdams says it’s only a step toward what should be the larger goal: working with other private interests and the city to complete a bike path from downtown L.A. to the San Fernando Valley via the river.

Metro ExpressLanes flowed well on 110 on Tuesday morning

The above photo was taken at 7:15 a.m. this morning of the northbound 110 freeway; the ExpressLanes are the two far-left lanes. As you can see, traffic was flowing smoothly in the heart of the morning rush hour.

The ExpressLanes averaged about 1,200 vehicles per hour during the rush hour Tuesday morning, which is about 85 percent of weekday volume. Speeds averaged 60 mph and never fell below 45 mph, the target minimum speed on the ExpressLanes.

The average end-to-end toll this morning was $9.35; the maximum toll is $1.40 per mile or $15.40 for the entire 11-mile trip on the ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway. The minimum toll is 25 cents per mile or $2.75 for the entire 11 miles.

Three reminders:

•The toll you see posted on the electronic sign at the time when you enter the lanes, is locked in. In other words, if you enter the lanes and it’s $3.85, the toll rate is 35 cents and you will pay 35 cents per mile for the entire time you’re in the lanes.

•There are many ways to get FasTrak transponders; please see the ExpressLanes website to order online. Transponders can also be obtained through AAA (members get a discount), at Metro Customer Service Centers in Gardena and El Monte and discounts are available at Albertons and Costco.

•The $3 Monthly Account Maintenance Fee will not go into effect until after the I-10 ExpressLanes open in early 2013.

ExpressLanes basics reviewed

Metro’s third major project of 2012 is opening this weekend — the Metro ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway between Adams Boulevard and 182nd Street.

A few questions have come up, naturally, and I want to try to clearly and unequivocally answer the ones that I’ve been getting time and again. Here goes:

•The idea of the toll lanes is to better spread traffic out on the freeway. How? By selling extra space in the existing HOV lanes. That, in turn, may help pull a few vehicles from the general lanes. Toll money is also pumped back into transit service, giving commuters more options in the 110 corridor.

EVERY VEHICLE that uses the ExpressLanes must have a FasTrak transponder. There are virtually no exceptions and the very few that exist are for people such as the President of the United States and his security detail. One more great benefit to being POTUS, right?

•Commercial vehicles must have a transponder and will have to pay a toll if there is only one person in the vehicle.

Continue reading