ExpressLanes video: rules of the road and enforcement

Metro’s ExpressLanes is gearing up for the fall debut of the HOT lanes on the 110 freeway between Adams Boulevard and the Artesia Transit Center. That will be followed next year by the arrival of HOT lanes on the 10 freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway.

The project has made a series of videos explaining how the ExpressLanes will work. This one answers questions that many of you have had about enforcement — how the CHP will monitor who should and shouldn’t be paying a toll.

Here are the links to the first three videos:

ExpressLanes: It’s about time

ExpressLanes: how it works

ExpressLanes: explaining congestion pricing

The project will allow single motorists to use the carpool lanes on the 110 and 10 in exchange for a toll that will rise and fall depending on how much room there is to sell in the lanes. There’s a ton of useful information on the project web page, including this FAQ, and the videos also do a good job explaining how the project will work.

15 replies

  1. What about those of us with valid white Clean Air Vehicle “HOV Access OK” stickers? Would we select 2 or 3+ on the Fastrack device?

    • Hi Devin;

      If you are driving alone, you would need to select one and would be charged a toll. The ExpressLanes, unlike regular HOV lanes, are not waiving tolls for clean air vehicles with a single motorist. Here’s the explanation from the ExpressLanes FAQ:

      Will alternative fuel/hybrid vehicles with stickers qualify to ride in the Metro ExpressLanes
      free of charge?
      No. Driving alone in an alternative fuel/hybrid vehicle helps reduce pollution, but it does not reduce congestion. Alternative fuel/hybrid vehicles will be treated like all other vehicles.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. That’s interesting, and I believe it could be unlawful. The State of California made a deal with the purchasers of alternative fuel vehicles that in exchange for the extra cost and potential inconvenience of owning such “early adopter” technology there would be certain benefits that were very clearly defined. If you’re going to allow HOV/carpool vehicles in the lane for free then vehicles with HOV Access OK stickers should be allowed in for free. If the lanes are intended to be toll only lanes (so HOV/carpool vehicles also have to pay) then I believe it would be acceptable to charge a fee to vehicles with Clean Air decals.

    Metro should consider the precedent set by the Bay Area. HOV Access OK vehicles AND regular vehicles with high occupancy are charged the same discounted toll for crossing the Bay and Golden Gate bridges. Any HOV Access OK vehicle across the entire State of California is treated the same as any other high occupancy car, with the new exception of Metro’s ExpressLanes project.

    It’s a shame, given the fairly small number of white/green HOV Access OK stickers that have been or will be issued before their expiry in 2015 that the organizations involved would choose to run this program in such a way. I’m curious as to where this decision has originated. Has Metro worked with the State government on this particular aspect of the program?

  3. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that the new system will allow carpool users to access the lane for free. I followed the FAQ link above and found that:

    1) You need to pay a nonrefundable $40 fee to open an account for the transponder service.
    2) If there is ever a month when you do not use the lane 4 times, you get hit with a $3 account maintenance fee.

    I currently carpool on the 10 freeway, once a week. By the very definition of carpooling, one is less likely to use one’s own car on any given trip. I can easily imagine circumstances where I would not use my own car in the carpool lane 4 times a month. At the very least, it will be a real inconvenience to have to keep track of this.

    So we carpool users will suffer from a double blow here: more single-occupancy vehicles will be crowding up the lane, and unless the rules are revised, we’ll end up having to pay for it in spite of assurances that we won’t.

    • Hi Allon;

      The $40 fee for the transponder is refundable when a customer closes their account.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. So having a hybrid will give you free access whilst increasing the price for everyone else as they pricing is based on demand. I can see some pretty funky economics from this where all the “hybrid” users are being subsidized at a higher cost by other users.

    As a congestion program everyone should pay.

    • The Dude,

      That’s actually not correct. As the FAQ notes (question 16), solo drivers in hybrid/alternative fuel vehicles will have to pay to use ExpressLanes just like other solo drivers. It’s for the very reason you mentioned: the aim is foremost to manage congestion.

      Carter Rubin
      Contributor, The Source

  5. One point of clarification/technicality is that no hybrids have HOV Access OK stickers any more. The only vehicles eligible are pure electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and up to 40,000 CARB-approved plug-in hybrid vehicles.

    Any roadway is an exercise in “pretty funky economics” but these HOT lanes are indeed the funkiest – no matter how you cut it.

    The state has already made a commitment to the owners of HOV Access OK vehicles. If you agree to a contract and then later find the terms are not to your liking you are still morally and legally obligated to fulfill the parameters of the contract. What Metro is doing is breaking the contract the state has with the purchasers of advanced technology vehicles.

    Personally, I think HOT/ExpressLanes are absurd and they are a poor excuse for real full London-style congestion charging. The only vehicles that should be allowed into a HOT lane for free are mass transit vehicles. To be clear, my objection is mainly based on the fact that a vehicle occupied by 2 people is entitled to access the HOT lane for free while owners of HOV Access OK vehicles are not. It doesn’t matter to the HOT lane if that vehicle is a cube-van or a pick-up truck with trailer which consumes much more road space than a Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i, or Civic GX.

    At the end of the day I suspect this HOT lane experiment will become political poison – even more so than proper full-roadway congestion charging which is the inevitable solution to our city’s traffic problems. Everyone will be frustrated, from carpoolers having to buy Fastrack equipment and manage it’s settings, to advanced-technology vehicle owners, to law enforcement trying to keep track of the HOT lane users, to regular people who can’t afford or justify spending money on entering the HOT lane.

    I think the money spent on this experiment would have been better put towards any form of mass transit expansion or efficiency upgrade, but a good start would’ve been almost any of the projects on the Measure R list.

    • Hi Devin;

      I know some people are focusing on the clean-air cars but the point of congestion pricing and this project — which is a one-year test project — is to see if there is a more efficient way to move more people through the lanes, not cars. So a clean-air car with a single motorist not paying the toll is an impediment. The idea is to either give people an incentive to take transit or to carpool (incentive: no toll and traffic is targeted to move at 45 mph) or to sell extra space to single motorists to better help spread traffic around the freeway and raise money for transit.

      My own two cents: HOT lanes have worked in other locales and I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be tried here. That said, it will no doubt be controversial because we’ve never had toll roads/bridges/tunnels in L.A. County, such as is the case in other metro areas.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. $3.00 Account Maint Fee for non-use is a fee for nothing. It costs nothing to maintain one person’s non-use. It’s just an add-on for no reason, other than taking one’s money. No service is given nor needed. But, they figure $3.00 won’t be griped about. It accounts to paying for nothing.

  7. I can certainly see the pros and cons of this new system, though it seems its Achilles’ heel may be that annoying $3 monthly fee for those who don’t enter the HOT lane at least four times. Driving my family around, I’d definitely want a transponder to take advantage of our 2+ and 3+ carpooling. However, in most months, I’d probably only enter the lanes twice, meaning I would be dinged $3 each month that happens, thus encouraging me to make two superfluous trips in a HOT lane to avoid the fee. Seems like it would make more sense to scale back the maintenance fee to be assessed semi-annually (or at a maximum, quarterly) so we don’t encourage folks to drive more to save money.

  8. I wish more people commented when they had the chance, instead of making comments now. I know I certainly mentioned the maintenance fee, especially since I still maintain a Bay Area Fastrak account where they charge me no fees at all – which has only been used in the Bay Area once, and which I will continue to maintain since I rarely carpool along that corridor. Although MTA staff didn’t help matters by imposing a draconian one minute time period, it would have helped if others had expressed their objections THEN instead of now.

  9. @calwatch: A good point, but unfortunately when learning about the project several months ago, I was for some reason not able to find the documentation in which the $3 was discussed. Guess we’re stuck with this fee structure, then? 🙁