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.
•On the 110 ExpresLanes, carpoolers and motorcycles still get free use of the toll lanes. But to reiterate, carpoolers and motorcycles still must have a FasTrak transponder.
•Children count as a person in a vehicle. In other words, Mother or Father + Child = Toll Free Carpool Travel.
•The reason everyone needs a transponder: it makes enforcement by the CHP a lot easier. And good enforcement benefits carpoolers, transit users and those who pay tolls by keeping cheaters out of the lanes and helping them run at a minimum speed of 45 miles per hour.
•It doesn’t matter if you’re own a 100 percent electric car or one that runs emissions free on pygmy goat milk….if you’re planning to use the ExpressLanes, you have to have that FasTrak transponder and you pay a toll as a single motorist. The toll exemption for some low-emissions vehicles doesn’t begin until 2014, the result of a recently-signed state law.
•There is no deadline to get a transponder. You may want to wait and see how the ExpressLanes debut goes. When it’s time, you can order one online here, get one through AAA, visit a Metro customer center in Gardena or at the El Monte Station and — this just in, people! — at Costco stores now at Albertsons beginning tomorrow. Boom baby! How many cities allow you to pick up a transponder and t.p. all at the same time?
•Single motorists can use transponders from Orange County or other parts of California to pay tolls on the 110 ExpressLanes. But if you want to travel toll free as a carpooler, you will need to get a transponder with a switch on it that you will set to show how many people are in your car.
•The $3 maintenance fee for FasTrak accounts doesn’t begin until the ExpressLanes open on the 10 freeway, scheduled for early 2013. And it’s easy to avoid the fee by using the ExpressLanes or transit service in the 10 or 110 corridors four or more times a month. Tip: when ordering your FasTrak transponder, link the account to your TAP card. It’s easy!
•The maintenance fee, for those who are curious, goes to help cover the cost of administration of the ExpressLanes.
•The electronic signs along the 110 will clearly tell you what the tolls are for using the lane. Then it’s up to single motorists to decide whether they want to enter the ExpressLanes and pay the tolls.
•When traffic is on the light side, tolls will be less. When there is heavy traffic, tolls will be more to discourage too many people from trying to squeeze into the HOV lanes. When traffic is super gnarly, the ExpressLanes may close to single motorists in order to maintain 45 mph speeds for carpoolers and transit users.
There’s a media event Friday morning near the 110 freeway. I’ll post tomorrow about it. In the meantime, please use the comment board to ask any questions not covered above.