50K transponders issued so far; preparations underway to launch ExpressLanes on 10 freeway in early 2013

Here is the news release from Metro:

Following on the heels of the successful opening of 11-miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the Harbor Freeway and with more than 50,000 Fastrak® ExpressLanes transponders issued, motorists this week will begin seeing messages on the giant display message boards along the

I-10 San Bernardino Freeway in preparation for the opening of the ExpressLanes along this stretch of freeway in early 2013.

The large electronic digital ExpressLane message boards will display information regarding the program. No date has been set for the official opening of the ExpressLanes along the 10 San Bernardino Freeway but work is progressing for a possible late January/early February opening.

“We 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 next year,” said Duarte Mayor 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.”

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

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

When the I-10 ExpressLanes open next year, the rules for carpools on the I-10 freeway will stay the same as they are today. Carpools are three or more people traveling during peak travel times of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, with holidays excluded. During peak travel times, carpools of just two people can travel in the I-10 San Bernardino ExpressLanes for a toll. All other times, they will travel toll-free in the Expresslanes.

At all times on both freeways, the general purpose lanes are not tolled. Net toll revenues will be reinvested in the corridor where they are generated for transportation improvements. To prevent backups in the ExpressLanes, the tolls will be adjusted from .25 cents a mile to a maximum of $1.40 a mile and will increase as the number of vehicles in the ExpressLanes increase.

Construction workers have been busy over the last year installing a host of power and utility support units needed for the operation of the dynamic message signs (DMS) along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway corridor. These signs will begin their testing phase this week displaying information regarding the ExpressLanes program. The testing will continue until the system is opened to the public in early 2013.

In addition, work continues along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway as workers install various toll transponder readers and freeway signs.

For now, the carpool lanes are still operating on the I-10 freeway until the conversion to Metro ExpressLanes, so solo drivers cannot use FasTrak on the I-10 freeway until the ExpressLanes open next year. As part of the testing of equipment, carpools with a FasTrak transponder may hear a beep when traveling in the HOV lane on the I-10 freeway. This means the equipment has detected the transponder but no tolls are being assessed and no information is being transmitted.

Along the I-10 freeway, an additional toll lane is being constructed in each direction between the 605 and the 710 freeways to add capacity along that heavily traveled corridor. Prior to the ExpressLanes, there was only one carpool lane operating in each direction along the El Monte Busway. None of the general purpose lanes will be taken away to convert the lanes and make the improvements.

Metro encourages those planning on using the new ExpressLanes to open an account and get their transponders now. To open a FasTrak account and receive an ExpressLanes switchable transponder:

Visit www.metroexpresslanes.net

Call 511 and say “ExpressLanes”

Visit walk-in centers at 500 W. 190th Street in Gardena or at the El Monte Station, 3501 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte

Mail an application, which is available online, to Metro ExpressLanes, PO Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247

The costs vary depending on payment methods. Drivers who open their accounts with a credit or debit card will pay $40 and the transponder deposit will be waived. The $40 will be applied to any tolls incurred while driving solo in the Metro ExpressLanes. There is a $3 monthly account fee, which will go into effect when the I-10 Freeway Expresslanes open early next year. The monthly fee is waived after four one-way trips in the Metro ExpressLanes and/or on travel on eligible transit in the ExpressLanes corridor.

Discounts are available. Members of the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) can open a Metro ExpressLanes FasTrak® account at a discounted price of $32 by visiting www.AAA.com/metroexpresslanes or visiting their local AAA office. In addition, 21 participating Costco stores throughout Los Angeles County are providing a 10 percent discount to their members who open up accounts at their stores. Participating Albertson stores also are providing a 10 percent discount to their customers who open accounts.

In a first for an ExpressLanes project, low-income commuters can receive a $25 toll credit when setting up an Equity Plan account, and the transponder deposit will be waived. They must reside in Los Angeles County and have an annual income below $37,061 for a family of three. There is a limit of one Equity Plan account per household.The Metro ExpressLanes program is a $290 million project funded by a $210 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program. Nearly $120 million is going towards actual construction costs associated with the toll lanes. The remainder of the money is being used to improve various transportation hubs along the two corridors including the Harbor Gateway Transit Center along the 110 freeway and the construction of a new El Monte Station along the I-10 freeway. In addition, the project funded the purchase of 59 new clean fuel buses to provide additional bus service along the two corridors and 100 new vanpools.

The ExpressLanes project is being constructed by Atkinson Contractors, LP under contract to Metro. The contractor was competitively selected to design-build-operate-and-maintain the ExpressLanes project. The Atkinson team included AECOM for design and Xerox/ACS Inc. for tolling integration.

15 replies

  1. Okay, Fastrak is a month old and the congestion is STILL worse on the 110 as cars are NOT in the HOT lanes but forced into the regular lanes. If the city wanted to do the smart thing and actually rid 110 of congestion–they’d just get rid of the ridiculous HOT lanes [now dubbed express lanes] and let citizens use all available lanes. No, that would make the quality of life improve for many daily commuters. Instead, these boneheaded yahoos make it worse…and soon, they will spread the idea of the Fastrak [an oxymoron if there ever was one] to more highways, creating even MORE congestion in a city infamous for that. Nice job boneheads.

  2. The Metro Express Lanes system is a failure for Los Angeles County residents.  It is causing undue congestion in the regular lanes and is very unfair to many drivers.  

    My family uses the 110 freeway occasionally, primarily on the weekends. We used to use the carpool lanes.  Given the policy for the fastrak, we will not purchase a $40 transponder and then pay a $3 monthly fee for our infrequent use of this freeway.   

    This weekend we went to visit our family in the south bay and used the regular lanes.  At 1:15 pm, the regular lanes were packed with traffic moving at about 25 miles per hour.  In my estimation, about one third of the cars in the regular lanes were carpoolers with two or more passengers.   The express lanes were virtually empty.  It was the same in both the northbound and southbound lanes.  

    How does this policy reduce congestion and improve air quality?  Instead of carpoolers using the express lanes as they would have under the old system, they were adding to the congestion in the regular lanes while the express lanes were empty.  The government made a few dollars by charging the handful of people willing to pay for tolls and fees on Saturday, while thousands of people needlessly sat in traffic, wasting time, energy, and gas.  No wonder the Express Lanes are being called the VIP lanes!  

    At church on Sunday, several retired members of our congregation complained of the same problem.  They carpool north on the 110 to come to church, but can no longer use the express lanes.  It does not make financial sense for non commuters to pay for transponders and monthly fees to use the Express Lanes occasionally.   But now we are all senselessly stuck in traffic even though we are carpooling.

    Therefore, 1) carpoolers and motorcycles should not be required to get a transponder ( this is what is done in the Bay Area), 2) there should not be a monthly fee for infrequent users, and 3)  fastrak transponders and policies should be consistent throughout the state.

  3. This is a great project, and I hope it will be successful. My respects to the technicians and workers who make this project possible.

  4. I don’t go down the 10 and 110 often enough to justify subscribing to the transponder, so there’s really no incentive to carpool, now, when I do. Plus, who wants to have every one of their trips recorded? This is a stupid idea and I hope someone puts an initiative on the ballot to prohibit these conversions.

  5. Linda Chen · Redondo Union High School

    it is so sad that the world is in a fiscal crisis and those put in charge hadn’t got the sense to take the $260mil (part of the $1billion) to pay down our budget deficit. the 2 lanes are already there. how they could possibly spend $260mil to put up some signs on an 11 mile stretch freeway demonstrates how utterly wasteful greedy and self serving those in charge are. the whole project was predicated on “redistribution of traffic” as the 2 carpool lanes are not moving enough cars while the remaining lanes remain congested as ever. at $20mil a yr of revenue it will take over 10 yrs just to recoup the initial wasted investment. here is a really really novel idea. keep the $260mil, forget the carpool lanes, let them be permanently regular lanes – the traffice will immediately self redistribute to maximize usage of all 6 lanes so peak traffic congestion would have gotten the most use out of the 2 extra lanes. as for none peak hrs – everyone flies at 65+ miles an hr – no one will care if there are car pool lanes or not. so wow surprise surprise, we are $260mil AHEAD! and tax payers are not getting screwed. yeah 1 year pilot!!! what a bunch of lies!!!!!!! 10 freeway conversion is already underway. 1 month has gone by and no traffic has been redistributed. the scant usage of the carpool lanes is the same as before, they kicked out the green cars and replaced with some people who are willing to pay. at the end of the 1 yr, nothing would have changed, and what, they are going to spend another $260mil to change it back? no!!!!!! like i said 10 freeway conversion is already underway. it is absolutely disgusting the powers that be would throw away $260mil to line their own pockets and then turn around and rip off the taxpayers at perpetuity.

  6. Zeke: Metro and the City of LA are two different entities. Metro is the one operating the ExpressLanes program. The City of LA General Fund won’t receive a dime of this money. By law, all of the toll revenue (after paying for the program’s operating expenses) has to be used to fund additional improvements along the same corridor. Because of this program, there’s now additional transit service along the 110, widened offramps at several locations, and an extra lane in both directions on the 10 from the 710 to the 605 (all paid for with the congestion pricing grant the federal government gave Metro to try out this program).

    You can get out of the $3 monthly maintenance fee if you take four one-way trips per month along either the 110 or the 10 Express Lanes — solo, carpool or transit. If you’re not using the lanes for as many as two round trips a month, is it even worth it to get the transponder in the first place? I like the idea of exempting senior TAP card holders from the fee, but then again, if you’ve got a TAP card (which you can link to your transponder account) and are traveling along this corridor, you’re probably making enough transit trips to get the fee waived anyway.

    As for the additional congestion, it hasn’t been very long since the transition, and not every potential ExpressLanes user has their transponder yet. Let’s give it a little more time.

  7. Let’s face facts here–the creation of the Fastrack lane might be spun to decrease congestion, but it is a money making venture for the city. The $3 monthly fee alone will net big bucks even if NO vehicles were going through the gates.

    And traffic on 110 is worse, much, much worse! My commute has increased by 20-30 minutes. Seriously. Now they are talking about expanding it? Wow. Get ready for Fastrack on ALL highways w/ HOT lanes in our near future…more congestion, more traffic.

    Thanks city of Los Angeles for making my commute worse.

  8. Rain or shine, I commute every day along the I-10 on a motorcycle. At first, this sounded like a horrible project, but after reading up on it a bit, I realized that since I use that corridor every workday, I’ll not be charged any monthly fee, nor will I pay any tolls (motorcycles are carpoolers for any HOV lane). This project will add more vehicles in the toll lanes, but also adds a second lane for most of that distance. I can’t wait for the second lane for Eastbound traffic to be completed (Westbound is complete). For me, the $32 ‘flat fee’ (through AAA) is well worth it.

  9. It’s really shameful how Metro is forcing carpoolers out of the carpool lane unless they pay monthly fees. Furthermore, they are flat-out refusing to discuss the situation or try to find a solution, despite massive complaints by the public.

    I think it’s time to require Metro executives, as a condition of their employment, to ditch their cars and practice what they preach by using Metro for their primary transportation needs. Additionally, they should have to wear nametags identifying themselves as Metro executives. Perhaps after a few weeks of constant complaints from their fellow riders about how poorly Metro is doing in some areas, they might come to their senses, quit patting themselves on the back, and actually fix some of the problems that riders care about.

  10. You have to wonder how much more people will be willing to get the transponders and how much more money Metro could be making from the ExpressLanes without the “$3 use it or lose it” monthly maintenance fee involved for infrequent users.

    Everyone knows its just another BS fee no matter how they try to justify it.

  11. Again, we must address the problem of seniors and other retired persons who would only use the HOT lanes infrequently. It is unfair to charge them full price for a transponder and then a $3/month fee even if they do not use them.

    Why not provide free transponders and waive the monthly fee for all those who, like myself, have Senior TAP cards? Also, this should not just be limited to those living in LA County.



  12. Denise,
    Think about it logically, the only reason the ExpressLanes could possibly *increase* congestion in general lanes would be from former HOV-ers switching to the general lanes (presumably because they don’t have transponders yet). I think it’s fair to assume that over time these former HOV-ers will get transponders, and move back to the ExpressLanes.
    Also, regardless of the what official line from Metro was, ExpressLanes will never reduce congestion. What they do is efficiently allocate underused highway capacity (the former HOV lanes) through pricing. The general lanes were never underused/under-capacity. The only way to reduce congestion in the general lanes would be to implement pricing on them as well, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t be so gung-ho about that idea.

  13. Traffic for those of us on the 110 who have not purchased FasTrak has become atrocious in the last week. My commute, which used to take approximately 45 minutes is already up to an hour or more. This was supposed to be a congestion-relieving measure. It’s been congestion-making for the past 5 days. It is undeniable. It will be interesting to see how the powers-that-be respond. I would like to know now if anyone (in power) is now noticing the extra congestion. And the bigger question: do they care or do they just want my money?