ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway: so far, so good

The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway opened early Saturday morning and thus far all has been going well. A few interesting stats:

•Speeds in the ExpressLanes through this morning’s commute remained above 45 miles per hour 100 percent of the time.

•The average toll to use the entire 14 miles of the ExpressLanes during peak periods has been $4.19. The maximum thus far was $5.15 for the westbound 605.

•Sixty-seven percent of the private vehicles that used the ExpressLanes during the Monday morning peak period were carpools with three or more occupants or two-person carpools. However, two-person carpools pay a toll during the peak period. So the ratio of toll-free to toll-payers was 52 percent HOV 3+ carpoolers to 48 percent single occupant vehicles and carpools with two people.

•The traffic volume in the ExpressLanes on the 10 on Monday morning was 99 percent of what it was on Monday, Feb. 4, the previous non-holiday Monday.

Remember, every vehicle that uses the ExpressLanes on the 10 or 110 freeway needs a FasTrak transponder — with the exception of buses and motorcycles with standard California license plates. You can order a transponder online by clicking here.

If you obtained a transponder through AAA, Costco or Albertson’s, click here to complete the registration process.

31 replies

  1. LAX,

    It is an opt-in program. Therefore, the non-usage fee is a fee, imposed only on those who get the transponder and then do not use it. It is not a tax, and I’m not sure what your goal is here. This program encourages more daily carpools of 3+ – and garners some revenue for continued corridor improvements such as silver line service increase. IF you know enough coworkers (2) to make a successful carpool, no problem. No non-usage fee, everyone’s splitting the cost, and everyone’s getting there on time or before, with less stress… A reward for smart commuters – smart behavior.

  2. Larry,

    Because that’s exactly the problem. If it’s a tax, then it’s something that voters didn’t approve of. Taxes has to be approved by the voters first.

    “Maintenance fees” are a way for mismanaged governments to impose a tax onto the people without calling it a tax.

    How they managed to stick this “maintenance fee” in without the consent of voters is not what I call a democratic process. You’re right it’s a tax – a tax that voters had no vote or say on.

    Why do you think people are upset? It’s because no one agreed to this. If the people said “let’s impose a $3 tax onto those who don’t use it often,” then it wouldn’t be a problem. The government skipped this process and it was shoved into the people’s faces by calling it a “fee.”

    That is not how democracy is supposed to work.

  3. Why are carpoolers complaining about the $3 non usage fee? Think of it as a weekly $.75 luxury tax. A tax most people will pay to be home with their family, friends, and anywhere not on the freeway. If you are carpooling, it will be a maximum of $1 a month per person. Tell me that is too much to save countless hours on the freeway? Stop being a tool and just pay the fee you cheapies

  4. Brian, If you look at like for like destination points transit is cheaper. One of the aspects to the toll policy on the Express Lanes no one mentions is that the minimum toll is supposed to be at least 50% higher than the cost of riding the bus. On the El Monte Busway this morning at 7 AM, the toll to drive end to end was $4.15 and the bus fare for the equivalent distance is $2.45. So if you park your car at the big parking lot on Santa Anita Avenue and ride in, you are still saving money. Of course many people don’t work downtown so they have to transfer, the toll is lower to Cal State but the transit fare is the same, etc., but at least Metro is holding that end of the bargain.

    By adding the extra lane on the 10 it greatly improved reliability of the carpool lane – many times, especially during the early afternoon, the carpool lane would be just as jammed as the regular lanes. Without Express Lanes that lane doesn’t exist. I will take that as a tradeoff for added capacity.

  5. The problem with the Silver Line is that it’s not really that cheap either for the individual depending on where they are going. It costs $2.45 per ride ($4.90 roundtrip) and it makes no distinction between those that does short trips like going from the Slauson area going to USC versus those who have longer trips like those getting on at the Artesia Transit Center going all the way to El Monte. For shorter trips, people are still better off driving or carpooling than taking paying $2.45 one-way or $4.90 roundtrip for the Silver Line. For longer trips it’s a deal, for shorter trips it’s just a waste of time and money.

  6. Mark, one problem is the Express Lanes. Why take the train when you can pay to take your car? The Express Lanes will discourage commuting by train because now solo drivers have the option to drive…. and the toll is cheaper than a train ticket!

  7. Hopefully as more people sit on the I-10 and watch the Metrolink trains racing by at 79mph, that will get them to think about why they sit in a car hours a day.

  8. Why dont you mention that the regular lanes are now a parking lot? I had to get off the 10 and use side streets. I was 30 minutes late for work

  9. LAX Frequent Flyer,

    At least the current system promotes true carpooling and not just someone who happens to have their kid in the car while they run errands once a month. It is actually much better for the day to day carpoolers going to and from work.

    Also, I imagine the Silver Line will show continued increases in ridership with the improvements and additional busses that were made available because of this project.

    Finally, the so called 10 carpool lanes is the really the El Monte Busway, which was formerly a Pacific Electric Rail route and not part of the freeway system. Private autos were never intended to use it – only public transit. Even carpools should thank their lucky stars that they are allowed to use this busway today transponder or none.

  10. Nobody here has answered the question that these lanes were already paid for with tax dollars. Now, Metro is charging you to use them again. My question, is where is the refund on building these lanes? And don’t tell me the revenue will go to traffic improvements in the area–they will likely go to fund improvements that nobody asked for–like better access to a downtown stadium that the developers were supposed to pay for, but somehow (this is the City of LA) the taxpayers will ultimately pay the bill. This is the big short that Metro doesn’t want to talk about. We already paid for these lanes and Metro is yet charging you to use them again.

    • Hi M;

      Well, mass transit is built with taxpayer dollars, too, and yet you’re charged a fare every time you use it. As for freeways, you don’t pay fares — but if you purchase gasoline, you have been paying a state and federal tax that goes to maintaining and building roads. Your taxes also helped build state and national parks. And you often have to pay an entrance fee in order to visit them. That money goes to maintenance, restoration, preservation and rangers to help keep parks safe for people and wildlife alike.

      The idea that freeways are free isn’t very accurate. As with many government-owned properties, there are recurring costs and you — and everyone else — has been paying them. That’s the cost of living in a civilized society. As for the ExpressLanes, not everyone has to pay. You have the option of using the general lanes and you have the option to avoid the tolls by carpooling, vanpooling or taking transit in those corridors.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. If you can’t carpool two round trips a month, you probably weren’t doing all that much to reduce traffic to begin with. So you can pay to use Expresslanes as a toll lane, carpool more frequently, or find an alternative mode of transportation – all of which would reduce congestion overall, which is kind of the point.

  12. Gregory Tran,

    Of course, as it stands with the existing gotcha monthly maintenance fees, it’s also:

    “I used to pay nothing to avoid traffic by doing my part by carpooling, now I have to be subjected to a monthly maintenance fee if I don’t use it four time a month!”

    Carpoolers were already doing their part to curb traffic to begin with.

    The current policy needs to be revised. You can’t punish those with gotcha “minimum usage requirement monthly maintenance fees” from those who were already doing their part in helping reducing freeway traffic to begin with.

  13. The toll roads are fantastic! People always said, “I would pay xxx amount not to sit in traffic.” Well here is your chance to do it, or shutup and sit in traffic.

  14. Matt,

    Not really. If a carpooler uses the 10 or the 110 less than four times a month, they get hit with a $3 monthly “maintenance fee” for the FasTrak transponder. That’s the gotcha. If there’s a gotcha, it’s not free.

    In order for it to be truly free for carpoolers, the minimum usage requirement or else a maintenance fee has to go. No minimum usage requirements, period.

    This maintenance fee is widely hated by everyone that just pushed off infrequent carpoolers back onto the regular lanes in which otherwise they would’ve bought a transponder if it weren’t for the recurring fee.

  15. Even with CHP officers writing tickets, it’s not like there’s a big plus for the city. A fine is just the same as posting bail and pleading guilty.

    If you disagree with this, especially in protest with the situation that carpoolers (out-of-state? foreign plates from Canada or Mexico? rental cars?) need to pay a minimum usage requirement maintenance fee for the FasTrak transponder, you can go to traffic court and argue.

    Traffic court dates can be extended once if the time doesn’t fit your work schedule. You extend it out to the maximum date range on LA Superior Court’s Traffic Court Online.

    Then you sign up for an arraignment. That’s another three months down the road. Then you post bail (fine amount) and set a court date which is another three months down the road. All of these again, can be done on Traffic Court Online.

    By the time of your court date, it’s already six to seven months out from the date one got the ticket. Most of the time, officers don’t even bother to appear for the court because it’s so far out from the original ticket date they can’t remember the instances.

    Or you can also do a trial by written statement in which most officers don’t even bother to do this because as well because they get no overtime pay to write up their written statements.

    In either case, you end up with is the case thrown out by the judge because the officer failed to appear/failed to write a response and your fine gets refunded back to you.

    And there’s an increased likelihood of this happening if the traffic courts can’t keep up with the increased number of citations.

    If anything, this just clogged down our traffic courts with no real gain. All we’re doing is paying CHP officers with our tax dollars to write increased number of citations which just clogs the traffic courts that they can’t keep up with it, so that in the end, the fine gets refunded back to you.

  16. 99%?? I find that hard to believe, the carpool lanes are now virtually empty. Sure it may have rid the lanes of abusers but I don’t see it helping traffic at all. Sure, this puts funds into metro or cal trans’ pockets, which is rarely well spent. You’ve taken lanes and made them only available to those who can splurge 10+ dollars a day to reduce their commute and added time to those who can’t. Way to go!

  17. M,

    You make no sense. The lanes are still free for carpoolers. Now single users have the option of using them too if they are willing to pay. You make it sound like the 110 was never jammed on the weekends and just now it is. It has always been jammed.

  18. At what was the speed (or travel times) in the general lanes during peak times, as compared to Feb 4?
    Improvement in these figures is the stated goal of the project. I have yet to see the Source publish any data on these figures for the 110.

    Maybe Metro can exempt the FasTrac requirement during the weekends and have them carpool only during those days.

  19. I agree with Larry. They should leave or raise the non-sufficient use clause as well . This lane is for daily commuters, not the person/family who occasionally wants to use the lane.

  20. I love that CHP is cracking down on the HOV cheaters now. My normal 1.5 hour commute from DTLA to Arcadia is now 27 minutes. I love it. They should raise the prices so I can get home faster!

  21. When is Metro going to comment on the fact that the 110 toll lanes are practically empty on the weekends, while the common lanes are jammed? Also, Metro has basically stolen these lanes as they were already paid for with our tax dollars. I endured the early 90’s dust, construction, lost time, and environmental hazards of the 110 being rebuilt. Those lanes were supposed to be for carpoolers and they were paid for with tax dollars. Metro has now privatized these lanes and I’m forced to pay to use them again, when I already paid for them with my tax dollars. Please respond.

  22. Hi Steve. I am just curious …. how did you take the photo above? It looks like being taken from the Del Mar Ave ExpressLanes off ramp viaduct? If so, I hope you were just the passenger at that moment =)

    • Hi Jason;

      A member of the ExpressLanes staff took the photo — I don’t know the specifics but staff knows ‘safety first!.’

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  23. What I found most interesting about the data: 48% single/double occupancy vehicles where none was allowed before, yet traffic in the lanes is 99% of what it was before. So approximately half of the people in the lanes before were cheaters or carpoolers who didn’t buy transponders and got squeezed out.

    Also, 30% violation rate! This has been advertised for months. People are really clueless.

  24. This must look like a idiotic idea to most people who drive on this freeway. Afterall, why would you take lanes away on a congested freeway to devote them to what looks like a few vehicles? The idea for toll or HOV lanes is that this will discourage some people from driving in single occupancy vehicles. The HOV lanes have proven to decrease the level of congestion on freeways in the LA area.

    Something very similar is proposed for bike lane installation in the city of LA.

    On Lankershim Blvd, from Chandler Blvd to Ventura Blvd, the city is proposing to take away one north bound through lane for motor vehicles to put in two bicycle lanes. This will make it perhaps faster and more convenient to reach the two subway stations that are on Lankershim Blvd. Yet, the reaction by a lot of people in this area is that this sounds like the city is lacking in common sense. Why would you take away a travel lane that has intersections that are operating at beyond capacity at peak hours and give it to a few people that ride bicycles?

    Going south, towards the Cahuenga Pass, there will be an additional lane added by way of the bicycle lane. This increases the capacity of this street going south.

    Survey results by the city of Portland Oregon showed that less than 1% of the adult population would want to ride a bicycle in mixed traffic on a busy street. Adding bike lanes increases that to 7% of the adult population.

    A recent study was released by the University of British Columbia in Toronto and Vancouver Canada using interviews with former patients of local hospitals that needed treatment from bicycle injuries. These results showed that there was a 39% decrease in the rate of injuries per km ridden on streets that had bike lanes compared to nearby streets that did not have any bicycle infrastructure.

    Other streets where something similar to what is proposed for Lankershim Blvd are Westwood Blvd, Sepulveda Blvd and Bundy Dr. There will be a Expo line station that affronts all three of these streets. To fit in bike lanes, a through lane or parking for motorized vehicles would have to be removed. Again, the reaction of people who drive in this area is overwhelmingly one of puzzlement and disbelief. Your going to do what?

    There will be a very limited amount of parking available for cars at these three Expo Line station. Without bike lanes, the choices for getting there are limited to buses that will be stuck in congestion during peak hours, walking, or the few parking spaces available for drivers.

  25. […] The Source blog says all is well since the toll lanes opened on Saturday. ExpressLanes converted 14 miles of existing HOV lanes to HOV/HOT lanes during non-peak hours, which means solo car commuters can buy their way into the carpool lane. But it also means that carpoolers need a transponder — which has been controversial. More info on how  to get a transponder here. […]

  26. What percentage of the vehicles using the Express Lanes on I-10 this morning did not have a transponder and will thus be getting a greeting card from Metro in the mail?

    • Hi Erik;

      The violation rate was under 30 percent during the morning commute and will likely go down with continued CHP enforcement and the longer the lanes are open and people understand what they’re about.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source