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.

•Of private vehicles that used the lanes, 60 percent were carpoolers and 40 percent were solo drivers. The obvious conclusion here: more carpoolers used the 110 HOV lanes before they were converted to ExpressLanes. And thus this reminder: carpoolers do not have to pay a toll on the 110, although all vehicles must have transponders with one exception: motorcycles with standard state license plates.

•The bottom line on the speed issue: as more vehicles move to the ExpressLanes and take advantage of the extra capacity there, Metro staff expects speeds in the general lanes to improve. But as Metro staff also say, it will take some time to accomplish this.

•The Silver Line's on-time percentage increased to 77.5 percent in February compared to 68.9 percent last October, the month before the ExpressLanes opened.

•Of the more than 1.9 million trips taken on the 110 ExpressLanes since Jan. 10 — when a 60-day grace period ended — about 133,000 motorists who used the lanes without the required transponder have received notices for payment of the toll. The average amount of those notices is $1.39.

•As of this week, about 125,000 FasTrak transponders have been issued.Some important context that I think is important to consider: The ExpressLanes are a one-year test project that were largely funded with a $210-million grant from the federal government. Under President George W. Bush grants were made to five other regions for similar projects to test the concept of congestion pricing to help speed up traffic.

The money in Los Angeles County went to much more than just opening the ExpressLanes. Metro, for example, purchased 59 new buses (47 of which operate on the 110 ExpressLanes), widened the Adams Boulevard off-ramp from the 110, rebuilt the El Monte Station and made a number of other key improvements in the 10 and 110 corridor.

As a condition of keeping the money, Metro must show that speeds in the ExpressLanes average 45 mph at least 90 percent of the time in peak periods — as stated above, that's been accomplished thus far.The U.S. Department of Transportation has also hired the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit research firm, to conduct evaluations of the six congestion pricing projects after they have been operating for at least one year. Battelle will be evaluating each project on its own merits — i.e. the before and after — as well as comparing the projects to one another.

That independent evaluation won't be issued until mid-2014. In the meantime, Metro will be releasing preliminary performance reports such as the one below in order to provide everyone a general idea of how the ExpressLanes are doing.

For those interested in getting a transponder in order to use the ExpressLanes, please click here.

FINAL 110 Performance Report thru Feb 2013.pdf


16 replies

  1. SMV: Sorry, but it is you that are missing the point. While it is true that the El Monte Busway was built primarily for buses (thus the name), the Harbor Freeway Transit Lanes were designed to be for multiple kinds of HOV vehicles. That’s why they have multiple entrances and exits and the flyover from the 110 southbound to the 105 northbound. The purpose of HOV lanes is to make TRANSIT more efficient, not simply facilitate bus traffic. That was one reason for converting the El Monte Busway into a HOV lane. Having it as a busway only was always an inefficient use of traffic lanes.

  2. Just to put the above data in perspective:
    * Carpool use of the lanes has dropped by over 42%. This is a terrible development.
    * Although the express lanes are moving a little faster than before, the regular lanes are moving slower. This is almost certainly due to carpoolers who can no longer use the carpool lane because they don’t have a transponder.
    * Approximately 7% of the drivers in the lanes receive citations for using the lanes without a transponder. (Many of these folks are likely carpoolers.)
    * Metro is bizarrely and inexplicably excited about the above developments.

  3. Matt,

    Tax dollars don’t have to be used to fund transponders from infrequent users, it can be funded alone from the vastly increased number of infrequent users who will start using the Express Lanes if they get rid of this stupid maintenance fee.

    Besides, what’s the basis of the $3? Why isn’t it $10? Why isn’t it $1? Where did they pull off the $3 amount from? They pretty much just drew this amount from a hat or something. Metro has been never clear on the basis of this “hidden tax” or “fee” or whatever they want to call this.

  4. Steve, I don’t see Metrolink anywhere on this list. Am I missing something?

  5. @Anmitsu
    In my work life I use the 110 on an on again off again basis. There are months that I use it with a co-worker multiple times in a month. There are months where I use it solo. I can not be certain that I will use it for 4 on-way trips in any one month. In my personally life, I use it less than 1 trip a month (but when I do it is often with someone.) My employer will -*not*- pay for a FasTrak. It is not a ‘hardship’ to make x number of trips a month, I am likely not to even use the 110 that number of times in a set month. When travelling with a co-worker, since the expresslanes have opened, there have been times I have opted for the 405 vs. 110, because I could use the carpool lane on the 405.

  6. Anmitsu: it’s not that it’s a hardship to carpool 4 times a month. It’s a hardship to *drive* 4 times a month. I don’t know where you get the information that using transit gives you credit towards the maintenance fee – for those of us who take Metrolink along the I-10 Express Lane corridor, I’ve certainly never heard of such an offer.

    The issue is that forcing people to drive or else pay a fee is incomprehensible to most of us. The effect of this fee is to encourage me to go more regularly by car, rather than taking the train. That’s really weird.

    • Hi Allon;

      Here is the information from on the transit reward program:

      Transit Rewards Program

      Metro ExpressLanes and its transit partners added 59 new buses to improve Silver Line and feeder service on the I-110 Harbor Transitway and I-10 El Monte Busway. In addition, Metro ExpressLanes provided funding for several major transit station expansion and improvement projects along both corridors, including the expansion of El Monte Station and Pomona Metrolink Station, construction of a Patsaouras Plaza/Union Station Connection, improvement of Harbor Gateway Transit Center, and improvement of I-110 Harbor Transitway Park & Ride Lots and transit stations.
      As frequent transit riders, customers can earn toll credits on the Metro ExpressLanes corridors. Using their registered TAP card, transit riders can earn a $5 toll credit by taking 32 one-way trips during peak hours along the I-110 Harbor Transitway or I-10 El Monte Busway. Metro ExpressLanes Rewards credits are non-transferable and expire after 90 days. The toll credits must be used on Metro ExpressLanes and are not valid on other toll roads. The Rewards Program is the first of its kind in the transit and toll industry.

      To enroll in the Transit Rewards Program, please provide your TAP Card number on the account application. For existing accounts, log in to your account and click “TAP Card” to add your TAP Card number.

      The following transit lines qualify for the Transit Rewards program:

      On the I-110:
      Metro Lines 450, 550 and Metro Silver Line
      Gardena Line 1X
      Torrance Line 4

      On the I-10:
      Metro Lines 485, 487, 489 and Metro Silver Line
      Foothill Lines 481, 493, 497, 498, 499, 699 and Foothill Silver Streak

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  7. Casual commuter,

    Not everything is subject to a public vote. That is not how our government was set up. We have representatives that are elected to do these things. Vote differently if you want a different outcome. As others have said, these carpool lanes were built as busways first and thus public transit should be the primary beneficiary. It is absolutely amazing how entitled autos are and I can see why we have such terrible traffic and air pollution. I personally don’t want my tax dollars going to fund transponders for someone who only uses the carpool lanes every couple of months when they just happen to have their kid in the car.

  8. Just drop the minimum usage requirement account maintenance fee. It’s universally despised and it’s a no brainer why Express Lanes has been a failure. No one voted for such a fee anyway, what gives Metro the right to impose such fees without consulting the public anyway?

  9. If you’re using transit that travels on the ExpressLanes, you’ll get credit that goes towards waiving the maintenance fee, so I don’t see how that’s a problem.

    And the drop in numbers could very well be that all the cheaters who had been using the carpool lanes before have been kicked out now.

    People act like it’s such a hardship to carpool 4 times a month. That’s just two roundtrips. The whole point of Expresslanes is to reward people who carpool frequently – so more people will do it or look into transit options, which makes sense for a transit agency trying to alleviate congestion and encourage people to use public transportation.

  10. Okay, all of these commenters are missing the point. The lanes were originally built as the Harbor Transitway and the El Monte Busway. When they opened, they were for buses only, and so the argument for carpoolers being entitled to use the lanes is fundamentally flawed. Metro should not be in the business of making car travel more efficient, that defeats the point. The true goal is to improve the Silver Line, both in performance and in infrastructure with the grants, which has been done.

  11. The “reminder” about carpoolers being able to use the lane without paying a toll is a bit of a cheap shot. I think the vast majority of carpoolers are perfectly well aware that they do not need to pay a toll *if* they have a transponder. But that’s the problem. The transponder costs $3/month unless you can guarantee that you’ll use the Express Lanes at least 4 times EVERY month. The concept of charging people for NOT driving is encountering tremendous resistance from the carpooling public, and not surprisingly, that’s showing up in the statistics.

  12. “And thus this reminder: carpoolers do not have to pay a toll on the 110, although all vehicles must have transponders with one exception: motorcycles with standard state license plates.”

    Just stop for a minute and think, Metro. Your transponder is not really free. What Metro doesn’t understand is that a lot of us south of the 110 use the 450 or the Silver Line to get to Downtown LA and are casual carpoolers. Because of your account maintenance fee, people don’t want to buy into a 3 dollar upkeep just to use the lanes. Is it any wonder why there’s a drop in carpoolers? Metro basically told people to pay in perpetuity even though the carpool used to be free as long as you followed the rules.

  13. It is utterly ridiculous to make carpoolers pay for a transponder when they are already carpooling. Carpool lanes were created to give those ride sharing an incentive to drive on these lanes therefore freeing up the general use lanes. With this new program, I see the carpool/expresslanes empty while the general lanes are packed with traffic. if you really want to make this program work only have the single use drivers pay for transponders and allow the carpoolers to use the lanes without the extra hassle of getting a unit.

  14. “The obvious conclusion here: more carpoolers used the 110 HOV lanes before they were converted to ExpressLanes.”=Yes!! Casual carpoolers, and out of town visitors have been forced into the general purpose lanes with the requirements of the monthly transponder fee. Went to airport THIS week with a three person carpool and spent an extra HOUR in general purpose lanes because of this ridiculous requirement.
    End the monthly fee for infrequent users!!!