The Metro Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to continue the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways beyond January of 2015. The Board also voted to charge a $1 monthly maintenance fee on all ExpressLanes accounts to help cover costs of operating the lanes but chose to exempt those with equity accounts.
In order for the ExpressLanes to continue beyond January, a second step is required: a state bill that is pending in Sacramento (SB 1298) must also be approved.
The vote followed the release of a federal preliminary analysis this week that found that the ExpressLanes met many of their goals since initially launching on the 110 freeway in Nov. 2012 followed by the opening of the lanes on the 10 freeway in Feb. 2013. In particular, Metro officials noted that commuters who shifted from the general lanes on both freeways to the toll lanes enjoyed a speedier commute; users saw an average peak period travel time savings of 17.11 and 13.86 minutes on the 10 freeway and 12.80 and 7.81 minutes on the 110 for the morning and afternoon peak periods, respectively.
Ridership in the Silver Line — which uses the ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 — also increased 27 percent.
One item that generated discussion was the maintenance fee. When the ExpressLanes began, there was a $3 account maintenance fee for those who used the lanes three or fewer times each month. After complaints from customers that the fee served as deterrent to sign up for an account, the Metro Board decided to waive that fee last spring.
Still, Metro must pay its concessionaire $3 for each transponder issued. Metro Board Member Gloria Molina authored the motion calling for the $1 fee for all users as a way to regain $2.3 million of that cost, saying she wants to see as much of the money generated by tolls (about $18 to $20 million during the pilot period, twice what was expected) to be reinvested into transportation improvements in the 10 and 110 corridors.
Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky said he was against the $1 fee but said it was an improvement on the $3 fee.
Metro officials say that they anticipate improving marketing, outreach, education and enforcement efforts along the ExpressLanes. Most of those who testified publicly asked the Board to extend the ExpressLanes program. Several Board Member also said that they are interested in expanding the toll lanes to other freeways in the future, although the only plans on the table are for eight miles of toll lanes in the Santa Clarita Valley on the 5 freeway.
In order to use the ExpressLanes, all users must have a transponder. To learn more about opening an account, please visit the ExpressLanes homepage.
The news release from Metro is after the jump.
The news release:
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board today approved the continuation of the Metro ExpressLanes along the I-110 and I-10 freeways following a successful one-year demonstration period that concluded in February 2014.
In partnership with Caltrans, Metro serves as the lead agency for the 110 and 10 ExpressLanes program. February 23, 2014 marked the completion of the federal grant requirement of 12 months of concurrent toll operation of the Metro ExpressLanes. The pilot program converted the existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on portions of the 110 and 10 freeways.
Preliminary evaluation of the Metro ExpressLanes pilot program by an outside independent firm retained by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that the ExpressLanes are accomplishing many of their goals and objectives.
Their analysis shows that while there was some degradation in travel times and travel speed performance during the initial start-up period along both corridors, there has been an upward trend in travel time reductions and increases in speed as the one-year program progressed.
The full report noted users receiving the greatest potential benefit from the ExpressLanes are single-occupant vehicle drivers that did not meet the HOV occupancy requirements in the pre-deployment period, but can now pay a toll to ride in the ExpressLanes. According to the congestion analysis, these users saw an average peak period travel time savings of 17.11 and 13.86 minutes on the I-10 and 12.80 and 7.81 minutes on the I-110 for the morning and afternoon peak periods, respectively.
FHWA evaluation showed that peak hour vehicle throughput in the ExpressLanes increased in the post-deployment period and transit ridership increased by 15 percent in the post deployment period. In addition, transit riders, general purpose lane users, and HOV users who remained in the same user group from pre-deployment to post-deployment of the ExpressLanes experienced no major changes.
In terms of congestion reduction, travel times decreased in the morning peak period for the I-10 ExpressLanes and the I-10 general purpose lanes in the morning, the most congested time of the day. The general purpose lanes in the evening peak periods showed an increase of travel time due to the new construction of the HOV lanes in the eastbound direction.
On the I-110 ExpressLanes, travel times increased in the morning peak period and marginally decreased in the general purpose lanes. The general purpose lanes in the evening peak period show an increase of travel time, however, the trend shows a continued decline from the initial deployment period.
Ridership on the Metro Silver Line buses that took advantage of the ExpressLanes along both corridors increased 27 percent after new service was added with an additional 15 percent increase post-tolling. Bus travel times on both the 10 and 110 ExpressLanes improved during the morning peak period and there were a total of 117 new vanpools created during the one-year period surpassing the goal of 100 new vanpools.
Average ExpressLanes travel speeds during peak periods along both corridors remained above 45 miles-per-hour at least 90 percent of the time during the pilot period. In addition, public acceptance of the program was high with a total of 259,524 transponders issued by Metro during the pilot period exceeding the agency’s goal of 100,000 transponders issued.
The report also noted that more than $18 million in net toll revenues were generated, exceeding the initial forecast of $8 million to $10 million. This indicator of sustainability ensures that the toll operation does not require an ongoing public subsidy.
Metro’s introduction of the first of its kind discount for low-income commuters was noted, with the enrollment of more than 4,000 Los Angeles County households in the Equity Plan and more than $100,000 in toll credits issued.
Metro ExpressLanes opened along the I-110 Harbor Freeway in November 2012 between Adams Boulevard and the State Route 91 Freeway and on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 Freeway in February 2013 as part of a one year pilot Congestion Reduction Demonstration Project funded by a $210 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Under Metro’s ExpressLanes program, the minimum toll per mile is $0.25 and the maximum toll per mile is $1.40. The general purpose lanes are not tolled. Carpools, vanpools, publically and privately operated buses, and motorcycles travel toll-free. The goal of the program is to leverage pricing for sustainable change that creates travel time savings, increases trip reliability, creates cost savings, and improves air quality.
Now that the federal demonstration period is complete, the Metro Board approved continuation of the Metro ExpressLanes beyond the current tolling authority expiration date of January 15, 2015. Metro is currently supporting legislation in Sacramento that will extend its tolling authority beyond that date.
For additional information in the Metro ExpressLanes program, visit metro.net/expresslanes.