The one-year demonstration program that has already converted 11 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes  to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on the I-110 continues to move forward and on to a new freeway, the I-10.


Saturday 2/23/13 – 14 miles of new toll lanes opened. At midnight last night another Los Angeles freeway now has toll lanes.
The new ExpressLanes are on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway, between the I-605 freeway and Union Station/Alameda Street. Carpools, vanpools and solo drivers must have a FasTrak® transponder to travel in the ExpressLanes. If you have three or more people in your vehicle it will be a free ride, but you still need the transponder regardless of how many people or whatever type of vehicle you drive. There are exceptions, POTUS, emergency vehicles and motorcycles.

Motorcycles no longer need FasTrak transponders to use ExpressLanes. Their ride is free. They weren’t before due to an electronic glitch involving the licence plates. But that has recently been fixed. Steve Hyman writer of Metro’s blog The Source reports…

“Why do motorcycles no longer need transponders? The toll system on the ExpressLanes is automated. A software update to the system now allows cameras to recognize standard motorcycle license plates — thus ensuring they won’t receive a notice for not having a transponder.”

Many people think it is a big rip off to say the least,
“We already paid to use those lanes with taxes we’ve been shelling out”.
Makes one ponder why they were ever called FREEways in the first place? I suppose We-Paid-for-this-Way was probably a bit too clunky. Now it is a Payway.

LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also is a Metro Board member and chair of Metro’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Congestion Pricing says,

“As solo drivers become familiar with the ExpressLanes along the San Bernardino Freeway, all commuters will benefit—whether they pay a toll or not—because the ExpressLanes will redistribute traffic across all lanes of the freeway.”

In the end, the plan is for more and more L.A. County highways to have a congestion free, toll lane, option. “The goal is to one day have congestion pricing on all freeways. Studies show that it reduces congestion…but it’s a hard sell to people,” Villaraigosa told Curbed LA in July.


Graphic explaining the technology from Metro via ZevWeb via LA Observed

So, specifically how does this affect you?

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 Metro ExpressLanes for a toll. All other times, they will travel toll-free in the ExpressLanes. The FasTrak transponder has settings for the driver to designate whether there are one, two or three or more passengers (1, 2 or +) in the vehicle because of the I-10 carpool rules.

At all times on both the I-110 and I-10 freeways, the general purpose lanes are not tolled. But solo drivers will be required to pay a toll anytime they use the ExpressLanes. 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.
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, Metro explains.

More than 100,000 FasTrak® ExpressLanes transponders have been issued since July 2012. I have faith that this will help. I don’t think right away. Most people I talk to are quite resistant to the idea. It is my belief – hope is a bit more accurate, that as more and more peeps buy their transponders and their use is second nature, we will see some improvement in our bummer to bummer traffic. As it is now, I’m up for trying just about anything even a program that has “kinda worked” in other cities.

What do you think? Are you one of the naysayers or are you a “yaysayer”?
Do you drive on the Harbor or San Bernardino Payway?  How is it going? I know the SB110 leaving downtown sucks to Gage Ave at the very least.
Have you gotten a transponder yet? I still need to get mine. I wonder if Metro will have another $500 sweepstakes? Maybe I’ll wait and see. Though I do have that luxury as the 10 and the 110 are not a part of my commute.