This Saturday, November 10, Metro will launch its ExpressLanes program on the 110--it'll change 11 miles of carpool lanes into high-occupancy toll (aka HOT) lanes with congestion pricing for solo drivers. What the hell does that mean? All drivers who want to use the lanes will need a FasTrak transponder--drivers will switch the transponder to reflect the number of people in their car and then they'll be able to use the HOT lanes for a variable fee based on the amount of traffic at the time. This is a pilot program that will expand to the 10 in the San Gabriel Valley in early 2013. The idea is to shuffle traffic around to keep cars in both the carpool and regular lanes moving at a faster pace. The whole system's a little complicated, so here's everything you might possibly want to know:
-- The 110 project runs from the Artesia Transit Center to Adams Boulevard.
-- The 10 project will open in January or February 2013 and stretch for 14 miles from the 605 to Alameda Street Downtown.
-- Caltrans will add a second carpool lane in each direction for nine of those miles.
-- Absolutely everyone who wants to use the ExpressLanes will need a transponder, but only solo drivers will be charged (if you sometimes drive solo and sometimes carpool, you'll switch the transponder to show how many people are in your car).
-- At first, electric vehicles will have to use the transponders like everyone else, but "the Governor recently signed a law that will allow toll-free access for white and green sticker vehicles to the Metro ExpressLanes after March 1, 2014," according to a live chat with Metro.
-- Transponders require a $40 start-up balance, which will be credited to future tolls (there are discounts available for low-income families).
-- You can't use your existing FasTrak toll lane transponder for the HOT lanes, only a Metro ExpressLanes switchable transponder.
-- There's a $3 monthly account fee starting when the 10 HOT lanes open; it'll be automatically waived after four one-way trips per month.
-- You can add carpool members to your FasTrak account at any time.
-- Tolls for solo drivers will vary between $0.25 and $1.40 per mile, with higher tolls when there's more traffic. According to the Daily Breeze, a trip "will cost on average between $4 and $7 and a maximum of $15.40 from end to end."
-- There are "enforcement beacon lights" that flash when non-qualified drivers enter the HOT lanes. There'll be extra CHP offers on the routes who will do visual checks to make sure people stay compliant.
-- If you use the lane illegally and are caught by Metro cameras, you'll be billed for the toll and required to pay within five days.
-- If CHP pulls you over for illegally using the HOT lanes, you'll have to pay a $341 fine.
-- If speed in the HOT lanes drops below 45 mph, electronic signs will warn that they're "HOV Only," meaning solo drivers can't enter even with a transponder (if you're already in the lane, you can stay).
-- "[Y]ou will be able to use your Metro ExpressLanes switchable transponder on any toll facility in California, including the 91 Express Lanes."
-- Metro is working with rental car companies to put transponders in rental cars.
-- Bus riders who use their TAP cards on transit that runs in the 10 or 110 ExpressLanes "can earn $5 in toll credits (that will be applied to your FasTrak account) for every 32 one-way trips during peak hours."
-- To decide whether the pilot program is a success, Metro will look at the following, according to the live chat: "Are travel times reduced and average vehicle speeds increased in the Metro ExpressLanes and general purpose lanes? (travel time savings, average vehicle speed) How many drivers shift from driving alone to using carpools, transit and/or Metro vanpools? (mode shift) Is the efficiency of all lanes increased by moving more people on the Metro ExpressLanes in a specified period of time? (person throughput) Is transportation access improved for low-income commuters? (surveys, credit redemption, transit ridership) Are air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions reduced? Are arterial streets impacted by this project?" They'll have to submit a report on the project to the state legislature by December 2014.
-- Metro expects to raise about $20 million in revenues from the HOT lanes; it'll have to go back to the same corridors.
· Live chat transcripts on ExpressLanes is posted! [The Source]
· ExpressLanes Archives [Curbed LA]