Los Angeles launched an experiment of sorts when it turned carpool lanes into toll lanes on the 110 freeway late last year. The idea, of course, was to get everyone moving more quickly (and to make some money to improve the Harbor Freeway corridor). The data is in and it’s not exactly what drivers and planners wanted to see. Drivers in the toll lanes are moving quickly, but the rest of the freeway has slowed down.
This drive time discrepancy might just be growing pains. MTA officials say solo drivers are no longer using the carpool lane illegally, and everyone else is just taking their time to figure out if the toll lane is worth it. But even if it’s worth the charge, the rules and cost can be confusing. As Martin Morales wrote on our Facebook page, it’s “soooo confusing trying to read how much my wallet is gonna set me back on a given day depending the speed and number of cars on the fwy. To hell with it I’m not paying the city more money – I feel like I’m being robbed and no fun is pointed at me!”
The congestion pricing model means that you never really know how much you’re going to be charged. The price ranges from 25 cents per mile to $1.40 per mile; it’s more expensive when regular lanes get busier. And that’s after already buying the $40 transponder (Metro has already issued 12,297 tickets to drivers caught on camera without the FasTrak device).
We turned to KCRW listeners (and commuters) who use the freeway to gauge the efficacy of the toll lanes. Here’s what they said:
Gabriela Duncan: “Frustrated that I have to pay for something that used to be FREE! 20 violations for using it as a carpool lane without a transponder! Their signs make no sense to figure out how much you are actually paying and although they say carpooling is “free”, you still have to pay $40 to get the transponder PLUS maintenance fees. Just another reason for the city of Los Angeles to siphon money from its citizens. I love how they say, “It’s a Pilot Program” oh really, well get rid of it! Waste of Money!!!!
Annie Donohue : I travel on the 110 from San Pedro to the 101 or Pasadena several times a week. I didn’t want to spend the extra money for FasTrak at first, but it has been well worth it for me and has taken hours off my commute. It’s a bummer when the lane ends at Adams.
Krystal Puma: The city should have informed the public more. I and I’m sure many others are still unsure about how the lanes work
Gloria Medina: I am so unhappy with the toll lanes! My commute has worsen since the opening of the Fast Track lane. It makes me so upset to have to sit in more congestion for longer periods of time while the “LEXUS” lane is used only by a few privileged commuters. Even if I am travelling with enough passengers to qualify for carpooling I still can’t use the FasTrack Lane because I have not purchased a transponder. Did I say that I mention that I am not happy?!?