The New Toll Lane On The 110 Might Just Drive Us Over the Edge - CityThink - Los Angeles magazine

The New Toll Lane On The 110 Might Just Drive Us Over the Edge

The Arroyo Seco Parkway—also known as the 110, the first freeway in the western United States—opened in 1940. Angelenos have since considered it their birthright to roam the region with the sort of financial freedom that toll-paying East Coasters couldn’t dream of. It didn’t take long for our population boom to put a speedy end to fast-moving roadways. After decades of watching freeways grow ever more packed, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority quietly began laying the groundwork for the November 10 debut of a toll lane along 11 miles of the 110 freeway between downtown and the 91.

Just the idea of a toll lane in a land ruled by freeways is jolting enough. Worse is the slap to carpoolers who’ve enjoyed having the diamond lane mostly to themselves. The lanes evolved to eventually reward drivers with low-emission vehicles as well. Now anyone can win access by shelling out dough. In theory the rates—which fluctuate depending on congestion from 25¢ to $1.40 a mile—will motivate people to carpool (that’s why the lanes are labeled High Occupancy Toll, or HOT). The plan also includes rolling out 14 miles of toll lanes on the 10 freeway. That’s being hopeful, especially considering that in Orange County the masses have been unwilling to pay a premium to glide along the roads there.

We can be sure that in Los Angeles, a city of dire economic inequalities, plenty of drivers will remain stuck in the free lanes watching a stream of cars slip by, a transponder on their windshield ringing up the tolls as they pass. If the new HOT lanes do go over well, that’s a conundrum, too: Few things are as maddening as sitting in a clogged carpool lane. But if time is money, will there be refunds?

Illustration by James Gary 

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  1. Nicole Possert posted on 11/05/2012 09:52 AM
    But what if we did already use those lanes to carpool to the airport and now cannot without paying for them? Oi!

    Slight clarification -- the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway is not part of the TOLL experiment. It only goes NORTH from the 4 level (US 101) through the lovely Arroyo Seco communities of Northeast Los Angeles, S Pasadena and ends in Pasadena. It is a state highway and National Scenic Byway.

    The Interstate (Harbor Freeway) is the portion of the 110 that travels through downtown south of the 101 and south.
  2. Adam posted on 11/06/2012 02:41 PM
    It would be nice if Mary Melton did a little research before publishing this totally uninformed article:

    (1) the I-10 project is a go and already under construction. There's no "being hopeful" about it - it's happening.

    (2) no need for "refunds" - the pricing on the HOT lanes will be "dynamic" ie responsive to real-time traffic levels - tolls will go up when congestion increases, but if demand continues to outstrip available capacity, the entry signage will turn additional vehicles away once speeds in the lanes drop below 45 mph.

    (3) low-emission vehicles with a solo driver will have to pay to use the HOT lanes

    (4) regarding income inequality, surveys of existing HOT lanes in Riverside/Orange Counties show that low-income drivers use toll lanes just as frequently as high-income drivers. Plus Metro has a special program for low-income drivers to offset the cost of the new ExpressLanes.
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