Traffic Is Undermining the Success of Freeway ExpressLanes

Initially hailed as a solution, toll lanes are starting to clog

Metro’s grand experiment in speeding up commutes for some—and making a little coin while they’re at it—hit a speed bump, recently. New reports indicate the 10 and 110’s ExpressLanes, which allow solo drivers to occupy carpool lanes for a price, are growing busier during morning rush hour, making them less desirable for commuters and endangering federal funds that require the lanes to operate at an average of 45 mph or faster.

The pricing of the ExpressLanes adjust to the traffic on the freeway. If it’s busier, signs indicate solo drivers will pay the maximum toll on the lanes’ full stretches, which can be up to $15. Many solo drivers with the ExpressLane transponders are hopping out of the lanes when they see that sign, causing more traffic with their merging and swerving.

Still, there are enough solo drivers using the ExpressLanes lately to cause speeds to severely drop. Metro is hoping to solve the problem by raising prices during the heaviest traffic—by 10 cents a mile—while also reducing off-peak tolls by 15 cents per mile. The hope is to encourage solo drivers with the transponders to use the general purpose lanes more often and save the ExpressLanes for more carpoolers and buses, especially at rush hours.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that a market-based policy is best way to respond to congestion levels out there,” Metro executive officer Shahrzad Amiri told the Metro board last month, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Some boardmembers expressed deep skepticism that adjusting prices would reduce traffic. Don Knabe, boardmember a member of the County Board of Supervisors, said the pricing schemed “lacked rhyme or reason” while County Supe/boardmember Sheila Keuhl compared it to a “Rube Goldberg” puzzle.