Update: Regular Carpoolers Will Not Have to Pay to Use ExpressLanes

There won't be a fee for active transponders for regular users of the system. Image: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FasTrak##Wikipedia##

One of the major concerns many people have with Metro’s ExpressLanes project, which will convert HOV Lanes on parts of the I-10 and I-110 to variable toll lanes, is that the carpoolers who currently use those lanes will lose their incentive to carpool.  Metro addressed those concerns when they announced that carpool drivers would be allowed to continue to use those lanes.  However, those concerns were rekindled when news broke that Metro will charge $3 per month for using the transponder needed to legally access the lanes.

However, that feel apparently only applies to occasional users of the transponder.  Responding to some comments on Streetsblog, Rick Jager of Metro Media Relations writes:

The monthly $3 maintenance fee is waived when the customer uses the ExpressLanes four trips per month or more whether carpooling, vanpooling of SOV (Single Occupancy Vehicle) and that fee is also waived for low income commuters as well.

Thus, if you’re a regular commuter, than you won’t be paying any more than they are now to use the lanes: nothing.

  • Anonymous

    So someone who uses these HOV lanes (with the prescribed number of passengers) once a month will now have to a) set up an account in addition to the one we already have with the California DMV (i.e. the vehicle’s registration/license plate)  b) get a transponder, c) get pay a fee “to maintain the account” which is in effect a fee to use an HOV lane that is currently “free”, spur-of-the-moment, and relatively anonymous.

    Still raises questions Damien:

    1) This closes the I-110 HOV lanes and the El Monte Busway (Soon to be fully assimilated into the I-10 HOT-lanes Borg) to out-of-state highway users who will likely not have a transponder even if they have the prescribed number of passengers.  Is this not a violation of the Interstate Commerce clause?  I am especially concerned about the impact this may have on intercity and out-of-state charter bus operators.

    2) Users of FasTrack transponders from other parts of the state will run the risk of being charged by the HOT lanes even when they do not use them because of proximity to the readers (i.e. driving in the “Number One” lanes just to the right of the HOT facility).  Why?  Because theirs do not have a switch like LA Metro’s

    3) Why is LA Metro only using a lobbyist for the auto-culture (see your own coverage of the speed-trap laws) to distribute these?  Why not also use “Costco and Walgreens”?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting to note that after looking at the SANDAG, OCTA and BATA FasTrak web-pages, it appears that it is impossible to sign up for a FasTrak transponder without both a U.S. Address and U.S. Vehicle registration. 

    NAFTA, what?

    But that’s OK, I guess since I never see cars with plates from Baja or Chihuahua…

    I wonder if LA Metro will also continue this discriminatory policy.

  • Joe

    I’m still not sure how Metro will verify the number of passengers in order to make sure that the carpoolers aren’t charged, but I guess they’ll figure it out.

    This still puts Metro in the obscene position of penalizing people who don’t drive enough.

    Perhaps they need a new slogan: Go Metro! But Don’t Go Metro Too Much!

  •  It is supposed to be some switch on the Fastrak that will allow one to verify passengers. If the driver is driving by themselves and sets the switch to 3+, then when the CHP guy looks at the display to see if the correct toll was deducted, then it will register invalid and they would get a ticket.

    I agree that the I-10 situation is going to be the most interesting. There will be no buffer space and no bollards to divide traffic. Anecdotally I have seen that HOV violators have grown substantially since the carpool lane repaving project began. When there was the buffer lane, you would regularly see motorcycle cruisers zipping on the buffer lane checking for compliance. With no buffer lane it is much more difficult for CHP to cruise on the lane line without getting hurt. They do spot check on the separated part of the busway, but it is much more difficult to check on  the mainline segment.

  • Anonymous

    There’s going to be a switch on the LA Metro FasTrak transponders.

    There is NO switch on the transponders currently issued by OCTA/The Toll Roads (Orange County), SANDAG (San Diego County) or BATA (The Bay Area).

  • Teampdd

    can motorcycles continue to use carpool lane? there is no place to put a transponder on a motorcycle

  • Lirajoe75

    how about motorcycle riders would we need transponder also/?

  • Erik Griswold

    Yes, you need one.

  • Erik Griswold

    You put it in your pocket then.

  • This is what Bronwen Trice at metro has to say about this:

     All motorists, including motorcycles, traveling on the Metro ExpressLanes are required to have a FasTrak transponder. However, motorcycles, eligible carpools and vanpools with a FasTrak will not be charged a toll to use the Metro ExpressLanes. Motorcycles need the FasTrak because the toll system needs a mechanism to distinguish when to charge a toll and when not to charge a toll.

    The Metro ExpressLanes switchable FasTrak will allow you to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle by setting the switch on the transponder to the appropriate setting (1, 2, 3+). Motorcycles should always set the transponder to the “3+” position and keep the transponder in a secure location such as in a pocket or bag.

  • Songkoy

    i suggest that vehicles with two or more passengers need not to purchase transponders. i hate to use this term but i think this is what we call ” TRUE HIGHWAY ROBBERY” . Violators of the expresslanes should be treated the same as usual when caught. But requiring all would be users to purchase the “equipment” is too much. Imagine, if one can not use the lanes 4x a month, you’ll be charged $3. So to get away with the $3 , use it 4x meaning you’ll be spending more. i still have lot of comments. it’s just ridiculous!

  • Harold Crumb

    Yes, a transponder is needed so from now on a $36 a year tax for motorcyclist using carpool lanes will be in effect.  That doubles the annual license fee of some motorcycles.  Somehow this is legal that a vehicle must pay double to keep doing what they are doing already.  Motorcyclist would have no need for a transponder EVER.  Somehow, the people in Washington DC managed to keep motorcycles to ride free on highway I-495 (it allows motorcycle WITHOUT a transponder, so riding is truly FREE) so the problem is not a logistical one but something to get more funds (ie tax the people more).  Motorcycles reduce congestion, emmissions all over (including where there is no HOV lanes) so they really are looking at getting more money they are using the congestion BS as an excuse  That means that EVERYONE that carpools, vanpools regularly will HAVE to pay at least $36 a year even if they have 3+ people EVERY time they ride.  It is a tax and they have the police to enforce their taxation.  This is awesome for them they build the highways with our money and then charged us for it to use it.  Pretty soon they will be charging for everything everywhere.

  • Harold Crumb

     Hey  they don’t care.  They will get a minimum of $36 a year for every vehicle that wants to ride the carpool lane.  You are assuming that this is about congestion.  BULL this is about MONEY.  They want to get more money (and hide it as a “fee” but it is really a Carpool lane tax).

  • Harold Crumb

    Hey it is all about the MONEY.  They are taxing everyone and people from out of state they get fine (taxed) even more.  This is a win in every way for them.  They could care less about increasing carpooling.  This new method eliminates in-promptu carpooling, gets rich people better access, removes all low income-middle class motorcycle riders.  This is a tax plain ans simple.  If you looks at it from ANY other angle you will see all kind of flaws.

  • Quit spreading falsehoods. The transponder deposit is a one-time expense — not an annual fee — if you don’t use it on tolls. And it’s refundable when you leave the program and turn in the transponder.

  • Quit spreading falsehoods. The transponder deposit is a one-time expense — not an annual fee — if you don’t use it on tolls. And it’s refundable when you leave the program and turn in the transponder.

  • From the FAQs (which every one commenting on this thread needs to read):

    I drive a motorcycle; do I have to pay a toll? Will I need FasTrak®?

    Motorcycles do not have to pay a toll, but do need to have FasTrak®. The FasTrak® should always be set to 3+.


  • Harold Crumb

    I wonder if there will be a way to tell if your transponder was used “enough” times not to be charged the $3 “fee” or the only way to know is by seeing that the transponder just lost $3?

  • Also from the FAQs (seriously, do people not know how to Google things?):

    Are there any monthly fees associated with having a FasTrak account?Yes. A $3 monthly account maintenance fee is assessed. The fee can be waived with a minimum of four one-way trips on the Metro ExpressLanes in a month. The one-way trips can be any combination of paying a toll, carpooling toll-free, or eligible transit trips. The fee is automatically waived for customers enrolled in the Equity Plan. NOTE: The fee will not begin until AFTER the I-10  ExpressLanes open in early 2013.https://www.metroexpresslanes.net/en/faq/maintenance.shtml

  • You will be able to log in and monitor your account online. I would imagine that they will make your trip history available for you to view. I can’t say this for sure, as I’m not signed up for the program myself.

  • By the way, if you want to ask Metro directly, they have a question/comment form… 


  • OnceInAWhileUser

    They haven’t done a very good job of advertising that if you are a carpool you can still use the lanes for free as long as you have the transponder. Ever since the 110 switched over I haven’t been using it even when I am a carpool because I don’t want to pay the tolls. I was under the impression you had to pay no matter what. If I had know n you didn’t have to pay if you were a carpool, I would have gotten a transponder. BOO on the METRO for not explaining this better to the public.