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Posts from the ExpressLanes Category


110 Freeway Off-Ramp Project Threatens Historic Church, MyFigueroa

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Caltrans planned 110 Freeway flyover off-ramp next to St. John’s Cathedral. Image via Caltrans MND document [PDF]

Tonight, Caltrans is hosting a meeting to gather input on a new freeway off-ramp that would funnel 110 Freeway traffic onto Figueroa Street just south of downtown Los Angeles. The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Orthopedic Institute for Children, 403 West Adams Boulevard in South Los Angeles.

Caltrans’ proposal, officially titled the Interstate 110 High-Occupancy Toll Lanes Flyover Project, would spend $43 million extending the elevated express lanes structure, so drivers who currently exit at Adams Boulevard near Flower Street could also exit two blocks north at Figueroa Street, south of 23rd Street. The new off-ramp would be an elevated flyover extending over Adams, Flower, and the Metro Expo Line and landing on Figueroa Way, a small one-way street that merges onto Figueroa Street.

Aerial view of the flyover trajectory, with identified historic resources highlighted. Image via Caltrans MND document [PDF]

Aerial view of the flyover trajectory, with identified historic resources highlighted. Image via Caltrans MND document [PDF]

In January, Caltrans released its environmental study, a Mitigated Negative Declaration [PDF], essentially stating that the project would have no significant negative environmental impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Organized opposition to the project has primarily come from the L.A. Conservancy. The Conservancy opposes the 70-foot tall freeway ramp for impairing views of the adjacent 1924 St. John’s Cathedral, as well as contributing noise and further breaking up the neighborhood.  Read more…


Balancing Cars, Cash and Congestion: Metro Silver Line BRT in ExpressLanes

ExpressLanes along the 10 Freeway, looking west from the Soto Street Bridge during morning rush hour June 2014. Photo: Joe Linton / Streetsblog L.A.

ExpressLanes along the 10 Freeway looking west from the Soto Street / Marengo Street Bridge during morning rush hour. Though the ExpressLanes (right, with red car) have encountered some congestion, on this morning in early June 2014 they were running smoothly for plenty of drivers. Photo: Joe Linton / Streetsblog L.A.

At the April 2014 board meeting, Metro’s ExpressLanes and the Metro Silver Line were the big success story.

The ExpressLanes program is a $210 million federally-funded trial project to “to develop multi-modal solutions to improve traffic flow and provide enhanced travel options on the I-110 and I-10 Freeways.” The program converted freeway carpool lanes to toll lanes, and simultaneously improved transit service, especially the Metro Silver Line freeway-running BRT, in the same freeway corridors. In late 2012, L.A.’s first ExpressLanes opened on the 110 Freeway; the full two-freeway pilot was in place in early 2013.

In April, Metro staff reported results for the first full year of ExpressLanes. Ridership on the Silver Line is up 52 percent. Drivers acquired 259,000 transponders, greatly exceeding the program’s goal of 100,000.  Possibly most importantly, Express lane revenue was way up. The forecast was for $8-10 million over the course of the 1-year pilot. Actual revenue was $19 million. This revenue is directed back into transportation improvements in the Freeway corridors.

The Metro board was unanimous in voting to make the Express Lane program permanent.

How does it work?

There are already videos and websites explaining how drivers take advantage of the new toll lanes. So the focus of this article is the transit rider experience: how did the ExpressLanes program benefit transit riders? How did ExpressLanes result in such impressive gains in Metro Silver Line bus ridership?

The Metro Silver Line is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running on separated freeway high-occupancy lanes along the 10 and 110 Freeways – the same lanes that were converted from carpool-only to toll lanes. The Silver Line runs as an express bus on downtown streets between its two freeway stretches.

The Silver Line opened in 2009 with relatively limited service. Though it had some of the advantages of running unimpeded in carpool lanes, the frequency was inadequate. Buses ran every 30 minutes.

With the ExpressLanes project, Metro purchased 59 new buses for the Silver Line. Service frequency was increased such that buses today run every 4-6 minutes at peak commute hours. Other bus line service on these lanes was also increased; including the Foothill Transit Silver Streak.

To incentivize drivers to ride the Silver Line, Metro created a “first of its kind” Transit Rewards Program. Enrolled drivers who use their  TAP card 32 times per month receive a $5 credit toward ExpressLane toll fees. In regards to livability, this incentive seems a bit perverse. It is like giving a child candy for brushing her teeth. The roughly 90 percent of transit riders who arrive by foot, bus, or bike receive no similar incentive, though there is a low Toll Credit program that subsidizes low-income driver’s tolls.

Read more…


40% of ExpressLane Funds Will Go Towards Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements

When Metro first proposed converting HOV Lanes to congestion pricing lanes where drivers could choose to pay cash for a congestion free trip, some politicians and news paper columnists were outraged. Some where so outraged at the “Lexus Lanes” they worked tirelessly to get them moved somewhere else. Others were so outraged they wrote research-free opinion columns standing up for all of the poor people that wouldn’t be able to buy in to the toll lanes every day.

Projects such as Carson's bike plans may be funded by ExpressLanes.

Those people were nowhere to be found last week when the Metro Board of Directors advised staff to allocate roughly 40% of toll funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects, injecting literally millions of dollars into the systems surrounding the ExpressLanes on the I-10 and I-110.

“Bike paths and walkways are important components of the ExpressLanes project, and the communities along the Harbor and Santa Monica Freeways—where the pilot project is in place–  will see the benefits of the projected $16 million to $19 million in revenue,” writes County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The guidelines for reinvesting these funds take a holistic view of  transit.”

After the federal government granted enough funds to Metro to dramatically increase bus service along the freeway corridors impacted by ExpressLanes, the program now has direct benefits for the car-free and transit dependent. Some of whom have even less fiscal means than the car owners being defended by hysterical politicians and out-of-touch newspaper columnists.

And the representatives of the areas that are seeing the benefits of ExpressLanes are ecstatic.

“It’s wonderful to see Metro invest toll revenue in local communities,” writes Lauren Grabowski, the  HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Project Manager for Connecting Carson, the City of Carson’s Active Transportation Plan.

“Carson City Council has already approved of a bike plan which identifies projects that can connect Carson residents and workers to two I-110 Express stations, Carson Station and the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. But finding funding is always a challenge. Developing these projects will encourage people to use the Metro Express Buses on the I-110 as well promote community healthy through increased physical activity and cleaner air. It’s a win-win.”

Carson City is located just on the I-110 Corridor. Similar enthusiasm can be found along the I-10 ExpressLanes corridor. Read more…


It Might be Hot, but Antonovich Wants It HOTter on the Westside

Just when you thought the I-405 Widening Project through the Sepulveda Pass couldn’t get less popular.

Antonovich talks to fellow Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the area covered in the 405 widening. They were talking fire safety, not congestion pricing. Photo:ZevWeb

Last week, news broke slowly that then Metro Board Chair and County Supervisor Mike Antonovich wants Metro staff to examine whether or not it makes sense for the HOV lanes on the I-405 to become  High Occupancy Toll Lanes to offset the ever expanding budget of the widening.

The motion cleared committee and was passed by the Metro Board. Staff is expected to have a report in the next month or two. Metro currently oversees a pilot program its version of congestion pricing, known as ExpressLanes, on portions of the I-10 and I-110. The results of the program are still up for debate.

It might seem odd for Antonovich, who tells Fox 11 he doesn’t actually like congestion pricing, to sponsor such a measure.  The Supervisor explains that it’s not a love of congestion pricing, but an over-arching sense of fairness that moved this proposal. Metro is proposing to create HOT Lanes for the I-5 to pay for expansion of the local HOV network. Since federal funds are no longer enough to cover the 405 project, it’s unfair to expect the entire county to foot the bill while only drivers on the I-5 have to pay the bill for that road widening.

So what say you Streetsbloggers, should the new HOV lane on the 405 be immediately converted into a HOT Lane? Is Antonovich right?

Should the new HOV lane on the 405 become an ExpressLane when it is completely opened?

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Congestion Pricing Opens on the I-10, Hysteria on Hold

Image via Metro

This weekend, Express Lanes opened on 14 miles of the I-10 between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway. The lanes converted existing HOV lanes to HOV/HOT lanes during non-peak hours. This means solo-car commuters can buy their way into the carpool lane if they have a FastTrack transponder. Carpoolers will also need to purchase the transponder. This need is controversial.

But what hasn’t been controversial is the actual conversion. When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a congestion pricing fee for some lanes in New York City, the press and many community groups went into over drive. In Los Angeles, there were a handful of angry letters sent to the Metro Board of Directors, and there seems to be grumbling about the transpoder requirement for carpools. Other than that, the hysteria is on hold. Or even non-existent.

The worst coverage of ExpressLanes, and really the only negative mainstream coverage, came from ABC 7’s super reporter David Ono. Ono interviews presidents, travels to disaster zones, and is one of ABC’s anchors. I’m guessing at some point he’s going to look back at this story and regret it. Basically, Ono goes for a ride with a driver next to the I-110 ExpressLanes and does a “man on the street” story that is more than a little slanted against the project.

After the video, read on to see what Ono got wrong.

Read more…


Metro Responds to FastTrack Criticism: Removing Monthly Fee Opens Budget Hole, Encourages People Outside L.A. County to Purchase, Not Use, Transponders

Ever since Metro first announced the details of its ExpressLanes program, converting HOV lanes to variable toll lanes on parts of the I-10 and I-110 debate has been fierce. In legacy media outlets, the debate has been over whether or not it is right or ethical for government to charge drivers for access to the lanes. In outlets devoted to transportation coverage, the debate has focused on a $3 monthly fee that ExpressLane transponder holders will incur if they drive in these lanes less than four times a month.

Picking up the argument that the fee “kills” casual carpooling, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky. At the last meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, Yaroslavsky moved that staff prepare a motion and report on removing the fee. For the record, the fee will not go into effect until the I-10 Express Lanes open later this year under current plans.

Yesterday, The Source highlighted a memo written by Metro staff explaining the $3 charge. After first explaining that this fee is consistent with other toll agencies in the state, the staff report offers two major reasons for the fee: it offsets costs associated with maintaining the accounts and it prevents toll lane users from using Metro’s “free fee accounts” to get transponders which are only used in other regions.

To make sense of Metro’s arguments outlined below, one must first understand that when a driver purchases a FastTrack transponder and account, they’re not giving money to Metro. Metro receives money every time a toll is charged, or a user fee.

So what fees are associated with FastTrack accounts? Metro breaks it down.

For a full copy of the proposal, visit The Source

At first glance, it appears that the account fees are being used to offset the cost of having a customer service center. On second glance, the numbers don’t make a lot of sense. Read more…


Metro ExpressLanes and Carpooling: The Facts, the Benefits and More

(Those of you that follow Streetsblog on Twitter may have noticed the ExpressLanes team at Metro were less than thrilled with our article on the concerns some have with the transponder requirement to access ExpressLanes. We invited them to write a response and Stephanie Wiggins, Executive Officer for the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Initiative, responded. – D)

So, what happens to carpools when toll operations begin on the 110 Harbor Freeway (between Adams Boulevard and the 91 Freeway) on Nov. 10 and on the 10 San Bernardino Freeway (between Alameda Street and the 605) next year? This has been a topic of discussion lately on social media and a few blogs. What we are hearing is some carpoolers don’t understand the rules for carpools when tolling starts. Some are concerned they will have to pay a $40 pre-paid toll deposit, and that “casual” carpoolers who don’t travel these freeways frequently will be forced to use the general purpose lanes because they don’t have the required transponder. Finally, others simply say the ExpressLanes won’t improve the flow of traffic, and that the ExpressLanes may actually discourage carpoolers.

We understand those concerns and want to keep the dialogue going. First, we must point out that we are implementing this multi-faceted ExpressLanes program because we believe it will reduce traffic congestions and improve your commute.

It will do this by increasing travel options with more buses, vanpools, expanded transit stations and more. It also will maximize freeway capacity on heavily traveled sections of the 110 and 10 by converting the carpool lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. The HOT lanes allow solo drivers (and two-person carpools on the 10 during rush hours) to use the ExpressLanes for a toll.

To avoid backups in the Metro ExpressLanes, sensors are deployed that measure congestion and adjust the tolls, increasing the toll from 25 cents a mile up to a maximum of $1.40 a mile as more vehicles enter the Metro ExpressLanes.

As we prepare for the launch of the tolling program, we are going to be flexible enough to make adjustments once it begins and throughout the one-year pilot period.

Let’s start by laying out the facts related to carpools:  Read more…


Will Metro Rue the Day It Decided to Require Transponders for ExpressLanes Access

A banner from The Transit Coalition's "We Want Toll Lanes Done Right" page for the I-91 in the Inland Empire.

On November 10, the I-110 ExpressLanes, a type of “congestion pricing” or HOT Lane System, will open on the I-110 from just South of the 91 Freeway going north all the way to just South of the I-10. Early next year, the similar lanes will open on the I-10. In both cases, single-occupancy vehicles will be allowed into what are currently high occupancy or low-emission vehicle lanes (HOV Lanes) for a small cost per mile which will vary pending congestion conditions. If there is too much congestion in the ExpressLane, then it will be closed to all but the carpoolers.

“Everywhere it’s been tried, congestion has gone down,” Mayor Villaraigosa told Streetsblog in our July interview when discussing Metro’s ExpressLanes plan. The Mayor also pointed to the over $200 million Metro received to be a test case for HOV to HOT lane conversion that allowed Metro to refurbish the El Monte transit center, increase bus access along the corridor, purchase 100 new vans for its van pool program, and a laundry list of other improvements.

Yet, many in the transit community fear the coming ExpressLanes, worrying that a “less than smooth” implementation could set the idea of road pricing back a generation in L.A. County.

Nicholas Ventrone, with The Transit Coalition, is one of those that is worried. He warns that by requiring anyone that uses the ExpressLanes, even those doing so “for free” because of a carpool, to have a transponder; Metro is creating an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and undermining support for the project. Read more…