(Note: According to The Source, I misunderstood the wording of the motion. An earlier version of this article mentioned that staff opposed extending the transponder fee. Apparently they wish to see it extended through the end of the ExpressLanes pilot in February 2014)
Metro’s two staff reports to the Board of Directors on the progress of the ExpressLanes pilot program is full of good news. Over the last five months, there has been a 41% increase in transponder sales in L.A. County. The lanes will generate between $16 million and $19 million for investment in the corridors along the I-10 and I-110 in addition to the funding provided by the FTA for the experiment.
However, more and more people are holding FastTrak accounts that aren’t regular users. The number of LA County accounts with infrequent trips increased by 71% from 49,759 to 85,102; the number of accounts with zero trips increased by 103% from 22,053 to 44,767.
The reason the Metro report is only reporting on accounts held within L.A. County is because transponder fees for L.A. County residents purchased through Metro were waived by a Board Action from the April meeting. The holiday from fees is only a six month experiment.
Originally, the ExpressLanes program included a small monthly “maintenance fee” for people that owned transponders and had active accounts but weren’t using the lanes more than a couple of times a month. Following a media uproar (note: Streetsblog covered it first), the Metro Board decided to waive the fee for six months as a pilot program within the pilot program. Basically, if you didn’t use the lanes in some form, you had to pay a $3 maintenance fee.,
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky sits on the Metro Board of Directors and wants to permanently end the transponder fee for accounts that don’t use the ExpressLanes system (or don’t have their transponder account and TAP account linked together). Metro staff agree that the positives outweigh the negatives, at least for now.
The report that provides the above statistics also recommends letting the maintenance fee return at the end of the trial period. Metro pays a maintenance fee of $3 per month to as part of its contract with FasTrak, the company managing the program. If Metro continues to waive the fee, the agency will have to pay FasTrak $1.5 million more out of another coffers. With net revenue estimated between $16 million and $19 million, that is nearly 10% of the net revenue.
Metro staff also claims that the transponders are not a barrier into entering the ExpressLanes system. Read more…