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:##http://zev.lacounty.gov/newsletters/October_2008.html##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?

View Results

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  • Kenny Easwaran

    Is there some state law that bans them from turning existing lanes into HOT lanes?

  • weini94

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt

  • Chance

    Antonovich and Yaroslavsky have a long history of sabotaging transit investment for the San Fernando Valley (we really need to redraw our County Supervisor Districts). County Supervisors aside, all rational people should have known that the extra space created by the 405 widening was going to be used for toll lanes.

    Metro even released a presentation detailing how they can restripe the roads to make two toll roads in each direction. I support the idea because we need more money. And it seems easier to get cash from toll roads than it is to raise taxes.

  • Irwin Chen

    How about HOT lanes on surface streets? Why are we only looking at congestion pricing on highways? All the major roads on the Westside to Mid City could use some congestion pricing: Wilshire/Santa Monica/Olymipic/Pico/Venice/Lincoln/Bundy/Sepulveda/Westwood/Robertson/La Cienega/La Brea/Fairfax

  • Anonymous

    Should have been a rail line.

  • Ray

    Yes, I agree with you Irwin.
    Once a roadway is congested, it doesn’t make economic sense for it to be free.  Not having a use fee leads to inefficient use of the roadway, greatly increased pollution, and very poor long term land use development.
    Congestion pricing of roadways will lead to commuters making better decisions on transportation options, reduced regional pollution, funding for modern transportation projects, and more efficient use of the public land that has been allocated to transportation.  It is very apparent that it is no longer cost effective or politically popular to increase highway lanes in our region. It’s time to make better use of the highways we have already built and fund modern transportation solutions. 
    Read more about the benefits of congestion pricing on Wikipedia.

  • Ray

    Not a state law, but a federal law that prevents adding tolls to interstate highways. This law’s removal is currently being proposed. Turning a carpool lane into a HOT lane doesn’t seem to be a problem as it has already been done on two LA interstates.

  • Anonymous

    Hell no! I didn’t sit through ten years of this crap to have to pay for it!

  • Niall Huffman

    If you carpool, you wouldn’t have to pay (aside from a refundable transponder deposit). If you drive solo, you’d be able to continue using the general-purpose lanes for free, and you’d have the option of paying your way into the HOT lanes.

  • Jane D

    California drivers pay the 2nd highest gas taxes in the nation, and yet we are being asked to pay an additional toll to travel in Express HOV lanes as single passengers. My experience with these lanes is that the free lanes remain congested and the so-called Express lanes have fewer than 10 cars on them. This is not the way to reduce congestion. People choose to drive on those freeways out of necessity, not because they are going for a leisurely drive. The original intention of the HOV lanes was to encourage carpooling, to take cars off the freeways. Supervisors need to get back to the original intention of taking cars off the freeways through building rail lines alongside the freeways instead of more toll lanes.

  • Anonymous

    Of course they should be turned into HOT lanes. Econ 101 says whenever there’s a shortage, it’s a result of the price being “set below the going rate determined by supply and demand”[1]. Lifting the price ceiling on freeway travel would instantly eliminate traffic congestion (a type of shortage), while providing a non-tax revenue source to pay for future projects.

    Anyone who is opposed to HOT lanes must love taxes, big government, and traffic congestion.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_shortage

  • Anonymous

    The HOT lanes in the I-10 and I-110 have only recently opened. Don’t worry, they will eventually fill up to capacity with paying drivers. And if people are willing to pay to bypass traffic congestion, why should we refuse their money?

  • Jane D

    Actually California now has the HIGHEST gas taxes in the nation. Those taxes were supposed to fund transportation infrastructure and roads. Instead the money is being diverted into the general fund and labelled an excise tax. THAT is why Caltrans and supervisors are charging tolls. So the “price” for travel on our roads is already being charged at the pump. We have learned recently that the California budget is no longer in a deficit, therefore, we can move those transportation funds back to where it belongs, maintain our roads without tolls, and build rail to get the cars off the freeways.

  • You don’t pay a HOT lane toll to pay for road construction; you pay it for the guarantee of a consistent, fast travel time through the corridor. The toll entitles you to an extra benefit beyond the utility you get from the road’s mere existence.

    HOT lanes = letting solo drivers pay to use the carpool lane. That’s it.

  • Jane D

    And if those solo drivers DON’T pay for the carpool lane? Then you’ve got congested “free” lanes and empty carpool lanes. I think the transportation people are making huge assumptions about people’s willingness to pay additional fees for car travel, when drivers are already paying a lot at the pump.

  • If not enough drivers are paying to use the lane, then the toll needs to be lowered. This is how HOT lanes work. The toll goes down until enough drivers start using the lanes. It changes hour-by-hour in response to actual conditions on the highway.

    The current policy doesn’t allow solo drivers to use the lanes *at all*. Isn’t it better (from the perspective of a commuter in the general-purpose lanes) to allow some solo drivers into the carpool lane than to allow zero?

  • Jane D

    The purpose of the HOV lanes in the first place was to reduce the number of cars on the freeway. Encouraging solo drivers to use those lanes, now called HOT lanes, does not reward drivers for HOV or for low emissions vehicles. Theoretically it is a way to make money. However, recent studies done on toll roads throughout Southern California shows that toll roads are operating at a deficit, as fewer people are willing to pay to travel on roads that were supposed to be paid for by gas taxes, and other transportation fees. The HOT lanes increase prices as congestion increases, thereby reducing the drivers’ incentive to pay to avoid congestion. The HOT policy is ass-backwards. The solution is to incentivise using alternate transportation…oh wait, there isn’t any. The additional space on the 405 should have rail transportation, not HOT lanes.

  • The toll gets higher as congestion increases because there’s a *greater* incentive to use the HOT lanes, before the toll amount even comes into the discussion. Using the general purpose lanes will cost you time; using the HOT lanes will cost you money. You have to consider both sides of this calculation. The key to using the road’s capacity most efficiently is to make the toll “just enough” to entice as many solo drivers as possible into the lane without congesting it.

    Comparisons to other toll roads in Southern California aren’t really appropriate. Those other roads use toll revenue to pay debt resulting from their construction. The tolls aren’t set based on a targeted speed or travel time like the Express Lanes’ tolls are; they’re driven by the profit motives of private companies.

    “The additional space on the 405 should have rail transportation, not HOT lanes.”

    I actually think this would be a great idea. Unfortunately, that ship’s already sailed.

  • Jane D

    I UNDERSTAND the concept of HOT lanes, that drivers’ fee incentive is based on their need to save time, however, I disagree with the assumption that a majority of drivers will pay the fee to save time. I also understand that there is a difference between the reason for charging fees for HOT lanes and toll roads. My point is that both charge fees for use of the road or highway, and that drivers are more likely NOT to pay the fee. Regarding HOT lanes instead of rail, CalTrans and Metro seem to living in the past, where cars and freeways are the rule, and they are perpetuating that mode of travel almost to the exclusion of more efficient forms of transportation.

  • Anonymous

    The fee is set just high enough to eliminate congestion, but no higher. It’s like a multiple-item auction where the price rises until everybody who wants an item enough to pay the auction price can get one. This may or may not be a “majority” of drivers, but in any case if the fee is set correctly, the HOT lanes will always be filled nearly to capacity with people willing to pay the fee.

  • Where did I claim a ‘majority’ of drivers would be willing to pay the toll? A majority don’t need to pay the toll in order for the program to be effective — just enough of a percentage to fill the HOT lane to capacity without congesting it.

  • Erik Griswold

    We need to have more supervisors period

  • Joe B

    In LA, HOT lanes also mean that carpoolers can’t use the carpool lane unless they pay for transponders and monthly fees. No, thank you.

  • The monthly fee for non-use has been suspended, and is waived if you use the lanes for at least four one-way trips (two round trips) per month. The transponder deposit is refundable if you don’t use it on tolls.

  • calwatch

    No we don’t. If you think the Five Little Kings are insufferable now imagine a body of nine or more. And you would have to expand the MTA Board commensurately, or draw straws on who would serve. A 27 member MTA Board is no one’s idea of fun.

  • calwatch

    What Antonovich is looking for though, which has failed, is a HOT lane priced on maximizing revenue instead of one maximizing traffic. That was the 91 Express Lane which drew tremendous resentment because of its high rates, in all dayparts. A HOT lane that maximized traffic, on the other hand, would charge zero during the overnight hours – whereas the Metro Express Lanes have a minimum rate of 15 cents per mile at all times.

    From going past the Metro Express Lanes everyday on my way to work it looks like they are pricing on both fixed and variable rates. So, the fare from El Monte to the 710 never seems to drop below $2.30 during the time I drive into work, even when a Sig Alert before the lanes began held back some of the traffic. But it has spiked to the $4 range. The Metro Express Lanes are also constrained by a provision that says during peak hours, they must charge 50% more than the Silver Line fare, or $3.70, for a trip the entire length of the HOT lane.

  • tongku04

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt.

  • This is a great point.

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