Pretty soon you’ll be able to pay a toll and drive in the carpool lanes by yourself.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) Board of Directors today approved toll rates to be used on portions of the I-10/I-110 ExpressLanes following a series of public hearings that gathered public input on the tolling pricing proposal to be implemented as part of the agency’s Congestion Reduction Demonstration Project (ExpressLanes) that will debut late next year.
The new adopted toll rates will range from 25 cents to $1.40 a mile for solo drivers using the ExpressLanes. Tolls will go into effect with the opening of the ExpressLanes in December 2010. Staff estimates that the average trip on the I-10 ExpressLanes will be nine miles with an average toll of $6 depending on demand and the average trip on the I-110 ExpressLanes is five miles for an average toll of $5.
The big question is… how is this supposed to reduce congestion?
Freeways are congested because they are free. No individual has any incentive to change their behavior, their location, or their job when you can theoretically zip along a 4-5 lane interstate at 60mph. Of course, the reality is that when enough people try to do this, the system comes to a congested halt.
If the goal is to reduce congestion, charge tolls for every lane, not just the carpool lanes. Base the charges on time of day (free between 9pm and 5am, $.50/mile between 7am-10am, $.70/mile between 4pm-7pm, etc.) and build in rate increases to adjust to inflation and changes in congestion patterns.
Charging drivers money instead of time for using the freeway will immediately change their behavior. They’ll combine/postpone/eliminate trips, move the location of their jobs or homes, or change their mode of transportation to foot/bicycle/transit/carpool. As long as the tolls adjust in response to average speeds on the tollway, we can ensure that it works efficiently and at optimal capacity.
With all the revenue generated from the new tolls, we can invest in both maintaining the highways and building high capacity transit alternatives. Soon enough, we’ll have a multi-modal system that offers equally compelling choices.