L.A. County’s first toll lanes, called the Metro ExpressLanes, opened last weekend, and we have all the information you need to know about them, courtesy of LATimes.com. And don’t worry — if the lanes prove to be ineffective at relieving traffic, they will be discontinued after the first year. But we gotta start somewhere!
Ari Bloomekatz, “L.A. County toll lanes get smooth start, despite some grumbling”:
– Anyone who uses the lanes, including carpoolers and motorcyclists, needs a transponder. They cost $40 if you pay with a credit/debit card, and that money can be used toward fares. If you pay with cash, the upfront cost is $75, $50 of which can be used toward fares. Discounts are available for low-income households. The devices can be purchased online at www.metroexpresslanes.net; at walk-in centers at 500 W. 190th Street in Gardena or at the El Monte Station at 3501 Santa Anita Ave.; and by printing out and mailing an application to Metro ExpressLanes, P.O. Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247.
– Although carpoolers and motorcyclists need a transponder, they do not have to pay tolls. Officials suggest motorcyclists set their transponders to 3+ at all times.
– Those with electric and hybrid vehicles still need transponders and must pay tolls, even if they have a sticker. Wiggins said that will change after March 1, 2014, when those with electric and hybrid vehicles will still need a transponder and a green or white sticker issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, but will not be charged tolls.
– FasTrak-brand transponders from other regions will work here, but motorists will be charged the same rates as solo drivers even if they are carpooling because their devices do not have the same settings.
– Fines for using the lanes without a transponder can run between $25 and $55. Transponders must be set to accurately reflect the number of passengers in the vehicle on each trip. Those caught setting a transponder to two people or more while driving solo will face fines of at least $341.
– Officials said that if increased demand means average speeds in the express lanes fall below 45 miles per hour, they will change electronic message signs for lanes to read “HOV only” until speeds climb back up.
– Those who bought transponders and created electronic accounts using a credit/debit card or TAP ReadyCARD should know their cards “will automatically be charged $40 or the equivalent of one month’s usage averaged over a three-month period (whichever amount is greater) each time your account balance falls below $10,” according to an informational pamphlet from Metro. Those who paid cash must make a payment of at least $50 when their account falls below $25.
– Drivers can use the same transponder on different vehicles as long as the license plates for those vehicles are added to the FasTrak transponder’s account.
– There is a $3 monthly account maintenance fee that is automatically deducted. That fee is waived for those who qualify for low-income discounts and for drivers who “make four one-way trips per month on the Metro express lanes in any combination of transit, carpool, vanpool or toll-paying SOV,” according to information materials from Metro.