How Tolled Express Lanes can properly 'redistribute traffic'

(1/29/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

Los Angeles County Supervisor and LA Metro board member Mark Ridley-Thomas stated that the I-10 carpool lane set to be converted into the Metro ExpressLanes on February 23 will benefit the freeway corridor through LA County, saying, “When solo drivers begin to travel on the ExpressLanes along the San Bernardino Freeway, all commuters will benefit—whether they pay a toll or not—because the ExpressLanes will redistribute traffic across all lanes of the freeway.” 

Ridley-Thomas’ statement would be true if the ExpressLanes supported free non-transponder carpooling. The notion is almost undebatable. Since the conversion of the carpool lanes to Metro ExpressLanes through South LA, traffic in the I-110 general purpose lanes has worsened according to many commuters all because of the FasTrak transponder mandate for carpools and other high occupancy vehicles. Many legit HOV’s such as private buses simply migrated back to the general purpose lanes in lieu of registering for valid economic reasons. The same worsened congestion occurred in Atlanta when the carpool lane was converted to a transponder-only HOT lane along the I-85 corridor. Likewise, the new I-495 Express Lanes through Virginia were lightly used as well; although to be fair, the I-495 HOT lanes did not involve a carpool lane conversion which therefore didn't cause worsened traffic in the main freeway lanes.

In contrast, back in 1996 when the I-15 reversible carpool lane in San Diego County was converted to a HOT facility that maintained non-transponder carpooling, traffic improved for the whole corridor since the existing HOV traffic was never displaced by ill-advised usage policies. There’s no denying the facts. Southern California toll lanes need free non-transponder carpooling if traffic is to be properly redistributed as Ridley-Thomas envisions.