Wednesday, May 1, 2013

More Toll Lane Madness in Los Angeles

Are taxpayers paying for government officials to drive alone in LA high occupancy toll lanes?
 
Concept of I-15 HOT Lane Enforcement
CBS2 News conducted an exclusive investigation where government vehicles along with some elected officials are using the Metro ExpressLanes without a FasTrak transponder. CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein uncovered nearly 4,000 FasTrak violations along the I-10 and I-110 high occupancy toll lanes by government officials. If these vehicle trips were non-HOV's, Metro is rightly owed the nearly $50,000 in outstanding tolls and fines. Talk about potential toll payment and carpool cheating on a massive scale by public officials. These violations exclude responding emergency vehicles, public transit buses, and on-duty Caltrans vehicles; such traffic is rightly exempted.

After Goldstein questioned the public agencies involvled, the entities such as LAX and the City of Los Angeles began to pay up. The question remains: Were the outstanding amounts paid for by the assigned operator of the vehicles or by taxpayers? If the latter, the public official behind the wheel basically got a free ride. To be fair, CBS2 reported that Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose vehicle was caught without a transponder, paid his share from a personal check. However, because CBS2 broke this story, measures must be put into place to prevent potential abuse of the Metro ExpressLanes by government officials. With the exception of law enforcement, first responders and Caltrans trucks, taxpayers should not be paying for government officials to drive alone in the high occupancy express lanes.

Controlling Cheating with Intelligence-Driven Toll Lane Enforcement

This event also clearly shows why the Metro ExpressLanes, the 91 Express Lanes and other high occupancy toll lanes throughout Southern California need free non-transponder carpooling. Under an intelligence-driven enforcement system, if the CHP catches a government employee or elected official driving alone without an active transponder mounted at all times in the HOT lanes, the CHP would issue the driver, not taxpayers, a heavy carpool violation ticket. Once again, both LA County and the state government need to consider increasing the carpool violation base fine to $500 and make it a one-point moving violation to fund increased intelligence-driven enforcement along the highways. That would control suspected toll cheating in the Metro ExpressLanes.

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