A Transportation Tip for those active in the I-405 toll lane debate in OC

Photo: OCTA/I-405 Project

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

The I-405 high occupancy toll lane proposal through west Orange County between the I-605 near Long Beach and SR-73 in Costa Mesa is back on the table once more thanks to Caltrans. This discussion has been and will be a very heated debate. Generally speaking, there are whole city bodies that don't like the idea. But other HOT lane facilities have proven to be successful at moving people. This will be one HOT topic of discussion. Next week, I'll do what I can to set the record straight.

Today, I have a very productive tip for anybody active in the toll lane debate which includes both pro and anti-toll lane group organizers and decision-making elected officials. Consider taking this tip whether you support the I-405 toll lanes or not. Before I tell you what it is, here are some of your views from this week:

Your Views:

I wish someone would start a weekend Disneyland bus (from the Inland Empire). One bus out in the morning with a return trip early evening -William-Robert Kent Cousert/Facebook

Coalition Concept: A private sector bus heads to Disneyland with a conceptual 91 Express Lanes intermediate access point idea a few miles east of Highway 90 in Yorba Linda.
Note: Concept Only. Not endorsed by OCTA, Disney, or any other entity.
There is certainly a possibility that there is sufficient market demand from the Inland Empire for such intercity service and I wouldn't be surprised if there are already existing providers out there. It's just a matter of inclining the carrier to stop at existing transit centers. This concept piece shows a motorcoach bus headed to the Magic Kingdom via the 91 Express Lanes.

For the record, the concept piece is an idea only. It has not been endorsed by Disney or any public entity.

To start, any final designs of the Interstate 10 & Interstate 15 Corridor (toll lane) Projects need to at a minimum, include HOV/HOT-specific ramps at key corridors that would serve transit/park 'n ride facilities. Ideally, a freeway BRT alignment should be included (similar to I-110 in LA with stops). Even if they have "no demand" for that now, it makes sense to build those from the very beginning instead of dawdling then having to go through the fight to widen those points again at a later date. -Nevram Norman/Facebook 

Coalition Concept: A HOT-specific ramp near the Corona Transit Center.
Note: Concept Idea Only. Not endorsed by OCTA, RCTC, or any other entity.
Those valid points are echoed in the Coalition campaign We want Toll Lanes done right. High occupancy toll lanes need transit infrastructure as demonstrated by the El Monte Busway in Los Angeles and I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego County. The only point I would hesitant to support is a BRT express system mimicking the I-110 Harbor Transitway; the bus stations for this corridor are located in the freeway median which generally make for undesirable waiting conditions. The actual stations should generally be off the freeway.

Does anybody want to be on the eastbound 91 at 4:30pm M-F? If that is our example of how well toll lanes help move things along...then toll lanes don't work. I take umbrage to paying for something through additional taxes...and then having to pay for the same thing again every time I use it...when I don't even think it'll achieve better traffic flow. Common sense: Listen to the local constituency and put in free lanes; or do nothing at all and use the $1.7 billion more constructively to alleviate traffic or reduce emissions. I don't mind spending money wisely...I'd like and even encourage CalTrans to make revenue...but this isn't the right way. -Curtis B/KPCC AirTalk

Photo: OCTA
With all due respect, that statement is wrong. The 91 Express Lanes was funded from bonds, not taxpayer money. User tolls pay into that debt. Also, the eastbound peak-hour traffic congestion on the 91 general purpose lanes that often backs up into Anaheim Hills is mainly due to the bottleneck in Corona at the 71 Freeway where the dual HOT lanes become a single carpool lane and the far right lane exits to the 71. The eastbound toll lanes do sustain fast speeds even during the Friday afternoon rush hour all the way to its current eastern endpoint at the county line prior to dual 2+ HOV/Fastrak lane buffer to the 71 bottleneck. Having a FasTrak transponder, I've taken numerous field studies along the dual toll lane infrastructure aboard a 3+ HOV and there have been times where I've needed to buy myself in for the posted toll. The system works. All motorists currently need a FasTrak including the carpools. HOV 3+ vehicles pay no toll by using the 3+ carpool lane at the toll antennas except from 4-6pm eastbound where it is 50% off.

The Coalition is also calling for the 91 Express Lanes support free non-FasTrak toll transponder 3+ carpooling once the bond debt is paid off with potential 2+ support during off-peak and lighter travel times. That is, both the state and feds should speed up the retirement of this debt by working with OCTA and RCTC, and once paid off from both counties, we're calling for the infrastructure to be a dual carpool lane system with non HOV's given the continued option to buy their way in at the market rates if capacity permits it. All post-debt toll revenue to go toward basic maintenance and funding rapid express BRT. Also, according to OCTA, the transponder mandate for the 3+ HOV's in the 91 Express Lanes is state law which would need to be changed.

I find this ever-increasing (I-405 through west Orange County) "toll road conversion" trend in SoCal to be one the most offensive public practices currently in place. I think it demonstrates that these HOV lanes don't work at all - but rather have become another revenue stream for the state and just another unfair TAX on us regular commuters.
Build travel lanes for everyone to use or at least stop building HOV lanes that are really intended for the rich.
NEXT LEXUS LANE - The supposedly "improved" stretch of 405 from the 10 to the 101. -JC/KPCC AirTalk

I've travelled numerous times aboard the 91 and I-15 "Lexus Lanes" but I'm far from being rich. Yes, I and several other HOT lane patrons don't commute in such facilities outside of a carpool everyday as local agency stats reflect. In fact, the majority of my trips in Southland high occupancy toll lanes have been in a toll-free HOV. That includes a field study end-to-end trip aboard the I-15 Express Lanes during the p.m. rush hour where the maximum toll was $8.00 for solos between Kearny Mesa and Escondido. Toll lanes are not designated just for the rich, period. In addition, a significant pool of solo drivers have demonstrated that they are willing to tax themselves into a faster moving carpool/toll lane in times when quick travel is needed. That includes me.

Transportation Tip for those active in the toll lane debate: Pay a visit down south and check out the I-15 Express Lanes. Bring somebody with you or transfer to the rapid express bus in Escondido if you object to paying a toll. The I-15 Express Lanes has been proven beyond reasonable doubt to move people quickly. It has bus transit infrastructure which allows buses to get up and down the corridor and to/from pedestrian-friendly stations quickly. Carpools 2 or more free. Only solos pay the toll and must have a FasTrak. All HOV's do not need the transponder or pre-register. Solos can buy their way into the express lanes at the market rate toll. Generally speaking tolls are usually around a $0.50 minimum to $4.00 max during rush hours, about $1.00 to $8.00 during super-peak times, and $0.50 min to $1.00 max off-peak. The system works for San Diego. It can work for west Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Transportation trip: Take a look and explore this robust and award-winning multi-modal transportation system.