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Toll Lanes Need Non-Transponder Carpooling
(8/1/2012)

The Transit Coalition believes that it is essential for carpools to have free access to all HOT lanes, without a requirement for transponders.



Southern California is home to a growing network of toll roads and "High- Occupancy Toll" (HOT) lanes, each with differentiating toll policies for the various corridors such as the Metro ExpressLanes, the 91 Express Lanes, and the I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego County.

For the HOT lanes, the Transit Coalition believes that it is essential for carpools to have free access without a requirement for transponders. Here are the toll policies of a few agencies in Southern California (as of 08/01/2012):

Metro ExpressLanes: FasTrak required for all vehicles. If carpooling, plan on using the new transponder with the single/2+/3+ switch or be prepared to pay the full toll. Carpools with the new FasTrak travel free (carpool is 2+ or 3+ depending on the time of the day and the corridor used). Several bus lines will utilize the lanes.

The Toll Roads (SR-73, 133, 241, 261): TCA, which operates the dedicated toll roads throughout Orange County (not to be confused with the 91 Express Lanes) has proposed to phase out cash payments. Drivers will be required to have a FasTrak, or patrons can also register their license plate numbers with TCA as an alternative. No carpool discounts announced at this time and no transit routes are available.

91 Express Lanes: FasTrak required for all vehicles. If there are three or more in the car, use the 3+ lane when nearing the toll antennas. 3+ carpools travel free except the PM rush hour in the peak direction where the toll is discounted 50%. Commuter bus lines currently use the corridor and expanded express service is planned.

I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego County: 2+ carpools free. FasTrak required only for solo vehicles. Simply put the FasTrak away in a mylar bag so it cannot be read by the toll antennas if carpooling. Commuter bus lines currently use the corridor and expanded rapid express service is planned. This toll lane facility won the "Project of the Year Award" from the California Transportation Foundation in 2012.

The Transit Coalition is open to high- occupancy toll lane conversions that implement rideshare-friendly policies similar to those adopted by counties like San Diego and Santa Clara, with carpools defined as 2+ or 3+, depending on the time of the day and the demographics of the corridor, and without requiring transponders for carpools.

The Coalition objects to toll policies that would result in a reduction of carpools instead of single occupancy vehicles. Researchers from UC Berkeley reveal that not only has the San Francisco Bay Area Toll Authority's ill-advised imposition of mandatory FasTrak transponders and tolls on carpools resulted in a 26% reduction of vehicles in the carpool lane, but that many carpools are not picking up additional passengers along the way as before--a double-whammy, reducing the number of people utilizing the carpool lane by well more than 26%.

With that, the Transit Coalition wants to ask this question to each public transportation agency and each elected official who is proposing future toll lanes as a means to reduce congestion for everyone:

Would you consider following the example of San Diego County's award-winning project, adopting congestion-based tolls for solo motorists and opening up your express lanes for free travel for all 2+ or 3+ carpools and private buses, not just those who have FasTrak?
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