Carpool and High Occupancy Toll Lanes
Metro ExpressLanes and other Southern California HOT Lanes Need Free Non-Transponder Carpooling and transit infrastructure.
Southern California freeways are now home to hundreds of miles of carpool and HOV lanes which continue to move more people than a traditional general purpose lane would. Because HOV lanes have become popular with reduced speeds, transportation officials are working on major proposals to bring in a network of dual tolled express lanes (also known as High Occupancy Toll or "HOT" Lanes) to Southern California freeways.
The Transit Coalition generally supports multi-modal express lanes and congestion pricing. Such facilities can provide a quick and easy throughfare for carpools, public rapid express buses, private-sector coaches, and solo motorists willing to buy their way out of traffic congestion. The Transit Coalition also does not support opening the HOV/HOT lanes to all traffic for free outside of rush hour unless there is an extraordinary circumstance such as a traffic collision, construction or any other event obstructing ordinary off-peak traffic flow along the general purpose lanes.
The Transit Coalition believes that it is essential for carpools to have free access to these lanes without a requirement for Fastrak transponders especially for highway projects that involve the conversion of existing paid-for carpool lanes to HOT. Law enforcement would handle all violations with heavy fines for deliberate toll payment and HOV cheaters, the state and federal governments would be held to account for funding the transit infrastructure and dynamic signs would restrict the lanes to toll-free carpools only as they approach full capacity or average speeds drop below the federal minimum mandate of 45 MPH.
If HOV's are required to pre-register for an ETC transponder, that would result in a reduction of private carpools in the HOV lanes instead of single occupancy vehicles. This negative consequence has been proven repeatedly based on past carpool lane conversion projects which includes the Metro ExpressLanes, an after-effect we object.
In fairness, HOT lanes with BRT express services have been successful both in Los Angeles and San Diego as such infrastructure can provide a virtual congestion-free transitway for buses. When the Metro ExpressLanes opened in 2012, while private carpools dropped, transit and registered vanpool usage grew. That is why direct access ramps between the HOT lanes and adjacent transit hubs should also be included which would provide better infrastructure for productive rapid express bus service and additional amenities for private HOV's and vanpools such as park & ride lots and car sharing facilities. TTC believes placing the BRT express transit stations directly in a freeway median is an unacceptable option from a transportation planning perspective whereas HOV/HOT direct access ramps to/from transit destinations would offset the cold and uninviting experience for freeway express transit services.
If HOT lane policies are set correctly, free mobility will be a long-lasting reality for high occupancy vehicle traffic travelling along our busy Southern California freeway corridors. With public express buses, 2+ or 3+ private HOVs, motorcycles, and private sector bus lines having their own set of dedicated free-flowing lanes through traffic-choked corridors with direct connections to transit stations and park & ride lots near destinations, the public-private benefit would be enormous.
Facts and statistics of why The Transit Coalition supports free non-transponder carpooling in toll lanes.