Letters to the editor

Metro ExpressLanes provide more options for students

The Metro ExpressLanes opened on Nov. 10 on Interstate 110, as the Daily Trojan reported. Because of USC’s proximity to the lanes, USC students, faculty and staff are in a unique position to take advantage of the ExpressLanes and other added transit options.

The project increases the capacity of I-110 and Interstate 10 by opening a portion of the carpool lanes to solo drivers willing to pay a toll and by expanding transit options. (The ExpressLanes on I-10 are set to open early next year.) All vehicles must have a FasTrak transponder to use the lanes.

Carpoolers and vanpoolers travel for free in the ExpressLanes with a FasTrak transponder, which allows them to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle. This means students who currently carpool or vanpool can still travel for free in the lanes. Also, they can set up a carpool with friends and split the cost of a transponder, or join one of the many vanpools headed to campus.

Shifting solo drivers into the high occupancy toll lanes frees up space in the other lanes and helps reduce travel time for everyone.

The ExpressLanes use sensors to measure congestion and adjust the tolls as traffic increases. Overhead signs display the current toll so solo drivers can decide if they want to pay the toll or not.

Low-income residents can receive a discount on their account through an Equity Plan. While there is a monthly account maintenance fee, most commuters will not be charged the $3 fee because it is waived when drivers use the ExpressLanes four times in a month, and it is automatically waived for those in the Equity Plan.

Discounts can be found at Southern California AAA locations and participating Costco and Albertsons stores.

USC students can also take advantage of new transit benefits. The project is adding 59 clean-fuel buses and 100 vanpools to the ExpressLanes routes. The additional bus service means a bus runs every 10 minutes during rush hour on the Harbor Freeway. Plus, taking the bus will save gas and wear and tear on vehicles.

To learn more, visit MetroExpressLanes.net.


Stephanie Wiggins

Executive Officer, Congestion Reduction Demonstration Initiative

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)


Support the Social Work Reinvestment Act 

Social work, known as the “helping profession,” has a long and proud history of advocating for individuals, families and communities. The core values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence are ingrained in social work students from day one. However, low pay, long hours, high caseloads, job stress, significant educational debt and safety issues are the reality of many social workers today.

The safety net that social workers provide is needed more today than ever. Societal challenges that include the economic recession, homelessness, growing poverty, the aging baby boomers and the increase of war veterans all contribute to a growing need of competent and trained professional social workers. It is predicted there will be a shortage of 130,000 social workers by 2016.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), one of seven social workers in Congress, has introduced the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act. This legislation establishes a commission to provide a comprehensive analysis, including long-term recommendations and strategies to enhance the ability of America’s social workers to serve all populations with competence and compassion.

The act also includes demonstration programs, which will address the realities faced by social workers and also create a national coordinating center to work with universities and research entities.

Though the United States is facing fiscal scrutiny in all areas, an investment into the social work profession is money in the bank. The far-reaching and long-term effects of a social service system that does not adequately address the needs of our population will be a costly endeavor not only in monetary terms but also in terms of the fabric and values of society.

The question remains of who will help the helping profession. I implore you to help and please look on our website, learn about the bill and sign our petition. Spread the word to friends, family and workplace associates to be heard in support of all the people that the social work profession strives to help on a daily basis.

For more information, visit SocialWorkReinvestmentAct.webs.com.


Nancy P. Lumb

Graduate student, USC School of Social Work