Metro, Caltrans open toll lanes on 110 Freeway

On Saturday, Metro, in coordination with Caltrans and other mobility partners, began a one-year demonstration to develop solutions for improving traffic flow on the I-10 and I-110 freeways.

The prominent component of this demonstration involved converting stretches of carpool lanes on both freeways to express lanes, which are accessible to single drivers for a fee, but remain free for those carpooling. The I-110 will make the conversion first, with the I-10 freeway to follow next year.

The new express lanes on I-110 are located between Adams Boulevard and 91 freeway. All individuals using the Express lanes will be required to mount an ExpressLanes FasTrak transponder on their vehicles at a cost of $40, although solo drivers with existing FastTrak transponders may continue using it to gain access to the express lanes.

Drivers who intend to carpool are advised to obtain a switchable transponder for $40, which allows drivers to indicate the number of occupants in the vehicle.

Metro will vary its toll rate, according the organization’s website, resulting in tolls ranging from 25 cents a mile to $1.40 a mile during peak traffic hours. Members of the AAA and low-income individuals will receive discounts on tolls.

For students and professors who routinely commute to USC’s University Park Campus, this project could have a significant impact as the converted stretch of I-110 lies in close proximity to university park campus. Metro had no plans to instate a student discount on for the toll roads. They were contacted for the comments on concerning future plans for student discounts, but were unavailable due to the Veteran’s Day holiday.

In a press release, Undergraduate Student Government Commuter Senator Adam Prohoroff explained the tradeoffs that would result from the conversion. He noted that the toll lanes would be inaccessible to many commuting students, as they would not be able to afford the toll.

“Many current commuter students can’t afford to live on campus,” he said, “so they would be financially unable to use the new lanes.”

Prohoroff noted the toll roads would be beneficial to those who carpool or use Metro’s Vanpool Program, however.
In a press release, LA County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas said the project would be beneficial to everyone. According to Ridley-Thomas, the project would distribute traffic more evenly across the roads, which results in less traffic for everyone, including those not paying the toll.

“When solo drivers begin to travel on the 110 ExpressLanes, all commuters will benefit — whether they pay a toll or not — because the ExpressLanes will redistribute traffic across all lanes of the 110 freeway,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Shifting solo drivers who are willing to pay tolls into the empty space in the ExpressLanes will speed commuting time and travel for all drivers. Everyone wins when freeway traffic flows more smoothly.”

Students like Adam Greenway, a sophomore majoring in business administration who used the toll road this weekend, feel the lanes will have an impact on the times when they choose to travel.

“I will be more cautious about what times I will drive at. I will try to avoid rush hour more than usual.” Greenway said. “There’s no train or bus system that goes to my house, so I’m kind of limited to my car.”

Greenway still believed, however, that the toll road was a step in the right direction, although he didn’t appreciate the $40 transponder fee.

“I actually thought it was a good idea in principle. I’ve seen rush hour and it can be pretty bad,” Greenway said, “but my biggest complaint is that those with more than two or more persons have to get the transponder and pay a fee for it, even though they’re using [the road] for free.”