Students speak about effects of new toll lanes

USC students’ commutes to campus might have gotten pricier in recent months since toll lanes were created on the 110 and 10 freeways for drivers wishing to speed past traffic. The new tolls have inspired mixed reactions from commuter students, who have now seen the lanes in action for more than four months.

Solo drivers can currently pay a toll, which consists of a fee per mile that varies with the level of congestion, to drive in the carpool lanes. According to the Los Angeles Times, the toll lanes on the 110, which can cost drivers up to $15.40 per trip to use, have sped traffic in toll lanes up by 10 mph on average, but the other lanes have slowed by about 8 mph.

Some experts believe that the toll lanes are the direction that traffic infrastructure should go.

“Transportation economists have argued for 50 years that the only systemic solution to congestion is a toll system, and this is a step in the right direction,” said James E. Moore II, director of the USC Transportation Engineering Program.

But though low-income drivers are being offered a one-time $25 credit, some — including USC students — have protested that the tolls are unfair to those who cannot afford to pay more for their drive.

“I don’t use the toll lanes because they are expensive. They are good because they do reduce traffic a lot, but I can’t see myself paying to use them,” said Andrew Minassi, a freshman majoring in biomedical engineering, who commutes from the South Bay by way of the 110.

Undergraduate Student Government Commuter Senator Vicken Antounian said even with the changes, not all students will use the lanes.

“I take the 110 daily and I don’t use the toll,” Antounian said. “For those who can’t afford it, I think that there are other options, such as taking streets or the 2 Freeway.”

Moore said that the implementation of tolls is actually an ethical decision that forces drivers to think about their impact on the environment.

“Say I get on the freeway at rush hour, and I slow other people up, and I foul the air. All the congestion toll is doing is taking these external costs and making them internal to my choice to travel at the time,” Moore said.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the tolls on the 110 and 10 are experiments for Los Angeles County. The results will be evaluated later this year, and if they are deemed successful, the state might switch more carpool lanes to toll lanes.

Commuter Rachel Scott, a freshman majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, said though toll lanes are efficient, she still has reservations.

“At first I was unhappy because it’s taxpayers’ money that built the freeway, and I don’t think that we should have to pay more money to use it. But, I definitely get home and to school faster,” Scott said.

Antounian believes that, overall, the toll lanes will have a positive effect on his constituency.

“I think it’s great that they’ve put in the toll lanes,” Antounian said. “It makes the daily commute a little easier for students.”