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Ask Laz

Does anyone get ticketed for cheating on freeway toll lanes?

Toll-lane cheating seems rampant. Does anyone ever get caught? @Davidlaz has the answer

Roland says he commutes on the 110 Freeway every day and is chagrined to see how many drivers cheat by using the ExpressLane without a FasTrak transponder or switching their device to falsely show additional people in the car.

He asks: Do these scofflaws ever get ticketed?

The answer is yes. But as we all know, not often enough.

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The 110 has what's known as High Occupancy Toll lanes, for which fees are charged based on traffic congestion. Tolls can range from 25 cents to $1.40 a mile.

Solo drivers with FasTrak transponders start racking up tolls as soon as they pass beneath an antenna along the ExpressLane. But if they have passengers in their car, they can flip a switch on the transponder to signal the antennas that they're carpooling (and thus avoid fees).

It may be tempting to some to flip that switch even when they're alone in the vehicle. Basically, if a California Highway Patrol officer doesn't catch them in the act, they'll get away with it.

So back to Roland's question. Does anyone ever get caught?

According to a report issued last month by Metro's Ad-Hoc Congestion Reduction Committee (and with a name like that, it's obvious these guys know how to party), 7,279 citations for toll and transponder violations have been issued since L.A. County's ExpressLanes opened in 2012.

When the CHP is in the vicinity, the violation rate on the 110 is 11%. When no CHiPs are around, the committee said, the violation rate jumps to 24%.

"CHP presence is essential in enforcing vehicle occupancy requirements," it said. "Until there is a reliable method of automated vehicle occupancy detection, CHP's patrol is the only means by which we can enforce the vehicle occupancy requirements for those with transponders in the ExpressLanes."

I'm not sure how they figure the violation rate when nobody's looking, but there it is. My experience is that L.A. drivers -- especially self-entitled ones in fancy luxury cars -- will ignore toll-lane restrictions with impunity if they think they can get away with it.

But apparently some tickets do get handed out.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.

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