Freeway toll lanes: Some rush-hour drives faster, others not so much

An independent report prepared for federal transportation officials says toll lanes along the 110 and 10 freeways did not significantly change overall traffic speeds during peak periods for drivers using either the tollway or the general lanes.

But for individual drivers on the freeways at certain times, the experimental lanes may have made a significant difference. Drivers heading west on the 10 Freeway toll lanes at 7:30 a.m. may have driven up to 18 mph faster than they could have before the tollway opened, the report said.

But on the northbound 110 Freeway at 8 a.m., commuters in the free lanes crept toward downtown Los Angeles at 21 mph, the same speed as before the lanes opened.


A summary of the report will be presented at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s downtown board meeting Thursday, when directors will consider whether to extend toll lane operations beyond January 2015.

The 110 and 10 toll lanes are Los Angeles County’s first attempt at “congestion pricing,” or charging solo drivers varying prices to use carpool lanes. The fees increase as the toll lanes become more crowded.

Tolls begin at 25 cents a mile and can go up to $1.40 a mile. If Metro extends the life of the 110 and 10 toll lanes, it could signal the dawn of a congestion-pricing era in Los Angeles County, experts say.

Metro has had public hearings on a similar program proposed for the 5 Freeway, and some say solo drivers could eventually be charged to use most or all of the county’s 453-mile network of carpool lanes.

Many drivers have praised the new toll lanes for shaving minutes off their commutes, and for providing a new option along a freeway network that is largely built out.

But the lanes, which critics call “Lexus lanes,” have drawn complaints from those who say many commuters can’t afford to pay as much as $15 for a one-way trip.

Others say the program discouraged car-pooling. Although drivers don’t have to pay tolls if they have two or more people in the car on the 110, or three or more people on the 10, they were originally required to pay $3 a month to keep their electronic tolling accounts open.

That requirement has been temporarily waived, and Metro directors will consider Thursday whether to eliminate it. The volume of buses, vans, trucks and cars that used the 110 Freeway during morning rush hour rose, the report said.

But the number of people who moved through the corridor during the same time fell sharply, a possible indication that more commuters were driving alone.

Twitter: @laura_nelson