LA Toll Lanes Taking Their Toll: Beautiful Theory Crashing Into Common Sense

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405 traffic

Remember the warnings you read here about the 405 Toll Lanes proposal? Los Angeles went ahead with theirs — and now they’re suffering for it. We just can’t afford these tolls.

I got your “throughput” right here, pal:

For the next six months, Los Angeles County residents will not be charged a $3 monthly maintenance fee for their transponders — coaster-sized devices that track toll lane usage and fees.

Some carpoolers and solo motorists who would use the lanes infrequently have said that the monthly charge discouraged them from buying the $40 transponder. To avoid the maintenance fee, drivers must use the toll lane at least four times a month.

Five months after the county launched its “congestion pricing” experiment on the 110 Freeway, officials continue to closely monitor the effects of the toll lanes. In theory, the pay lanes should speed up traffic in all freeway lanes, officials say. Solo drivers can pay 25 cents to $1.40 per mile — based on traffic conditions — to zip into the toll lanes, which so far have averaged at least 45 miles per hour during peak periods.

Preliminary data on the 110 Freeway test show traffic in the former carpool-only lanes declined and congestion in free lanes increased. Metro expects the traffic improvements to even out as more drivers adopt the toll lanes.

[My emphasis throughout.]

I know the engineer who was tasked with making LA’s 110 toll lane work — and he’s ridiculously smart.  English is something like his seventh language and he speaks it fluently.  He would have done the best job possible on the job he was assigned — and if he couldn’t make it work I don’t think it can be done.

The way the county government seems to be trying to make their prediction of “speeding up traffic in all freeway lanes” come true — something that we heard spouted last year in the OCTA meetings as well with talk of increased “throughput” — is to make life miserable for people who don’t use the toll lanes.  Well, that won’t work.  People are complaining and the rebellion is brewing there.  (Read the rest of the LA Times article linked to up above for background.)

Do you know why it won’t work?  Because most people don’t have the freaking money to use the toll lanes, that’s why!  Yes, “time is money” — but if you’re short on money, poorer people know that you resign yourself to spending time.  And, in LA, they’re spending time hating the public officials who are trying to wring money out of them this way.

If this blog does nothing else for the rest of its existence, our spearheading the opposition to the 405 Toll Lanes project — which was supposed to be the keystone to creating toll lanes all up and down Southern California — will have justified its existence.  If Vern and I hadn’t happened to be at a talk to hear Westminster’s now-Councilwoman Diana Carey ring the alarm about what seemed unbelievable, if Vern hadn’t taken it to the late lamented Gus Ayer, if they hadn’t gotten Supervisor Moorlach and others in the coastal cities involved, this thing would have passed.

We, and a lot of other people of (almost) all political stripes, stopped it — and we are better off than Los Angeles is as a result.  We, Orange County, in bipartisan fashion, led the way this time!  I still could not be more proud.  “This way, LA!”

I had about 20 minutes to blog this weekend, so that will have had to be it.

About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Runs for office sometimes, so far to offer a challenge to someone nasty who would otherwise have run unopposed. Someday he might pick a fight intending to win it rather than just to dent someone. You'll know it when you see it. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. A family member works part-time as a campaign treasurer. He doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he hated. He does advise some local campaigns informally and generally without compensation. If that changes, he will declare the interest. He also runs a less frequently published blog called "The Brean," for his chosen hometown, where he is now fighting with its wealthiest and most avaricious citizen-donors. This just seems to be his way.