That's because Los Angeles County's first "High Occupancy Toll" system will spark up starting Saturday. You'll have the option of paying for using revamped diamond lanes, now called Metro ExpressLanes, or staying stuck in slower traffic.
The rates will vary depending on how bad traffic is:
The lowest price will be .25 cents a mile; the highest toll will be $1.40. Says Metro:
The tolls will vary depending on traffic. To avoid traffic back-ups, sensors will be used to measure congestion in the Metro ExpressLanes and will increase the toll from 25 cents a mile to a maximum of $1.40 a mile as more vehicles enter the Metro ExpressLanes. Overhead electronic signs will display the current toll being assessed so solo drivers can make a choice.
How will they know if you've paid up?
Anybody who wants to use the lanes, which will stretch from Adams Boulevard near USC to the 91 Freeway near Gardena will have to gear up with a FasTrak transponder for $40 (there are special deals for lower-income people, AAA members and Metro transit users who parallel the route).
Still carpooling? You're free. But you still need the FasTrak transponder, which allows you to flip a switch and let Big Brother you have two or more people in your ride.
If you lied or used the lanes without paying via FasTrak the penalty for first time offenders is $25.
Why all this?
Well, frankly, carpool lanes have been a failure. Traffic is still bad, people don't carpool, and those empty diamond lanes have been such a waste. (We think they should just be opened up for free to everyone -- you know, the taxpayers -- but we'll see how this goes)
Plus the Metro-funded program got $210 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This at a time when Metro is asking you to vote yes on measure J tomorrow.
That would mean 30 more years of a half-cent sales tax -- $90 billion worth -- that has already helped to fund Metro's subway dreams. And they still want your money for the ExpressLanes?
Yeah. The thing is "congestion pricing" has worked in other cities, Metro says. One official has equated it with "progressive tax" in which the rich pay their fare share or more. (In this case the rich would theoretically be the people rocking out at $1.40 a mile).
LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also is a Metro board member, says:
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. 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.
Next year similar lanes will open along the 10 freeway from downtown to the 605.
Are you in?