LA charges into new territory with express lanes

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freewaygraphicapcropped LA charges into new territory with express lanes

(Image Credit: AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) – It’s familiar fare for much of the country and the world, but new territory for car-crazy Los Angeles County: Freeway lanes that aren’t free.

For the first time starting Saturday night, LA County will try “congestion pricing,” charging individual drivers who want to pick up their pace and use carpool lanes.

The one-year pilot program will start with a stretch of the 110 Freeway spanning 11 miles southward from downtown LA, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The express lanes could cut up to three minutes per mile off the trip, but the trip could cost more than $15.

Toll roads and lanes have existed for years in neighboring Orange County and are standard on the East Coast but a novelty in Los Angeles County, and one that advocates say is long overdue and should reduce congestion for drivers in other lanes, too.

“It’s about time,” said Donald Shoup, a UCLA urban planning professor who has long lobbied for toll lanes and other methods of using markets to reduce congestion. “They work in San Diego; they work in many other cities. We have the worst congestion . and it’s odd that we’re one of the last cities to try it out.”

Some drivers were less happy. Using the lanes will require a transponder in the car even for carpoolers, though they can still drive in them for free.

“Look at all the tax fees we’re paying already,” said 45-year-old Lisa Lavine as she stood outside the office where the transponders are sold, “then they’re coming out with this.”  “We shouldn’t have to pay to use the everyday freeway,” Lavine told the Times.

A 14-mile toll lane along Interstate 10 is planned for next year, and similar lanes could end up spanning the region, with scores of existing carpool lanes converted for tolls from individual drivers.

“The region, especially L.A. County, we have a pretty dense network,” said Doug Failing of the county’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “I really think they’re all up for consideration.”

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