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Carpool lanes opening for solo drivers

July 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Starting next year, the MTA will offer solo drivers on some freeways the option of paying to use carpool lanes.The experiment will take place on the 10 Freeway, between downtown Los Angeles and the 605 Freeway, and on the 110 Freeway, just south of downtown to the 91 Freeway.

It does not go into effect until December 2010, and there will be restrictions and limitations. The plan hopes to bring some relief to some of the Southland's most crowded freeways.

The plan, which was approved Thursday by the MTA Board of Directors, focuses on areas where building new freeways simply isn't an option.

"With a county of 10 million people and traffic growing every day, we have to manage that demand," said Stephanie Wiggins, MTA. "We're providing single drivers the opportunity to buy into those lanes when there's space available."

Drivers will be required to get a transponder in their vehicle. The transponders will be scanned along those lanes, and drivers will be charged accordingly.

The access and rates will depend on traffic levels. When traffic is traveling below 40 miles per hour in the carpool lanes solo drivers will not allowed in. The price per mile will range from $1.40 in heavy traffic to 25 cents in light traffic.

"What that means is the average toll will be between five to six dollars for a one-way trip for a single driver," said Wiggins.

Carpoolers will still be able to access those lanes for free.

The one-year experiment, which will include new signage and sensors, is being paid for by a $210 million federal grant.

Many commuters support the experiment.

"I think it's a good idea. The state's upside-down, they might as well take advantage of that opportunity to turn that diamond lane into a toll road. Yes, I think that people should pay if they want to get there faster," said motorist Vaughn Quildon.

"I work 12 hours shifts so I don't go to work all the time, but if it can save me a couple of minutes to get to work I think it's OK," said motorist Genaro Pineda.

The MTA says the plan could generate $20 million a year.

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