• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

LA commuters to need transponders for ExpressLanes

July 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Carpool lanes will be turned into ExpressLanes and will be open to solo drivers for a price under a test project that gets under way in a few months. All drivers in those lanes, including carpoolers, will need FasTrak transponders.

Transportation officials on Wednesday opened a new Metro ExpressLanes walk-in center, located at 500 W. 190th Street in Gardena, where commuters can purchase those FasTrak transponders. The center is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The center is closed on Sunday.

This fall, Metro is partnering with Caltrans on a one-year program that will convert 11-miles of existing carpool lanes on the 110 Freeway between Gardena and downtown L.A. into toll lanes. Starting early next year, carpool lanes on a 14-mile stretch of the 10 Freeway between El Monte and downtown L.A. will also become toll lanes.

An official start date for the test project has not yet been announced. Officials say it may be October or early November.

Funding for the traffic experiment comes from a $210 million grant from the federal government.

Solo drivers will pay 25 cents to $1.40 a mile depending on the demand - the heavier the traffic, the more you'll have to pay. For vehicles with two or more passengers, it's a commuter lane and will be free, but you will still need a transponder.

According to Metro, the program will generate $7 million a year. After bills are paid, the money will be used to upgrade the system.

The public can also open FasTrak accounts either online at www.metroexpresslanes.net, or by calling 511 and saying "ExpressLanes."

A $40 deposit is required to have a transponder, and when solo drivers use the toll lane, the cost will be deducted from their account balance.

There is also a program that Metro has set up for low-income drivers. Instead of the required $40 deposit, they only have to put down $15, and Metro will match it with $25, so they still open their account with the $40 pre-paid toll balance.

"What we wanted to ensure is that this was accessible to all commuters, regardless of income, and we think this program will ensure that happens," said Stephanie Wiggins from MTA.

Members of the Automobile Club of Southern California will save 20 percent on the deposit when ordering from their website.