The carpool lanes on an 11-mile stretch of the 110 Freeway between Adams Boulevard and the 91 Freeway officially turned into toll lanes as part of a $290 million program by Metro, funded by federal grants and taxpayers' dollars to improve traffic flow on the busy Harbor Freeway, allowing solo drivers to bypass gridlock.
"It's about time we have some relief from the traffic congestion and that is essentially what drove this experiment," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
To take advantage of the new toll FasTrak ExpressLanes, motorists will have to pay anywhere from 25 cents to $1.40 per mile depending on the time of day and amount of traffic. Metro estimates that it will cost a solo driver $7 per day to use the new lanes - that's $35 for a five-day workweek or $145 a month.
"The toll amounts are based upon the traffic volumes in the ExpressLanes," explained Stephanie Wiggans with Metro.
"The signs will have toll amounts posted before the driver enters the ExpressLanes, and when the traffic is heavier in the ExpressLanes, the toll amounts are higher, and when traffic is lower in ExpressLanes, the toll amounts are lower," said Wiggans.
Wiggans said the program aims to encourage solo drivers to try and find alternatives, like carpooling or taking public transportation, instead of paying to take the carpool lane alone.
Interested motorists will need to set up an ExpressLanes FasTrak account and get a FasTrak Transponder, a small device required to use the new ExpressLanes. The FasTrak Transponder, which needs to be mounted on the vehicle, has a lever to switch to the single-driver setting, if a solo driver decides to take the ExpressLanes.
Drivers need to open an account with a minimum of $40 for customers using a credit or debit card. Drivers opening an account with cash or check will have to pay a $25 deposit for the Transponder and start with a minimum balance of $50.
Los Angeles County families with three or more members making less than $37,000 annually are eligible for discounts.
"We have an equity plan that provides a one-time $25 toll credit when they open their account," Wiggans explained.
Motorists say improving traffic is fine, but they're not happy about the cost.
"People are losing their jobs. People are losing their homes, and I think they really can't afford it at this time," said commuter Spring McCall.
If you're part of a vanpool or carpool or ride a motorcycle, getting on the new ExpressLanes will remain free, but you still need a Transponder. If you get caught without a Transponder in the ExpressLanes or have one improperly set, you can be fined up to $400.