Did you know that each weekday, over 375,000 vehicles travel the north end of I-405? That equates to over 450,000 people. In the average 16 hours of daily consciousness, each person is faced with thousands of choices—everything from hitting the snooze button to how many stars on your Pad Thai. Choosing how you travel each day is an important choice, typically based on factors of distance, time and comfort.
I-405 experiences eight hours of congestion a day, mainly during peak travel times for those 450,000 people. Some are sitting in cars, others on buses and in vanpools, but all still in traffic. In Part 1 of our express toll lanes series, we discussed the vision for HOV lanes in Washington, and how growth on the eastside has caused some I-405 HOV lanes to be as congested as the regular lanes.
Later this year, we will open 17 miles of express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood to manage congestion in the HOV lanes and create new choices for I-405 users. Express toll lanes give drivers the choice to use the HOV lanes by paying a toll. Transit, vanpools and carpools meeting the occupancy requirement will be able to use the lanes for free. Toll rates will automatically adjust to keep the express toll lanes moving at 45 mph or faster. By using price and volume to manage congestion, the express toll lanes will keep everyone moving and create reliable travel times for all users.
Some drivers might use them every day, but most will use them when they need them for a variety of reasons that are personal to those 450,000 individuals. And for transit users, vanpoolers and carpoolers, you know that the lanes will provide travel time reliability—moving at least 45 mph.
How does changing the carpool requirement to 3+ during peak hours help reduce traffic?
On Wednesday, March 18, the Transportation Commission approved toll rates and exemptions for the new express toll lanes, including a change in the carpool policy to require three or more people to qualify during peak times on weekdays.
As we said in Part 1, we can’t build our way out of traffic— population growth means more cars will just fill up the new lanes. Keeping the two-person requirement at peak times would mean the express toll lanes would continue to be congested like they are today, not meeting requirements that the HOV lanes move at 45 MPH or better 90 percent of the time.
|The existing HOV lane is underutilized just outside of peak|
periods and overused during the peak, causing slower speeds.
By changing the requirement to three people during peak times, and 2+ at off-peak times, the express toll lanes can keep traffic flowing at 45 mph or greater, providing faster, more predictable travel times for transit, carpools, vanpools, motorcycles and drivers who decide to use the express toll lanes.
|When an express toll lane is added to the current HOV lane|
between SR 522 and Bellevue, the increased capacity moves
more vehicles at higher speeds.
Common responses and reactions to express toll lanes and the carpool change:
- How will this improve traffic?
- It’s not going to work.
- But nobody else in the world has to do this!
Will we get similar results on I-405? That remains to be seen, but we certainly think that this is going to help. Getting people to their destination as quickly and safely as possible is our goal, and we’re confident that this is a solution that will work for our region.
|This map shows other examples of express toll lanes projects across the country.|
Click on map to enlarge.