Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#405ETL one month in

In this blog post, we’re going to share what we’ve learned in the first month of tolling, paying especially close attention to the benefits we’re seeing in the morning commute and the new chokepoints drivers are experiencing north of SR 522 in the evenings.

Big time savings during morning commutes
We’re seeing time savings up to 20 minutes in the regular lanes of southbound I-405 during morning commutes. The average travel time for a trip from Lynnwood to Bellevue at the peak time of 7:30 AM has been about 40 minutes since the express toll lanes opened, about 20 minutes less than it was in October 2014, and 10 minutes less than it was in October 2013.


People who chose to pay a toll, carpool, or take the bus all saw even bigger time savings. During weekday morning peak hours, the I-405 express toll lanes saved drivers going southbound an average of 15 minutes for an average of $1.70 compared to the general purpose lanes.

How can this be? Thanks to added capacity between Bothell and Bellevue, the express toll lanes are now carrying more vehicles than the old HOV lanes ever could, including many cars that used to be stuck in the regular lanes. The following graph illustrates just how many more vehicles are travelling at free-flow speeds in the express toll lanes.


Evening commute benefits are harder to see
Evening drivers in the regular lanes on northbound I-405 did not see as dramatic a time savings, but may still have experienced some benefits depending on how far they travelled. The average travel time for the full 17 mile trip from Bellevue to Lynwood was a few minutes shorter than the same trip last October, and about the same as travel times in October 2013. While this benefit seems small when compared to the improvements for morning drivers, it still represents a trend reversal from commute times that have been steadily increasing over the last few years as the number of cars on I-405 has risen due to a growing population and booming economy.


As in the mornings, the biggest benefit was for bus riders, carpoolers, and any driver who chose to pay a toll. During weekday evening peak hours, the I-405 express toll lanes saved drivers going northbound an average of 17 minutes for an average of $1.60 compared to the general purpose lanes.


Shifting congestion points mean longer travel times from Bothell to Lynnwood
As we said last week, we’re seeing congestion points shift as the new braided ramps have helped to lessen the bottleneck at the SR 522 junction which has led to increased congestion further north along the highway. If you’re driving the entire 17 miles from Bellevue to Lynwood, you might get home slightly sooner, but if you’re making a shorter trip north of SR 522 you’ll likely experience new delays.

Previously, evening commuters experienced heavy congestion from Bellevue to SR 522, and moderate congestion from SR 522 to I-5. Now, heavy congestion in Bellevue starts and ends a little earlier. By 5 p.m. congestion is starting to lessen in Bellevue, with a 2 mile stretch of stop-and-go traffic in Kirkland, followed by about 5 miles of mostly free-flow traffic up to SR 522. However, heavy congestion north of Bothell is now starting earlier and building up from 3:30 – 7 p.m.

What to expect in the future
It will take traffic six months to a year to fully adjust and settle into a new normal. It’s too soon to draw long-term conclusions. We anticipate congestion points will shift and may vary day to day and month to month in the meantime.

For now, we’re closely monitoring I-405 to identify challenging areas. We are collecting comments from drivers, and watching the flow of traffic to see if adjustments will reduce new areas of traffic and where backups shifted to. We’re paying especially close attention to access points near SR 527 and SR 520 to look for opportunities to make improvements. We can’t make changes until we’ve fully assessed the impacts, but we did plan ahead by using temporary striping to allow for adjustments to access in the future.

86 comments:

zb said...

So what are the times on the increasing travel times from Bothell to Lynwood? How much longer are they?

Cdpc said...

My morning commute had increased from 25 to 35 minutes since the toll lanes went into effect. I commute from Juanita to Overlake and this seems true regardless of what route I take. WSDOT needs to take into account that more traffic it's going to surface streets on shorter commutes. I am a person that might be willing to pay a toll for a shorter commute, but that is not an option for me as I only need to travel a few exits. This experiment might work on longer commutes, but it is at the cost of those that choose to live closer to work.

Cdpc said...

My commute has increased by at least 10 minutes since the toll lanes have been in place. I commute from Juanita to Overlake which it's not enough exits for the toll lanes to offer a savings. I have tried multiple routes and all have been negatively impacted. WSDOT needs to be aware that local routes are being impacted by this change. Those off us that choose to live closer to work are absorbing any savings in commute times of those that live farther away.

Johnny said...

The traffic on Saturday and Sunday is backed up now. This never used to happen. How can that be a success?

Andy Le said...

If you haven't lived in a communist country, you are witnessing a glimpse of that via the new I-405 TOLL lanes! Taken away the rights of hundred of thousands drivers the ability to occupied the carpool lanes with 2 drivers is wrong. In addition, now forcing 2 occupants driver to pay to use these once carpool lanes is absurd! WSDOT claims that the new Toll Lanes help cuts down time for commuters, that is because there are only a handful of drivers who are willing to pay the fees.

I am glad to hear that at least one representative of the people are putting up a fight. Hope many more will join and put and end to WSDOT ridiculous project. BTW, Bertha is bad enough of a project by WSDOT, WA drivers deserve better!

Kari Balmer said...

I travelled back and forth from Newcastle to Everett on 405 the past two days for business. There does seem to be a longer slow down but I believe it was caused by police waiting to catch people illegally in the HOV lane. This is just probably because it is new and hopefully the system will improve on travel time in the future. I do not have an HOV pass nor do I cheat and move into that lane so I get the "real travel time".

Vince R said...

In all honesty, I suspect this comment will not see the light of day, but I do not want to be one of those 'my voice doesnt mean anything and therefore I will not say anything'.

In my opinion, the 'Good to Go' implementation is a fiasco. I cannot believe the propaganda being posted in the media about how it has improved the commute. I would go so far as to say the statements are outright lies.

Instead of using our residents as test subjects to prove how negative reinforcement will improve traffic, how about we actually do something to address the traffic problems. Fix criss-crossing traffic, create exit buffers where traffic backs up every day, time traffic lights, make sure we have shoulders for disabled vehicles, fix the 520 W to I-5 south merge so all the Mercer bound commuters don't have to cross 3 lanes of traffic... you know... really fixing the problems that contribute to our commuter problems every day....

Lets not create more lanes for the 'one percenters' to travel faster while creating a commuter nightmare for the rest of us. We don't need rich people lanes, we need solutions to the problems.

Steve B said...

Vince R is on to it. Born & raised since'58 I am. The 3 things that kill I-5 are the S.bound 45th to E.bound 520, W.bound 520 to W.bound Mercer & the N.bound Mercer to E.bound 520 all having to cross @ least 3 lanes. Sure an overhead exit ramp will cause delays but don't we have those now with no relief in site? The fiasco started in the 60's & they've been trying to fix it ever since. Always a decade too late.

Kostetzer Protografy said...

I was carpooling with my wife. Now this "joke" project simply pushed us to the regular lanes.
The purpose of this project as I read on all posted signs is "Widening freeway to eliminate Traffic congestion". Cost $155M. So, areas on I-405 N from 522 Junction to end of 405 WERE not widened (even though signs are posted closed to 527 exit). Widening areas which were not the bottle neck didn't and will not improve Traffic congestion. WSDOT can hired me and fire all those incompetent that post statistics of paid lanes. This is misleading. What you did: you push people like me (that used to carpool) to the regular lanes. You didn't eliminate Traffic congestion. Instead you made it worse, even during weekends. Eliminate this joke of 3+ carpools. Eliminate the "Flex Pass". Fire those incompetent people who idealized the project.

David Johnson said...

I commute all over the state for work, I-405 is by far the worst now more than ever! The express toll lanes have created more traffic, more accidents and A LOT more near misses, especially at the "on ramps" to the lanes. The lines look like they were paint by a drunk person, and are extremely confusing. Forcing people who are actually carpoolers to purchase a Flex pass so they don't get tolled is a horrible idea and plain greedy, good job punishing the people who already try to help traffic. If you are going to make money off the people whom already payed for it in there taxes, you should have at least learned from how you implemented the similar system on 167.

Rusty Shackleford said...

The 75 cents I now pay in the evening commute is most certainly a savings over the gas I would waste sitting in the traffic of the other lanes. I'm loving this change.

Vince R said...

A couple of additional comments:

1. Looking at their posted data for the hourly traffic, the data for the general purpose lanes shows that we are now at the upper bounds of vehicles using it when compared to last years data. Just using the posted data, you can absolutely say the traffic cannot be moving faster in the general lanes.

2. Surprise, the increase in the general lanes is the result of fewer cars in the 'rich people lanes'. I can believe that the express traffic is less congested, but at what cost. Well that is simple, more accidents, longer commute times for the typical driver, more traffic on surface roads (which will mean more maintenance costs for cities and counties), higher levels of stress to drivers, higher costs to employers, and here is the kicker, business along the areas affected by the traffic mess will experience less customers who are willing to deal with this mess to do business in the area.

The fallout from this poorly implemented program will be huge, will be hard to measure and will be long lasting.

I agree with one of the previous posters: We need to fire the folks that thought this was the solution and get some qualified traffic engineers in there to fix the problems. A recent trip down to CA was surprising. They had traffic issues like any developed area does, but the traffic at rush hour actually moved.

I guess if you turn the highways into parking lots, its not a traffic issue any more, its a parking lot.

Wait, I know, we can create another program 'Good to Park'. Here is how it will work:
You enter the special parking lots on your way to work. We will charge you based on how many other commuters have entered the parking lot. You will experience scenic 'micro-parking' while you rest in your car. Every few minutes, you can repark your car a little bit further down the parking lot. After your wonderful experience, you can exit the parking lot at a clearly marked exit, as long as you dont cross a double solid line. We believe we can outsource the operations of the new parking lot so that upwards of 75% of the fees collected will go to a private company. Ah that is the cost of doing business of course, but that 25% we get to keep will be great. We can use it on our 're-education' process where we cram.. er advertise the concept to all those impacted by the new change to remind them daily of how we are improving their happy time on the way to work.

There, now I am an engineer for WSDOT.

BothellResident said...

I commute from Totem Lake to Bothell. New exit to downtown Bothell backs up ALL THE WAY TO 160th st. It's never been so before. Now it's busy 4-7pm EVERY DAY. Nothing new in Bothell, it's just traffic so bad 405North that people try to take off earlier and take Bothell-Everett Highway. It took me 15 min to get home, now it's 40! There is only one lane into Bothell from 405, the college campus is FULL of traffic and can't handle this drive thru.
wow WSDOT, everyone needs to be fired for this "project".

Cu Bong said...

exit/entry point at SR520 on SB 405 MUST fix it asap ,this exit/entry point is creating a bottle neck , squeezing all the drivers from GPLs into a tube with 3 narrower lanes, because the WEAVES are taking too much space. While many drivers are trying to exit and crossed 3 lanes to get in SR 520 exit only, but this stretch only has 3 narrower lanes,
take off the unwisely designed WEAVE lanes ( island)or make it narrower , give back and even one more lane for GPLs
why don't make it simple as the same with exit/entry point for 70th and 85th on SB, there are just dash lines and long enough for drivers in and out
we are suffering , WSDOT, please FIX IT , don't have to wait for another 6 MONTHS
please and please , WSDOT hears our voices and fix it

Cu Bong said...


This is from another blog's comment of WSDOT regarding for this project

http://halttollinkirkland.worldpress.com to show that we do live in democratic and civil community. let's raise together our voice to stop experimenting on our families!!!!

Elwood Blues said...

I live near Brier. The street out the front of my house has just gone from being fairly busy to a half mile long traffic jam every morning as people are cutting through from Canyon Park to Lake City, Juanita to Lynnwood, and Canyon Park West towards I5. Brier is now running traffic monitoring on 228th, and is attempting speed enforcement of the new surge in commuters speeding through. What used to be a quiet road out the front of my house is now bumper to bumper high speed commuter traffic from 5.00am until 8.00pm. I was nearly hit (again) just trying to get out of my driveway this morning by a car speeding through at close to twice she speed limit. Speed enforcement? Good luck. There isn't any.
We are seriously thinking of selling and moving to somewhere that doesn't feel like we are living next to a freeway.

Walt Dorsey said...

Here is an idea - on the weekends there used to be no backups on I-405 - how about doing like SR167 and offering "open to all" on Saturday and Sunday evenings? Or, at least give a "free pass" starting at 1am on Saturday through Sunday at 11:30 pm to anyone who paid anything during the previous Monday-Friday - don't even need to post it on the signs or anything - just post that on the web site and in communications to current users who have been paying.

On the weekends, it seems silly to have so much traffic using the non-HOV/TOLL lanes while the HOV/Toll lanes sit largely unused... Need to migrate some traffic over to them. Even if it is just now until Jan 1, 2016 (while everyone figures it all out)

Vince R said...

How about this... a daily cap on tolls. Once you reach some price, say $6, you will pay no more per day.

If you prepay by the month, you might pay $150.

If you prepay by the year, you might pay $1500.

All rental car companies must prepay a year at a time for their vehicles.

Of course, we are proposing a per-mile-toll in the state as well (1.9 cents per mile if I recall correctly), so I don't know how that would work with something like what I proposed.

However, all of this tolling stuff is a diversion from addressing the issues:

1. Fix the roads. If you drive them on a daily basis, you know exactly where the problems exist. We need to reduce commute times for all commuters, not just those that are willing to pay to get out of the mess

2. Provide real options for mass transit. Where I live, the options are pretty bleak

3. Work with the technology companies (or other non-tech companies) to promote more 'work from home' options or satellite locations around Puget Sound, where employees can work in locations close to where they live. Companies like Amazon have had a huge impact on commuter traffic but tend to require people work in the office. Most of their staff would love to have 1, 2 or 3 days a week where they could work from home, but they are not allowed.

Imagine what the mess that Mercer street has become if they didn't stop the flow of traffic at rush hour to allow Amazon workers to exit the parking structures 'conveniently' placed on a main arterial road exiting Seattle. We might not back traffic up all the way to the Space needle and beyond each day.

One can dream.

AsepD said...

Excuse me if my experience does not align with your self-congratulatory 'Big time savings' data. While this blog continually harps the message that those in the Toll lanes are benefiting, and that the regular lanes have less congestion and are now safer: My own commute time has increased by at least 15 minutes daily and watching cheaters weave in and out past the solid double lines before and after cameras has caused numerous instances of genuine peril. Where once I could at least count on the weekends of being relatively free of being stuck in traffic, now it is a regular occurrence that the lanes are congested to the point of standstill. Watching the elite zip along in uncluttered lanes is an insulting visual confirmation of how out-of-tune this city, and the country as a whole, are to the needs of the working class. Congratulations indeed to pandering towards the elite few at the expense of everyone else suffering more.

Jeff Gray said...

Spin, spin, spin, W$DOT. Judging by all the comments here, its looks like everyone shares the same story....this is an unmitigated disaster. Notice that NOBODY is seeing the reduction in travel time you cite? That goes for me as well. Does the commute time on 405 include the 20 minutes it now takes to get down the ramp from 520 onto NB 405? Bet it doesn't as that would blow your bogus stats sky high.

You really need to start listening to the people because they are FURIOUS!! I will never for the remainder of my life vote for any package that gives a DIME to your corrupt bunch of thugs!!!

Lastly, why no mention of the HUGE spike in accident since the Extortion Toll Lanes went live? You do realize that the blood will be on your hands when the first fatal accident occurs due to this mess? I know, you don't care...all you want is the money. Pathetic.

Bub said...

You are a bunch of greedy foolish tax happy control freaks that have nothing better to do than rob the citizens of this lovely state. I can't say enough how much I hate your stupid decisions. Before the wasted money spent on reader boards my commute from Seattle to Isaquah was half the time it takes now but thanks to your idiotic decision to toll 520 you decided to play with traffic to generate more revenue. You then decide to mess up traffic more by a dumb decision to build a tunnel under the viaduct costing tax payers millions more than proposed that could have been resolved by retrofitting the viaduct and costing millions less , not to mention why build a tunnel to nowhere it's not like it becomes a freeway on the other side .If you had half a brain you would force Seattle to remove the convention Center and fix the bottle neck problem on I -5 but go figure your greed is more important . And now because of the mistakes you made on the 405 system you pull this stupidity. I'm applauded at your behavior and believe you should be controlled on keeping common sense just saying ............

Elwood Blues said...

Dear WSDOT, I will explain this simply. Before, people would move along in moderate traffic, while Mom and the kids, and workmen went past a bit faster in the HOV lanes. Now, Mom and the kids, AND the workmen are all stuck in general traffic looking at each other sit there, while Richie Rich and his friends fly past in the nearly empty Lexus Lanes that they can't afford or can't get a pass for. It is like Richie now has his own personal freeway courtesy of the taxpayer and the WSDOT, and everyone else is either stuck in traffic or using the back streets.

Erick K. said...

I'll say this. It is disheartening to sit in slow traffic in general purpose lanes and look to the left and see two lanes with sometimes no vehicles in sight. When there are vehicles, I have only witnessed 10-15 at the most. I have been going to sporting events for years and always used the park and ride at 8th st S In Bellevue to meet others and go the rest the way into the city. I live in Mukilteo. Since the tolling started my trip home has taken about 30-40 minutes longer. Never before this tolling have I had to deal with traffic getting home. The traffic always moved at a speed limit pace, maybe a little less. Now I sit in the general purpose lanes and watch a few cars pass on the left while my average speed home is around 20 mph. Yes, I could pay to get home quicker and use the tolling lanes. The point is I shouldn't have to. I already paid by buying tabs for my vehicles and purchasing fuel. At the very least the restrictions need to be lessened on the weekends and the tolling lanes need to be reduced to one lane. Oh, can someone explain to me how a few people sitting in a room somewhere monitoring traffic come up with the conclusion that traffic is moving better? All while nearly everyone that is in the actual traffic disagrees. I have a hard time believing a stationary camera on the highway follows a vehicle from Lynnwood to Bellevue and determines how long it took them to make that trip. Those tolling cameras don't take pictures of vehicles in the general purpose lanes, do they?

Cu Bong said...

WSDOT's Tolling Director is Craig Stone , go to check it out his background and his experience ,
if you are not satisfied with ETLs , WSDOT's idea, then please contact your local state ref and ask them to request WSDOT action to fix faster rather than waiting for 6 months to year to make that changes.
The idea is OK but they executed the project with lack of experiences, ( traffic reduces at some area but build up more on other areas , exit/entry points are bad designed with stupid weaves,

A local politician is calling out the state's transportation department for what he alleges is some shifty lane swapping, undermining drivers on I-405.

"At the end of the day, whatever we call it, there are now only three lanes for general purpose traffic," said State Rep. Mark Harmsworth (R-Mill Creek).

Harmsworth, who represents the state's 44th district, is among locals who believe that I-405 had four general purpose lanes before the Washington State Department of Transportation took away one, and converted it into a toll lane. That goes against federal road rules, he said — the state cannot convert a general purpose lane into a toll lane. He added that WSDOT was supposed to maintain four general purpose lanes, after the state passed a tax funding just that.
http://mynorthwest.com/1024/2832174/Did-WSDOT-take-away-a-lane-on-I405-for-the-express-toll-lanes

WSDOT Toll Division said...

Hi Jeff Gray,

You’re right. At some locations, commuters are not experiencing faster travel times. We’re seeing what drivers are seeing with additional congestion northbound at the SR 520 merge and at the NE 85th St on-ramp. We now have 5 lanes instead of 4 moving into 3 at the SR 522 interchange. This, along with the new braided ramps connecting I-405 to SR 522 have helped to lessen what had been a major bottleneck on the northbound evening commute, however we've observed that some of this congestion has shifted further north along I-405 between Beardslee and SR 527. We’re also seeing what drivers are seeing with congestion southbound I-405 at NE 116th St. And we’ll continue to monitor the situation as we move to month two. When we can we will make adjustments to improve traffic flow. We have to look at the system as a whole and report on trends along the entire stretch of the system.

Regarding the collision data, we hear you. I know you’ve heard this before but we are working with State Patrol to do what we can to ensure that drivers are using the lanes safely. Most collisions we’re seeing in the corridor are occurring in the regular lanes and not in express toll lanes or related to the express toll lanes. They are low-speed and low-severity fender-bender related collision which you see with increased congestion levels. While we saw higher numbers the first week of express toll lanes, the number of reported collisions has dramatically decreased and we’re generally within the range we see in October with higher traffic volumes and weather. For more information, check out what WSP is saying: www.kirotv.com/news/news/troopers-say-fewer-crashes-i-405-same-time-last-ye/nn7hS/.

WSDOT said...

Walt – We appreciate your feedback on weekend travel. The project team is making note of these suggestions. As of now, the carpool requirement on the weekends remains 2+ and free with a Flex pass if you meet that carpool requirement.

WSDOT said...

WSDOT has conducted multiple focus groups with drivers in the area before launching the new system. We know that these are big changes and we anticipated a learning curve. However, WSDOT remains optimistic about express toll lanes as a positive solution to terrible congestion along the corridor.

WSDOT said...

BothellResident – Our project team is actively monitoring the roadways to identify specific areas along the corridor are experiencing traffic build-up in the last month. I’m sorry your commute has been lengthened lately. We are optimistic about the results of the new system and look forward to seeing positive impacts for all drivers.

WSDOT said...

Elwood Blues - We appreciate your patience during this adjustment period. WSDOT is in close contact with local jurisdictions and plans to analyze traffic data in areas experiencing heightened levels of congestion. In the meantime, we hope that monitoring traffic speeds will help to maintain safety in your neighborhood.

Blu Phone said...

This is just plain stupid, I mean government. Last week we had to drive to Arlington and had 3 people in the car but we could not legally drive in the carpool because we do not have a prepaid good2go or good for nothing pass. How many people now cant even use the carpool lane because they cant afford a pass or are just visiting etc. When they do their time test they don't tell you that we had to sit at the onramp for 10 minutes before even parking in the lanes that we can use now.

Lets all get up and shout "Open up all lanes to traffic and go back to the FAST LANE that used to work. Enough with the HOV lanes/government waste.

Davessworks said...

When this proposal first showed up I though, no biggy. I only travel 2 exits each way to and from work and as a motorcyclist I'll still be able to use the HOV lane. How wrong I was! Despite those two exits being some of the busiest (State Routes 527 and 522), I cannot legally (although I think Federal Law may over-rule WSDOT) use the HOV/TOLL lane because of the placement of double white lines! This is reprehensible. Federal law provides for unimpeded access to HOV lanes for motorcyclists for their own safety!!! Being stuck in stop and go commuter traffic will inevitably lead to fatalities (being hit from behind on a motorcycle is far more hazardous than for the occupants of a car). For Heaven's sake, allow motorcycles to cross double white lines. NOW. You can even reuse all those Motorcyclists Allowed signs you now have in storage.

Unknown said...

I ride in a vanpool every day from Federal way to Factoria Eastgate. Our commute has increased 15-20 minutes every day on 405 since this change went in. It seems to be affecting 405 from its origin in Renton to Bellevue, and not just streamlining traffic for those North of Bellevue. Not happy.

Vince R said...

We don't live in the State of Washington when it comes to the eyes of the WSDOT. We live in the state of Denial....

Everyone living or working on the East Side is being negatively impacted by this 'Good to Go' experiment. Instead of recognizing the problem, we are told not to worry it will get better, that its not about additional revenue streams, its all about getting traffic moving faster. I am reminded in my email, on the web, with radio content and road side billboards.... in addition to all of the extra time now spent on the 405 parking lot.

It is not working and its voting time.

I know that I am going to start looking a lot more closely at those in office that support this kind of approach to fixing the problem and working to get them replaced.

WSDOT said...

Davessworks – You make an excellent point about access to the express toll lanes along the I-405 corridor. Unfortunately, the traffic volumes around those two exits are very high and we hope that over time, express toll lanes will help to fix that issue. In the meantime, WSDOT is actively monitoring the current striping along the corridor and is prepared to make changes where they are necessary. The project team will be notified of your suggestion.

Jason Marsh said...

WSDOT must be playing fast and loose with their statistics. The idea commute times have dropped for the average driver NOT utilizing toll lanes is nonsense.

Commutes from Bothell to Bellevue have INCREASED across the board, door-to-door. Increased side street traffic, increased driver-recklessness/frustration, near constant on-ramp throttling and that ridiculous double-line that CAUSES traffic to bottleneck has doubled the amount of time it takes to get on the freeway in many places. Not to mention that the double-line's existence CAUSES people to choose between missing exits or breaking the law as well as CREATES more traffic in lanes that wouldn't otherwise have it due to the inability to merge into it when desired – this is a silly, awful idea and in practice it's a downright dangerous approach to traffic safety.

Overall, freeway speeds have dropped do to increased improper lane usage and dangerous merging, driver road-rage, etc., etc. On-ramp times have increased. Side-street traffic has increased. Everything points to a slower-moving system.

Its easy to cherry-pick statistics to make your own case but I don't feel WSDOT is being honest and is instead trying to convince us with statistics we KNOW are clearly not taking the entire picture into account. Anyone driving I-405 on a regular basis can tell you their commute times, overall, are not better they are far worse. The responses throughout this thread speak for themselves.

This entire approach is a scheme. It generates income at the expense of low-income members of our community. Its elitist and wrong. The toll-lane HOV approach does nothing but provide people with money a private lane.

Oh, and don't even get me stared on the Flex-pass debacle so that I can't even USE the HOV lane with the existing GtG pass I already have... I need to APPLY for one?! Nice WSDOT. Nice.

WSDOT said...

There are number of things that could contribute to the traffic you’re experiencing heading north. In general, traffic volumes are increasing on all major routes—as detailed in our corridor capacity report: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2015/10/2015CCR.htm

Paddy said...

The new Express Lanes are a disaster. For years, I've enjoyed the free carpool lane on weekends to make trips down to Puyallup from the 527 entrance to 405. The last couple weeks have been the worst traffic I've ever encountered on 405. This is severely impacting my ability to go visit family 50 miles away because it's taking drastically longer even on weekends. I have a 3 year old son who I now have to pull off the road halfway between every trip because it's taking so long to let him use the bathroom. This adds even more time onto the trip. I've never had to do this ever before. I find it ridiculous I have to buy a flex pass to use what I've always used for free. It's an even bigger joke that it's essentially a $45 charge to get the flex pass, which requires a minimum balance at all times. I know I'm not the only one either. I see plenty of other families in the regular lanes who are just rotting away like my family is. Meanwhile, WSDOT is only going to accomplish giving me a heart attack while they torment me by having me watch the 10 cars a minute who are actually using the express lanes.

There is no way WSDOT can look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that this isn't just a huge money grab and actually does anything positive for the vast majority of commuters. The entire ploy is to make the general lane traffic so awful that people will succumb and just pay for the toll (torture to force people to help raise revenue)

For anyone reading this, this has the governor's stamp of approval. The governor is the boss and has the leverage to make changes. If you want change, you'll need to pay attention to the challengers to Inslee in the upcoming election and make sure to get their stance prior to voting. Traffic is such a joke around here that it makes all the sense in the world to make traffic a major topic in the next election. If Seattle can vote a mayor out for a miscue in snow management, people living on the 405 corridor can vote these rejects out of office.

WSDOT said...

Elwood, WSDOT conducted research on existing HOT lane users in Washington, and in other express toll lane locations nationally which revealed that people of all income levels choose to pay tolls when they need a faster trip. Whether arriving at a job site, running late to an appointment, or picking up a child from school or day care, the value of time was greater than the toll cost. While most drivers will not use the express toll lanes every day, they will use them when they need them. It will not always be the same situation on I-405 that it is today; drivers will adjust to the express toll lanes and the entire highway will operate more efficiently. This is what has happened in other locations.

WSDOT said...

Erick, we understand your frustration. We're asking drivers to be patient while everyone adjusts to the new configuration and rules. The express toll lanes may look empty but in many cases each vehicle is carrying more people than vehicles in the general purpose lanes. For example, a full bus can carry the equivalent of up to 20 cars. As more people choose the express toll lanes, the entire highway will operate more efficiently. We've already tried fewer restrictions and one HOV lane, and that resulted in the HOV lane being as congested as the regular lanes. Cameras are not the only way we have to determine speed and travel time data. There are devices embedded in the roadway that help us collect this kind of data in both the general purpose and the express toll lanes. We don't have to track a particular vehicle, although we do get reports from our incident response trucks that are out driving in the traffic. The tolling cameras do not photograph vehicles in the general purpose lanes.

WSDOT said...

Kostetzer, you're right, we didn't widen I-405 north of SR 522 and that is a chokepoint right now. Chokepoints have been shifting, and we are monitoring them and determining what improvements could be made. We're asking that drivers please be patient while traffic adjusts to the new configuration and rules. Eliminating the 3+ carpool requirement will result in more congestion. Eliminating the Flex Pass means we would have no way to determine whether a vehicle is a carpool and should not be tolled. We need to give this project time to work and the whole highway will operate more efficiently.

WSDOT said...

Rusty, we're glad you're enjoying the new express toll lanes. Thanks for sharing.

WSDOT said...

David – We have seen increased travel times as a result of the express toll lanes and we have also seen a shift in congestion points along the corridor – specifically around the SR 522 junction. We are noticing that with shorter commutes, drivers may be experiencing some delays. However, WSDOT remains positive that express toll lanes will bring improvement to the congestion issues in the long run and we thank drivers for their patience in the meantime.

WSDOT said...

Bub – Thanks for your feedback. All toll revenue goes directly back into the corridor to improve traffic conditions. WSDOT's goal on I-405 was to bring reliability and predictability back to the corridor and we are confident that we will continue to see positive results in the coming months.

Vince R said...

WSDOT,

Your reply is incorrect. I know of at least two expenses related to the Good-to-go program that are not for improving traffic conditions: Fees paid to the toll operators, which is a significant amount, and fees used for advertising on the Internet, TV, Radio and Billboards.

There are probably others. Now I know you can say those are to improve the traffic conditions, but that is a stretch.

VirginMary said...

I take exit-24 to get in/out of 405 and we are three people (me, wife + kid) in the car every day. However, we have to commute on regular lanes for over 2 miles in both directions before entering the toll lanes because there is no entrance that is closer to exit-24. This has made our commute worse and we have had to leave earlier or take exit-26 to enter the toll lanes. Is there any plan to open up the toll lanes close to exit-24 ?

Helena said...

Why can't the WSDOT work for the people? Clearly this project is a complete failure and has increased 99.9% of everyone's cummute. Why can't they save us all the grief which we all will suffer in the next 6 months and just admit this was a huge mistake. Give us our lane back!

Helena said...

This is another lie from WSDOT as 75% of the toll money goes to a Texas company.

WSDOT said...

Cdpc – WSDOT is actively monitoring surface streets and is in contact with local jurisdictions in order to identify where new congestion points are arising and how we can work to fix them. Our project team is working to identify what adjustments need to be made in order to alleviate congestion for those with short and long travel distances along the corridor. We appreciate hearing your feedback and will be sure to pass your comments along.

WSDOT said...

Johnny – It’s difficult for us to identify one specific cause of weekend traffic build up because there are many factors that could contribute, including out of town visitors who do not have Good To Go! passes, weekend travel for recreational events or vacations, or bad weather. WSDOT is working hard to isolate these causes and our project team is prepared to make adjustments where they are needed.

WSDOT said...

Vince R – Your submissions are certainly appreciated and we will pass them along to the project team. WSDOT is working to address these issues, including population growth in the Puget Sound area as well as high congestion on frequently traveled roadways. Road quality, increased transit options, and rideshare opportunities are all topics that WSDOT actively works to incorporate into solutions to improve roadway efficiency.

WSDOT said...

Helena - If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look at our blog post on the common questions we have heard from drivers since the opening of express toll lanes: http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/one-month-in-review-what-weve-heard.html.

Because the express toll lanes are still relatively new to I-405, it is very difficult to determine what the permanent effects of the system will be at this point. We do know that express toll lanes have cut down morning commute times by up to 20 minutes in some places while increasing shorter travel distance times in some new congestion points – specifically north of the SR 522 junction. We remain optimistic about the long term effects that express toll lanes will have on the efficiency of I-405 and appreciate your patience during the adjustment period.

Tony said...

I don't even live near the tolls but they are negatively affecting my drive to drop off my preschooler. What used to be a 2 minute drive, now can take 15-20 minutes due to people avoiding 405! It is ludicrous and frustrating!

WSDOT said...

Jason, thank your feedback. We’re continuing to monitor congestion on the highway and the surface streets with help of local jurisdictions. The express toll lanes provide a choice that wasn’t there before. We understand using them every day isn’t an option for some; however, the intent of the system is to provide a reliable trip to everyone when they need the most. Also, you can use any Good To Go! pass to pay the toll in the express toll lanes, or you can pay by plate or by mail. Only a Flex Pass in HOV mode lets you ride for free as a carpool.

WSDOT said...

Thank you for sharing your observations Kari!

Ron D said...

I live on the Eastside and work in Seattle, so I have little interest in peak time commutes. I have noticed however that normal weekend traffic in the general purpose lanes is much higher than previously, I assume because of the reduction in general purpose lanes. This seems to be reinforced by your graphics that indicate longer travel times during off-peak periods. Can you provide graphics showing average speeds on weekends?

Many weekend trips enter and exit 405 at shorter intervals and therefore are precluded from using the HOV lanes, even when the vehicles are HOV's (as ours usually is). It is quite frustrating that we can no longer use the HOV lanes and have to sit in the general purpose slowdowns. On Oct 31, we were driving southbound in the general purpose lanes, had the required number of persons for a carpool, and couldn't use the HOV lanes because of the double lines and limited entrance and exit locations. The two HOV lanes were essentially empty, even though the general purpose lanes were only moving at about 30 mph.

Is there anything that can be done to allow greater access during off-peak times and greater ability to enter and exit for shorter length trips? I would suggest removing the double line restriction between 8 PM and 5 AM and all day on weekends. I would be fine with keeping the tolls during these periods as we are normally a carpool. The problem is the very limited access that prevents us from using the HOV lanes.

Jinx said...

It is all just a money grab no matter WHAT WSDOT says.. You want to know the definitive proof?

Here it is:

The OLD 405 lanes used to let the carpool lane be used for EVERYONE after 7pm and until 5am this was brilliant! traffic always cleared up MAGICALLY after 7pm for my ride home..

NOW they do NOT do this anymore... Its stays tolling 24/7... Why is that you ask? because they want MONEY! and what's more ridiculous is I still occasionally see people USING these lanes at 8pm or 9pm or even 10pm when there is VERY little to no traffic.. why is that? because they are RICH and don't care about the price, they just want their own private lane to feel warm and fuzzy in.

there's your definitive proof.. They COULD open up just 1 of those toll lanes if not BOTH after 7pm like they used to. This would back up their claim that its management of lanes during PEAK hours.. Then after peak hours, its a regular free way, but they don't want to pass up a chance to get some extra monies.. 75 cents here.. 75 cents there.. And don't give me a crock of bull that it would be more confusing to people.. More confusing then it is now? or the times it actually says 'open to all' because you have some major work being done on our 3 open lanes that we cant use that night? it would be THE SAME thing. There's 0 reason for it except YOU WANT THE MONEY!..

Shameful, you will have NO valid excuse for why you don't do this.

We might have been able to accept this if you added 2 lanes and just made 1 of them toll/carpool, that might have been okay as we would have GAINED something as tax payers and regular joes.. but NO you took something away.. you took away our 4th free lane after 7pm and now we only get 3 lanes the whole time (or worse if you go up to Lynnwood)

People we need to overthrow this, it's our DUTY to do that. petitions make your voices heard, they DOT does not run this state, they are as corrupt as they are ignorant. we the tax paying public did NOT ask for this, it was THURST upon us. and we just have to take it? I say not.

Vince R said...

I have noticed something else that is a little troubling and might be contributing to the frustration.

When I goto the WSDOT site that shows traffic flow, the data doesnt match the traffic anymore.

For example, when I am sitting in the new parking lot we call 405, I know through direct observation that the traffic is stopped... this should be shown in the data on the flow maps as red or black.

Prior to Good-to-go being implemented, the flow maps pretty much matched the directly observable traffic. There were occasional times when the data was 10 to 15 minutes out of date, but in general it was accurate.

Now, the data often shows green, or very small sections of red/black, but through direct observation, it is stopped or heavily congested.

On the surface this appears to be false data.

Part of me wonders if this is an intentional falsification of data to make the 'Good-to-Go' statistics look better.

Intentional skewed or not, if this data is what WSDOT is using to say things are better, then the stats are way off. If this is an intentional falsification of data, then we have a serious legal issue that needs to be addressed.

I believe there needs to be an independent third party audit of the data to verify what is being recorded matches what is actually happening.

I for one cannot believe the stats being presented because I have seen how much this change has affected traffic across the area. Several people have stated, and I have experienced it as well:

* Weekend traffic congestion is now much worse than it was immediately prior to good-to-go
* Taffic congestion in the region, during non-peak travel hours, is now worse than it was prior to good-to-go
* Surface street congestion in the areas around 'Good-to-go' is now far worse that prior to the roll-out
* The observed traffic congestion doesn't match what is being publically reported by WSDOT

This isn't the 'vehicles on the road have increased and that is why it's so much worse' scenario being used as an excuse. This was an overnight change that occurred immediately after 'Good-to-Go' was implemented. There is a directly observable 'Cause and Effect'.

The most appropriate thing that WSDOT could do would be to roll-back this program until it can figure out how to undo the damage it has done. I feel that someone at WSDOT has made a mistake and doesn't want to admit it because it could result in the loss of their job. Man up. This program has had dangerous unintentional consequences that are literally putting life at risk.

Please, for the citizens of this state, fix this problem. Whoever is responsible for this program should to the right thing and step down.

Neal and Teri Browning said...

One of the biggest issues with how bottled up things are northbound once you get past 522 is that there is no lane to allow traffic to exit the flow in the HOT lane in order to merge into traffic in the general purpose lanes. There are entry/exit lanes along the Bridle Trails section, which is what is sorely lacking up north.

There are 2 large issues with the entry/exit point near 195th.
- The general purpose lanes are at a near standstill during evening rush times. This means in order to match speed, you have to come to a near stop to merge, stopping all traffic in the single HOT lane that is there. Having an entry/exit lane so traffic merging can get out of the flow of the HOT lane is sorely needed. There is already ample room to have this by sacrificing some of the shoulder on each side and re-striping the lines to provide this (which is what is done exactly at the Bridle Trails section further south
- The entry/exit point between 195th and 527 is too far north. The right most lane that becomes exit only for 527 backs up for more than a mile usually at peak times, but you cannot exit soon enough, so you have to stop traffic in the HOT lane to merge, then force your way over and fight to get into the already backed up lane. I pointed out when the maps showing entry/exit points were released months before the HOT lanes opened that this was not a good place. I was assured on this blog (you can go back and find the post) that the engineers took all this into account and things were planned for this - which I am sorry to say I was right about.

Weekend travel north of 522 is mostly horrific now. Lacking a fully open (no restrictions) access during weekends and off-peak times meant no traffic issues during those hours. Now, most weekends travelling either north or south on 405 between I-5 and 522 has all general purpose lanes clogged and no one in the HOT lanes. This needs to be set back like it was.

Jeff Gray said...

The below is an e-mail I sent to several mayors along the 405 corridor. Hit them where it hurts and we have a chance of getting this ETL abomination removed:

To the mayors of Bellevue, Bothell, Kirkland and Woodinville:

As much as this pains me to say, we as a family, have made the hard decision to no longer do business with, dine out in, shop in, attend events in or visit in any capacity, your fine communities. I want to be clear that this is not the result of anything you personally have done or anything to do with your communities in any way. No, the blame is entirely on the WSDOT and the I-405 toll lanes.

As a direct result of the toll lanes, traffic, even on weekends, has reached a point that we just cannot justify sitting in the parking lot that I-405 has become to reach destinations in your areas. I feel especially bad for Bothell as I have watched with great interest the wonderful progress you have made with your downtown revitalization. Unfortunately, I will now never see the end result.

We, again as a family, choose not to use the toll lanes for both economic and ethical reasons. We feel that we should not be blackmailed and extorted to drive on a road that our tax dollars paid for. Maybe the financial impact to the communities along the I-405 corridor will force people to realize what a bloated and corrupt organization the WSDOT has become and force changes that would allow us to once again enjoy your many attractions. Until then, as the subject lines says, it is goodbye.

Helena said...

This proves the WSDOT constantly lies with their worthless graphs and false propaganda. They should be ashamed of themselves for cheating the public. It is only a matter of time before the public bands together to put a stop to this madness. Rep Harmsworth and Tim Eyman are already working on this.

Helena said...

The WSDOT does not care one bit how slow the general purpose lanes are. In fact there goal is to make the general purpose lanes so bad that it will force people into these extortion toll lanes.

WSDOT said...

Helena – WSDOT works hard to make sure that the most frequently used roadways in Puget Sound are running efficiently and effectively. I-405 express toll lanes are a solution to achieve that goal.

BothellResident said...

Wsdot.
i agree with every post above. Traffic increased on weekends, I see 2+ people sitting in the parking lot of 405 without any apparent reason when 2 lanes are practically EMPTY... those lanes should not charge 2+ passengers and should not require the GTG pass as seems like many don't have it or chose not to buy it. This is pure lie. if you care about traffic that much - let people use carpool and state patrol ticket people for having less that 2 in the car. Turn off the freaking system on the weekend so people can enjoy traffic free weekend.
Hope Eyman is on it!!! That is our only hope i think at this point.

WSDOT said...

Ron D – Thanks for your feedback! As a reminder, WSDOT did not reduce the amount of general purpose lanes. In fact, an express toll lane was added between Bellevue and Woodinville to increase capacity in the express toll lane system. The WSDOT project team is working hard to make sure all lanes on I-405 are functioning efficiently and is prepared to make changes where they are necessary. We have received a lot of feedback about the accessibility of the lanes and the double white lines, so those will be monitored closely as well.

WSDOT will release more data as it is collected. The express toll lanes are still very new to I-405 and the success of the system can only be determined in time. We encourage you to check back here for more updates on data collection and how express toll lanes are working.

Helena said...

WSDOT needs to admit to the public that these toll lanes are a complete failure and the biggest mistake in transportation history. We will all be better off if the toll is changed back to a general purpose lane; the new configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. The people of this great state will prevail in the end over the extortion toll lanes. Please listen to the people!!

WSDOT said...

Helena – We already know that adding general purpose lanes is a short term solution to a long term problem. Express toll lanes are a better solution to increased population and congestion along the corridor.

Vince R said...

But increasing the occupancy rules for the car pool lane, you did effectively reduce the capacity of the general purpose lanes (AKA... the poor people parking lot).

As several people have pointed out, there is no reason why the GTG pass, nor the 3 person requirement, should be needed on weekends or non-peak hours.

You can spin this anyway you want, but the people that use this stretch of road, and all the roads around it, know that the current congestion issues are caused by the GTG program. We saw the overnight change directly related to this programs implementation.

We see the discrepancies between what is being reported and we is reality.

This is not the result of a slow increase in commuters. It is the direct result of a poorly implemented DOT program,

* were commuter dollars are leaving the state and being paid to a tolling company, not improving the roads

* where the stated policy is: “The legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state of Washington to use tolling to provide a source of transportation funding and to encourage effective use of the transportation system.” (doesn't take much to read between those lines what 'encourage effective use' means... it means create parking lots so people avoid the system.

* where the risk lives and property have been increased

* where weaving traffic is encouraged by policy

* where all the tax payers are funding the elite lanes

* where the simple act of using a HOV lane has been complicated to the point where we need to re-educate the populous... To quote WSDOT: "I-405 express toll lanes are complex and we need to educate the nearly 500,000 daily drivers on how this affects their commute."... this is the justification for the mass advertising campaign on billboards, on tv, on the radio, and on the Internet... So now I can be reminded just how much this system sucks on all sources of communications I see.... its even more like chewing on broken glass when I am sitting in the mess GTG created... to here the GTG commercial on the radio.... ***explicit comment removed by author***

Again, I plead with whatever powers to be at WSDOT... please, for the millions of dollars wasted, for the lost family time, for the safety of our commuters, for the business effected, for the reduction of pollution, for the health of our drivers.... please fix this mess that WSDOT created.





Helena said...

Here is the problem with this statement. Most of I405 has been neglected for years and most parts are in dire need of general purpose lanes. Then we wait for years for gas tax money then WSDOT decides to that they are going to cheat the public out of our general purpose lanes and tell lies that an extortion lane is the best option without listening to the public. The truth is adding general purpose lanes to a configuration of 4 general purpose and 1 HOV is the best option. No one wants these toll lanes. Let's hope Tim Eyman and Rep Harmsworth do away with the biggest mistake in transportation history.

WSDOT said...

VirginMary, we are tracking comments like yours and considering what changes we may be able to make to express toll lanes access points.

WSDOT said...

Helena – Thanks for sharing your insight. We know from a practical standpoint that the best way to combat congestion along the corridor is express toll lanes. If we chose to add general purpose lanes, they would fill up in a short time and we would be right back to where we started. Express toll lanes are a long-term solution that addresses population growth and increased congestion on I-405.

Helena said...

Here is the truth. The express toll lanes are a complete failure and need to be disbanded. Everyone knows we would be better off if the toll lane was turned back into a general purpose lane. The new configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane.

Vince R said...

Dear WSDOT,

The best way to combat congestion is a multi-prong approach which involves things like reducing weaving traffic, identifying and fixing choke points, improving mass transit, and real engineering stuff like that.

To be clear, express toll lanes do not fix congestion, they just give people with the cash an option to bypass much of the mess that was made by Good to Go.

WSDOT said...

Jinx – Unfortunately, the HOV lanes in place on I-405 were not functioning properly and we needed to provide a long-term solution to congestion along the corridor. The addition of general purpose lanes would only provide short-term relief to a growing problem. Express toll lanes are a solution in place that addresses congestion as well as population growth in the region – though we understand it will take time for drivers and traffic patterns to adjust.

Vince R said...

Dear WSDOT,

I am not sure what your definition of "we needed to provide a long-term solution to congestion along the corridor", but I view this as addressing the problem for all commuters, not just those that can afford to pay to go around it. In fact, as the implementation exists today, it is actually contributing to congestion region wide. That means that the 'solution' is not express toll lanes.

After reading the WSDOT reports on traffic and congestion, it is clear that express lanes, toll or otherwise, DO NOT REDUCE CONGESTION BUT RATHER GIVE PRIORITY TO SOME COMMUTERS, like those in buses, carpooling and those that can afford to pay for such priority. Lets no continue to call it anything but an express lane. No smoke and mirrors on how this is fixing our traffic congestion. It isn't. As it is implemented, it has made congestion worse to the point where surface streets are now affected.

What is worse is that a significant amount of the fees collected, 72% of the fees to be exact, for a majority of the day, are going to the Texas company operating the system, and not into funds to support our roads. That percentage varies through the day, but for the majority of the day, that is the percentage heading out of state.

So can we call a program that is sending significant amounts of commuter fees out of the state, does not improve congestion, but rather makes it worse, puts life and property at greater risk, and negatively impacts our environment a success. Well, only if your a politician, or one of the privileged folks that can use it. For the rest of us, we would generally call this a MASSIVE FAILURE.

'Not-good-to-go' a program of denial, increase commuting times and government propaganda... now there is a more fitting description.

WSDOT said...

Vince R – We understand your concerns and want to assure you that we, too, want to find solutions. Express toll lanes are a traffic management solution to address congestion and population growth long-term. The intent is not to provide lanes for only a select few, but rather to effectively move people to where they need to be. We have heard from several people that the express toll lanes are saving them time on the road and our data proves those testimonies to be true. Consequently, we are also seeing shifts in congestion along the corridor and realize that others are experiencing longer drive times. We continue to ask for drivers’ patience during this adjustment period.

WSDOT said...

ZB - Thank you for the question. Overall, we’ve seen shorter travel times in the general purpose lanes in both directions of I-405 for drivers going the full 17 miles between Bellevue and Lynnwood. But in some areas, congestion points have led to increased travel times. That is true for the section you inquired about, the general purpose lanes north of Bothell, especially in the evenings. There, travel times are between 5 and 10 minutes longer than the 2014 average. Improving this section is a very high priority for our traffic engineers. We are looking very closely at what we can do in this section.

Vince R said...

WSDOT, can you explain where your data on improvements is coming from. If this data is coming from the same system that is feeding the WSDOT traffic flow map, then it is wrong. I can tell you that on the occasions when I was 'carpooling' (only not because it was just two people), I could see the map saying the road was green and see the road barely crawling along.

If you are using some other data source, please share the data with the public so we can also see what you are basing this information on. I drive short and long distances and your statements that it is improving is just not tracking with my experience, nor many of the others that are posting on here. In addition, I have now spoken with more than 100 people who have unanimously stated that Good to Go has negatively impacted their driving on the East side. If I found 10, 5, 3, 2, or even 1 person I knew that said it was better, I would not be so positive your 'its improved' statement is wrong. I suspect you can find outlying data that shows the occasional improvement, but for the normal commuter, Not-Good-To-Go has impacted us in a negative way.

Tell me how you will fix the real problems.

- How are you fixing the exits at 405 at the Bothell Everett Hwy, which backs traffic up every single day?

- How are you fixing the problems at 405 N from 520 W, which backs traffic up every single day?

- How are you fixing the 520 W to I5 South merge which backs up traffic every single day?

- How are you fixing the I5 section under the Seattle convention center, which backs up traffic every single day?

- How are you addressing the Mess at Mercer St which creates gridlock in Seattle every single day?

Solving these kinds of problems really does reduce congestion... creating a way for those with money to bypass the mess doesn't fix the problem.


I appreciate how express lanes give priority to some people during times of congestion...which these days is most of the daylight hours...

Now how about show me the "We are really fixing the congestion problems" program. You know, the one that won't take a massive advertising campaign program to re-educate people on how they should wait to see if this experiment works... and to 'trust us'...

There is a saying: "The obvious generally isn't, and if it had to be stated as such, it surely wasn't."

If 'Good-to-Go' was a success, you shouldn't have to be telling us how great it is. We should be able to see it with our own eyes. We haven't see that yet, so please stop trying to sell it to us. This is insulting.

WSDOT said...

@AsepD, I’m sorry to hear about your frustration with the I-405 Express Toll Lanes. Overall, we’ve seen shorter travel times in the general purpose lanes in both directions of I-405 for drivers going the full 17 miles between Bellevue and Lynnwood. But in some areas, congestion points have led to increased travel times. Improving these sections is a very high priority for our traffic engineers. For more details on the changes we plan to make so far, check out our recent most recent blog: http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2015/11/405etl-thank-you-for-your-feedback-were.html.

In terms of the dangerous driving you’re witnessing, WSP is currently focusing on driver education. The laws remain that you can only enter and exit the express toll lanes at designated access points marked by a dashed white line. Failure to use designated access points may result in a $136 ticket for crossing the double white lines. Regarding your concerns about pricing, rather than lanes for the elite, the I-405 express toll lanes are managing traffic. Here's how it works: the toll rate varies between 75 cents and $10 based on how many drivers choose to use express toll lanes. Rates increase as more drivers choose the lanes to manage lane volume and keep traffic moving at 45 miles an hour or faster. Tolls are lowered when traffic is lighter to encourage drivers to move from regular lanes to express lanes. As more drivers use the ETLs, the general purpose lanes will see faster commutes as well. While we anticipate faster travel times for all lanes along I-405 as a result of the express toll lanes, we still have six months to a year adjustment period ahead of us, and we appreciate your patience during that time.

WSDOT said...

Vince (Part 1),

Thanks for your feedback and questions. You touch on a few different spots so we’ll try to address them individually. Please note that any highway improvements and funding must be approved by the State Legislature before work can move forward:

1. I-405 exits at Bothell-Everett Highway and northbound I-405 at westbound SR 520: We agree that congestion on I-405 needs a solution with a wider scope. Starting in 1999, WSDOT worked with an I-405 executive committee to develop a master plan for the highway. The vision focuses on groups of projects that directly address the worst chokepoints first, coordinating all transportation modes into a working system. Two of the areas addressed are the I-405/SR 527 interchange and the SR 520/I-405 interchange. For the I-405/SR 527 interchange, the vision includes improvements that include direct access into the Canyon Park Park & Ride and rebuilding the interchange to add capacity and reduce backups. It also includes widening I-405 between Bothell and Lynnwood. At the SR 520/I-405 interchange, the plan outlines adding three HOV direct connector ramps and adding an additional auxiliary lane to reduce congestion in that area. Currently none of those projects are funded.
2. Westbound SR 520 to southbound I-5 merge: Under the SR 520 program’s preferred alternative design for improvements from Lake Washington to I-5, the new SR 520/I-5 interchange will look similar to today’s configuration. One improvement is a new reversible transit/HOV direct-access ramp to and from the I-5 express lanes The new ramp will allow buses and carpools to go westbound on SR 520 to southbound I-5 express lanes in the AM and northbound on I-5 express lanes to eastbound SR 520 in the PM. This will make traffic operate more efficiently on I-5 by providing an alternate connection to the express lanes for buses and carpools.

WSDOT said...

Vince (Part 2),

3. I-5 under the Convention Center: I-5 was designed in the 1950s to accommodate 1975 levels of traffic. Engineers at that time determined that by 1975 most people would be traveling to and from (not through) downtown so the exit-only lanes and the collector-distributor lanes at the I-90 interchange were built to accommodate that. They felt at the time that only 2 lanes through Seattle were needed. That belief continued into the early ‘80s when the Convention Center was built. At that time most traffic came into Seattle in the morning and left in the evening. Since most of the people behind those plans are no longer at WSDOT, it’s hard to say if they didn’t predict the level of growth we’ve seen or if they didn’t see a feasible way to add lanes between I-90 and SR 520, but either way, the decision to allow the Convention Center to be built was made. At that time there were 2 lanes in each direction of I-5 under the Convention Center, along with the reversible express lanes. Later a southbound HOV lane was added from Mercer.

At this point, we are looking at the feasibility of adding a third northbound lane through downtown. The pinch point is between the express lanes entrance and where the collector-distributor merges into the northbound lanes. This project isn’t funded for construction but we are moving forward with an investigation of how it can be done. Beyond that, there are no plans to add capacity in that area.
4. Mercer Street: Mercer Street itself is managed by the City of Seattle so we can’t speak to that directly. When I-5 was designed it faced significant challenges that make it difficult to reconfigure. On the east side between Denny and SR 520, retaining walls were built with large diameter (120 foot deep) cylinders to keep Capitol Hill from sliding onto I-5. I-5 itself is sitting on top of retaining walls or on an elevated bridge. To fix the “Mercer Weave” we would need to move the northbound I-5 off-ramp to Mercer from the left side of the northbound lanes to the right side, and move the ramp from westbound SR 520 to southbound I-5 from the left to the right side. The retaining walls on the east side and drop off on the west side makes relocating either of those ramps extremely expensive, technically challenging and very disruptive to traffic. There would also be significant environmental issues and likely community opposition. At this point the benefits to traffic compared to the overall cost in dollars and disruption haven’t been found to be worth it.

Alec Thomas said...

Okay WSDOT, you have 4 lanes of traffic and congestion will only get worse with population growth. How does adding a 5th lane that most people can't use solve this problem? Charging people to use the extra lane just forces more people into the 4 original lanes. Giving rich people their own lane doesn't sound like a solution to me, and forcing honest working carpooling people to sign up to a privately owned company out of Texas, doesn't make much sense either. Forming a carpool is hard enough as it is. Adding red-tape does NOT make it easier, which in turn will reduce the number of people willing to carpool, which in turn will increase congestion in the general purpose lanes.

Re-educate 500,000 resident drivers, really? What about out-of-town family and tourist?

When people visit our lovely region, they will never want to come back if they are forced into the worse traffic conditions we have to offer. They have no choice but to pay the highest toll rates possible, inadvertently break the law, or creep along in bumper to bumper traffic while they look to their left and see 2 lanes going virtually unused.

BTW - I'm not sure what Tim Eyman can do. He's the one that forced the legislature to cut transportation funding back in the 90's, which contributed to the need for tolling (and delayed highway improvements).

In regard to politicians, don't make this party specific. Regardless of who they are, contact your state representative and ask them what they are going to do about this obvious problem. Vote on issues, not on political parties. A politician that knows they are going to get voted back in just because of their party affiliation, has no incentive to do what's right for the good of us all.

WSDOT, don't tell us what you THINK. Tell us what you KNOW. Show us proof based on real-world results from other states that have used this system. Simply saying, "wait and see" tells me you THINK the public is to too dumb to understand facts, or you KNOW the facts don't stand up to scrutiny.

Vince R said...

WSDOT,

Since the implementation of 'Not-good-to-go', the traffic information on my GPS does not seem to correctly identify traffic conditions on 405. In addition, the WSDOT traffic map also seems to be incorrect.

When will you be fixing this to work like it used to... before the implementation of the 'rich-people-lanes'?

V

WSDOT said...

We have noticed that traffic applications like Waze are factoring I-405 express toll lanes into their route options. Can you identify what specifically is not working on the WSDOT traffic map so we can let the project team know? Thanks!

Vince R said...

The problem is quite simple. Although traffic might be flowing in the 'good-to-go' lanes, it is stopped in the GPL. A look at my GPS which uses the data from something that WSDOT sends out doesn't show the bumper-to-bumper traffic. It shows green.... which the 'rich-people-lanes' might be.

When I look on the WSDOT traffic maps, they do not seem to match the traffic either.

The data representation needs to be the worst condition present in either the GPL or the GTG lanes. Not the rosey picture where one is ok and the other it horrible.

The net effect is that the 'route around traffic' feature that used to work before the GTG program was rolled out doesn't work because it is getting bad data now. This probably lends to additional congestion in the GPL because people no longer get the information to plan routes around the traffic.

WSDOT said...

Alec – You make some good points! It is certainly a challenge to educate thousands of resident drivers and commuters on the new rules of I-405 express toll lanes. That's a big part of why we anticipated a 6-12 month adjustment period. It is quite difficult to get information out to so many people and for drivers to begin to adapt to the changes. Visitors and infrequent travelers along the corridor will have an even bigger adjustment to make. That's why we offer a first-time waiver of any tolls drivers incur if they did not understand the new rules of the road. Additionally, Good To Go! has a Short Term Account for visitors and rental car drivers to charge any tolls directly to their debit or credit cards.



We've heard a lot of misleading information out there about the Texas company. If you'd like additional information on cost breakdown, I encourage you to check out our other blog post: One Month in Review: What we've heard from drivers.



The express toll lanes need to operate at 45 miles per hour 90 percent of the time and we need to cover operating costs after two years. Ultimately, it will be up to the Legislature to determine the future of express toll lanes and how they continue to operate. But in the meantime, we appreciate constructive feedback as to how we can make the system operate as efficiently as possible.

Unknown said...

All about who has $$$ and who does not way to go wa mont looking better all the time

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