Thursday, October 29, 2015

One Month in Review: What we’ve heard from drivers

By Jennifer Rash

If you live in the Puget Sound region, and haven’t been on vacation over the last month, you‘ve likely heard a lot of information about the new I-405 express toll lanes.  And, as you can imagine, we have heard a lot from drivers.

We’ve heard positive stories from folks praising the reliability of the new system, how it cut their car and transit commutes in half and they get to spend more time with their families. We also know it’s been a big change and we’ve heard a lot of comments about shifting congestion, confusion about the double white lines and long wait times for customer service.

We’ve taken to Twitter, Facebook, this blog and the media to try and help answer your questions, and here are the Top 5 that keep coming up.

1. We paid gas tax for this road, how can you ask us to pay again? 
Yes, the lanes on I-405 have been built with federal and state gas taxes over the years.  It’s also true that communities around I-405 are experiencing growth, causing some of the worst congestion in the state. Beyond the cost to build and expand the highway, new improvements are necessary to support this growth and reduce congestion. Before express toll lanes, the HOV lane was at capacity during peak periods, with speeds falling below 45 mph on 200 or more days a year. Express toll lanes are a sustainable solution to maintain reliability on the roadway over time. You don’t have to pay the toll; using the express lanes is an option when you really need it.

2. Why not just build new regular lanes?
We know from our experience here in Washington and from other states facing similar challenges, we cannot simply expand the roadway to solve congestion. Studies show that, time and time again, the new lanes eventually fill up when the population grows. What happens then? Is the answer to keep building more and more lanes? We need to invite and accept creative solutions to help manage the growing demand on our roadways. Over the last decade, we’ve explored and implemented a range of solutions to help with the growing congestion on I-405 including adding more regular lanes, improvements to local roads, increasing transit service, adding park and ride spaces and vanpools, and operating express toll lanes.  After years of study, we found that express toll lanes could move 30 percent more vehicles and people compared to building a regular lane. They also offer drivers a choice for a reliable trip whenever they need it.

3. How does changing the carpool requirement to 3+ during peak hours help reduce traffic?  
The Washington State Transportation Commission made this change because the 2+ carpool lanes were breaking down at peak times, not meeting state requirements to move traffic at 45 mph 90 percent of the time. Buses, vanpools and carpools were often stuck in the same congestion as folks in the regular lanes, receiving little to no benefit from the carpool lanes. The change to a 3+ peak requirement brought the benefit and reliability back to those lanes, and with express toll lanes, folks with less than three passengers can benefit from the additional capacity for a price. During off-peak times and weekends, vehicles with a Flex Pass in HOV mode can ride free with two passengers.

4. Is WSDOT only operating express toll lanes for the money?
Any revenue generated beyond operating costs will go in a dedicated account for I-405 and will be reinvested back into the corridor. The whole point of the express toll lanes is to create a new reliable option for drivers. Without express toll lanes, the highway would only become more congested over time. New general purpose lanes would fill up and the reliability would be gone. Some drivers might choose to use the express toll lanes every day, but most will use them when they need them for a variety of reasons that are personal to those hundreds of thousands of individuals.

5. Why is 75 percent of the toll revenue going to a company in Texas? 
This has come up frequently over the past few months, and it’s false.  We’d like to give you a breakdown of the costs.

On average, 54 cents of a Good To Go! toll paid on I-405 goes toward toll collection.

  • Customer Service Center operations and billing operations receives 20 cents of those 54 cents. Both services are provided by a vendor from Richardson, Texas. They employ more than 120 people in the greater Seattle area.  Their compensation is independent of traffic or toll rate levels, meaning they get the same amount no matter what the toll rate is or how much congestion there is.
  • The Roadway Toll System operations and maintenance team receives 15 cents from every toll. This service is provided by a vendor from Rockville, Maryland. They have a core staff of six in the greater Seattle area. Their compensation is also independent of traffic or toll rate levels.  
  • State Operations and credit card processing receives 19 cents. This includes our staff costs, consulting support, and staff related costs such as rent, phones and computers, data collection tools, software and office supplies.  

The remainder of the toll (dark green area) goes toward other costs including enforcement, transponders, and a dedicated fund  for future I-405 improvements as approved by the state legislature.

67 comments:

Helena said...

All the statistics and propaganda from the WSDOT are complete false and nonsense. These toll lanes are a complete failure and need to be disbanded. We praise rep Harmsworth from Mill Creek for speaking up and am saying what we all know, that the toll lanes are making everyone's commute much worse and they are a complete failure. The people of this great state are angry and we want our government to listen to the people and stop these toll lanes. Everyone knows general purpose lanes will be a better option.

Jeff Gray said...

Oh my god, enough of this spin, spin, spin nonsense!!

"We’ve heard positive stories from folks praising the reliability of the new system, how it cut their car and transit commutes in half and they get to spend more time with their families."

No comment on how the VAST majority of the comments on this very site state the exact opposite??!! You really need to grasp the fact that 99.9% of the people who drive this stretch of road are ENRAGED about the Extortion Toll Lanes. Also, enough of this "6-12 months" excuse. If I was a company who provided a product that was hopelessly broken (like the Extortion Toll Lanes)and then told the customer, "hey, just wait 12 months...maybe it will work" I would be out of business in short order...as the W$DOT should be.

You need to be honest with the people and just say what this whole thing is at its core....a desperate, underhanded and borderline illegal money grab. Trying to spin the facts 180 degrees from what people behind the wheel are experiencing just makes us despise you more...if that is even possible.

James Russell said...

I understand the concept, and I even agree with using the revenue to help with future projects for I405. However I see other states like California, who have similar traffic issues and yet they accomplish their projects with funds from the gas tax that is LOWER than Washington state.

The other issue I have (coming from the east side of the state) is how come the road projects on the east side get extremely lower priority and thus take years more to come to fruition. Or, (as two projects I have been watching) either get postponed or even have the funding removed with no good reason given.

I supported the nickel tax, and I somewhat supported the dime increase. With anticipation to seeing some safety projects done. Yet the state says they still need an even higher tax, because there isn't enough funds for the projects.

Again, I ask the question, why does it cost so much more to accomplish a project here than anywhere else in the US?

Cu Bong said...

-there is sings near exit 26 ( SR-527) , 155 millions was used for widening the I-405 from I-5 to 6th Bellevue. My observation is both direction from I5 to SR-527 are still the same, nothing done to widen this stretch ( please answer this)
-the ETLs opened one month so far, how much funds for future i405 improvement ( dark green) we collected as of today ? this numbers can not compare with how suffers we are dealing today because traffics appears shift to local back roads and many places else ( SR 520, SR 522 RAM, SR 527 , traffic backup from i5 to 160th SB every night) weekend now are more traffic etc....)
I am working in Bellevue and live in Millcreek, spent so far average $7.50 or more every working days, total $160.00 so far. I still get home 5' later than before, why ? because to get to ETLs from Bellevue, I stuck more than 7' ( before rarely 3') reach to SR-522 and have to merge to SR-527 ...stuck in there for 10' and a long way on SR 527 , this road is now more heavy traffic because drivers avoid the toll lanes and traffic on SB 405)
-what if the volume on ETLs is exceeded the max and we can't commit 45 mph ? silly question , right ? because the rate by that time would be $10.00. poor working men like us....is going to....poorer .

greg clauson said...

This is complete Bull. My wife and I travel from Everett to Seattle via I-5 and have for months. We leave at 630 AM and most days would get downtown at around 7:05. Literally the day after the Toll lanes on 405 were activated, our 35-40 minute commute has doubled, consistently to 70-90 minutes. Everyday. Without Fail, all since the tolling began. We have noticed that 90% of the new delay is the I5/405 interchange. We went from sitting in the express lane there for maybe 5 minutes, to now having to move that 1/2 mile waiting for people to merge onto I5 from 405 taking about 20-25 minutes. People are AVOIDING 405. Whats funny is with avoidance you would "think" that the traffic numbers would improve on 405, but they haven't as evidence by the countless comments from friends and family that travel on 405, and the VAST majority of comments on every single article regarding the tolling. Its a total failure, but we need to all realize that WSDOT is going to continue telling us everything is better, blah blah blah, and we will just have to taste it. Shame on you WSDOT.

WSDOT said...

Helena – The statistics we post on our blog come directly from factual data collected along the corridor. As mentioned above, studies have shown that building regular general purpose lanes is only a temporary fix to an ongoing problem. The Puget Sound area is growing and in order to keep up, we face the challenge of managing a growing demand on our roadways. We have explored a wide range of options and have found that express toll lanes can move 30% more vehicles and people than one regular lane.

Helena said...

The WSDOT are complete liars with all there data and propaganda no one is being fooled anymore. I am happy to hear that Tim Eyman is also working on an initiative to do away with the tolls. I also think the Washington State Transportstion Commission should be scrapped and or disbanded for coming up with the dumbest projects in transportation history. I think the people of this state deserve better and WSDOT should hire consultants from CALTRANS to get the WSDOT on the right track. All metropolitan freeways should have 4 general purpose lanes in each direction.

WoodinvilleCommuter said...

I drive 405 daily from 522 south to Bellevue in the morning and reverse in the evening. I am extremely pleased with the express toll lanes. I can choose to use them, and have a better commute, or not use them, in which case my commute is no worse than it was before. On the days I choose to use them it saves at least 15-20 minutes each way.

Traffic is always much worse when UW starts and always worse in the fall when it's raining (sadly for WSDOT they opened the lanes right at this very bad time). I have talked to many people who are loving the toll lanes but they won't speak out on forums such as this due to all the nastiness others post.

Based on a month of daily 405 commuting I agree with all the WSDOT data, travel times are down overall. BUT yes, the congestion has moved around to different spots I have observed this as well.

Bernard Wacher said...

My commute has improved significantly. Thanks for express ways and carpooling options. I've seen them work well in other states too. Thanks.

James Lamb said...

Pie charts aren't the right kind of graph to post here because a 75 cent pie is much smaller than a $1.75 pie. You should used stacked bars (cake) to show that some layers stay the same regardless.

However, I'm troubled that you lump transponder, enforcement and dedicated fund into a single line item. I would think that transponder and enforcement should be closer to fixed as well.

I feel bad that you guys are getting so attacked, The real problem (in my opinion) is that you guys only have a cement mixer, so of course you're going to make more concrete. The real problem is the poor urban planning that puts all the housing and all of the jobs far apart from each other. Well, that and a light rail system that once complete will be too slow to actually compete with private vehicles for commuting. I spent 8 years commuting within Federal Way, then six months driving from SE Federal Way to Bellevue, often at 10-20 mph. Horrible. Thankfully now commuting from home, but more roads, tolled or not, isn't going to fix this. Only better urban planning that spreads out the jobs or puts more affordable housing near the existing jobs will do the trick. OF course, you're a road agency, not an urban planning agency, so you'll continue to build more roads.

hi said...

My commute time has increased by nearly 30% every day, and rush hour seems to be starting earlier and continuing later. Tried the side streets, and they're worse than normal, and I don't make enough money to pay tolls twice daily.
Who do we vote out to get this system disbanded??

hi said...

What about the people who can't afford to pay so much money in daily tolls? Oh yea, they don't matter.

WSDOT said...

Thank you Bernard — we're glad your commute has improved! And you're right. The 405 express toll lanes are the 33rd facility like this in the nation, and we learned a lot from what worked for other states.

WSDOT said...

WoodenvilleCommuter – thank you for sharing your story! We're happy to hear that your commute has improved since we opened the express toll lanes. We agree that we opened during a sort of traffic transition period, going from summer light to heavy fall, school traffic.

WSDOT said...

Jeff – WSDOT brings factual data to the public based on traffic patterns we are seeing along the I-405 corridor. Unfortunately, much of the positive feedback we receive is not reflected in online forums. WSDOT remains positive that express toll lanes will provide congestion relief to the corridor – even if it takes 6 months to a year for drivers to adjust.

AsepD said...

Same story, same lines, same lies repeated ad-nauseum. And the continuing 'advice' is be patient and wait 6-12 months to determine there is an obvious problem. As opposed to using one's eyeballs or listening to the actual accounts from commuters (one Woodinville driver aside whose account parrots the WSDOT propaganda). Any people releasing such a fundamentally broken concept would be fired within hours, not given 6-12 months of leeway. I too come from Woodinville, and my experience has been uniformly worse across the board. Longer com mute times, worse congestion, more accidents, increasing periods of time for 'rush hour' etc. Whoever is responsible for this fiasco should be fired, and any representatives supporting it voted out.

WSDOT said...

AsepD – Traffic reports show that commutes in general purpose lanes are improving since the opening of express toll lanes – especially during morning commutes. Additionally, we are seeing shifts in points of congestion – specifically north of the SR 522 junction. If making a shorter trip, it is likely that you are experiencing some delays. WSDOT anticipates an adjustment period of 6 months to a year because we understand how big of a change this is for drivers and that it will take time for the thousands of I-405 users and others in the Puget Sound area to understand how to use them.

WSDOT said...

Cu Bong, you're right, we didn't widen I-405 north of SR 522. As we've said, it will take several months for traffic to adjust to the express toll lanes, so don't think your trip will be the same in the future as it is today.

WSDOT said...

Greg, we're sorry if your travel time has increased significantly in the past month. We appreciate you providing this feedback about the I-5/I-405 interchange, as we're gathering driver feedback to look at potential improvements. As for people avoiding I-405, our traffic data show differently http://1.usa.gov/1kqmYP6.

Helena said...

This statement is a complete lie and more propaganda from the WSDOT. The truth is that these toll lanes are a complete failure and a joke. The people of this state are not stupid as the WSDOT thinks we are and we are going to get the toll lanes disbanded with help from rep Harmsworth and Tim Eyman.

Jenna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenna said...

The mark of maturity is to admit when you've failed and try to rectify things. I'm not saying WSDOT had bad intentions when they came up with this terrible idea, or that they're trying to bleed commuters dry. But, it was an awful idea and they need to accept that, rather than posting propaganda like this to make us believe things have improved. As one of the many commuters who has seen their commute increase dramatically since October (mine went from 50 minutes each way to at least an hour and twenty), it's pretty disheartening to think of how much of my life I'll be wasting on the bus for the next several years due to this massive screw up by our "friends" at the WSDOT. Do you people feel no responsibility to the taxpayers who pay your salaries? Did you even think of the impact this would have on I5 traffic due to people avoiding 405? Do you have a plan to make things right for us I5 commuters? If so, I'd like to hear it. If not, rest assured I will NEVER support any measure to increase funding for WSDOT since all they do is make things worse for people who already had it bad.

Jenna said...

This comment was obviously planted by someone at the WSDOT since it contradicts everything everyone else on here is saying.

Doug Erwin said...

Dug, Monroe;

I'll be honest. My commute has been shortened. I travel daily to SODO! 4th/Spokane. I leave my house at 5:45-5:55, I get to work at the same as before the lanes. Coming home is different, I used to go 99 to 145th then cut over to 522. 405 was out of the question. Now I take 405 and I'm home over a half hour earlier. Enough of my story....

I have 2 issues with the Express lanes. 1- the toll payers are traveling at 60 and often traffic is stopped at the 520 merge. There will be massive high speed vs. parked cars accidents. Because passive aggressive drivers act like this commute if their first and last. Let people in with a flashing signal and 99.99% of cars are equipped with turn signals. Just make sure you perfect drivers replace the bulbs. 2nd- WSDOT should hire accountants who can advise on better and more efficient ways to spend their money. It is obvious to everyone in the state that this department bleeds and mismanages money. I'd like to see I-5 commuters share the financial burden. We live East and North so we have the money to pay to go to work.

Thank you.

Helena said...

This is another planted statement by the WSDOT. They think we are all stupid. We will show you when we get rid of these tolls. Lol

Helena said...

Everyone needs to keep calling the representatives so more will join with representative Harmsworth from Mill Creek. Then and only then can the angry people of this state get rid of the dumbest transportation project in state history; The infamous toll lanes on I405.

Helena said...

Here is the truth. The only way to improve everyone's cummute is to admit that these toll lanes are a complete failure. Then turn the toll lane back into a general purpose lane. The new configuration will be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. Future gas tax renenue can be used to add 2 general purpose lanes From Hwy 522 to I-5. Also 2 general purpose lanes added to I405 from Renton to Belleve which will make a huge difference (4 general purpose lanes & 1 HOV lane) We will not let the WSDOT make the same mistake by adding a toll lane from Renton to Bellevue which is in dire need of general purpose lanes NOT a toll lane. Funny thing a few years ago WSDOT came to The Kennydale center and told me to my face that the state was going to add 2 general purpose lanes to help will our neighborhood freeway traffic problem. Once again they lie again.

Cu Bong said...

ETLs on NB 405 after SR-522 from afternoon and SB 405 from I-5 to SR 522in the morning are packed and getting higher volumes last 2 weeks. We were hardly to travel more than 30 mph or were completely stop/go at these stretches in both direction during rush hours , this observations make me to wonder :
-- more drivers getting FlexPass and use this ETL during rush hours, this is a win for WSDOT, however it is LOSE for us because we pay a high toll in this stretches but get only speed of stop and go
-- WSDOT failed to predict and calculate the volume number of drivers before and after SR-522 where left only ONE ETL
-- the idea of ETLs are great idea, but WSDOT failed or lack of studies/experiences and plants to execute it how to make it works in our state. SR-522 to I-5 is as example , they should widen the I 405 over pass above SR-522. this area is actually a huge bottle neck , right there, NO emergency lane and shoulder and only 3 lanes go through this tube.
--tax payers will support and pay more taxes if WSDOT bring up a plant that is well study and promising solving traffic problem , like SEATTLE DOT just did ( passed the initiative) ,
- you did nicely on the stretch about 10 miles from SR-522 to 6th Bellevue... but look and please admit the facts that before and after 2 ETLs how it looks like every day, bottle neck both end...
--WSDOT should wait and get funds enough to do the ETLs for entire of I-405 rather than just part of it, even just part of it but bad executed in designed and planning
--last thing, ETLs idea was copy form other state DOT, WSDOT doesn't invent any ( hic hic) even WSDOT pays for the advertise for ETLs clip that broadcasts over and over again on daily local TV using the same MUSIC background themes with Toyota advertise for its brand name, COPY and steal background music themes for advertise , come on WSDOT.

WSDOT said...

Congestion is growing around the region in general, but we are seeing shifts in congestion points and times, which we discuss in our recent blog: http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/405etl-one-month-in.html. We also want you to know that we are working with transportation staff from the cities along the corridor to monitor congestions levels on surface streets. We understand that paying the toll twice a day is not an option for everyone. However, the intent of the system is to provide a reliable trip to everyone when they need the most.

WSDOT said...

James – thank you for your feedback on the graphs and the system, and your insights on urban planning. Transponders and enforcement are not a single line item, they are just represented within the operations costs that were in question.

WSDOT said...

People of all income levels benefit from the option to have a faster, more reliable trip. Maybe it’s not an everyday thing, but express toll lanes are there when you need them. Whether you need to get to a job interview on time, pick up a child from daycare, or are running late to work, the express toll lanes are an option. And, for other times, the general purpose lanes will still be toll-free. Transit riders, van pools, and carpoolers will also all be able to drive toll-free in the lanes with a Good To Go! pass.

Helena said...

Everyone would benefit if WSDOT would just admit that they made a mistake and listen to what the people want. We would all be better off if the tolls are disbanded and the toll lane is switched over to 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane.

Jeff H said...

Can you respond to Jame's earlier comment about the comparative costs of construction vs California? I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, and overall pay less in road fees and taxes than I ever did in WA and have a much more enjoyable experience driving around here. Yes the traffic is still bad, but never as maddening as what it was like commuting up north! 580 is getting these same lanes over in Livermore (http://www.alamedactc.org/580express) and no one I've heard from have complaints because there are still 4 other regular lanes plus add/drop lanes that will continue to remain 4 + add/drop lanes after the 5th and 6th express toll lanes are added. There are the same, if not worse, direct democracy taxation measure issues plus insane land, environmental, and labor costs that you face, and yet CalTrans can build bypasses and expansion projects in a timely manner, vs practically never. Just look to all the towns along US 2 practically begging for bypasses from the current death-way with no action except some signage to remind you what a death trap the current highway is, or US 101-Lynch Rd's at-grade disaster that has seen more money spent towards lawsuit payouts than it would've cost to just build an overpass (www.theolympian.com/news/local/article25259188.html).

Roy Hurlbut said...

The WSDOT lies and spins yarns. My commute from Redmond To Everett each day has incrased 30% average. Why we sit like sheep and allow this to happen is bull. Wait till you have to call the customer dis-service line or visit an office in person! HOURS ON HOLD, HOURS WAITING IN OFFICE! Government gone crazy. Open these lanes up and get out of the way!

Helena said...

This is a great point. The few states that do have toll lanes all have invested in at least 4 general purpose lanes in each direction 1st. This is why WSDOT can not compare this disaster to any other state. Take Renton to Bellevue and HWY 522 to I5 which only has 2 general purpose lanes in each direction and WSDOT thinks adding a toll lane on these stretches is a good idea? Leaving a freeway with only 2 lanes in each direction and adding toll lanes will be the dumbest decision in transportation history.

Gregg said...

The stretch going north in Bothell on i405 from just south of 522 to just south of i5 is AWFUL. I used to work late and commute after 7pm from Kirkland because the car pool lanes were open to all, so we had three lanes going north. Now after 7pm, the old carpool lane is a toll lane, and so there are only 2 lanes for that stretch!!! So now I don't bother working later hours to help shift traffic, may as well get stuck in it at 5:30pm or 7:00pm, no difference.

WSDOT, you STOLE one of the taxpayers lanes to be used as your toll lane. The people will see you in court.

Tom said...

In my opinion, traffic is going to be bad in a region like ours no matter what. Too many people trying to go too many places, with poor transit options. At least with the toll lanes so far, I can now plan a trip from Bellevue to Lynnwood and, if I am willing to pay a toll, be able to predict how long it will take. Before, it was like rolling a die. Sometimes 30min, sometimes 1.5hrs. Makes being on time next to impossible. I agree though, that we should still increase free lanes in the I5/I405 corridors. Even if it doesn't solve the problem, with growth is helps at least mitigate the impact. That's what tax money should be dedicated to.

WSDOT said...

Tom – Thanks for your input. So glad to hear the express toll lanes are bringing predictability and efficiency back to your commutes! WSDOT is taking the necessary steps to create an efficient system that connects the Puget Sound region. General purpose lanes are costly for a short-term solution to an ongoing problem, but WSDOT continues to explore all options.

Helena said...

Adding general purpose lanes is the best solution to bring down our commute times NOT the Toll lanes which has increased 99.9% of our commutes.

Jeff Gray said...

I know you won't post this, but, I will continue to contribute my actual (as in, not your fantasy land drivel)drive times from Lynnwood to Kirkland:

11/9/15: 90 (!!) NINTY minutes
11/10/15: 65 minutes

Utter, complete and total failure by W$DOT. I do enjoy watching the Extortion Toll Lanes grind to a complete halt from Lynnwood to Bothell. Keep that average under 45mph folks and they HAVE to remove this disaster BY LAW.

Scott said...

This is the worst traffic mess ever created backups on a Sunday even... At 7 pm no less! and more accidents then ever before.... Who's idiot idea was this! Typical government hiring of an outside consultant over paying them for ,a failed ,plan. And if I want to get to 70th street in Kirkland coming from Bellevue I am stuck trying to move over 4 lanes in traffic that's blocked! Stop ignoring the majority and start listening!

Vince R said...

Dear WSDOT,

I appreciate that you are trying to tell us that ‘Good-to-go’ is for our own good.
Every time I have heard this program come up in discussions at work, in social circles and public events, the name used to refer to the program is ‘NOT GOOD TO GO’.

First, not a single person I have heard feedback from, and I have heard a lot of very angry people discussing it, has been positive. There have been no exceptions. My guess, from reading the feedback from the rest of the people is that they are seeing and hearing the same thing. So excuse us if we doubt your glowing reports of progress, but they do seem like lies and propaganda. Our experience does not even come close to what you are reporting. The discrepancies are so large that they do not seem plausible.

Second, you do not seem to acknowledge that people are hurting as a result of this program. There are denials that commute times region wide have been significantly impacted, overnight, as a result of this program. The ‘commuter traffic has increase in the region’ line would indicate a slow increase of traffic that didn’t correspond to the day the program was put in place. For 500,000 ish commuters, you have created a very bad commute. Something that your organization is supposed to relieve, not cause. In that regard, someone is derelict in their duties to the state and its residents.

Third, the ‘trust me this will all get better in 6 to 12 months’ approach doesn’t cut it. There is no reason you should need a pass to use the lanes (for free) off hours. There is no reason there should be a toll on those lanes at all off hours.

Fourth, if the data presented is derived from the same data used to feed the WSDOT flow maps, then the data is flawed. After looking at the map and looking out the window of my car, on numerous occasions, I can tell you the data in the maps is now wrong. If that same data is how you are justifying this program is a success, well all I can say to that is ‘Mission Accomplished’ (that still leave a foul taste in my mouth when I say it)..

Fifth, along the lines of the fees collected VS how much is given to the tolling system to operate it, there are times, based on the data you present, where the percentage of fees given to the Texas company are 72%....something close enough to 75% to call it 75%. From your data given a $0.75 cent toll, $0.54 is paid in collecting the toll. 0.54/0.75 = 72% Now that is what your numbers from your chart say. So it is accurate for people to say that at times roughly 75% of the tolls collected are going to a Texas based company to operate our tolling system. Now if we take the number of hours that the lanes are run at $0.75, we could say that more than half of the time, roughly 75% of the fees collected are not being used to improve the roads. This is also an accurate statement. Now as a resident of this state, knowing that irks me. In my opinion, it borders on criminal and people in this state should be peeved by this kind of deal.

Cypress Van Horn said...

I have been enjoying using the toll lanes. It's worth $4 to me to get home up to 30 minutes earlier, and spend time with my family. Or being to leave a little bit later (sleep a little longer, or go workout), and still get to work on time.

There are things that could be improved.

For example:
1. clarifying to the toll rates. if the sign says:
NE 145th = .75
522 = .75
I-5 = 4.50

And I get off for the 527 exit to Bothell, what I am paying? it is a sum of all the above, or the last toll? I am getting off before I-5, is it pro-rated? It's really confusing.

2. at some points along 405 there are signs with "time to Bellevue, Time to Renton, etc), but these should be placed before the entries into the toll lanes, and they should provide "time via express toll lanes, and time via standard lanes". Best would be to incorporate the times into the toll rate, so drivers can tell how much time it will save them to use the ETL, vs not and be able to make a better decision whether it is worth the toll.

Cypress Van Horn said...

Also, need to add more HOV and Express Toll lane off ramps to major intersections such as the 522 exchange.

there is not alot of time to get over when exiting the toll lanes at 160th and trying to get over to get onto 522 EB, since that interchange gets seriously backed up, and sitting in that backup, can pretty much wipe out any benefit to using the toll lanes. Widening that offramp all the way to 522 might help, but the ideal scenario is not to make drivers in the far left have to cross over mulitple lanes of traffic, which slows other traffic down.

WSDOT said...

As Washington grows, so does traffic. If we add a general purpose lane to the corridor, it will just fill up with traffic in a short period of time and we will be right back to where we started. Not to mention, there is not enough room in the corridor to add enough lanes for future growth. Express toll lanes are the smart way to manage the demand for limited road space by moving more cars, more efficiently.

WSDOT said...

Cypress – Glad you are finding the express toll lanes beneficial! You’ll only pay one toll – not the sum of them all – if you are traveling through multiple points along the corridor. The rate you see upon entry of the lanes is the rate you’ll pay – regardless of if the price changes down the road. When you are traveling to Bothell and plan to exit for SR 527, you’ll pay the toll rate that corresponds to the exit point. If your exit point isn’t listed when you enter the lanes, you’ll pay the toll that corresponds to the last entry point you pass through before you exit the lanes.

The project team will make note of your suggestion to place time savings before the entry points. Toll rates adjust based on how many vehicles are using the lanes at that time, which may be helpful to you when deciding whether or not to use the lanes.

Jeff Gray said...

"If we add a general purpose lane to the corridor, it will just fill up with traffic in a short period of time and we will be right back to where we started."

Hey, I'll take 'right back where we started'...as in, removing the 20-30 minutes the W$DOT has added to my commute time since the Extortion Toll Lanes went live. Also, that would mean there would no longer be the weekend traffic jams on 405 that WERE NEVER THERE before.

This has been asked several times on this blog, but never answered: WHY are the toll lanes in effect on the weekend? By doing this YOU HAVE CREATED traffic jams!

If this is answered at all, I know it will just be the usual lies and propaganda you spew here, but know this....the backlash is building, W$DOT, and we WILL see this system removed and those responsible fired.

Helena said...

The people who thought of the extortion lanes should be fired!! This is the biggest mistake in transportation history!

Helena said...

This statement is one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard come out of the WSDOT. Everyone knows the original master plan of 2001 called for 2 general purpose lanes to be added throughout the corridor. Now all has changed that WSDOT has decided to add an extortion toll lane instead of the much needed general purpose lanes we were promised. Now we don't need general purpose lanes and there is no more room. WSDOT are like robots as they keep spewing the same lies and propaganda, only problem is the public is not stupid and we are on to your nonsense. Shame on you WSDOT for trying to cheat the public.

WSDOT said...

Scott – We are listening. We hear comments every day from drivers and are taking every one into consideration. Accessibility has been a big issue for drivers and the project team is working hard to address them.

3BoyFather said...

I love the new ETLs. They have enabled me to get to meetings and appointments I would have previously missed or been late to due to heavy traffic. I don't use the ETLs every time I travel on I-405 but having the option to purchase a more reliable commute time is priceless when you need it.

Erick K. said...

I understand the concept to an extent. What I don't understand is why it is necessary for two lanes to be tolled. Why didn't you try one tolled lane to the left before starting with two. Since the tolling started I have never seen enough vehicles using the toll lanes to cause congestion in the toll lanes. Why not cut it down to one toll lane? You say adding lanes would not work. I may be incorrect but, it seems as though a lane has been taken away. Or at the very least one of the toll lanes is vastly underutilized. Also, when you direct people to graphs and other links to support your claims you are actually making the frustration worse. No where have I seen in any of your statements or graphs, or articles any viable proof that what you are saying is actually true. Are we just supposed to take your word for it because you transposed some data to a pie chart, or a list of figures?

I find it difficult to believe you videoed/observed any vehicle from Lynnwood to Bellevue and noted their commute time lessened.(Using the general purpose lanes)If you can actually show me a vehicle that consistently makes this commute and their commute time is less then I will hop on board this experiment. Factually you cannot do this. But this is what is needed to substantiate your claims.

Here is one of your replies to a comment on this board. " We have explored a wide range of options and have found that express toll lanes can move 30% more vehicles and people than one regular lane." As a people we do not want to hear or read that ETL CAN move 30% more vehicles. We want that CAN word to be DOES or WILL. Basically you are covering for backlash down the road for when this does not work. Now you can say, "Oh, well we never actually said that it would work" This is a pretty significant change to thousands of commuters lives to be based on "it can work" or "could work". This seems irresponsible of you to do.

Erick K. said...

Here is another one of your WSDOT replies to a comment on this board.

"However, the intent of the system is to provide a reliable trip to everyone when they need the most".

That's great. But what about relieving congestion on the roads. That's what the toll lanes are for right? I'm confused. Are the toll lanes for people that can pay to get somewhere quicker or are they for all to benefit from?

I feels as though you have done a great job of providing that option for some drivers, but at the expense of the majority. The general purpose lanes have not improved and you have not provide viable, unbiased proof that it has.

WSDOT said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, @3BoyFather. We are glad to hear you are enjoying the benefits of the ETLs and agree – having that option is priceless.

WSDOT Toll Division said...

Hi Erick K, Thanks for your comments. We know opening the ETLs is a huge change for drivers and anticipate that it will take six to twelve months for drivers to settle into their new regular commute, whether that be in the ETLs, the GP lanes or a combination of the ETLs and GP lanes based on what the driver needs that day. The ETLs are there when you need them. Every driver who chooses to use the ETLs is a vehicle out of the GP lanes. As more drivers and carpoolers use the ETLs, the GP lanes will also benefit. That's how ETL systems have worked across the country. Ours is the 33rd system to open, and we've seen across the county that it will take time for drivers to get use to the lanes.

MrC said...

A year to get use to the lanes? That's BS. They are there when you need them. BS How is that supposed help traffic? Who can afford them? Most people can't. So we all suffer while the few rich pay your rasom. All these positive comments sound the same and there probably fake.
I have to laugh at the poor suckers that pay you 2.50 to go from 522 to I5 and their stopped in the rasom lane and Im moving faster than they are without paying. Are you giving them a refund?
Unsafe driving conditions when a person pays their 75 cent toll and they think their entitled to go 80 next to stop and go traffic. Extreme road rage. Longer commutes for most. Double for some. And you say it's working. Again BS!!
405 toll lanes - EPIC FAIL

WSDOT said...

MrC, it has taken up to a year in other locations with express toll lanes for traffic to get used to the lanes.

Research on existing express toll lane users in Washington, and in other locations nationally 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.

Most drivers don’t yet understand that the price of the express toll lanes is based on the congestion level in the express toll lanes, not in the general purpose lanes. The higher the price, the more congested the ETLs are.

There are extra Washington State Patrol troopers out to watch for ETL violators and they will also catch drivers breaking the speed limit.

It is too soon to draw any conclusions about the express toll lanes, but they are currently providing more reliable trips to transit, carpools and vanpools.

WSDOT said...

Thanks, Cypress! We are watching that area particularly closely to see if we can improve accessibility in that stretch of the corridor. We appreciate your feedback!

WSDOT said...

Gregg – I’m sorry you are unhappy with the new system. No lanes were taken away from the existing roadway. The HOV lane was repurposed as an express toll lane, which now opens the lane to drivers who previously wouldn’t qualify to use it during peak hours.

Kent said...

Unfortunately the toll is a tax on the poor. A house in Bellevue is expensive, houses are cheaper the further you live from Seattle. The toll road is faster to drive, but if you cannot afford the added 3 dollars one way commute like it was today. Nov 23, 2015. You must leave earlier and you must spend more time on the road. This is the price you pay cause you cannot afford to live closer to your work. My question to DOT is have you spoken to the people show issue building permits to stop all high occupancy housing and offices in Seattle, Bellevue and surrounding area. No more buildings in these areas!!

WSDOT said...

Kent – The Puget Sound area is experiencing rapid growth. Quick population growth is a great sign for our economy, but it creates some big challenges for infrastructure and transportation. WSDOT recognized these challenges early on and has worked with the public, employers, cities, counties, and regional planning agencies to develop the I-405 Master Plan – a balanced, multimodal transportation plan for the Eastside, which identified over 100 improvement projects on arterials, park and rides, transit centers, vanpools, and other transportation elements throughout the corridor.

Research on existing express toll lane users in Washington, and in other locations nationally, 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.

Aaron Bockelie said...

You should crank up the tolls higher so you can afford to staff your customer service centers better.

I have a problem with my motorcycle transponder that "can only be fixed in person" according to the 50 minute hold time phone support line person. (Who was great once I got off hold)

Its about a 2 hour wait in person. It shouldn't take 3 hours to give you the RFID tag number so you can finally add it to your system and stop billing a motorcycle.

Speaking of which, you have access to vehicle registrations, don't you think it would be simple enough to check the vehicle type and just not send a bill?

Or is that due to the fact that the 120 people staff spends most of their time reading plates manually on the computer because the character recognition fails too often?

Back to the motorcycle tag - it was one that I got after filling out a survey. Did you get a large shipment of tags, then failed to register their IDs in the tolling database?

I am really disappointed that with all the money you are getting for administrative overhead, it still has all the appearance of a barely function Information Technology deployment where everyone is working on manual processes that should have been automated.

WSDOT said...

Aaron, I'm sorry you've had trouble with your motorcycle pass. We have as many telephone customer service representatives as we can fit in our available space. The in-person wait times are shorter at our Seattle customer service center than at our Bellevue CSC. We can't tell from your description here what's wrong with your pass; if it's something that has to be fixed in person, that suggests that it is a problem of placement rather than the pass not being in our system. You would think that it would be simple to identify a motorcycle but there are technical challenges with this solution that are difficult to work through. Motorcycles do have a higher manual plate read rate because of their size and inconsistent mounting. But Good To Go! pass reads are 99.9 percent accurate when the pass is placed properly. Admittedly, the system our representatives use is no longer state of the art, as the tolling industry has changed dramatically since we first procured our system. We're beginning the process for replacing that system but we currently don't have the funding approved by the legislature to do so. We hope you were able to have your pass problem resolved in a timely manner.

Jasmine Park said...

Liberal government workers need to understand you work for the people, you answer to us, not the other way. Start your work day say 10am to 6pm, less government workers on 405 makes everyone happy

WSDOT said...

We are trying our best. Thank you for your feedback, Jasmine.

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 said...

I see a lot of complaints about the lanes and the cost - for those opposed to the lanes - why not get involved with a carpool?

Depending on the time of day, only 2 or 3 are required for a carpool, and with the FlexPass flipped to "HOV", the usage of the lanes is free.

Yes, the cost for a SOV can be as high as $9.75, but with enough in the car there is no charge!

WSDOT said...

That’s correct – two people during off-peak hours (including weekends) and three people during rush hour times on weekdays qualify as HOV and can ride in the lanes for free with a Flex Pass.