Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays from Good To Go!

By Jennifer Rash

In the spirit of the holiday season, we wanted to remind drivers that the free Flex Pass incentive for carpoolers and free motorcycle pass for I-405 users continues through the end of March 2016.

Free Flex Pass incentive
Since we kicked off our partnership with RideshareOnline.com and local partnering networks in March of this year, we've distributed over 33,000 free Flex Passes to carpoolers. A Good To Go! Flex Pass set to HOV mode is the only way qualifying carpools can ride for free in the I-405 express toll lanes. On days when you may not meet the carpool requirements, the Flex Pass also gives you the flexibility to use the express toll lanes and other toll facilities as a toll paying customer.

Here are some facts we've learned from carpoolers who have requested a free Flex Pass:

Three quick tips if you're a carpooler who needs a Flex Pass:

Q: What do you need to qualify for a free Flex Pass?
A: Live, work or play in King and Snohomish counties, and carpool at least once a week on I-405, with at least two people in your vehicle. Yes weekends count too! You only need two people in your vehicle to travel toll free all weekend.

Q: How do I get my free Flex Pass?
A: Follow these instructions to order your free Flex Pass (pdf 52 kb) today. Please note: A RideshareOnline.com account is different from a Good To Go! account. Once you've received your free Flex Pass, remember to remove any other Good To Go! pass you might have. You only need one pass!

Q: Are you looking for another carpool partner?
A: RideshareOnline.com assists commuters by providing free carpool, vanpool and bicycle ridematching services, bus/rail options, SchoolPool carpooling programs for parents, and information about the benefits of teleworking from home. Once registered at RideshareOnline.com, you can use the Ridematch to find an extra person to carpool with on I-405.

Free motorcycle passes
We're also extending the Free Motorcycle Pass incentive program! Motorcycles are required to have a motorcycle pass in the express toll lanes to claim their free trip just like carpoolers.

Since April 2015, we've distributed over 11,600 free motorcycle passes. Through the program, we provide one free motorcycle pass per person. You can request a free motorcycle pass by taking this brief online survey – be sure to have your license plate ready.

Holiday reminders
If you have questions regarding the Flex Pass incentive program, how to get a free motorcycle pass or how to navigate the new system, give our incentive hotline a ring at 206-464-1230. (We won't be in the office on Christmas Day or New Year's Day.)

Just a reminder, if you're traveling I-405 on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, the two person carpool requirement will be in effect all day. Safe travels and happy holidays!


stop405tolls.org said...

WSDOT, do not be misled and do not attempt to mislead your readers. Your statistics were taken from the survey you require people to fill out before getting a free FlexPass. People generally know that you need 3 people in order to be a carpool during rush hours, so the demographics of your responses are already biased to favor 3+ person carpool drivers.

But the real measurement is how many cars in the ETL are actually 3+ person carpools. Do you know the answer? No you don't. The head of tolling admitted this to us at stop405tolls.org. In fact, WSDOT has made no measurements of the percentage of solo drivers using the ETL or the percentage who are carpools. What we, the public would like to know is: How many cars in the carpool lane have their FlexPass set to HOV vs. how many are paying a toll to use that lane? Please post your answer for everyone to see.

WSDOT said...

Stop405tolls.org, we are not misleading our readers. We clearly state the statistics provided were the result of carpooler responses to our free Flex Pass survey. This is not representative of carpoolers in the ETLs as a whole.

Since we opened the express toll lanes, drivers who declared HOV status with a Flex Pass made up about 25 percent of all users during weekdays. The remaining 75 percent of toll-paying users could include carpools of two or more people either without a Flex Pass, or with a Flex Pass and less than the required three passengers during peak weekday commutes.

Helena said...

The best Christmas present for the cummuting public would be for WSDOT to admit they made the biggest mistake in transportation history and suspend the extortion toll lanes ASAP. The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane.

stop405tolls.org said...

Unfortunately, the observations of stop405tolls.org has ranged from 85% to 97% solo drivers in the ETL. That tells us 2 things:
1. Tolling promotes single occupancy vehicles (SOV) over carpools (which was independently verified in a study by Texas A&M University Civil Engineering College. http://ceprofs.civil.tamu.edu/mburris/Papers/The%20Impact%20of%20HOT%20Lanes%20on%20carpools.pdf ) Prior to the ETL, the carpool lane was 100% carpools, of which 95% were 2-person carpools and only 5% were 3+ person carpools/vanpools/buses.)
2. A significant portion of the drivers in the ETL are protesting the toll by not paying.

Since the carpools were replaced with SOVs, the capacity of PEOPLE for that lane has been cut in half. Furthermore, many people have stated in their comments in various forums and when they signed the petition that they quit carpooling since ETLs were implemented. To reduce congestion requires either increasing capacity or reducing demand. Can you clarify how replacing carpools with SOVs could possibly increase capacity or reduce demand?

Hans said...

We can all see the point was never improved traffic flow - that was the guise. The system you've devised is convoluted, expensive to maintain, and clearly biased toward revenue generation over lane use. WSDOT seems to be clearly in damage management mode. Your posts smell strongly of spin.

WSDOT said...

stop405tolls.org, our figures for HOV drivers are based on transponder data, not on visual assessments of occupancy. We realize there will always be HOV violators, even before the ETLs opened on I-405. Washington State Patrol will continue to enforce the rules and issue $136 tickets to violators.

We won’t be able to build enough capacity to keep up with population growth in the region. However, we found that express toll lanes could move 30 percent more vehicles and people compared to building a regular lane. Having a free flow option moves more vehicles and people overall than just adding stop and go lanes, which unmanaged lanes would shortly become.

WSDOT said...

Hans, congestion relief and reliable choice are the two primary goals WSDOT aimed to meet with I-405 express toll lanes. Revenue generation is not the ultimate goal of the project, though when the Legislature authorized express toll lanes on I-405 in 2011 (EHB 1382), they established that 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.

stop405tolls.org said...

That is true. You won't be able to solve the problem by building an endless supply of GPL. But applying a toll doesn't increase capacity either and in fact, discourages carpooling.

If adding a ETL would provide 30% more capacity of vehicles over a GPL, but adding a simple carpool lane would provide at least 50% more capacity of people. No elaborate tolling scheme needed.

But let's go back to the transponder data. Please share with us what the actual numbers are for transponders set to HOV vs. those who are set to Toll vs. those who are paying by mail? This would help us to accept the Value Pricing model.

Vince R said...

100% Traffic = x + y + z
‘x’ is roughly 81% (1 person vehicle)
‘y’ is roughly 17% (2 person vehicle)
‘z’ is roughly 2% (3+ Person vehicle)

Based on information published by WSDOT in July, 2014

To illustrate how this works, the labels A, B and C are used to explain the distribution of vehicles in each lane and are defined as follows:

A = 1 person vehicle
B = 2 person vehicle
C = 3+ Person vehicle

In the prior configuration (4 GPLs and 1 HOV):
Traffic in a GPL is 20% (A )+ 3% (B) +1% (C) = 24% of the traffic
Traffic in an HOV is 3% (B) + 1%(C) = 4% of the traffic

4 (GPLs) * 24% + 1 (HOV) * 4% = 100% traffic

The Good-to-Go configuration (3 GPLs and 2 HOT):
Traffic in a GPL is 27% (A) + 5% (B) + 1%(C) = 32% of the traffic
Traffic in HOV/HOT is 1% (C)

3(GPLs) * 32% + 2(HOT) * 1% = 100% traffic (with rounding)

What is the real difference?


For single occupancy commuters, that is an increase of 33%.
For double occupancy commuters, that increase is 66%.

The WSDOT has stated that there are approximately 500,000 daily commuters. By those numbers, around 490,000 community members have been negatively impacted by Good-to-Go.

For those 10,000 to 20,000 commuters benefiting from Good-to-Go, I am happy your lives are better.

As of last week, over 26,000 commuters have already signed a petition to get Good-to-Go eliminated. That means we have more people on the petition than are benefiting from the program.

So when someone says Good-to-Go improves congestion now (or in the future), for 98% of the commuters that is incorrect. I personally wish some other message that was more truthful were used like: 'Our buses benefit from this change and on average spend X% less time in traffic'. Or: 'Good-to-Go has generated $y dollars that will be used to address congestion issues along the I405 corridor'. Instead, I feel like I am being lied to each time they say it reduces congestion.

We have changed congestion in the HOV/HOT lanes. There should be 50% less congestion and I can attest that they are better, even if I can't use them, but what a price we have paid for that progress.

It is difficult to estimate the financial impact the increase in congestion will have on the region, but there will be one.

It is difficult to estimate the environmental impact the increase in congestion will have, but there will be one.

It is difficult to estimate the impact the increase in congestion will have on our families, but there will be one.

stop405tolls.org said...

@Vince R, an excellent explanation using the data WSDOT has provided. We could use your help. Please email us.

stop405tolls.org said...

@Vince, they can't say anything like 'Our buses benefit from this change...' because in fact, the buses have to drive on the shoulder of the road north of 195th St. They can't get into the ETL. The bus drivers are quietly displeased with this new arrangement as they have disclosed to us in confidence, though publicly they dare not speak out.

WSDOT said...

stop405tolls.org, please see our comment posted on our Nov. 17 blog.

Michael Nord said...

When I am getting on I-405 northbound at the 6th St. carpool on-ramp in Bellevue, how am I supposed to know what the immediate toll is? It has the tolls for the access points to 522 and I-5 but not what I will be charged for getting on at the 6th St entrance. That seems like a huge oversight considering it dings you as you are coming down the ramp before you even get onto the toll lanes. ANd why are there not access points in and out of the toll lanes at every exit/on ramp? It makes no sense to make people who paid to use the toll lanes get out of them two exits early to sit in the GP lanes until they can get off at the exit they want to get off at.

I am bitterly disappointed at WSDOT's handling of this whole fiasco. From your faulty billing practices to the chaotic implementation and apparent lack of research that has lead to more traffic, more accidents, and less carpooling. If most people did their jobs this way they would be fired for poor work performance and general incompetence.

WSDOT said...

Michael, thank you for your feedback. We understand that this has been a big change for everyone and are working hard to ease the transition for drivers. We have noticed shifts in congestion points and anticipate varied day-to-day and month-to-month statistics until traffic settles. Despite a 5+ year process and a year of outreach efforts, we expected drivers would still find the system complicated and confusing at first. You can see our recent traffic data here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/trafficdata.htm.

Access points were designed taking several things into consideration, including distance between each other and safety. We continue to monitor those access points and are prepared to make changes where necessary. The toll rate signs are displaying the price you will pay per exit point. Since you are entering at the NE 6th Street direct access ramp, you will pay one of the two prices listed.