Wednesday, January 13, 2016

#405ETL Update by the Numbers

By Jennifer Rash

We can say the I-405 express toll lanes are doing what they were designed to do: people who use in transit, vanpools and carpools have received the immediate benefit of a reliable trip. But we know you want the data, so we've crunched the numbers from the past few months (raw data available here).

By the numbers, here's what we learned about the first quarter of operations:
  • 14 minutes: the average time savings for drivers who paid to use the express toll lanes. This means more predictability and faster travel times to I-405.
  • 7 minutes: the average travel time savings in the regular lanes compared to fall 2014 southbound trips on I-405. For northbound trips, travel times in the regular lanes are 1 minute faster.
  • Over 1 Million: the number of trips in the express toll lanes each month since they opened last September. We know that people take 450,000 trips on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood each day.
  • 600,000+: the number of unique users who chose to use the express toll lanes for a faster trip. This reinforces what we've seen across the country drivers may not use express toll lanes every day, but they benefit from a reliable trip when it is needed most.
  • 92 %: the amount of ETL users who regularly pay $4 or less to use the express toll lanes.
  • 75%: the number of users who pay the minimum toll rate of 75 cents
  • 150,000: the increase in Good To Go! accounts since February 2015. Today, there are roughly 620,000 active Good To Go! accounts.
  • 170,000: the number of Flex Passes distributed since the March 2015 launch. That's more than double what we expected in the first year of I-405 express toll lanes.
  • 24%: the amount of carpools using a Flex Pass to declare themselves as carpools on weekdays. Carpoolers with a Flex Pass are experiencing faster commutes during peak rush hours.
  • 45%: the amount of Flex Pass carpoolers on weekends.

Room for improvement
While the early results are promising, the system is not perfect:
  • Traffic north of SR 522 is more congested than it was before in both the regular lanes and express toll lanes. While recent improvements fixed a previous bottleneck in Kirkland, additional capacity is needed between SR 522 and I-5.
  • Drivers making shorter trips experience more congestion. For example, drivers heading northbound on I-405 from Bellevue were seeing new bottlenecks near downtown. However, recently there is less of a bottleneck as more drivers are using the NE 6th Street direct access ramp to enter the system.
  • Overall weekend traffic volumes in the express toll lanes have increased over time, but they are still under 2014 HOV volumes. This could be the result of a variety of factors, including drivers with less familiarity with the ETL system.

We're taking action to help fix problem areas based on feedback from drivers, including adjustments to lane striping, the toll rate algorithm, and access points.

What's next?
We know express toll lanes have been a big change for commuters in the region, and based on experience from other projects across the nation, we expect a learning curve of six months to a year. We do have a set timetable to demonstrate whether the system is working. When the Legislature authorized tolling on I-405 in 2011, they gave WSDOT two years after launch to achieve certain performance measures in the express toll lanes.

In their words
We'll leave you with a few testimonials from drivers who use the I-405 express toll lanes:
  • "THANK YOU VERY MUCH for creating I-405 Express Lanes!!! It made life so much easier for me, especially when I want to make sure I'm on time for my meetings or appointments." - Mikhail B., Lynnwood, WA.
  • "I commute from Kenmore to Issaquah, and the toll lanes typically save me 20-30 minutes each way. Sure, sometimes the toll is more than I'm willing to pay, so I sit in traffic. However, when I need to be sure I arrive in time to pick up my daughter, I'm happy for a faster, more predictable commute." - Lisa F., Kenmore, WA
  • "The double white lines are a great safety feature. You no longer have cars getting into the HOV lane without signally or leaving enough room for a safe lane change and causing drivers to slam on their breaks, which slows everyone down. My experience is that there is less congestion then before the express toll lanes. So please don't overreact to the complainers, give it a chance to work. It is better!!!!" - Leon K., I-405 ETL user
  • "I'm loving the new express toll lanes on I-405! Good work WSDOT. My commute from Mill Creek to Kirkland is no longer a dreaded experience. I zip right along, and most of the time all I pay to do so is a piddling $0.75." - Duncan M., Mill Creek, WA
  • "I love, love, love the I-405 Express Toll Lanes. I drive SB 405 from Bothell to the end and onto I90. Each work day I arrive at work stress-free. It's less money than a Starbucks and so much healthier!" Lauren O., Bothell, WA

110 comments:

Jeff Gray said...

Hahahahahaha! How deep did you have to dig to find those 'positive' comments??? Your own site is LITTERED with comments from people who are FURIOUS about this debacle! I would say the ratio is 100-1 Negative/positive!!!

Oh, and you left out one stat from your (completely false) list:

Petition to remove toll lanes is approaching 30K signatures.

Helena said...

WSDOT has lost all credibility with the people of this state. After all of there lies and propaganda promoting the biggest mistake in transportation history, they continue to promote a failed project. We all know that the extortion toll lanes have been a complete failure and they have made everyone's cummute much much worse. Everyone would be better off if the extortion tolls were suspended ASAP, the new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. This is about to become reality as today people will be testifying in front of the transportation commission in Olympia. As we all know there is a bill sponsored by Harmsworth and Andy Hill to finally make changes. Also the petition against the tolls is approching 30,000. The people who are responsible for this debacle need to step down and Judy Clibborn needs to be voted out. Soon these extortion toll lanes will be a distant memory for all.

Kevin Crowe said...

Thank you for finally providing some real feedback. My commute is from Lynwood to Woodinville which has been horrible and past posts in which WSDOT was indicating that things were bumpy but not off plan through this area was flat out maddening. There was a capacity issue to start with and the ETL design and implementation just further identified and contributes to the problem. My suggestion would be to abolish the toll between Lynwood and 522ish until capacity can be added to support the ETL model as I don't see any reliable means by which the 45 mph requirement can be met through this area without raising tolls to levels of extortion. If the toll system must remain than the double white lines need to be removed. Access is a huge contributor to problems in this area. If traffic is able to flow in and out of the lanes especially between 527 and 522 you will see a more consistent flow in traffic. There is no way you will achieve the average 45 mph required but you will absolutely see better flow in both the general purpose and the express lane per the same model you are already using to try to promote the lanes, volume. The extended length with such limited access is similar to having a lane closer. I know not identical as you do have some volume already flowing but non the less it is similar.
In the end it still all boils down to capacity. I don't think you can compare today's ETL to previous years. Where the ETL is working is through an area that received a new lane, so 2014 traffic data is based on less capacity not to include an area of construction. In short no way close to a direct comparison of raw data. Also a note that I think it is far too early for any HOT or ETL implementation to claim victory. In most cases the systems were and are being implemented as new additions to existing infrastructure and designed as HOT or ETL lanes. This means again more capacity and if designed as Toll managed lanes their access and separation from the existing general purpose lanes are appropriately planned not simply repurposed. The initial result has been very positive however as time has gone on more and more people have been using these lanes causing increased gridlock and the need to further raise tolls. In Atlanta, a similar repurposed design they have had so much trouble maintaining the mandated 45 mph requirement that they are offering tolll waivers to people interested in changing work schedules in an effort to help alleviate congestion.

Vince R said...

I definitely support the efforts of our representatives to help address the problems created by GTG. Its clear that WSDOT has no intention of tweaking the system without outside pressure to do so.

I believe the proposed changes have a high probability of improving traffic conditions between 520 and about 1.5 miles south of 522, for one and two person per vehicle commuters. However there is a high probability that north of 522, the changes will result in longer delays.

Side note: WSDOT will have the ability to claim that when GTG doesn't meet its numbers, that its not their fault because the system they designed was changed.

What really needs to be planned is to add capacity from 522 north to 5. At least one lane in each direction. We also need to get the light rail system in place to help reduce demand.

I would be interested in hearing what WSDOT has to say about the proposed changes and what the impact might be.

Vince R said...

@Kevin Crowe: Great response... I have seen similar issues.

Escape Pod said...

I realize I'm in the minority, but I'm a big fan of the new HOT lanes - I'm coming from I-90 and getting off at Totem Lake, so I have no real delays before accessing the lanes, and get off before the worst of the congestion, and benefit from the lowest rate (almost always 75 cents). I do have a question about the exit lane at 128th. I'm wondering if there has been any thought to charging drivers exiting to the left at 128th the same rate as those exiting to the right at 124th. I don't generally see speeds in the ETL lanes begin to slow until after that exit (coming up on the bottleneck at 522), and drivers exiting to the right at 124th need to slow dramatically to enter the general purpose lanes, creating congestion in the right ETL lane. It seems safer and more efficient for me to continue on to the left exit at 128th, but I'm not willing to pay $5.25 or more, compared to $0.75 to do so.
I'm also confused by the pricing if I enter from NE 6th in Bellevue (left on ramp) rather than from the right from I-405 at the beginning of the ETL lanes. When I've taken this route, I've only seen two rates posted rather than three, the cheapest being the rate to continue up to HWY 522. Am I really being charged that rate if I'm exiting at 124th, just because I'm using the left on-ramp from NE 6th?

WSDOT said...

Jeff Gray, we respect the voice of each person who relays comments to us. Many people have reached out to us with positive stories of their experience in the ETLs thus far, and it's important their voices be heard too.

WSDOT said...

Kevin, thank you for sharing your observations. We’d like to someday add more lane capacity to that single-ETL section north of SR 522, but right now there is no firm plan or funding for that project. Going backwards is not in our best interest, but we do hope to find a solution to that problem area in the meantime. And you’re right. It is far too soon to deem the ETL system as a success or a failure at this point – it’s only been three months. However, we continue to ask for drivers’ patience as we give the system time to live up to its potential.

WSDOT said...

Vince, thank you for your feedback. We would like to add capacity to that northern section at some point, but it is too early to guarantee. In the meantime, we are looking to make improvements to relieve some of that congestion.

WSDOT said...

Escape Pod, thank you for sharing your positive experience. When you enter from the NE 6th Street direct access ramp, you’ll pay one of the two prices listed on the toll rate sign – that is how the direct access ramp was designed. However, we have heard many comments about the difference in toll rate between 124th and 128th Streets. If you exit at 128th Street, you will pay the price listed for exiting at 522. We understand this difference seems insignificant, but we will have our project team look into this further.

WoodinvilleCommuter said...

Speaking for both commuters in my family, we have seen a real improvement in traffic times on the portion of 405 that we use and find them a very useful tool. Our commute times have decreased overall.

I do understand that those who go all the way to Lynnwood have a different experience, however the problem is not the toll lanes it is reduced lane capacity at the 522 interchange. If the legislature and the toll haters would put their time and effort towards funding that lane it would be a better use of time. Whether there is one, two or zero toll lanes in that area does not change the fact that there is a lack of lane capacity overall.

WSDOT said...

@WoodinvilleCommuter, you're right. Additional capacity is needed north of SR 522 and we hope to fill that need in the future. In the meantime, we appreciate you sharing your positive experience.

Jeff Gray said...

"we respect the voice of each person who relays comments to us. Many people have reached out to us with positive stories of their experience in the ETLs thus far, and it's important their voices be heard too."

Laughable. If its important that all voices be heard, why cherry pick the few positive comments you have received while ignoring the negatives, which are the vast, VAST majority?

WSDOT said...

Jeff, we take all feedback we receive into careful consideration in order to determine where problem areas exist in the ETL system and how we can work to alleviate any choke points.

Eugene Chudin said...

Let's get public's opinion about ETL
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WFLDM8X

Unknown said...

What a lie. It's obvious from the amount jumping to 10 dollars it's nit working as well as side streets crammed full of drivers looking for alternate routes.

Slim said...

What a bunch of lies. Traffic is horrendous on 405 since the tolling. Side streets are now also horrendous. This is such a lie. Go to any of the news channels and watch the traffic reports a year ago versus today and you can see that the red traffic alerts are worse now. What used to be an hour commute for 25 miles has turned into two plus hours. Who are they trying to kid here? $10 toll lanes in the first month and it hits that more often now as well as a recent proposal to increase that maximum amount. How dumb does WSDOT think the public is? What a joke. Just admit to the mistake and change the HOV lane back to two as it should be instead of trying to force the green initiative that this state is always pushing. Not to mention that we paid for the road to be expanded in property taxes in 2007 which they never did. I just shake my head in this state at all of the lies and scandals.

WSDOT said...

If you're interested in looking at our data, you can find it here: http://data.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/nw/405ETL/. The University of Washington is also doing an analysis of our data, which should be ready to view by the end of the month.

WSDOT said...

Slim, we will continue to post data we collect from our observations of the express toll lanes and how they’re working. The most helpful information you can provide us with is specific chokepoints along the corridor so that we can look into possible causes and solutions. Thank you for your feedback.

stop405tolls.org said...

Reality check. How much can you attribute the reported applying a toll and how much is due to creating contiguous 5th lane? The fact is that if those two ETL lanes were simply 2 person+ carpool lanes with no tolling, everyone would be doing much better AND carpools would still be encouraged. WSDOT, the stats you reported are the ETL has 85% SOVs while only 15% are free HOVs. stop405tolls.org studies showed that rate of SOVs is a bit low, but we are observing if someone is in the front passenger seat, not what their transponder is set to. Even so, you have now replaced 85 carpools with SOVs in those lanes. Previously 100 cars would carry 200+ people in the carpool lane. Now it takes 174 cars to carry the same 200 people in the ETL.
If you agree with this statement, be sure to visit stop405tolls.org to sign the petition.

stop405tolls.org said...

Woodinville commuter, you are entering south of 195th St NE. The section north of 522 has such worse congestion that it has effectively created a metered ramp for the section immediately south of it.

Escape Pod, I'm not sure why you're using the ETL at all. You're driving reverse commute. Lucky you!

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

I have a story regarding the ETL's this week.

I was running late at work, and was on the verge of getting home too late to drive my daughter to her practice on time.

With my Flex Pass set to "Toll", I used the ETL's, and got home early enough to get my daughter to her practice just in time - CRISIS AVERTED!

Thank you WSDOT for offering commuters a choice - to have access to have a speedy commute when needed.

I love the ETL's! Based on the data that shows that there have been over 500,000 unique users of the lanes, there are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of commuters that feel the same way.

Best Regards,
Jason.

Helena said...

WSDOT will do anything and say whatever lies and propaganda to keep pushing the extortion toll lanes. Even though these extortion tolls have created massive congestion and the public has constantly complained about them they continue to push there agenda. WSDOT is almost like communists as they force their lies and false propaganda on the public. Even with 30,000 signatures and legislators who represent the thousands of people who are trying to suspend and change the extortion lanes, they still refuse to listen. All they care about is there jobs and politics rather than the wants and needs of the tax paying public. WSDOT should be listening to the public and trying to reduce congestion, but that is far from the truth. WSDOT took away the 4th general purpose lane from 85th to 124th and a critical merge lane from Hwy 520 north to 70th street. They did this by saying the lane was NOT a general purpose lane, but an "add drop" lane. The original master plan called for 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane, then they lied about that as well. Then they tell people that we don't need anymore general purpose lanes, that is far from the truth as I405 from HWY522 to I5 and on I405 from Renton to Bellevue are horrible. Adding a toll lane on I405 from Renton to Bellevue before the much needed general purpose lanes will make it a traffic catastrophe. Another lie WSDOT says is they are going to use the toll money to expand the freeway, this is far from the truth as they as giving 75% of the toll money to a Texas company. I wonder who is getting the kickbacks from this Texas company.What a joke. Another thing that is ridiculous is that we were promised another 2 general purpose lanes in the original master plan and someone decided that the public would get toll lanes instead. We have been waiting years for our gas tax money and it was decided that they were going to implement tolls, even though thousands of people were against them. We would all be better off if the toll lanes were suspended ASAP. The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. If WSDOT listened to the public and did what was right they would admit they made a mistake. Instead they continue with there nonsense. Let's all continue to sign the petition and vote out all politicians who are against representatives Harmsworth and Andy Hills bill, starting with Judy Clibborn. I am confident the public will win in the end and the biggest mistake in transportation history will be a thing in the past.

Eugene Chudin said...

How does WSDOT validate accuracy of the data? Have you worked with Google or Bing maps to get independent confirmation of its accuracy? What about those who stopped using I-405 because of toll lanes, how is your data measuring this dimension? If experience of commuters indeed got better why not to conduct a survey of public opinion on your website? A simple survey I created (see above) showed that vast majority of respondents (84%) report worsening of commute quality.

Vince R said...

At WSDOT, how are you accounting for all of the impact the GTG changes have made to other roads. For example, I do not see the data about the 520 to 405 interchange, which has been impacted since the GTG program went in... nor the increase in traffic on the surface roads as people try to bypass the traffic on 405.

GTG is part of a larger system which has also been negatively impacted by GTG. How is that playing a role on gauging the success or failure of the project?

Additionally, I hope that before WSDOT decides to 'help' us with another 'GTG' project, they realize that this one hasn't been widely accepted as a success. You can 'paint that pig' anyway you like, but what we really need are solutions that address congestion: more capacity and less demand (widen key areas and provide alternatives).

I am still waiting on more info on why the GPS traffic flow data doesn't seem to be correct since GTG went live.

Preston Gallwas said...

When I have to drive no 405 I'm so grateful to have the toll lanes. I can't WAIT until 405 ETL goes south of downtown, connects to 167 and (hopefully) goes to I5 in Tacoma. Unfortunately this is likely a decade or more off if funding is acquired. I don't have a daily commute but I can tell you having to go from Lynnwood->Puyallup on occasion (on a reverse commute) the ETL has saved me at least 30 minutes off a 2hr 30-45 min trip.

I'm pretty amused at the complaining though because folks going to Lynnwood don't really have a concept of how "good" they really have it. I thought this was due to the old density argument and I had just assumed Snohomish was more dense than Pierce. But I see that isn't even close to being true. I guess it lies with South King vs. North King, but even that seems like a reach given the sprawl.

For the haters, let me put it in perspective: NE8th-> Lynnwood is how long, normally? 1 hr?

NE8th -> Auburn is easily 1 hr 50 min. If you're going all the way to Puyallup (admittedly a longer drag) you're looking at ~2hr 20 min. It's quite literally faster to drive from Vancouver, WA.

That's not to say it doesn't need improvement. I'd like to see all traffic traveling at least 75% of the posted speed limit 90% of the time. But people aren't going to pay for that.

Lee said...

"Overall weekend traffic volumes in the express toll lanes have increased over time, but they are still under 2014 HOV volumes. This could be the result of a variety of factors, including drivers with less familiarity with the ETL system."

Or, how about HOV3 now vs. HOV2 then?? Weekend backups are now common as a result, especially with construction.

Vince R said...

Stories like Jasons are kind of a wolf in sheeps skin.

We have a person who is having a hard time getting home to his family commitments due to traffic. He decides that he will pay to use the ETL in hopes that he can avoid the delays. He decrees 'Hooray for ETL... I was able to get to my children in time to get them to the practice on time'

Here is the part that bothers me about this comment:
If traffic were flowing well for the 96 to 98% of the commuters, you wouldn't need to have an ETL.

We are applauding the fact that between 2 to 4% of our commuters are having an OK trip because of ETL.... while the other folks are stuck in worse traffic as a result.

Again, I am happy that Jason was able to get their child to practice on time... I wish we spent the hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars helping the other 96% of the people improve their lives.

-------------------------------------------------

Imagine if everyone could afford to drive in the ETL... the $100 per week ($5200 a year), or whatever amount it was raised to didn't deter people from using it. What then?

Well, then traffic in those lanes would also come to a grinding halt. Right now, if it fluctuates much above 4%, we have slowdowns. Would we create a "Better Than Good to Go" lane for the special folks that somehow became eligible to use them? Some 'if you make over this amount, your special and deserve a better commute' lane... the "Really Improved Commuters Highway Lanes" or the R.I.C.H. Lanes for a short catchy marketable phrase.

Clearly the wealth gap is not large enough yet... we need a way to get those consolidating wealth to and from that task faster than those falling into lower classes.

---------------------------------------------------
or
---------------------------------------------------

Imagine a system where traffic jams are not the norm by design, but the exception. Where MOST people can effectively and efficiently travel on our highways and use our mass transit systems. Where the work-life balance tips towards being able to spend more time doing non-driving related things.

A magical experience where tax payer dollars are used to optimize our transportation systems for the good of most of the people that pay them.

Where we actually identify and fix the hard traffic congestion problems that impact the lives of 490,000 daily commuters.

Where intentionally creating traffic jams for the '96 percenters' would never cross the of our traffic engineers and certainly wouldn't be a policy of the state.

I am reminded of a very important statement that should have as much impact on our rights as it should to our policies. In remembrance:


"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Vince R said...

Source, The Seattle Times, Dec 10, 2015,

"Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson has on many occasions said the toll lanes aren’t just for wealthy people, because lower-income workers can use them in a crunch to reach jobs on time or pick up children before deadlines at a day-care center."

*** I am so glad that they clarified that even the poor folks can use it in a pinch. Just don't get to comfy doing it or we will raise the toll rates so you can't. That entire day-care center thing can be such a burden for the families where both parents have to work to stay afloat.

A few more quotes to remember:

"And since public gas-tax dollars paid for the new lanes, people who are stuck in the regular lanes are subsidizing drivers who can afford to pay the tolls, Harmsworth and other detractors say."

"Harmsworth would oppose raising the top price, saying it would help WSDOT meet its legal requirements by serving fewer people. By law, the state must keep toll-lane speeds at least 45 mph, and break even on operating costs."

"'It’s going to get bad enough that people who can afford to pay will pay. It’s unfair as hell; I think it’s kind of a social-justice issue,' said Royer, a former Seattle mayor who lives downtown."

*** Wow... They hit the nail right on the head in just a few sentences. Kind of surprised WSDOT doesn't see it this way. I wonder what WSDOT thinks...

"Charles Royer, a former state Transportation Commission member, guessed that plenty of people would pay considerably more than $10 for a quick trip."

*** That's right, raise it high enough and it will be clear sailing for the high end cars... I can't imagine why everyone wouldn't do it.

“This is really new. We don’t really know what it’s going to look like in seven months,” Clibborn said, of the $484 million project.

*** A half a billion dollar experiment... and we don't know what it will look like... well if the next four months are like the last 4... we can make a guess.

"More specifically, a fiscal study says about $7.6 million would be collected the first full year, and $6.4 million would go to operating costs (including $3.1 million to Texas-based Electronic Transaction Consultants) — leaving $1.2 million net income."

*** That means that the overhead for operating the system is roughly 84%... or by any measure, really bad. So for every dollar collected, only about 16 cents will go towards improving or maintaining our roads... kind of sounds like someone is getting rich off our tolls... and it only took a half-a-billion dollar project... see if we went all in and spent a billion, maybe we would have

The entire article can be read here $10 toll on I-405 raises big questions at the Seattle Times.

Vince R said...

So the aggregate numbers above look really impressive... here is what it the numbers mean:

* About 1/60th of the daily traffic is using the GTG lanes, or roughly 1.7% to 3.5% of the commuter traffic each work day.

* On average, roughly between 1% and 2% of the single/double occupancy vehicles pay to use the roads in each direction each work day.

* Between 0.7% and 1.5% of the daily commuter vehicles qualify to use the GTG for free daily.


* Studies show that 84% of the collected money is overhead, about half ($3.1 million for the first year) of which is collected by a Texas company each year.

* The project cost $484 million dollars and will bring in $1.2 million a year after overhead. If the money collected from the project were used to pay back the tax dollars spent on the project, it would take roughly 400 years assuming no inflation or interest.

This is based on 3 months data, 500,000 daily commuters, and 20 work days a month. There could be as much as 2% error due.



WSDOT said...

Eugene Chudin, we're currently waiting on a study from the UW to validate the data. We'll publish those results as soon as we can. We are also conducting a statistically valid phone survey to measure attitude and awareness of the express toll lanes. We aren't hosting the survey on our blog.

Vince R said...

Excerpt from an email from Senator Andy Hill:

Attempt to fix issues with I-405 Express Toll Lanes

In response to mounting problems facing drivers using new Express Toll Lanes on Interstate 405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood I've proposed changes to improve toll lane policies and reduce congestion.

While large scale projects require an adjustment period, WSDOT’s toll lane implementation has not demonstrated they’re going to make this work for users. Drivers simply aren’t getting the service, congestion relief and overall system improvements they were promised.

I had concerns from the beginning, but worked to improve the system and the implementation to make it work best for our community. However it’s become clear project leaders aren’t going to take bold action needed to make this successful.

To learn more about the proposal and read more click here.

See more about this issue, in the news:
I-405 tolling bill gets a hearing in state Senate - KING 5 TV
Drivers tell lawmakers of their frustrations, satisfaction with I-405 - Everett Herald
Sen. Hill helps drive proposed bill focused on issues with Express Toll Lanes on I-405 - Redmond Reporter
Frozen Web page showed wrong toll rates for I-405 commuters- Seattle Times
Lawmaker calls 405 tolls an epic fail, but WSDOT defends project - Q13 Fox TV




Vince R said...

@Eugene I am not sure that using a survey on this site will result in a good sample of the drivers overall opinion. People tend to be about 10 times more likely to say something negative than positive, which is why you see so many people griping about GTG. Since the number of people who use the ETL is so much smaller than those that cannot/do not/are stuck in traffic, logically, you would expect the feedback on this site to be very negatively skewed.

If you are one of the lucky ones that GTG is helping, rock on... no need to fix what isn't broken for you. If you are one of those that have been negatively impacted, you're furious and you are more than willing to share your opinion. If you are one of the people now benefiting at everyone else's expense, and you don't want the new privilege taken away, you will also state the merits of the project. In any case, the feedback here will tend to be more polarized one way or the other... where the general populous will probably be more 'middle of the road'.

That is why, as WSDOT points out, getting an outside survey is the best way to get good data, where ideally a sample is polled from people randomly... who aren't predisposed to say something negative or positive... assuming the methodology for collecting the data is valid.

That said, I am a bit doubtful that the survey will result in any true feedback that is actionable. I have participated in a few of the surveys that WSDOT has done via phone and they are very poorly worded, clearly meant to support a cause and too little was done to get answers to 'why'. In other words, for those 3 or 4 surveys I have been called on in the past, the methodology for collecting the data has not appear to be stellar.

Just the difference of calling land lines, verses including mobile phones, can skew your answers. There is a higher probability of getting older participants if you only call land lines and getting younger participants if you only used mobile numbers. Older people may not commute as much as younger people, but they might carpool (old definition of 2 or more) more frequently. The disposable income levels will be different. The hours driven will be different. Etc.

Having tried to create actionable and neutral surveys in the past, I can attest that it is actually pretty difficult to create a good one, so hopefully the tax payers dollars will be well spent.

Examples of questions that would impact the results:

"Hello Farmer Bob from Arlington.. On a scale of 1 to 5, how successful would you say GTG has been?" (Poor candidate - low probability they have even used it on a daily basis, leading question - positive)

"Sally, how much time has GTG saved you on average?" (leading question - positive)

"Frank, how many more minutes a day is your drive from the congestion caused by GTG? (leading question - negative)

"Jill, Senator Hill has called GTG 'an epic failure'. Do you agree?" (leading question - negative)

Cu Bong said...

why isn't a toll rate post for drivers travel north and take exit #26 SR-527 ? will they have to pay the toll as go through I-5 ? if this is true , then why we have to pay as the same toll when we travel less ?
please advise , thanks

WoodinvilleCommuter said...

Question about the direct access ramp at 6th in Bellevue - why is there not an option for going to 124th from that ramp, while there is everywhere else along the route? The price difference can be substantial.

Neal B said...

As I write this, the new Toll Lanes page is showing that the toll lanes are green and moving along above 45MPH northbound between 520 and 522, but the mainline is black and heavily congested between 520 and 85th.

Explain why the toll to go from 520 to 522 is $4.75, but if you enter at 85th it's $.75 when there is zero congestion or slowing in the HOT lanes? From your own FAQ:
" Toll rates are based on speeds and traffic volumes in the express toll lanes..."

Likewise, it's a rig to get people into paying more without knowing when you bill based on the farthest point - for this example, if you travel south and don't get out at 85th, but wait till 520, you pay the toll for going all the way to 6th!? WSDOT chose not to list the most heavily used entry/exit point as a way to generate additional revenue. The proof is that the cost heading southbound in the mornings is typically $3-$6 from 85th to 6th, yet if you wait till the next entrance (pre-520) it drops to $.75 almost every time.

This is because the VAST bulk of traffic exits at a point where it's not being tracked for a volume purpose, but for how best to make people pay the most.

WSDOT said...

Cu Bong, the corridor is split into three toll zones. Northbound, those zones end at NE 124th, SR 522, and I-5. We've limited zones to display on the rate signs, so you know what you'll pay before you choose to use them.

--Tamara said...

@Lee 7:42AM, your comment doesn't make sense. The HOV minimum is 2 on weekends, the same as it was before the ETLs opened.

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

@Vince R - Thanks for posting the bill proposed by Andy Hill. Respectfully, I am opposed to the bill, as I believe that it would be a mistake to reduce the number of toll lanes from 2 down to 1.

Such a reduction would defeat the purpose of the tolls lanes. IMO the lanes should stay as they are - with 2 lanes through Bellevue and Kirkland.

You had suggested that I'm only in a very small minority, citing 2-4%, which I disagree with. There are 600,000+ unique users of the lanes, and I am one of them - I don't know what the actual percentage is, but I know it is more than what you've indicated. When the lanes first opened there wasn't a lot of usage, but now there is a lot of usage through Bellevue and Kirkland.

There are times when there are emergencies when it is great to have the option to use the lanes. Moreover, when the Washington State Patrol needs to attend to emergencies, the lanes offer an avenue for them that is much better with the lanes than without.

Regards,
Jason.

Vince R said...

@Neal B - I have noticed that data seems to be off someplace in the system. I haven't gotten an answer about it even though I have raised it 3 or 4 times now. For me, the symptom is that my GPS used to use the WSDOT traffic flow to help route me around congestion... now it only reports that the traffic is green all the time (along the GTG path).

There are differences in the data depending on where you look and when. What I can tell is that during rush hour, the GPS now sends me into the mess that it used to route me around.

Eugene Chudin said...

WSDOT
Can you post questions asked in your phone survey?

Neal B said...

Vince, just use the app Waze, it's not predictive, but it does use real-time reports from other drivers, both passive (by tracking their speed and reflecting slow downs based on this) and active (you can show where accidents are, police, etc). It's much better than using WSDOT, and shows congestion for side roads as well. The more users, the more accurate the data - and Waze pulls from Android, iPhone and Windows Phone users, so it's a huge source of data.

As for WSDOT - I suspect there the lanes are not properly reporting since in the area they put dual HOT lanes, they really just added s single outside lane, then stole what was once the fast lane for the inside HOT lane. If this was not updated in their system, it will skew data hugely and here is why:

They use a system to separate the HOV from mainline if you drill down to the region maps (north, south and bridges like this one - http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/seattle/flowmaps/bridges.aspx ). The XX number of mainline lanes will sample the flow of traffic across ALL mainline lanes and give an estimate of the overall speed. Same for the 1 or 2 HOT/HOV lanes. If the second HOT lane was not grouped with the old HOV lane, it will record the high speeds of the HOT lane, and add that to the slowdowns in the mainline, giving the appearance that the mainline is moving faster than is really is. This will also mean that the only time HOT slowdowns are showing, is when the fastest HOT lane slows (in the areas there are 2).

This will not only make the claims that "Travel times are actually BETTER!" valid based on incorrect sampling data, but also show that the HOT lanes are moving great in the dual lane areas.

Don't even get me started on the north end, where the bulk of slowdowns occur due to the lack of a merging lane separate from the HOT lane - even though they have enough shoulder to have re-striped the lanes to make this happen. When the mainline is at a standstill and you have no blending lane, guess what you have to do to the HOT lane? Match speeds, which is zero to merge - backing up the HOT lane, driving up the cost, and making WSDOT money.

WSDOT said...

Jason, thanks so much for sharing your story. Several drivers are loving the ETLs and in fact, each month we have seen over a million trips in the express toll lanes since they opened. Vince, as more people like Jason continue to use the ETLs for a faster trip, more drivers in general purpose lanes will see time savings as well. The system is designed to bring reliability and efficiency back to all drivers of the I-405 corridor.

WSDOT said...

Preston, thank you for your comments! We hope that as time progresses and we continue to make adjustments to the lanes, all drivers will see great improvements in their travel times.

WSDOT said...

@WoodinvilleCommuter, the toll rate to exit at 124th Street from the direct access ramp is not calculated because the distance between the two exit points is very short. Additionally, studies previously conducted have shown that in general, drivers entering the corridor from the NE 6th direct access ramp take longer trips. Even further, the city does not authorize large enough toll signs above the direct access ramps in comparison with other points along the freeway.

Vince R said...

#Jason - I know it sounds like the numbers are off, but WSDOT has repeatedly stated that there are roughly 500,000 daily commuters.

So here are some numbers to consider:
1,000,000 trips in ETL since Sept, so Assume that includes Sept. That means that:

uses per day = 1,000,000 (total uses) / 121 (days) = 8265 uses a day

From information published by WSDOT, we know that this is the percentage of 1, 2, 3+ commuters each day:
1 person vehicles = 81% or 405,000 commuters per day ( or 405,000 vehicles)
2 person vehicles = 17% or 85,000 commuters per day (or 43,000 vehicles)
3+ person vehicles = 3% or 15,000 commuters per day (or <5,000 vehicles)

This equates to roughly 453,000 commuter vehicles daily.

So I have questions about the 'By the numbers' statistics that were posted. I would love to see the methodology used and the raw data. I can't get the WSDOT numbers posted in historical data to match what they should be for current data, even with allowing for growth.

So given that we don't have 600,000 single passenger vehicles regularly using 405, I have to assume that the 600,000 unique users is an aggregate over the 121 day period. This could be a bad assumption, but its the best I have.

Using the posted numbers, that means that 60% of the use of the lanes (600,000 paying over 1,000,000 total uses), is by people that otherwise didn't qualify to use it for free, or roughly 4958 uses daily by people that chose to pay, for a total ETL usage daily of 13,222 vehicles.

So if there are roughly 453,000 commuter vehicles a day and 13,222 are using the ETL, that leaves 439,778 vehicles not using it daily.

The percentage of vehicles using the lanes is 13,222 / 453,000 or about 3%.
The percentage of vehicles not using the lanes is 100% - 3% = 97%.

Now I simplified the math quite a bit to show how the 'By The Numbers' data equates to usage daily, but even if you factor in the unknowns, the amount of variance should not be significant.

So yes, I believe GTG is not successful. If you pushed that number up much higher, say 5% usage daily, the speeds will drop and the price will go up. The theory that more people using the lanes will free up congestion on the GPLs cannot work. The goals are self negating: speeds in ETL must be > 45mph & people will use the lanes thusly reducing congestion in the ETLs... these two things cannot happen at the same time.

Vince R said...

@Neal I have no doubt that there must be places where the data is correct. My complaint is that since GTG was rolled out, the GPS device I am using, which has real time traffic flow feeds and can route around traffic jams, has stopped routing me around traffic jams along the GTG areas.

Again, it works in other areas where the feeds are provided just fine.

My suspicion is that the data being fed to the GPS is no longer based on the GPL, but rather the ETL, which is always 'rainbows and unicorns' apparently, but it doesn't represent the data I need and used to get, which is for the GPLs. This means that for me, and a anyone else that would like to help reduce congestion by routing around it, we are no longer able to do so.

Further, this is something you would think WSDOT would be incredibly interested in fixing since it would only help them with the claims of success for GTG if people did route around the traffic congestion.


Vince R said...

@jason - I have some issues with the proposed bill as well, but without pressure from our representatives, the GTG program doesn't seem willing to tweak the areas that were made so much worse.

For example, there is no reason on the planet we should be penalizing 2 person carpoolers along 405 north of 522. Since GTG went in, that area has gotten much worse both on the highway and on surface roads. Converting the ETL to ETL + 2 person HOV will probably not help that area... what we really need is another lane in each direction. Unfortunately, GTG didn't do that and instead dumped most of the 2 person commuter vehicles into a system that was already overloaded with single person commuters. Simple logic makes it pretty clear why this is a problem made worse by GTG.

Additionally, although WSDOT is now claiming otherwise, a GPL lane, was taken away between 520 and Totem lake, to be used for ETL. Something the Feds specifically forbid for getting funding for GTG. Remember the Kirkland nickle tax project to add the GPL several years ago... well through the magic of word-smithing, that extra GPL was magically renamed an auxiliary lane...and thus not a violation of the Feds requirements (according to WSDOT).... a total BS thing to do and a good indication of the ethics that seem to be OK for those employed by WSDOT.

I guess you can milk the tax payers twice for the same work.

Vince R said...

@jason - after digging a little more, I see the sample period is 95 days, not 121... here is how the spreadsheet works with that number. Again here are my caveats:

* I have rough numbers (unknowns).. like what is 1000000+ and what is 600000+
* I am using the distribution of vehicle occupancy from Nov 2014 data published by WSDOT
* I am using a linear average across all days, which doesn't account for work weeks
* I am rounding off numbers to whole numbers
* I am using the MAX possible vehicles for 3+ occupancy vehicles (buses, carpools, etc)
* I know that the data has flaws because I see conflicting information and am attempting to use what looks the most correct

Total ETL usage.................1000000+
Paid ETL usage..................600000+
Aggregated over(days)...........95

WSDOT estimated daily commuters.500,000
Single occupant vehicle.........405000.......81%
Double occupant vehicle.........42500........17%
3+ occupant vehicle.............5000..........3%
Total estimated vehicles........452500

ETL usage per day...............10526.........2%
Paid usage per day..............6316.........60%
Unpaid usage per day............4211.........40%

GPL usage per day...............441974.......98%

Again, I would love to see better data. I am having to do a lot of digging around to try to get this from stuff that was posted in different locations and in some cases from a few years ago. I know more is coming and this info may be way off, but its the best I can do right now. I would expect WSDOT to post very clear and unbiased data at some point soon so we can see what our half billion dollar, tax funded, project has done to fix congestion.

WSDOT said...

Lee, weekend carpool requirements are 2+, not 3+.

Vince R said...

@wsdot sorry, there was some redirect via facebook embedded in that link. If i don't click on the URL and just type it in, I do see the data... thanks.

You may not be the right person to ask, but I have some questions about the data.

Are there documents that describe the information? The reason I am asking is that I think I am missing some data somewhere. When I do a sanity check on the projected revenue and what it looks like we should have, I am only seeing like 1/3 of the income. I am missing the 'by mail', civil infractions and such, but I can't imagine that would be 60%.

WSDOT said...

Vince, we post these numbers for people to interpret the facts themselves. The University of Washington is also doing an analysis of our data – should be ready by the end of the month. For folks who want to try on their own, all of the raw data is here: http://data.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/nw/405ETL/.

WSDOT said...

Sorry about that, Vince. Here is a better link: http://data.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/nw/405ETL/.

WSDOT said...

@NealB - Trips starting at SR 520 will be more expensive than those starting at NE 85th, because longer trips include more data. This means things like localized traffic are taken into account in the pricing, e.g. the 2 mile backup before NE 85th experienced yesterday. These types of events drive up rates for the longer trips, but not the shorter trips. Put more simply, longer trips will always have a rate equal to or greater than that of a shorter trip.

WSDOT said...

@NealB, While we appreciate your analysis, we did update the system just before ETLs opened on Sept. 27th so that the lane groupings are properly formatted to match the new lane configuration. If you’d like to check out more of our raw data, here’s that link: http://data.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/nw/405ETL/.

Neal B said...

That's great to hear, could you explain this please?

http://imgur.com/mOBboCa

$5.00 to enter at 520 going north to 522
$0.75 to enter at 85th going north to 522

ZERO congestion is showing for HOT lanes, so why is the charge at $5.00? Per your own rules, it's when HOT lanes are slowing down, not the mainline. If the data is polling correctly, why does this not match the rules you set for the lanes?

chokai2 said...

Another very satisfied user here. Saving both myself as a bus rider who now has a bus that's on schedule, and my fiancée as a driver hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year in time and car wear and tear to have the HOT lanes. This has vastly improved the commute south of 522, and remember people are many many times more likely to complain than compliment. Anyone who ever worked in the service industry knows that.

The oversight of the situation at 522 and to the north is inexcusable but it's done and as others have noted we should be 100% focused on fixing that ASAP. There will *always* be bottlenecks, but the storm that would be unleashed by worsening the commutes of everyone south of 522 would be equal to if not worse to what we are experiencing now. I suspect our various political leaders gravitating to "fix" it are in for a rude awakening where pretty much *no one* will be happy.

WSDOT said...

@NealB, The green, yellow, red, and black colors reflect traffic volumes along the corridor. Those volumes, as well as speeds, in both the express toll lanes and the general purpose lanes determine the current toll rate. In the picture you included, congestion in the general purpose lanes between the SR 520 and 85th Street access points is great enough to cause a significant price difference.

Cu Bong said...

this morning traffic on Sound bound I-405 is a mess and pretty much clear to prove that the exit/entry point at South I405 / SR-520 is a MUST to re-design the weaves lane , why ?
- it is taking up too much spaces and create a bottle neck at that area.
- before there was an auxiliary lane to engage drivers merge to SR-520 exit but now WSDOT take it away and converted to GPL , the most of spaces are using for the purpose of weave lanes for exit entry point. All the cars travel south are squeeze into these 3 narrow lanes , the width of 2 ETLs + shoulder + weave lanes are most likely DOUBLE the width of 3 GPLs, this isn't well designed though.
- this morning , there was a back up several miles from West bound SR-520 drag it down to South bound 405 until well before exit entry point, this is already bottle neck , only 2 lanes in GPL actually moving this morning due to far right lane was a traffic back up from SR520
-there won't be many cars entry to ETL since only one mile left on ETL , most of the cars are exit to get to SR-520 however, you can re-design the weaves lane, make it narrower and make dash-lines longer to let drivers easy exit .

WSDOT said...

@CuBong, thank you for your feedback on this morning’s commute and the 520 interchange. We are looking into access point modification. As for this morning’s commute, heavy traffic on Thursdays and bad weather are both common contributing factors to a slowdown.

WSDOT said...

Thanks for the feedback @Chokai2! We are very aware that improvements are necessary north of SR 522 up to the I-5 interchange. We’ve outlined our ideas for the corridor in the Master Plan, which also identifies over 100 improvement projects on arterials, park and rides, transit centers, vanpools, and other transportation elements throughout the corridor.

Ron D said...

I have seen a lot of data on weekdays, but none on weekends. My biggest issues are on weekends, where I have frequently seen general purpose lane travel at about 30 mph, throughout the day. This is half the speed of travel before implementation. Can you provide weekend data to show the impacts of the ETLs?

WSDOT said...

Hi Ron, we're happy to share some more weekend data with you. In fact, we have a blog post about what we're seeing with weekend travel on the corridor. We've also noticed slowdowns in the general purpose lanes on weekends, and there are a number of factors that could contribute to what we're seeing. Weather, weekend events, and weekend-only drivers have historically caused weekend traffic on I-405. Since the ETLs opened though, we understand that many drivers may not have a Flex Pass yet (enabling 2+ carpools to ride for free) or simply don't understand the rules of the road. After all, the I-405 ETLs are still fairly new – we anticipated an adjustment period of about 6-12 months. Thanks for your feedback in the meantime.

Wes Graham said...

I want a special "geriatric lane" for old folks that have shortened lifetimes and can't take the extra time out of their lives to sacrifice those strips of concrete to people that haven't paid their dues like we have...we paid...we earned!!

WSDOT said...

Wes, thank you for your feedback. We appreciate your concerns and want to assure you that the express toll lanes are a solution, not a sacrifice. New improvements to the roadway are necessary to accommodate the growth this region is experiencing and combat some of the worst congestion in the state. Express toll lanes are a sustainable solution to maintain reliability on I-405.

Helena said...

Representatives Harmsworth and Andy Hill are doing the right thing as they are fixing the biggest mistake in transportation history. Reducing the toll lanes down from 2 to 1 lane is absolutely the right thing to do.

Neal B said...

I understand you personally have an unenviable job, to correspond with mostly angry people. I know you didn't personally make any of these decisions which you are being asked to represent, and I don't think anyone has any desire to cause you any frustration through this open channel of communication.

As for the topic I started showing there was high tolling when the HOT lanes were flowing freely, basically, the purpose of tolling isn't to increase it as volume increases in the HOT lanes in order to keep them above the federal funding 45mph average. The purpose is to increase tolling to make more money when the HOT lanes are flowing fine, but the mainline is slowing down - when more people are likely to take them and more money can be made. That makes sense, but is not the way they were described to the public - and it's why everyone is very upset.

Point of order, I called out that the northern area would be a mess due to lack of merger lanes, as well as calling out that the exit from HOT being too close to the 527 exit (which commonly backs up over a mile deep) on a previous blog entry before these even opened. Sad to say I was right, even though the reply I got from the WSDOT person running the blog account said something to the effect of "We have traffic engineers who have taken this all into account and things will flow just fine." It's not though is it?

Likewise previous posts stated that the projected tolling would be between $.75 and $4.00 - I suppose it does fall into that area if you consider the times in the middle of the night when there is no traffic, but during rush hours and considering the direction of travel, it's usually higher for someone going end to end through the entire HOT lane.

WSDOT said...

Thanks for the feedback, @NealB. We do our best to respond to each person on the blog and answer questions that drivers may have about the new system. We understand that many are frustrated with the point at which 2 express toll lanes become one, and we are actively working on a solution to aid the northern part of the corridor, as stated in our Master Plan. Furthermore, the business model for express toll lanes is not to maximize the collection of revenue from I-405 users, but to give them improved travel at price points that maximizes the efficiency of those lanes. As for toll rates, 75% of users are paying a minimum rate of $0.75 and 92% of users regularly pay $4 or less. During rush hour, you see higher toll rates because of increased demand of the roadways; slower speeds, and higher traffic volumes.

Neal B said...

"the business model for express toll lanes is not to maximize the collection of revenue from I-405 users, but to give them improved travel at price points that maximizes the efficiency of those lanes."

Yet, when the lanes are open and flowing in excess of 50mph, raising the tolling due to slowdowns in the mainline is not charging more to keep those lanes flowing - they already are. As the tolling system sees more cars enter at a certain entry point, it should ramps up the tolls based on flow models and capacity - not just because the mainline is slowing down.

Vince R said...

@NealB - I have to agree with what you have pointed out. The concept that there is Zero congestion, the entrances are so close together and there is a huge discrepancy in the fares is yet another questionable detail.

@WSDOT - Is that the current master plan of the same one from 2002? What is the plan to address the issues caused by GTG? I am most interested in that info...


Additionally, I do not understand how GTG will fix congestion for growth when it is causing congestion now. I think I have shown several times that you cannot have it do so. Adding more cars doesn't change the problem: We need more capacity or less demand. Those are the ways to fix congestion... creating a R.I.C.H. Lane to by pass the congestion does not fix the issue for 96+% of the daily commuters.

Postulate 1: If more people that pay to bypass congestion, the less congestion we will have.
Postulate 2: If too many people use the RICH lanes, speeds will slow down and we will have to persuade people to stop using the RICH lanes by jacking up the fares.

You cannot have both of those at the same time. I know that someone thinks its a great marketing pitch for our $484,000,000 tax payer project, but those two postulates are over constraining. GTG, as it exists can only reduce congestion in the HOT lanes at the expense of the GPLs. That means that the majority of commuters are suffering worse congestion because of GTG.

WSDOT said...

@NealB, the toll rate algorithm takes into account both traffic in general purpose lanes and ETLs – not one or the other. We appreciate your feedback and will make adjustments where necessary.

WSDOT said...

Vince, ETLs are a solution to the congestion that existed on I-405 and a way to keep up with increased population and a growing demand for our roadways. We understand that many drivers are still learning how to use the express toll lanes and have said there will be a 6-12 month adjustment period before things will settle into a new normal. We appreciate your feedback in the meantime.

JC said...

I do not particularly like toll lanes in general, and I have some misgivings about revenue sharing on public private partnerships.

With that said, just because you have a good argument does not make you right. I generally ride the bus into work, and on the days where I have needed to have my wife drive me in, as I hate paying for parking, the ride free hov lanes let us skip over most of the commute traffic. My personal experience with the system has not been entirely positive as we have been charged twice while having the HOV flex pass showing, but that is life, nothing is perfect. My experience when driving while not using the ETL and HOV lanes has been better since they were implemented as fewer drivers are aggressively trying to move to the left most lane, as they are blocked out for most of the commute. This, in and of itself, speeds up traffic. My experience may not be applicable to your situation, but if you stop to listen you will hear WSDOT telling you,
1. "Buses are available and will save you the aggravation and expense of driving parking."
2. "If bussing it is not possible you should ask your neighbors and coworkers if they would like to carpool."
3. "If even that is not possible, we are sorry but you will be stuck in traffic with people just like you single occupant 8 hour parking customers."
You are suffering the consequences of an inherently antisocial decision. If you are too good to ride the bus, start a carpool with those elites you deign to interact with, or pay for the privilege of driving past us mere mortals alone in your enormous car.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - Congestion - is a condition on road networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queueing. The most common example is the physical use of roads by vehicles.

Since the GPL capacity was decreased, and the number of vehicles pushed into the GPLs has increased, you cannot say that GTG is a solution to congestion. Reducing demand or increasing capacity is the only way you can legitimately say congestion is being reduced.

* Take a look at the queueing from 520 Q to 405 N, and tell me that you have fixed congestion.

* Take a look at the blockage 405 N from 1 mile south of 522 during a typical commute and tell me you have fixed congestion.

* Take a look at the fact that you have had to raise prices to $10 in the ETL and tell me that you have fixed congestion.

The list goes on...

The best you can say is that it offers, to those that qualify or those that can pay, an alternative to the congestion that exists on 405.

Does GTG have benefits... yes for a percentage of commuters it does. We have spent a half a billion dollars and something around 4% of the population has a better commute experience. The previous incantation of it, the HOV benefited roughly 16% to 18%. We have made a step backwards and a huge expense and did not add capacity where it was and still is dearly needed.

Whats the master plan for fixing the choke points... when those were raise, the answer was that it will be too costly to address... so as tax payers, we should be hopping mad that such a huge amount of our transportation budget has been spent on something that impacts so few and doesn't fix the amazing obvious issues.

Does Good-to-go fix congestion. Simply put NO. The definition of congestion does not allow such claims to be legitimately made.

But it's a great sound bite and most people are passive in terms of validating this kind of thing... further nobody will notice that 1/6 of the money collected will go to improving our roads... the other 5/6ths.. well that is 'overhead', half of which is going to a private firm in Texas. People will forget how it used to be after 6 to 9 months... lets just push that its the fix to our future congestion problems and people will believe it... "These are not the droids you're looking for"

Does it help out our buses... I suspect so.

Does it help out Joe/Sally get their child to soccer practice in their high end vehicle. No doubt.

Is it social injustice. Yes. I know.. I am just a disappointed daily commuter so how can I say such a thing... I haven't held an important office like being the Mayor of Seattle, .. oh but wait... here is a quote from someone who has:

"'It’s going to get bad enough that people who can afford to pay will pay. It’s unfair as hell; I think it’s kind of a social-justice issue,' said Royer, a former Seattle mayor


I applaud WSDOT for a lot of stuff... I recognize a lot of people doing a lot of good things. For me, GTG is not one of them and not recognizing how negative the program has been for so many people devalues all the hard work and value that the rest of the WSDOT programs contributed. Its guilt by association.

The Outfield said...

There's no way that 24% of drivers on weekdays and 45% of drivers on weekends are 3+ carpools. It's so difficult to find two others to commute with. Definitely people cheating the system and flicking it to HOV mode to avoid the toll. It's gotta be extremely easy to get away with it, especially when it's dark out.

ridesharerSavesTrees said...

If you are still driving alone on I-405, please do like I did and re-focus your time on trying to find a way to take a bus or carpool to work as often as possible. With the dual express lanes, my time on the bus on I-405 through Kirkland has been reduced by 10 minutes each way! This comes closer to making it as fast as a car! Additionally, I get some exercise walking to the bus on each side. And, I can rest, relax and read books and blogs on the bus.

So please become a winner in the new I-405 and carbon footprint games. Spend your time on google maps finding a way to take a bus to work on most days. For example try driving to Brickyard, Kingsgate or other Park and Ride lots and catch a bus or go to the King County Rideshare site and search for a carpool. Even if two people share a toll, it is a better deal! And you might get a third rider in no time.

If you are here in the Puget Sound because you like the out-of-doors, clean air and greenery or nearby skiing you can make a giant difference to preserve our great environment by sharing a daily ride to work!

Vince R said...

@ridesharerSavesTrees

I suspect that we have done far more damage to the environment with the increased traffic congestion caused by GTG than can be fixed by even doubling the people that use our buses. We have increased our carbon footprint by policy.

We will increase the traffic congestion, and thus our carbon footprint, by intentionally increasing traffic in the GPLs, so that some vehicles in the ETLs can go faster. Apparently, if your well off and can afford the daily costs, you can be one of the few to bypass our new approach to traffic management.

If you look at the net effect on our environment by the mess caused by GTG, it is far worse. We have not increased our buses services, the capacity of our park and ride, or anything else that would suggest that our carbon footprint has in any way possible been improved.

Again, I am not discrediting those taking buses. I think we need to invest more on mass transit as a county and state. GTG was not such an investment. As far as making it as fast as a car... maybe you haven't commuted in the GPLs lately. It is faster than taking a car. Unfortunately, I am missing part of my leg, so the walking thing isn't as easy for me. I was fortunate when I could carpool with an additional person, but trying to coordinate 3 people has thus far been very difficult.

As you have pointed out, our environment is important. The (hopefully) unintentional consequences of GTG are that our environment will not be spared the burden of carbon caused by our increased traffic congestion caused by the GTG policy for congestion management, where we have decided to sacrifice the flow of traffic in our GPLs, where most of our commuters travel (and produce carbon), so a few vehicles in the ETL can move quickly.

Its kind of like all those nice electric powered cars that use coal produced electricity to charge up. It really looks good on paper and those car owners sure think they are doing the right thing, but until the SYSTEM they they rely on is clean, the electric cars also contribute significant pollution... as an unintended consequence... its just not coming out of their tail pipes... so they don't think their 'emissions' stink.

Mass transit is a good thing... but only if its contribution to the system does no harm. When it becomes a net-negative, as it has with GTG, then its problematic.




WSDOT said...

@TheOutfield, probably, yes. But WSP is responsible for monitoring for those violations and there are safeguards in place to ensure they are noticed. As for the numbers, the University of Washington is conducting an analysis of our data (available soon).

WSDOT said...

@ridesharerSavesTrees, we’re glad you were able to find a way to use the express toll lanes and save some extra time on your trip.  Thank you for sharing how you make the express toll lanes work with your schedule, and encouraging others to use resources like and trip planners and park and rides.

@Vince R, We share your concern about the environmental impacts of congestion. I encourage you to take a look at our Sustainable Transportation Action Plan: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/SustainableTransportation/ for more info on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, as the region grows, increased congestion has become unavoidable. A recent PSRC study found that in the past year alone, the region added 63K people and 77k more jobs, and congestion is up 20%. Obviously, there is not enough funding or space for capacity to maintain free flowing freeways for the additional million people who will be added to the region in the next 25 years.

That’s why the I-405 Executive Advisory Group, a committee made up of representatives from up and down the I-405/SR 167, 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. While relatively new to this region, express toll lanes have used across the country in 30 other instances as part of the solution to rising urban congestion.

As of this fall, riders will see more bus service in Seattle and across King County, as well as more rush hour Link light rail trains in service. Voters also approved service increases for Community Transit, which will kick in this spring.

We hope to build capacity in the future and make investments for a more robust mass transit system. In the meantime, we are doing what we can to provide faster, more reliable service for carpools, transit, and drivers who chose to use the express toll lanes.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - Traffic management has become a challenge for a lot of reasons.... agreed. However, there are some areas that WSDOT should just admit have been messed up as a result of GTG and make sure they do not repeat the problems south of I-90, where capacity on the freeway... strike that.. .highway... as well as the surface streets is already maxed out. If we make the same mistakes there that we did north of 522, it would be a fiasco.

As far as congestion is concerned, our region has hit a tipping point. We have a population of around 3.61 million people. If I understand your numbers correctly, we added around 63k people to the region, or 1.745%... but saw an increase in congestion of 20%... this is indicative of a pretty huge issue where our system is on the edge of chaotic patterns. For example, a single accident could cause region wide congestion.

Example: In incident on Aurora can cause 4 to 6 hours of gridlock in the Seattle area...

We need to strongly consider encouraging some of business to move to areas further away from Bellevue and Seattle, change building codes to require more space for traffic buffers, add in light rail, consider a long term bypass highway, like east of 405 in the hwy 18 area... and really go after choke points like the area under the convention center and the 520 to 405 intechanges. The longer we wait, the worse and more chaotic our congestion problems will be.


Linda Huber said...

Get the large trucks over to the right lanes!! WSDOT must really consider restricting and enforcing the large trucks, semis and non-passenger carrying vehicles over a certain length/weight from using the left lane. This is a new problem developing along I-405 where tractor trailer semis are riding the full length of I-405 along the ETL lanes to avoid lane changes. They are a "50+ foot obstruction" to entering those ETL lanes. They move too slowly and block movement into and out of the ETLs.

Linda Huber said...

WSDOT needs to get all trucks into right lanes! Along I-405, commercial trucks, tractor trailers, recreational vehicles and any vehicle pulling a trailer are now riding in the left lanes along the ETL lanes to avoid changing lanes. They are "50 foot obstructions" that move too slowly and can block other vehicles from exiting and entrancing the ETL lanes. They are not agile enough to warrant that dynamic position on the freeways.

WSDOT said...

@Linda Huber, thanks for your observations. We will pass them along to the Washington State Patrol, who enforces left-lane restrictions. As a rule, any vehicle towing a trailer, or other vehicle or combination over 10,000 pounds, may not be driven in the left-hand lane of I-405 when there are three or more general purpose lanes. Vehicles over 10,000 pounds are also not allowed in the express toll lanes.

Raquel Walsh said...

This area traveling southbound is NIGHTMARE in the morning:
•Traffic north of SR 522 is more congested than it was before in both the regular lanes and express toll lanes. While recent improvements fixed a previous bottleneck in Kirkland, additional capacity is needed between SR 522 and I-5.

Regarding the double white lines, every day on 405 someone crosses them. How is that safer exactly?

Vince R said...

@Raquel In other states, where ETLs are in place, you will often see not just double lines, but light weight plastic lane markers about 4' tall and 3 inches in diameter, spaced about 4 to 6 feet apart. In the places that I have seen that done, you have practically 0 people crossing the line.

For an example of this, see CA in the San Jose area...

For some reason, we chose not to do that.

Vince R said...

@Linda We are quite there yet, and I am not sure we could ever really do this, but I have worked places where traffic is so routinely bad that, except for buses, all large vehicles (like semis) are restricted to only using the roads and highways in the cities from the hours of around 1 am to 6 am.

Other areas only allow large trucks with per-use permits... so you have to buy one each time you want to travel in the restricted areas.

Since Seattle is a port town, we would never be able to get away with that kind of thing.

WSDOT said...

@Raquel, you're right. Additional capacity is needed north of the SR 522 interchange and we are actively looking into means to make that happen. @Vince, we have not installed physical barriers at this point because we are still making adjustments to access points. Safety is a top priority and we want to make sure drivers in the corridor can exit and enter the lanes with ease and convenience.

Felix said...

This toll project is a miserable failure. Traffic is worse. There needs to be a free carpool lane and the extra lane needs to be added to the regular lanes for daily commuters to alleviate the increased traffic congestion in the area. All these toll lanes have done is force carpools of two people onto the regular lanes and increased commute times for everyone except the very wealthy that can afford this outrageous tolls often at $10 to $12 per segment or more. Or for the handful of people traveling with 3 or more passengers that can utilize the lanes for free. But the vast majority of tax payers who paid for these roads and drive these roads every day are even worse off than ever before with longer, slower commutes to and from work. Whoever came up with and approved this toll lane project should be removed immediately from their positions.

WSDOT said...

@Felix, thanks for your feedback. However, we know that building more general purpose lanes is not going to solve the long-term congestion problems we face today. Express toll lanes help us to maximize our existing resources by converting the previous HOV lane into an ETL and adding additional capacity between Bellevue and Woodinville.

It is incorrect that drivers are charged a toll per segment of the roadway – and tolls do not exceed $10 according to the rules set by the Washington State Transportation Commission. You’ll only pay ONE price – the price you see when you are entering the lanes. Additionally, the express toll lanes remain free for carpoolers who have a Flex Pass installed and in HOV mode. During rush hour, carpool requirements are 3+, but are 2+ at all other times, including weekends. We appreciate you sharing your comments with us and hope that we were helpful in clarifying some common misconceptions.

Cas said...

I'm curious if you have and can share data about how many cars are paying the toll and how many are driving free because they have 3+ occupants, and if you could infer the number of _people_ using the lanes compared to before. I support the lanes and feel they save me time, but I do worry that the overall number of people (rather than vehicles) using the lanes might be lower because of the lack of 2-person carpools. I'm assuming you have no way to tell whether a toll paying car has one or two passengers, though that would obviously help determine whether more or fewer people are using the lanes. Also, can you estimate whether the increased volumes and speeds overall mean less or more carbon emissions?

Thanks in advance.

WSDOT said...

@Cas, interesting questions. We’ll have to look into those statistics. Transit ridership has definitely increased as a result of the ETLs. Community transit has reported an increase of 4% in daily ridership with improved travel times averaging 6 minutes a trip. King County Metro reported that peak ridership has increased approximately 6%, saving commuters up to 8 minutes per trip on average.

We also know that 24% of ETL users on weekends and 45% of ETL users on weekdays are using the lanes for free with a Flex pass in HOV mode. We plan to conduct another study on this subject very soon – stay tuned!

dvndan said...

Nothing said about how many times GTG overcharges for trips. Several times now I have been charged more than what was advertised. The sign says .75 across the board and I get charged $1.50 and $4.00. I complained to GTG and they say "Our records show" Baloney this system is broke. Either fix it or terminate it.

Vince R said...

@wsdot and @cas - Yes that would be very interesting data to see... but specifically in regard to the GTG area. In addition, so as to not be myopic in the statistics, I would like to see the information about the change in surface roads in the areas around the GTG program... and the 'bypass' roads, like 522/Lake City Way.

From what I have seen, all of these seem to have been affected by GTG. For example, traffic is so bad north of 522, many people are taking surface roads to bypass it (myself included). Improvements in one area might actually show up as degradation in other area, with a net negative when the overall system is measured.

So far I have seen zero, nada, zilch, nothing... in terms of how successful GTG has been on the roads around the 405 corridor and the 'bypass' roads, from WSDOT. I have however seen people expression concern and disappointment about the increased surface traffic in their neighborhoods, so we can assume GTG has had at least some negative impact off of 405.

*************************************************************************************************

Still waiting on ANY information that addresses why the broadcast information for GPS units no longer seems to be correct for the GTG areas.... when it used to work before GTG...

*************************************************************************************************

WSDOT said...

Sorry for the confusion, @dvndan. You will only be charged one toll per trip, which will correspond with the exit you plan to take from the ETLs.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - I believe dvndan was raising an issue of being incorrectly charged.

They stated that the sign said "$0.75" across the board and they were charged a different amount. It sounds like they also tried to contact customer service about it and were told the records indicated something different than they expected.

If I see $0.75 across all destinations, I would expect that would be the charge I would get, not some other fee.

I wonder how often that happens... and how many people actually keep track enough to check. This makes those 'car cams' a bit more useful... just press the button each time you go by the sign and use that to log what you should see on your bill. The videos are date/time stamped.

If enough people get incorrectly charged, I would assume there should be a class action lawsuit against the company running the system (and maybe even the state).




John Smith said...

Being someone that works in the technology profession, all I can say is THANK YOU for the toll lanes. While $10 may seem like a lot of money to some people not in my field, it is still less than what a movie ticket costs and people need to learn to APPRECIATE the contributions that firms like mine make to state coffers, and therefore try to understand that the big players here need quick, reliable, transportation, and should not be forced to suffer while some people insist on playing politics with transportation priorities.

To put it another way - the people that are really paying the bills in Washington State deserve a transportation system that flows smoothly. For those people with more time on their hands, the existing system works fine.

John Smith said...

Being someone that works in the technology profession, all I can say is THANK YOU for the toll lanes. While $10 may seem like a lot of money to some people not in my field, it is still less than what a movie ticket costs and people need to learn to APPRECIATE the contributions that firms like mine make to state coffers, and therefore try to understand that the big players here need quick, reliable, transportation, and should not be forced to suffer while some people insist on playing politics with transportation priorities.

To put it another way - the people that are really paying the bills in Washington State deserve a transportation system that flows smoothly. For those people with more time on their hands, the existing system works fine.

jonesflamingo said...

I am discovering these comments now because there was a link in an article about the secretary firing, and i just think it's weird, in my opinion, how WSDOT is replying to some posters, and to me, WSDOT seems to be almost combative but really they should just let the vent.

WSDOT said...

@Jonesflamingo, thanks for your feedback. We try to respond to each comment in a respectful and informative manner, keeping in mind that our blog provides a safe space for people to share their opinions.

jonesflamingo said...

I'm glad it's safe

Vince R said...

@jonesflamingo - You should check how the monies collected from the tolls contribute to the state coffers....

Of the total revenue collected, only about 16% is estimated to be available for use on approved funding... more on that in a moment

Of the estimated 84% collected that is 'operating expense' about 1/2 is going to a private, out-of-state company in Texas.

At the projected amount of revenue, it would take about 400 years to repay the investment, not including depreciation or interest... (in other words, the money spent far exceeds the return on investment, so it is not a contribution to the coffers... its an expense from the coffers)

The list of approved funds that can use the non-overhead portion of the collected tolls is, by majority, not road related and is too large to paste in this response area, which is limited to 4k of text, but includes things like 'The perpetual surveillance fund', retirement funds for Washington State University members, aquifer projects, etc. If your interested, just look at the bill that was passed and read through the 2 pages of approved funds... of which a small portion are actually road related.

So, not to belittle your intent to help out the state coffers and bypass all the traffic the majority of the commuters are exposed to, you might want to research how WSDOT and your representatives have created a project that may not be quite what you think it is and how your money is not going to quite where you think it is....

Vince R said...

From ENGROSSED HOUSE BILL 1382


Pertaining to funds (and in violation of RCW 47.56.884

excerpt: starting pg 7, ln 34
The following accounts and funds shall receive their proportionate share of earnings based upon each account's and fund's average daily balance for the period:
* The aeronautics account
* the 37 aircraft search and rescue account
* the budget stabilization account
* the capitol building construction account
* the Cedar River channel construction and operation account
* the Central Washington University 2 capital projects account
... (literally too long to post here, but it goes on a long way)

As I said in the last mention, the bill that was approved has a lot of pork in it that is not related to road maintenance (as is required by RCW 47.56.884) and the operational costs are, in my opinion, highly profitable for the company that we outsourced the business to. I could be wrong, but that is not on what or how people think the tolling monies will be spent.

Isn't it great to have a state sponsored monopoly paid for by the very people it is profiting from. There is no incentive to reduce the operational costs because people have no choice but to pay.... oh... and when the time comes, you can bet bottom dollar that the operational costs will increase... so get your checkbooks out and rev up your engines... its tolling time in Texas.



WSDOT said...

Vince R, You are misinterpreting Section 6 of House Bill 1382. The text you cite is language from RCW 43.84.092 that describes specific treasury income accounts managed by the state treasury. The underlined text in Section 6 of the HB 1382, “the Interstate 405 express toll lanes operations account”, was added to that list after the Legislature authorized tolling on I-405 in 2011. That means that I-405 express toll lanes revenue is saved in a dedicated account, and that account is monitored by the Office of Financial Management. RCW 47.56.884 details how revenues from the express toll lanes can be spent.

WSDOT said...

Vince R, I’m curious as to where you’re finding your revenue figures. We’ve been clear that 54 cents of every toll goes toward toll collection. If the toll is 75 cents, the 54 cents toward toll collection would represent about 72% of the total toll. The 54 cents is a flat cost, which means as the toll increases, the percentage toward toll collection decreases. The company in Texas that provides customer service and billing operations receives 20 cents of the 52 cents for toll collection per toll. As tolls vary from 75 cents to $10, this percentage can vary between 2 - 27%. Not half to Texas, and not 84% for toll collection as a whole.

As for the list of approved funds, you’re misinterpreting HB 1382. Please see our response to your previous comment of the list of accounts funds would be appropriated to. Per RCW 47.56.884, I-405 express toll lanes revenue is saved in a dedicated account for future reinvestment in the I-405 corridor, monitored by the Office of Financial Management. The Legislature will decide what corridor projects need the revenue.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT - My numbers for overhead verse income are from the estimated yearly budget that was posted for the 405 corridor, posts prior to its launch. As I do not have any better information, that is what I have been using. It shows a breakdown of operational expenses, monies going to the tolling company and revenue left after all of the overhead is accounted for.

Now I do not know the methodologies of the estimated yearly budget/income but I have to assume it includes many aspects of the 'toll economy' that will be needed for the operations, like the impact on:

* toll enforcement
* state employees needed for the operations
* additional road maintenance
* etc

I do believe that the total monies collected includes things like toll fees, citations, late fees, interest, tickets, etc. So the amount is more than just the tolls to use the lanes.

The 84% overhead includes ALL overhead, not just the income for the Texas company.

Here are some sources I have used:
* Amy Danberg, I-405 Project Team, WSDOT, Budget for I-405-NE 6th to I-5 Widening
* ???, WSDOT blog, By the Numbers
* Posted estimated budget for the project, I can't find the reference but I found it on WSDOT
* 2003 "Nickel' Funding Package
* Information from the WSDOT Finance Explained
** 2015-2017 Governors Transportation Finacial Plan
** LEAP Transportation Document 2012-4
** Partnership Debt Service as a Percent of the Transportation Partnership Fuel Tax
* State of Washington Summarized Revenue by Account and Source
* Federal Fund Estimates/State Match
* The I-405 Megaproject Folio Sept 2015
* etc... lots of sources

Now I have to admit that I have a lot of conflicting data when I am looking at the numbers, which is probably as confusing to me as others. For example, I see several numbers in terms of the costs to implement the I-405 ETL project. They vary from $332 million to $490 million so far, with an estimated additional cost of $890 million to $1 billion dollars to complete the section south of I-90. Meaing the cost to the public for our ETL system on I-405 will probably cost around $1.5 billion dollars before it is complete. All sources of that information are WSDOT via different documents on your web site.

I have never said that 84% of the collected tolls go to a Texas company. I have said that the operational expense of the ETL is 84%, again from information posted on WSDOT's web site. Half of that 84%, as per the documents posted, ends up going to the processing company, which is located in Texas. So that means roughly 43% of the total monies collected goes out of state. I have had a hard time finding much detail on how that can happen so far as that seems almost criminal, but again, I am using the info that was posted in the estimated budgets and reports that I could see.





Vince R said...

@WSDOT
"We’ve been clear that 54 cents of every toll goes toward toll collection."

Actually, the number I had was $0.41 per toll. Thanks for the updated number. I will have to see if I can relocate where it stated $0.41.

I agree with you on the 72% when tolls are at $0.75, which according to your numbers is more than half of the time... so that means that more than half of the time, 72% of the tolls collected are going to a Texas company. I have seen others saying it was higher than that, and I believe I even corrected them on one occasion.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT
"You are misinterpreting Section 6 of House Bill 1382. The text you cite is language from RCW 43.84.092 that describes specific treasury income accounts managed by the state treasury. The underlined text in Section 6 of the HB 1382, “the Interstate 405 express toll lanes operations account”, was added to that list after the Legislature authorized tolling on I-405 in 2011. That means that I-405 express toll lanes revenue is saved in a dedicated account, and that account is monitored by the Office of Financial Management. RCW 47.56.884 details how revenues from the express toll lanes can be spent."

I might be, but it sure looks like there is a large loop hole that allows those funds to be used by anything on that list I was referring to when the funds fall into a surplus condition, which as of the numbers I saw for last year, is the case.

There is an RCW that specifically says the monies collected shall only be used for I-405, but then there is a bill that says something else.

For example, when WSDOT originally proposed tolls on I-90, the money collected would were not earmarked for work on I-90, but rather for other projects.

Just to be clear, I would love it if the ETL money only gets spent on I-405. I would further love it if the operational overhead was not stated as being 84% of the tolls collected. I think our tax payers and toll payers should be getting more investment from that money. I don't think we should have a state sponsored Texas based monopoly where a very large amount percentage of the tolls collected ends up not being spent on the roads.

We have a real problem in terms of road budgets that will not be entirely obvious until a few years from now, but we need to get our act together on how much we permit 3rd parties skim off of our systems. If 84% of the tolls collected go to operational overhead when we go to a per mile toll on all roads in this state, we will have serious budget problems.

Keep our operational costs down. Keep our money in the state. Make sure MOST of the tolls actually goes to improving and maintaining our roads.... not to some 3rd party who will have no interest in reducing our overhead or becoming more efficient.

WSDOT said...

Vince R, If you want to run the numbers on your own, please refer to our 2nd quarter financial statement. That will give you accurate information. A couple things to clear up:

72% of the tolls collected are not going to a Texas company. The correct figure is 20 cents per toll (2 - 27%, depending on the toll rate).
Operational overhead is not 84% of the tolls collected. The correct figure is 54 cents per toll (5 - 72%, depending on the toll rate)

We appreciate your interest in the project; however the best information is given at the source. We would be happy to further answer your questions or clear up any misinformation over email, phone or in person. Please email 405carpool@wsdot.wa.gov if that’s something you would be interested in.

Vince R said...

Operational overhead does not just include the fees collected by the third party in Texas.

Looking at the 2nd quarter financials, I see the following:

Income 4,826,986
Expense 2,268,050

Overhead is the cost of expenses compared to income and from the 2nd quarter numbers, it appears to be around 44%. What I cannot tell from this report is if this includes all 'hard' incomes and expenses related to GTG. For example, do we count income from the tolls before or after the money for processing the tolls is computed.

Example: If $1 is collected by a 3rd party and they subtract some fee, like say $0.50, then we report $0.50 as income, that is very different in terms of overhead from us reporting $1.00 as income and $0.50 as an expense. This would have a significant impact on the computed overhead.


The 2nd quarter data differs from the published estimated income and expenses, which until now was the best information our residents could look at.

As far as trying to do this via email or voice, I started that way. I waited 4 weeks for a reply to a simple question. Now that might now sound like much, but 4 weeks is roughly 4% of the entire 2 year project or almost 1/20th of the time. At least with the blog, when the post is not moderated away, I see more information.

I am still waiting on a reason as to why the real time congestion data for GPS devices data doesn't seem to work along the new GTG corridor... it does still work in other areas of our transportation network. If I had to guess, it would seem like the data sent out is for our GTG lanes and not our GPLs... but that is a guess.

Vince R said...

@WSDOT So to be clear, overhead is a synonym for expense. Your percentage of overhead is:
(expense / income) * 100

or for 2nd quarter
(2,268,050 / 4,826,986) * 100 = 46.9868775... or around 47%.

Expenses include all costs, not just fees paid to the Texas company. The additional state patrol, the cost for GTG tags, the staff to answer questions for our citizens, etc.

As a side note, I would like to better understand where the $0.20 toll is accounted for. When I look at the 'By the numbers' post, I see 600,000 (plus) people chose to pay to use the lanes. That should show up as an expense of something around $120,000 on the budget and I do not see anything there that is in the ballpark of that number. Can you highlight where that expense is shown?

Just thinking out loud here - Toll CSC operations vendor contract might be the spot, but at $322,895, that number is more than double what it should be from the numbers WSDOT posted. The credit card and bank fees, at $196,896 doesnt look correct. The cost for transponders at $922,776 is not it. The WA State Patrol at $380,119 is not it. The Pay-by-mail at $122,781 is not it, but in the right ball park. Other at $98,899 isn't it either. I am also wondering where the late fees/penalties/etc that get tacked on get reported. I saw one person using 520 got billed over $18,000 for 190ish trips due to penalties... I am sure similar things occur on 405.

PS. I was eyeball estimating when I gave 44% but its in the right ballpark. However, the 84% was not an eyeball estimate but directly computed from the estimated budget WSDOT posted prior to Oct.

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