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.
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