Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Happy 1st Birthday, #405ETLs!

by Jennifer Rash

It’s been one year since we launched the I-405 express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood. It’s been a year of launching, learning, and listening. Here’s a recap of the #405ETL one year milestones.

Although we don’t yet have one-year data, we know so far through the first nine months that express toll lanes are generally doing what they were intended to do:
  • Provide a faster and more predictable trip. The old HOV lanes could not keep up with our region’s booming traffic growth and were often as congested as the regular lanes during peak periods. Today, carpools, vanpools, transit and toll-paying customers have a more predictable trip and save on average between 10 and 15 minutes in the express toll lanes compared to the regular lanes during peak periods. There is increasingly more demand from drivers than there is capacity in this section, which means higher toll rates for longer periods of time. When toll rates are at $10, speeds will often drop if drivers continue to enter the lane, but the express toll lanes are still usually faster than the regular lanes.
  • Offer drivers a choice. In the 11 months since opening, drivers took over 12 million trips in the express toll lanes. We’ve also seen 1.1 million different vehicles in the lanes. Speaking of unique vehicles, here are the top 10 types of vehicles on accounts of Good To Go! customers who used the I-405 express toll lanes at least once since they opened:

Most drivers don’t use express toll lanes every day, but they are an option when you need them. About 70 percent of Good To Go! pass holders who use the express toll lanes use them between one and  five times a month – or about once a week.

Fund future corridor improvements. Not only are express toll lanes covering operating costs, WSDOT is already reinvesting $10 million of toll revenue back into the corridor to improve traffic in the Bothell area. The Northbound Peak Use Shoulder Lane Project between SR 527 and I-5—planned to open next summer.

Looking to the future…
The region is experiencing unprecedented growth, and while the express toll lanes have shown to be an effective tool for managing congestion, there’s still work to do:
  • Adjustments to express toll lanes: Feedback plays an important role in our work, and we want to continue to hear about your experiences in the express toll lanes. Since opening, we have listened and acted upon driver feedback, and made more than a dozen improvements to the express toll lanes including longer access points, additional signage and pavement markings, algorithm changes to respond to traffic volumes and patterns, and opening the lanes to all during nights and weekends.
  • New projects: The 2015 Connecting Washington package along with toll revenue from I-405 express toll lanes funded the Renton to Bellevue Widening and Express Toll Lanes project. Travelers on the stretch of I-405 between SR 167 in Renton and NE 6th Street in downtown Bellevue face one of the most gridlocked routes in the state, particularly during peak travel times. This project will add new capacity through a two-lane express toll lane system that connects the SR 167 HOT lanes in Renton to the current system in downtown Bellevue.

    For the longer term, WSDOT will continue to partner with local cities and transit agencies to implement the I-405 Master Plan, a multi-modal and balanced approach to managing congestion. This work includes looking at additional capacity projects north of SR 522, such as a phased approach to extending the express toll lanes.


KB said...

No Honda in top 10. That's a surprise.

It has been a good year with #405ETL. Always nice to have a reliable travel option when you need it.

Alik said...

Yep. This data looks wrong. Please check. Honda is one of the top cars on the roads today and it is not on your list. And Chrysler? Really?

privateCitizen said...

You know, you say '...funded the Renton to Bellevue Widening...project'. Its nice to know you all think about the south end of i405 once in a while. Everything happens from Bellevue and points northward and as usual the parts south of i90 get the scraps and leftovers. It would really be nice if you all could get the lead out and help '...one of the most gridlocked routes in the state...' Maybe sometime in our lifetime? Maybe?

Helena said...

We need the general purpose lanes we were originally promised in the 2001 master plan. WE DO NOT WANT EXTORTION TOLL LANES added from Renton to Bellevue!!! We will fight them until the end of time!

Helena said...

The extortion toll lanes have been the biggest mistake in transportation history. They have made congestion much much worse and everyone knows this. The extortion toll lanes need to be suspended ASAP! I think it is awful that the Texas company where a majority of the tolls go discourages adding general purpose lanes, that way the congestion continues and the toll revenue comes in. Shame on you for supporting a project that is designed to create congestion in general purpose lanes. Today I will be will David Hablewitz displaying the No Tolls on I405 at exit 9. Micheal Appleby will be there as well who is running against Judy Clibborn and is against the extortion toll lanes. We are going to win this fight and we will keep fighting this injustice until the end of time!!! Real lanes for Real People! The momentum continues.

WSDOT said...

The following comment was originally submitted on 9/27/2016, but was incorrectly screened from publication. We review blog comments in conjunction with our comment policy for things like harassing or offensive language, spam which is often indicated by identical text repeated from previous posts, comments promoting or opposing any person campaigning for election to a political office, etc. You may read our full comment policy here. Upon further review, we determined that this post does not violate our comment policy and are now publishing the full text in its original form:

Helena - Tue 9/27/2016 4:50 PM

The extortion toll lanes have been the biggest mistake in transportation history!! They have made everyone's cummute much much worse and everyone knows it. They need to be suspended ASAP! The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. I think it is awful that the Texas company where a majority of the tolls go discourages adding general purpose lanes, that way the congestion continues and the toll revenue comes in. Shame on you for supporting a project that is a proven failure and is designed to create congestion in general purpose lanes. It is ridiculous that we should have to pay for a lane that we the tax payers already paid for!!!
Real Lanes For Real People!

El Ruso said...

What in the world has happened to the ETL commute in the mornings during the working week 8 am to 9 am in the past couple of weeks?! Instead of the predictable 35 minute ride that has been the case since these lanes opened, it has been 50+ minutes!

SsrAnon said...

Happy birthday to the extortion lanes. Hopefully this will be your last. Like most citizens on the Eastside, they have made things much worse and I hate them with a burning passion.

For the silent majority out there, remember to keep writing your state and local representatives, who you can find with a quick web search, http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/ , as well as Gov. Inslee, http://www.governor.wa.gov

stop405tolls.org said...

WSDOT, don't you get it? The term "Lexus Lanes" is a characterization and not meant literally. Your own survey of GoodToGo Pass holders who use the $405ETL showed that 80% of users have an income above the median income. That is taken from your survey that went unpublished. (so we published it in an article on Sep 21, 2016.)

And the people in Bellevue have a median income at least $25,000 higher than people in Snohomish county (as reported by the U.S. Census). Yet the people in Snohomish county see tolls of $10 EACH WAY EVERY DAY, while the people in Bellevue rarely see a toll over $0.75.

It is embarrassing that WSDOT would even try to defend the position that the ETL do not favor the wealthy by publishing a totally irrelevant graphic of which brand of cars are in those lanes after producing overwhelming evidence the opposite is true.

At least thanks for no longer blocking all negative comments here. Sad that I had to send an email to you and copy it to my legislators to make that happen.

WSDOT said...

@stop405tolls, This appears to be comparing our survey results to an old report on salaries in Snohomish County from several years ago which does not represent the full I-405 corridor. Individual salaries are not comparable to household incomes and the US Census Bureau just released updated numbers showing that median household income in the Seattle area is growing at one of the fastest rates in the nation with nearly a $10,000 increase in a single year in some cities. According to the Seattle Times, median household incomes in Bellevue and Kirkland are now at or above $100,000 (source: http://bit.ly/2cNEr5b). The response to our survey showed a wide range of incomes, consistent with incomes in many of the cities bordering I-405. There was no statistical correlation between income and other questions.

Toll rates between Bothell and Lynnwood tend to be higher due to limited road capacity in this area. When we built new lanes between Bellevue and Bothell, we did not have funding to add a lane in this area. However, we are now using revenue generated from I-405 tolling to build a new northbound peak-use lane between SR 527 and I-5 in order to the help alleviate daily congestion for Snohomish county drivers.

Jeff Gray said...

Quick recap of the last three days of my commute heading southbound from beginning of Extortion Lanes (I do not pay the extortion fee):

1) All three days, toll has been 10 dollars, as it is every day.
2) Commute time from beginning of Extortion lanes to 520: 90+ minutes. Today was exceptional at 1 hour 50 minutes (!!!!)
3) Average speed over those three days: 11 MPH

If this is not posted by COB 10/5/16 I will be contacting my state rep to inform them that W$DOT continues to filter out negative comments regarding the extortion lanes.

stop405tolls.org said...

@WSDOT, the data I provided is a slide I received from YOU in a public records request I made within the past month. This is not my comparison, this is WSDOT data. Are you saying WSDOT is providing bogus data in PRR's? Furthermore, the areas with the lowest median income, Bothell and Snohomish County, are also the ones getting hit with $10 tolls every..single..day, (again, taken from data provided to me in a PRR from WSDOT) while people in Kirkland and Bellevue with $100,000 incomes, rarely see the tolls above $0.75.

The lowest median incomes are paying 10 times higher prices than the wealthy. Explain to me the social equity in this? And for all of this, why are you even making the point of which brand of cars are most often in the ETL? I know very well the salaries of the responses to your survey. The percentages are clearly labeled in that graphic you (WSDOT) provided. And from your data, two thirds of the people using the ETL have an income over $100,000.

WSDOT said...

@Jeff Gray, we’re sorry to hear that your commute has been slower than usual the past few days. Overall, our data show average travel times have improved in both the express toll and general purpose lanes southbound during the morning peak period. But being an average, there will of course be instances when travel times will be longer. The express toll lanes are generating revenue that will be invested back into the I-405 corridor for more improvement projects, including addressing the limited capacity between I-5 and SR 522.

Jeff Gray said...

Let me be clear, my commute has not been slower than usual only over the past few days, it has been slower than usual EVERY SINGLE DAY since the extortion lanes were put in place.

Reinvesting in the 405 corridor? You mean the scheme that will put traffic on the SHOULDER of the road? Any rational person would realize that having to put cars on the shoulder (as well as buses as has already been done)means that this system is just not working. I don't recall the need to authorize cars/buses to drive on the shoulder prior to the Extortion Lanes. Care to explain that? And would you also care to explain how I should be happy that you will be putting cars on the shoulder after you stole the GPL lane created by the Kirkland nickel tax when putting in your extortion scheme? Care to explain how I should be happy with a toll that is $10 EVERY SINGLE DAY?

It is clear that W$DOT hates the working families of Snohomish County. This whole system is PURELY a desperate money grab.

WSDOT said...

El Ruso – More and more people are choosing to use the ETLs, meaning slower speeds and a higher toll rate.

stop405tolls.org said...

@WSDOT, "The express toll lanes are generating revenue that will be invested back into the I-405 corridor for more improvement projects, including addressing the limited capacity between I-5 and SR 522."

We will continue to call you on your mendacities.
You have taken $111 million in gas tax money to install the tolling system.
Now you are taking $20 million per year in tolls, but half of that is given to the tolling company and other operating costs leaving only $10 million per year. That is practically nothing in the overall transportation budget.
Then you are spending the toll money collected from the north end to pay to install more tolling equipment on the south end. More investing in things that do nothing to actually improve capacity. You will have to collect $222 million (which will take over 10 years at the current rate) just to recover the money you spent on the tolling equipment so far. Until you pay that off, we haven't even broken even, much less spent toll revenue on "new improvements".

I know you are just an anonymous employee of WSDOT doing your job managing the website. I expect it can be difficult in your position just posting what they tell you and not giving you all the facts, like the data provided to me in the public records request that clearly illustrates the income disparity or that the tolls hit $10 every day and that they are already looking at raising the maximum toll rate because the system isn't working as intended. You might consider getting senior management involved and posting their comments rather than make you try to defend the plethora of problems that come with ETL.

Helena said...

Adding a shoulder lane is a joke and will do nothing to solve the horrible traffic congestion. The reason WSDOT is adding a shoulder lane instead of a general purpose lanes is that the Texas company where a majority of the tolls go discourages adding general purpose lanes, that way the congestion continues and toll revenue comes in. The truth is WSDOT is building a shoulder lane to desieve the public into thinking that WSDOT is trying to help with congestion when they are really not. If you really wanted to help with congestion you would add another general purpose lane!! Not a shoulder lane!! What a joke. We are tired of the lies and propaganda that WSDOT continues to say over and over again. The extortion toll lanes are coming down in 2017.

Bao Khong said...

-WSDOT promised to look at the 405 South bound exit/entry SR520 and make some adjustment, But after a year it is still a messy area in the morning, all cars are squeezing in 3 very narrow lanes, while 2 ex-toll lanes + the beaver lane are wide open and waste too much space.
- Considering , ETL is a product for sale. the reliable and high quality product will get a higher price than a bad quality product, So when ETL can travel at 60 mph your product is worth to $10.00 , but when your product is so bad when it can only travel below 15 mph then you should lower your price down to $0.75.
- When ETL was in construction phase, there were two big ads boards on both direction of 405 after SR-527 , you proudly announced that I405 WIDENING PROJECT from Bellevue to I-5, cost millions of tax dollars ....but turned out nothing happened in this section , still 3 lanes WSDOT stole one carpool lane and converted it into ETL..., DID WSDOT lied to the people of SNOHOMISH COUNTY ? what were a purpose to put up the sign in this section but nothing happened ? when we read that and thought, wow widening up to I-5 that would be great but turned out from 5 lanes in Kirkland down to 3 lanes in Bothell, what was the heck your engineering doing ? a kindergarten can predict how bad it is.
Shifting congestions from places to other places are what WSDOT engineers skill level can do for people of our state ?

stop405tolls.org said...

Bao, you are absolutely correct. Posting here is important to express public opinion, but WSDOT will not willing/not able to act in response to your post. Here is what you must do to get the changes we need:
1. Call (not just email) both of your representatives and your senator. You can find their contact info here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/
Note, if you are in Legislative District 1, two of those people, Luis Moscoso and Rosemary McAuliffe, are no longer in office, so you need to express your opinion to the candidates. You can find their contact info here: https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/elections/Candidates/WhoFiled?countyCode=XX
In particular, you need to call Shelley Kloba as she is the only candidate in LD1 who currently supports the tolls. Her number posted in elections info is 425-823-9732.

2. Contact the House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn (taken from the candidate listings) at (206) 232-8941 jclibborn@comcast.net and voice your opinion. If you want more points to discuss with her, visit https://stop405tolls.org/2016/09/27/1-year-of-405etl-are-we-better-off/

3. Keep voicing your opinion and encouraging others to do the same. The only way to make a change is through legislation.

Vince R said...

Unfortunately, WSDOT has one thing figured out. Most of the people will not do anything about the horrible conditions created by GTG. As a person that has been interviewing people, I hear a lot about how bad the commute has gotten since GTG was put into place.

Its also clear the WSDOT is willing to post and report false data. Lets be clear, after one year of tracking, GTG triggered an instant and irrefutable increase in commute time for me. Since I am not alone in my travels, a simple look outside the windows of my vehicle can comfirm that others are in the same traffic jams.

WSDOT has posted conflicting information that anyone reading should question. For example these statements should not all be true at the same time, but WSDOT sure seems to think they are:
- We are reaching maximum toll rates. The rates are increased as average speed drops.
- We have reducing commute times in the GPLs. (which would indicate speeds are increasing and congestion is dropping, a direct contradiction of the increased average tolls)
- Use of the GTG lanes has increased during peak travel times. Again, this would not happen if congestion were improving.

There is no simpler measure of success than the clock in my car and it routinely says WSDOT has made my commute worse with GTG.

WSDOT can lie about that as often as they chose, but it doesn't make it right.

If you are in an area that they are proposing GTG be implemented, be forewarned, your life is going to get worse .. a lot worse. Fight to have something else put in like expanded capacity, better mass transit, etc. Once this 'fake' improvement is in place, it will be practically impossible to get it taken out until enough staffing and representatives have been changed.

We definitely have problems but GTG is definitely not the fix.

SsrAnon said...

Everyone, please keep writing and phoning your state representatives. After sending an email two weeks ago, I actually received a call from Rep. Kuderer's staff last week letting me know they are forwarding the mail directly to her. They need to know what's going on.

It's good to know that our state officials are taking notice that a large percentage of their constituents are extremely unhappy about the GTG tolling.

Tell your friends & family and keep spreading the word! Our state representatives want their constituents to be happy (since they want to stay in office :) and if enough people complain about the sad state of tolling, eventually there will be a politically-motivated reckoning.


stop405tolls.org said...

Good job @SsrAnon. Please take it a step further and make the phone call to all 3 of your representatives (2 reps and 1 senator). It looks like you are in Legislative District 48. Your Senator Cyrus Habib was one of the people who sponsored the bill to remove the tolls. Know that he is running for a different office this term. You need to call Rep Patty Kuderer and Call Rep Joan McBride and talk directly to them. You can find their phone numbers on the candidates listing here: https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/elections/Candidates/WhoFiled?countyCode=XX

stop405tolls.org said...

Correction: Sen Habib will continue to be your senator, at least unless elected to Lt. Governor.

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