Thursday, October 1, 2015

More people are jumping into the fast lanes as we approach the first full week of I-405 express toll lanes

by Annie Johnson

As we approach the end of the first week since we launched the Interstate 405 express toll lanes we are seeing more people give them a try. From Monday, Sept. 28, to Wednesday, Sept. 30, we saw an increase of 25 percent more drivers using the express toll lanes.

On Monday the express toll lanes stayed light as a lot of people seemed uncertain about them. But after some drivers saw just how quickly they could get to their destinations they made their way over to the lanes on Tuesday. In fact, we saw an increase of 20 percent more drivers using the lanes on Tuesday. Then another five percent jumped into the lanes on Wednesday. We expect to see this trend increase as more drivers test out the lanes.

If you want to try it and you don’t have a Good To Go! pass, you can still use the lane and we’ll send a bill in the mail to the registered owner for the toll plus $2.

Travel times staying constant
As far as travel times go, this morning looked a lot like yesterday morning on I- 405. In fact, things have been mostly moving pretty smoothly between Bellevue and Lynnwood this week. When we look at volumes, things are pretty steady there too, both on I-405 and I-5.

We’ll keep watching traffic closely, monitoring travel times and making adjustments as needed in order to ensure we provide drivers with the choice of a reliable and predictable trip on I-405.

Striping changes
Our contractor is continuing to put the finishing touches on striping throughout the corridor including replacing the temporary striping with more durable permanent striping.

WSDOT crews add lane markings to the new I-405 express toll lanes.
One bigger change that drivers heading south from Lynnwood and Bothell will see is some additional striping near NE 160th Street in Bothell. Earlier this week we saw and drivers confirmed confusion where the second express toll lane begins. We added some new striping there to help drivers see where they need to go to stay in the general purpose lanes or enter the express toll lanes. We added pavement markings clearly showing which lanes are the express toll lanes.

Just like we’re watching traffic, we’ll keep watching driver behavior and listening to your comments. 


Hotmamasdad said...

Please post the data. Get specific. Update Craig Stone's report of Tuesdays data.

Kevin B. said...

I-405 Express Toll Lanes are awesome. Good work, WSDOT!

WSDOT said...

Thanks Kevin B! Appreciate the feedback : )

jihiggs said...

the distance between where the toll lane ends and the exit for i5 north its far too short. and the length of time you can leave the toll lane before the 520 exit southbound is too short.

WSDOT said...

Hello jihiggs:
Thanks for your feedback. As with any big changes to the roadway, it will take time for drivers to get used to the new express toll lanes system. However, we are actively monitoring the new striping to observe how drivers use the new system and are prepared to make adjustments quickly if it becomes apparent that they are needed. Safety is our number one priority.

We would like to assure you that we factored in many issues when locating and designing the new access points you mention including:
• Making sure there is adequate room to safely weave between the access point and interchange ramps
• Symmetry in the northbound and southbound directions if possible
• Accommodating the highest number of trips between locations
• Making sure the access point length is long enough to allow for safe movement in an out the ETLs
• Minimizing conflicting weaving volumes when possible

Jeff Gray said...

So I just read this morning where buses will now be allowed to use the shoulder of 405 to avoid the massive backups caused by your Lexus Lane boondoggle. When do you pull your collective heads out of the sand and admit that this is a complete and utter failure?

Chaz said...

Travel Times staying constant where and relative to what? How are the traffic volumes overall on 405 relative to pre-ETL volumes? How does it compare to the projected volumes?

How about impacts to surface streets? I purposely picked to live near where I work in Bothell to avoid dealing with 405. Now my non-405 commute is a mess - all last week when I drove the surface streets through Bothell at 7pm my commute time more then doubled from what it was pre-ETL. I assume this is from people getting off 405 - so you are right, times are constant and constantly bad in my case. How are these impacts being dealt with and what do you tell someone who doesn't have the option of using an ETL on their commute?

Given the few times when I have driven 405 since the ETL has been active its hardly being used and looks like far more volume could be in it before reaching the 45mph threshold. Maybe the DOT should consider making it randomly free for brief periods during both peak and non-peak times instead of sticking to the $0.75 floor when volumes are low. This would serve two purposes - one, get the lanes utilized more, two, would allow people to try them out. Long term this would probably attract users who till this point are simply not using them as the don't see the full benefit.

WSDOT said...

Hello Chaz:
Thanks for your comments. As you can probably imagine, since we are only in week two of tolling, the data is not yet robust or complete. It will take some time to be able to report out a more thorough picture of what we are seeing in the express toll lanes.

Sorry to hear about your commute last week This is a big change for drivers, and we expect that the first several commutes will be challenging as drivers figure out the lanes or try alternate routes. It will take some time for the traffic to settle out into a new normal. We are in frequent contact with the cities surrounding the corridor and are looking at any traffic data they have that could help with informed decisions moving forward. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I drove in the ETLs from the entry point at the north end to the end point at the south end, around 5 pm on Sunday, October 4th, with my Flex Pass set to TOLL. I believe the sign was set to 75 cents for all trips. After several miles traveling south, I encountered an accident in the left lane. Service vehicles further blocked that lane and the left general purpose lane. There was no choice but to cross the double white lines to move into the the one through lane that was available. I will digress to say that lots of cars in the general purpose left lane seemed to hold it against us in the ETL, and wouldn't let us move to the right--really crummy. After clearing the accident scene, I stayed in the left lane until the dashed white line reappeared, then moved back into the ETL. What do you think the odds are that I will be charged for two separate tolls on that day? And why does it take half a week for the charges to be posted? Thanks!

WSDOT said...

Hello Unknown:
It depends on how long you were out of the lanes whether you will get one or two tolls. If you were only out of the lanes for ten minutes or so, you should only see one toll. Without knowing the exact particulars, it’s hard to say definitively one way or the other.

It will take about 4 days for your I-405 express toll lane transactions to show up on your Good To Go! account. Since there are multiple entry/exit locations and toll points along the corridor, it takes more time to develop toll trips and ensure accuracy for each before posting them to your account. Toll facilities like SR 520 only have one toll point, so the trip is created more quickly in the system and therefore posted to the account faster. Thanks for your questions!

Unknown said...

When did the toll lanes officially open. On the reader boards I had seen a date of the 28th of Sept. Was that correct? I am not convinced yet this was the best way to go. Yes, for the people who have the pass. But, at the present time I see traffic worse in other lanes. This will cause more emitions do to backups, more gas consumption and time lost sitting in traffic. Time will tell.

SGD said...

When did the toll lanes on 405 officially open? I seem to remember on the reader boards the the date of the 28th was the start date. Can you confirm. We used the lanes on the 21st thinking the tolls were not in effect yet when driving to the airport. Now we have a bill of 16.95. I can not find on the web sites the open date. Wanting clarification.

WSDOT said...

The express toll lanes officially opened on September 27th of this year. WSDOT is actively monitoring to observe how drivers use the new system and is prepared to make adjustments quickly if it becomes apparent that they are needed.

Unknown said...

I was under the impression that with my Good To Go pass, I am able to drive solo in the ETLs. I've recently become aware that sometimes the overhead signs, instead of listing the toll amount, say HOV. I assume this means vehicles can use the ETLs only with 3 (or 2, depending on day and time) passengers in the car. While I can understand your need to keep traffic flowing by limiting to only car pools, I must say that sometimes it's all I can do to merge safely into the ETLs, and I don't even look at the price. So does this mean I'm subject to a fine, even if I have my flex pass set to TOLL? I'd like to hear from other drivers whether the complex processes of merging in to the toll lanes and reading the signs all at the same time is difficult to accomplish!

WSDOT said...

Anyone can drive solo or as a carpool in the Express Toll Lanes. The signs above are letting you know how many people you must have in your car to ride for free with a Flex Pass. You won’t get a fine unless you cross the double white lines.

Unknown said...

Sorry, but I must follow up. I know the signs say how many passengers are needed for HOV. That's at the bottom.

What I'm talking about is that there are usually three different prices listed, depending on the length of the trip in the ETLs. What does it mean when, instead of a price listed, that area says HOV?

WSDOT said...

SGD – Express toll lanes opened along the I-405 corridor between Bellevue and Lynnwood on September 27th this year. If you have questions about toll bills, please contact Good To Go! customer service so they can assist you. Thanks!

WSDOT said...

Occasionally in the event of an incident along the I-405 corridor, toll signs will be set to HOV ONLY in order to move traffic more efficiently. WSDOT foresees this being a very infrequent situation – during which the HOV ONLY sign should only last until the issue has been resolved and traffic patterns return to normal.

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