Single drivers may use HOV lane for fee

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Drivers on the 110 Freeway south of downtown Los Angeles can exercise a new option - toll lanes for carpools and solo drivers with transponders. L.A. County Metro has begun a one-year experiment that ends a 70-year tradition of "free" freeway travel in the county.

Los Angeles County Metro inaugurated the county’s first toll lanes on the Harbor Freeway Saturday night. To use those lanes on the 110 between the 405 and downtown LA, solo drivers will need to buy a $40 transponder.

“Our transponders are unique because they have a switch on them,” Metro spokesman Rick Jager said. “When you start your trip in the morning, if you’re a solo driver you switch it to the solo driver position. If you’re a carpool on the Harbor Freeway with two or more people you switch it to the number two position.”

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Metro plans to charge drivers depending on how congested traffic is when they use the lanes. The agency estimates that average tolls will run between $4-$7. Carpools, vanpools, and buses will need transponders to use the toll lanes, but they won’t be charged.

Jager said the new lanes are part of an effort to ease congestion and encourage more riders to consider other ways of getting around.

“What we’ll be doing in the next year is evaluating its effectiveness in terms of whether or not it does relieve some of the congestion by switching some of those people out of their cars and onto public transit or into carpools or vanpools,” he said.

Sensors are programmed to record the license plates of drivers who use the toll lanes without transponders. They’ll face warning letters first and a bill for the toll. Fines will apply for additional violations. Metro anticipates at least $18 million a year from the tolls. It plans to inaugurate similar toll lanes on the San Bernardino Freeway by February.

Correction: an earlier headline on this story misrepresented the fee structure on the toll lanes.

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