LA Metro board ditches $3 monthly fee for freeway toll lane transponders

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People driving the toll lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways in Los Angeles County won't have to pay the monthly maintenance fee for transponders for the next six months. The Metro Transportation Authority Board has suspended the $3 charge.

FasTrak transponders are small devices used to tally toll lane usage and costs. Drivers who use the express lanes must buy one for $40.

But motorists have argued that shelling out regular maintenance fees on top of the purchase price is highway robbery.     

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who sits on the Metro board, proposed getting rid of the charge.

"It was unfair because people who use the transponders frequently didn't have to pay a maintenance fee at three dollars a month," Yaroslavsky said. "And yet people who use it less than four times a month had to pay a $3 fee." 

Yaroslavsky said he believes taking away the fee will benefit drivers and Metro.

"The estimate is that it will cost the MTA a net of $60,000 a month but we also suspect that there will be greater usage of the transponders as a result of this because a lot of people didn't get the transponders thinking they would have to pay this fee and thinking that they would be infrequent users," said Yaroslavsky.

The county opened the toll lane along the Harbor freeway south of downtown L.A. late last year, and on the Santa Monica freeway between Alameda St. and the 605 in February 2013. Preliminary studies show that traffic has fallen off in those HOV stretches, while congestion has picked up in the free lanes. Metro expects the gridlock will eventually decline.