Supply & Demand: No surprise 405 toll revenue 3x expected

WSDOT has reported they failed once again in their estimation of the impacts of the tolls.  This time it was in how much revenue they would make.  They missed it by nearly 4x.  See their Q2 2016 financial report.  Then read the facts around the “gross” profit of the 405 tolls.  These numbers cover just the first 3 months of operation:

  • Citizens have spent over $1.4 million to buy the privilege to drive in the 405 toll lanes for “free” if they are a carpool. This is for the transponders.
  • 170,000 FlexPasses have been issued.  The commensurate accounts were preloaded with $30 each for a total of over $5 million which the drivers have loaned to WSDOT interest-free.
  • Citizens have spent $380,000 in additional law enforcement of the new toll lanes.
  • $122,781 additional fees were billed to drivers for paying by mail
  • Total Revenue was  $5,220,559 yielding a total net profit of only $2,681,066. The cost to operate the toll system for 3 months was $2,539,493.  This is a dismal efficiency rating of only 51%.  And that doesn’t include a payment to the toll lane vendor yet.  That is supposed to be an additional $0.15 per toll, a significant portion of the toll revenue.  Nor does it include the cover the cost to build the toll lanes which were paid for with the gas tax. Tolling is the absolute worst method for collecting revenue.


For perspective, if that same amount of revenue had been collected via the gas tax, it would have cost only $26,600 to collect and the net profit would be $5,299,575.  In other words, we wasted $2.5 million just operating the toll system that isn’t actually doing anything to improve traffic.


Keep in mind that in the section north of SR522 where they just implemented the toll with no other changes, traffic has gotten worse.  Only the section where a lane was added shows improvements.  Definitive proof that tolling does nothing to reduce congestion.

Reality check:  WSDOT controls everything.  They have NO incentive to increase capacity as that would reduce their revenue.

WSDOT wants to keep trying this experiment for 2 years.  Sadly, they will then claim success because there are no stipulations about customer satisfaction in the measurement criteria.  It just has to be profitable.  And they will likely claim it has reduced congestion.  The reality is a Texas A&M University study found that the economy and the price of gas has a greater impact on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and use of alternatives like bus ridership than tolling or the price of tolls. With gas prices currently at record lows and the economy is doing great in our region, we have more drivers on the road than ever. So when either of these variables change and fewer people use the roads, WSDOT will claim the improvements are a result of tolling.  Our fear is that they will place a bond against the future revenue of the toll, thus locking us into the tolls with no recourse.

The problems we are experiencing with our ETLs are nothing new.  Orange County, CA and Miami, FL sees tolls prices rise and fight to get things fixed.  We are not alone in our fight.  Tampa, FL is fighting their tolls. Orange County, CA is fighting their tolls.
Miami, FL
Austin, TX
North Carolina
and many, many more.

The reality is Express Toll Lanes don’t do what toll operators claim.  ETLs are the snake oil of congestion reduction.  We need to stop wasting money and energy trying to fix something that will never work. Sign the petition and call your legislators and demand they stop trying to use a toll to reduce congestion.   #405ETL

Posted in All, Information, Uncategorized
2 comments on “Supply & Demand: No surprise 405 toll revenue 3x expected

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