WSTC opens 405ETL to all on nights & weekends, but doesn’t address the real problems

An hour ago, the Washington State Transportation Commission voted to open the 405 Express Toll Lanes from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays.  This will start Friday night, March 18th, 2016.  These changes are a direct result of requests by, a team of legislators, and the governor.  This is a tweak to a failed system.

This action misses some important points that MUST be addressed:

1.  The new system continues to be unsafe compared to the previous carpool lane.  None of these changes address safety.

2.  The double-white lines are still present, preventing access to the lanes when people encounter traffic to warrant it (in particular, during lane closures for nighttime construction or accidents blocking lanes) and creating conflict points that lead to accidents.

3.  This does nothing for the core problem of the HOT lanes: They continue to create a social injustice and stratify people in traffic by wealth.

4.  Tolls still do nothing to reduce congestion.  Operating them during the times of heaviest congestion means they continue to create a crisis.

5.  Protecting the peak hours of operation is intended to allow the tolls to cover their costs just for the sake of covering costs and not because they add value.

6.  Trucking is heavily impacted. They cannot use the ETL and the cost over $100/hr to operate. They are diverting to Avondale Rd and SR203 which are not built to handle the loads.

7.  There is still a 3+ person carpool requirement.  This is a severe deterrent to carpooling.  The 2 person carpools made up 95% of all vehicles in the carpool lane during peak hours. Now they are filled with 85% SOVs and this doesn’t include the many who are cheating.

8.  A FlexPass is still required for carpools during tolling hours.  This is a severe deterrent to carpooling.  Many people refuse to or cannot justify the $45 cost of acquiring a FlexPass.

9.  Tolling is still horribly inefficient in collecting tax revenue.  $0.54 of every $0.75 toll just goes to paying for toll operations.  Furthermore, this does not pay the $111 million in capital outlay to build the tolling system.

10.  The increased congestion in the GPL has an economic cost.  That cost is far greater than the benefits of having the ETL available for SOV’s convenience.

11.  The toll system has created more opportunities for people to get traffic violations.  More than 4,000 citations were issued related to the toll system since it was implemented.  We do not need more laws to impose on people and run them through the legal process with civil penalties.  Washington State Patrol has stated that enforcement is dangerous and difficult and unenforceable in the winter commute.  They certainly have better things to do to serve the public.  A tax collection process should not increase the a risk of breaking the law.

12.  FlexPasses do not work in hundreds of models of vehicles because of the windshield glass used.  Motorcycles are required to have a pass to use the lanes and those fail often.  Both require drivers to call customer service monthly.

13.  The 5 lane section has different congestion issues than the 3 lane section.  They should be addressed separately.

14.  HOT lanes are overwhelmingly opposed by the public as proven by our petition of 32,000 signatures as well as WSDOT’s own survey.

Our concern is that WSDOT, WSTC, and the legislators will consider this problem resolved with these changes.  WRONG.  It is imperative that we follow up with our legislators and let them know these steps DO NOT ADDRESS THE REAL PROBLEMS WITH THE ETL.  Everyone’s efforts will go to waste if we do not reaffirm our message.  Please reach out to your legislators via email or phone and reiterate this message.  Also, continue to get people to sign the petition online or print out, sign and mail back to us.



Posted in Uncategorized
9 comments on “WSTC opens 405ETL to all on nights & weekends, but doesn’t address the real problems
  1. Melody says:

    The flex pass cost is ridiculous-if your 3 people you shouldn’t have to buy these! I used these carpool lanes daily with 2 people I’m so disgusted by all that has happened. I live in the canyon park area and now I just try to avoid 405 like the plague 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So the fight continues. Be sure to get all of your friends to join in and sign the petition and contact your legislators and tell them this isn’t enough. The tolls must go. Especially anyone who lives in the Mercer Island / Bellevue / Renton area.


  3. Richard Del Missier says:

    The Ivory Tower bureaucrats got it wrong again. Tolling the HOV lanes just creates more bureaucracy at no benefit to congestion. We have to fix our highways. Rapid transit is not the answer as it just soaks up inordinate amounts of our transportation dollars. I would be in favor of a milage tax to eliminate tolling and the gas tax but they would probably screw that up also.


  4. Barb says:

    This is a start, thank you, yet really just a Band Aid stuck onto an open wound. The system is still unsafe, congested (no noticeable improvement in my journey times) with, from my observation, mostly single occupant cars using the ETLs. I’m still being gouged $10 most 7.30am trips Lynnwood to Bellevue for my 2 person car pool, and most weekdays we drive the I405 4 journeys/day. Oh well…time for yet more letter writing to our legislators. When, oh when will they listen to the people and simply switch the ETL system off? Then they would have time to work on a real solution to our road system!


  5. […] a social injustice. They are terribly expensive to operate. Many more reasons can be found here:… What’s more, they didn’t know what the impact would be on transportation when they […]


  6. Kevin says:

    Just wanted to add a link to a collection of federal presentations on HOT lane conversions. There is one presentation included that certainly helps to back up comments here on the impact of HOT lanes to car pools.

    Click to access webinar_congestion_pricing_091713.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent find. As I go through the presentation, I see a reference:
      “CH2M Hill in Bellevue, WA converted free parking to a travel allowance, cutting SOV commuting from 89% to 64%”
      This is what I would refer to as providing the “carrot” method of behavior change rather than the “stick” method that tolling is.
      (this is a reference to ways to get a horse to do what you want. You can entice them with a carrot or hit them with a stick. Reward vs punishment)


  7. […] Share this link with your friends.  If you are looking for points to make, revisit this article. […]


  8. […] year ago, I blogged that WSTC voted to eliminate the tolls on I-405 at night and on weekends.  This ended the congestion and gridlock that was being experienced at […]


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