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 stop405tolls.org, 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.