1 year of #405ETL: Are We Better Off?

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the #405ETL. Here is an update on the toll of the tolls.

  1. The ETL are failing to meet the minimum performance requirements of 45mph, in particular, they fail for the entire northern half of the toll corridor nearly every single day.
  2. Tolls are reaching $10 nearly every single day they operate. An occasional day each month they will only reach $9.75, but that is rare.  WSDOT also reports that they stay at $10 for 52 minutes per day on average.
    They are already considering raising the max toll rate!
  3. More than 1 million billing errors have been made by WSDOT.
    WSDOT customer service has had more than 6 million interactions with customers, wasting millions of hours of our time trying to resolve those billing errors.
  4. Carpooling is down.  Prior to the Express Toll Lanes, the carpool lane was filled with multi-passenger vehicles.  As much as 90% were 2-person carpools.  Now that 2-person carpools cannot use the ETL for free, 85% of the vehicles in the ETL are SOVs.
  5. Prior to stop405tolls.org convincing the legislature to eliminate the tolls at night and on weekends, gridlock from the tolls was occurring at random times even as late as 9:30pm and throughout the day on weekends when there had never been congestion before.  Now congestion is limited to tolling hours.
  6. WSDOT has collected an estimated $20 million in tolls on I-405, but half of that money was spent just operating the tolls.  Any legitimate highway improvements made using the toll money effectively cost the public double the price.  So while WSDOT is proud that they are able to use toll money to build 2 miles of hard shoulder running north of SR527, they forgot that they spent 3 years and $111 million just installing tolling equipment on I-405.  It will take 10 years of the public paying tolls to replenish that money back to what we had 3 years ago and it will require collecting $222 million in tolls to get there.  If you combine the money spent installing the tolling system ($111M) with the money we will pay in tolls just to get back to even ($222M), we could have added a lane in both directions from SR527 to I-5.
  7. WSDOT assured the public that the accident rate would return to pre-tolling levels within a year.  It’s been a year, but WSDOT isn’t talking about accident rates. It could be because they have dropped or it could be because they have not and WSDOT doesn’t want us to know. In all cases, as important as this is, WSDOT should be following this information and reporting it.
  8. Our intuition was accurate that the #405ETL cater mostly to the wealthy.  4 out of 5 users have incomes above the median for Bothell and Snohomish Couny as reported in a survey of GoodToGo Pass holders by WSDOT.  I prefer to refer to them as the “Selfish Lanes” because it isn’t so much how much you earn, but rather that people who like them are generally solo drivers who care about their own personal commute rather than improving overall commute times for everyone.
  9. WSDOT and some legislators continue to pursue extending the ETL from Bellevue to SR167 in Renton.  That section of highway will have 2 GPL and 2 ETL.  The result will be a random mess of different numbers of lanes and toll facilities.  South Sound residents will soon feel the pain that north Sound residents feel today.

Express Toll Lanes create winners and losers. The winners are the solo drivers who drive in them, the very few who ride a bus, and the owners of the tolling companies. The losers are the entire trucking industry, the tens of thousands of people in 2-person carpools, the hundreds of thousands of people in the GPL, and anyone buying services or goods from companies that now started adding a delivery surcharge on the Eastside to compensate for the toll charges. What the ETL advocates fail to address is that Congestion is not a problem to be solved for just some chosen people. It impacts everyone directly or indirectly, whether you use the ETL or not.

Express Toll Lanes are nothing more than the tolling industry’s equivalent of “snake oil” by traveling salesmen or Universal Life Insurance by insurance salesmen.  It is imperative that we, the citizens, stand up and call WSDOT out on this.  Demand that our legislators revoke all current and future Express Toll Lanes.  Accept that it was a failed experiment that the private tolling industry tricked us into believing it would be a panacea for congestion and funding, stop it now and move on.

Please contact your state senator and both representatives and demand action, sign the online petition, and share this with your friends.

Posted in Uncategorized
11 comments on “1 year of #405ETL: Are We Better Off?
  1. transpengr says:

    A fine piece of critique and commentary. It should go to all legislators and candidates for office including gubernatorial. Legislators in favor of tolling need to be called and/or buttonholed with these facts in hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vic Bishop says:

    Well done. Bill Bryant needs to be reinforced with this, and Michael Appleby, candidate in the 41st District to replace I-405 Queen Judy Clibborn (D- Chair of the House Transportation Committee, and the one who set this up in 2011) needs support.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff says:

    Just an FYI for anyone who attempts to post on the WSDOT blog site, they are actively screening out any and all comments that are even remotely critical of the 405 tolling disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff, you are quite correct. Time to call them out on that too.


  5. Toll booth Willy says:

    I use these lanes everyday, both ways. I’m so glad the state has built the equivalent of social class system. If you can pay extra they provide a better life style. Extra time with the kids and family. less the dodging shotty drivers and undesirables.


  6. I am better off. I drive the section south of Woodinville both ways. Tolls are usually .75 to $3.00, and save me 6-8 minutes each way. Since the lanes flow well, I have noticed much better MPG. Most days, I use the time I save to bypass the 520 bridge and cross at I-90, saving me $4.10 each way. On net, I usually save about $2-3 over my previous commute, and a few minutes. For me, it’s cheaper AND it’s faster.

    If you live to the north, your commute sucks. But it sucked before the tolls, and it sucks now. It sucks because they don’t collect enough taxes up there, and they allow too much development without a corresponding investment in road expansion.


    • Jeff says:

      No, Bruce…the commute from the north sucks now due to all the extra vehicles forced out of the carpool lane being crammed into two GPL lanes. Prior to ETLs, I never hit a back up until Bothell…now it starts IMMEDIATELY at the beginning of the ETLs and never lets up. My average toll? $10…EACH WAY. But so nice to hear you are better off *eye roll*.


  7. NW Traveller says:

    Our family is better off as well. We are a three person carpool.
    Prior to the tolls it took us almost an hour on most days each way. After the toll implementations, it has become 40 min.
    So Thank you WSDOT !

    There are times, we do pay tolls (under a $1) instead of spending an extra 10 min in the car. You can just cruise in toll as compared to stop and go.

    My only suggestion is that instead of keeping the lanes open to all during evening and weekends, it should be changed to 2 person carpool.


    • NW Traveler, consider that your 3 person carpool would be better off regardless of the tolls. It was the added capacity that made the difference, not adding tolls. This is most evident where they just added a toll instead of a lane. As for the weekend limitation to 2 person carpools, that is what it was when they first implemented the tolls. The result was gridlock as bad as a weekday rush hour when there never was before. “Family pools” don’t really contribute to trip reduction, so they aren’t much different from SOVs. So when you read the 9 points made above, does the benefit you personally gain really outweigh those points?


  8. The trend for those who like the #405ETL seem to fit these criteria:
    1. They drive alone in the ETL on some regular basis
    2. They rarely pay over $0.75 and never pay $10
    3. They live somewhere south of SR527 and I-405

    Bus riders and 3+ carpoolers like them too, but those groups are a small segment of those who support it and a tiny fraction of the overall users of I-405.


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