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