I-680 toll lane marks 1st anniversary

Usage on controversial 'express' lane is climbing, toll authorities say

As the I-680 Express Lane marks its first anniversary, almost half a million drivers have paid a toll electronically for a faster trip over the Sunol Grade.

Transportation officials are pleased with the results so far.

"Usage is rising," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, chair of the I-680 Express Lane Authority board of directors. "More drivers each month are choosing to use the Express Lane to avoid traffic congestion."

"Hundreds of commuters use this facility everyday," he added. "The facility provides a reliable option for commuters who need the dependability in their travel times through the corridor."

The 14-mile stretch of I-680 from Pleasanton to Milpitas is the first Express Lane in Northern California.

"The results show Express Lanes are an effective way to ensure there is an option for commuters who want a reliable commute," said Andrew Fremier, deputy executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "The experience gained from the first year of operations on 680 allowed us to develop a realistic long-term strategy for establishing a true regional network of express lanes in the years to come."

The I-680 Express Lane opened at 5 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2010. After the Thanksgiving-Christmas holidays, usage was stable from January to May at about 1,400 trips per day, almost all during the morning commute from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. This average has risen to 1,500 per day in June and July, to 1,600 per day in August and to more than 1,700 per day so far in September.

Maximum weekly usage came last week, with 9,757 trips and $29,321 in revenue. The one-day peak usage was February 8, when 2,324 drivers used the lane.

According to representatives of the Express Lane Authority, there were 482,552 toll trips on the lane during its first year of operation, generating revenue of $858,328. Express lane speeds are 9 or 10 mph faster than the speeds in the general purpose lanes during the morning commute. Most drivers use the express lane an average of twice a month, with fewer than 200 using the lane three or more days per week.

The I-680 Express Lane operates Mondays to Fridays from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tolls remain free at all times for carpools with at least two occupants, and the lane is "open to all" on weekdays after 8 p.m. and all day on weekends. California Highway Patrol officers provide enforcement using visual and electronic means.

Solo drivers who want to use the I-680 Express Lane need a FasTrak toll tag mounted on their windshield. Drivers are charged a toll each time they choose to use the Express Lane. The operation is fully electronic, with no toll booths or tollgates, so customers do not need to slow down or stop to pay.

Motorists with a FasTrak toll tag can enter the express lane at designated locations. An overhead electronic sign displays the current toll being assessed. Toll costs vary based on real-time traffic levels on the express lane to ensure that traffic in the lane flows smoothly.


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Posted by Joke
a resident of Foothill High School
on Sep 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm

They're generating less then $1.80 per car. Too bad most of the cars using the lane get to use it for free. If the idea is to collect tolls then they're doing a bad job. Where the toll lane began is usually where the 680 south used to clear up, regardless of the toll lane. Recently they are trying to clog up the 3 other lanes from the top of the Sunol Grade down into Fremont to create a traffic jam which forces cars into the toll lane to create revenue so their idea looks good on paper. Fishy....

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Posted by No Fan
a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Hagerty is the worst kind of politician. Makes bad decisions that have immense negative impacts on the public and then tries to spin it into a positive. The changes in 680 south have had a substantial impact on commuters, ask any of them, while making the agency $858k. How much productivity, and with it tax dollars, was lost by the millions of additional person hours spent on the freeway instead of the office/plant/store? In his words, it helps hundreds of people a day; what is not said is the impact it has on the ~10k drivers.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm

This pure horse manure.

858K per year revenue. How about the 1.2 million dollars that it takes for the CHP just to enforce the Express Lane route? 858K won't even begin to make a dent in the 20 year bond that was secured for the cost of the Express Lane itself. This will be another taxpayer bailout.

"Average 10mph faster on the Express Lane". Does everyone realize that that traveling the whole length of the Express Lane, 10mph faster only saves you 2 minutes. What dummy would pay $8 dollars to save 2 minutes?

I agree that Fremont is purposefully causing backups at Auto Mall Parkway in order to jam up traffic on i680. For the last 2 weeks the light for the south bound i680 exit on Auto Mall Parkway and the light at Osgood and Auto Mall Parkway have been out of synchronization. This is causing major backups along the Washington curve creating bumper to bumper traffic jams on i680.

The Express Lane added 10 minutes to my commute. The Pleasanton metering lights added another 10 minutes. The light synchronization problem at Auto Mall Parkway is adding another 5 minutes. In one year my commute time has almost increased by 100%.

Just think, without Scott Haggerty, CalTrans would have built a northbound carpool lane in 2005. We would have had a freeway with a south and northbound carpool lanes, without restrictions on when to exit, no choke point a Hwy 84, and all for a price tag that was 52 million cheaper then the god awful Express Lane.

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Posted by Jetson
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:03 am

Jetson is a registered user.

PLEASANTON WEEKLY, please right an article. This morning I was like 20 cars back on the road to the metering lights on Sunol/Castlewood, its ridiculous! I am having to get up even earlier to start my commute to Sunnyvale due to these lights. It even backs up more down First street so it takes about 15-20 minutes just to get on the freeway. Please put a car pool lane going north and add to the one going south, you have to make it convenient for drivers to use the road. Adding a pay lane was not the thing to do, add a car pool lane north, more people will start car pooling hence less cars on the road. I took pictures this morning of the back up trying to get on 680 its just insane. Not sure how people can miss the big 6 foot lighted board that says 2 cars per green but yet they stop after one car goes thru, again delaying the rest of us who do follow instructions to get on the road for our journey to work, etc.

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Posted by Jetson
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:04 am

Jetson is a registered user.

Oops sorry Write an article, it took me 1 hr 15 minutes to get to work today I am not in my right mind.

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Posted by Michael Leonard
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

Michael Leonard is a registered user.

I used this lane a few times and it was a total waste of money. After one year traffic is still worse than before the lane was built. Pleasanton Weekly should pay attention to the comments here and do some journalism instead of reprinting propaganda from the fools who created this lane.

Like this comment
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm

What a bunch of B.S. I agree with the other poster who comments that for what it's costing us taxpayers to pay the CHP to enforce all of the toll lane cheaters, the revenue generated is a wash.

How about repaving that miserable right lane of I-680 between the Sunol Blvd. on-ramp and Hwy 84/Calaveras Rd.? Someone's vehicle is going to get severely damaged one morning (if not already), and a serious accident could result. Where is Caltrans and/or the politicians on that one?!

Then there's that new metering light on the Sunol Blvd. on-ramp--what an incredible cluster you-know-what that is--great job, Caltrans. Now hundreds of cars back up on Sunol all the way to Junipero, and for what? The metering doesn't do anything to improve traffic flow on I-680 southbound. What is has done is significantly increase commute times for Pleasanton residents, and created a very bad traffic situation on Sunol at the interchange. Take a look and observe this mess any day of the work week.

That added to what the toll lane configuration did to I-680 a year ago--add more congestion and up the commute time for all.

Why don't you report on the awful reality of the situation, Jeb, instead of this fluff piece for Caltrans?

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Posted by Deprived Driver
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

My first experience several weeks ago, I was getting away for the weekend at 1:00 FRI, like tens of thousands do every FRi pm. After the grade all the lanes were FULL, EXCEPT the left lane. I thought
it was a diamond lane, and muttered to self, well it's only noon, so
as I was started to enter the lane, I saw an overhead sign to pay to the next exit. It's a wonder I didn't have a heart attack or cause a wreck with my blind RAGE ! How dare these idiots, a congressman like McNerney I assume, would create such a fiaco for everybody concerned ! Why are people prevented from using it in the middle of
the day ?? I have no doubt it is COSTING, not just the users, but TAXPAYERS TOO !! The usual padded, stupid, non-productive gov't boondoggle ! ! The worst is, it makes driving WORSE for DRIVERS ! !

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Don't expect the newspapers to write anything that goes against who they are in bed with too. It seems almost everything we do is a huge waste of money, but it doesn't stop. I can name many things just in Pleasanton. When is the common sense people in the middle going to get involved and not the people on the right and left who only seem to cause problems.......and expensive ones at that.

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Posted by Chris
a resident of Stoneridge
on Sep 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Google Janis Mara and 680 south toll lane. She wrote an article last May I believe. Anyway, since school started three weeks ago morning traffic has been a nightmare. Combine that with hybrids getting booted from the lane in July and from 580 to 84 680 is a parking lot. Note that the our union/government officials at CalTrans croon about the 84 to 237 stretch. Their short sighted boon doggle just pushed the traffic mess north. Good job Caltrans. Oh, and it gets better. They want to expand the toll lane system everywhere. Gotta love big government.

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Posted by BoycottExpressLanes
a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Bay Area Traffic studies have shown that carpool lanes are ineffective:
Web Link (if you read the first paragraph you'll get a nice summary)
But the truth has never gotten in the way of politicians looking to tax us in some fashion. The last thing I want to see is CA becoming like the East Coast where every few miles you're paying another toll to continue driving. We pay enough taxes already that are supposed to go towards our roads that are misappropriated or mismanaged. Boycott all express lanes or watch them spread throughout the state creating two classes of drivers - the haves vs. the have nots.

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Posted by Commuter
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:08 am

I hope voices can be raised such that officials can revise the scheme and planning.
What I see-
traffic condition are worse over non-toll lanes.
Before, after 9, thousands of cars can share 4 lanes and traffic goes better after 9:30am
Now, typically still have little traffic after 10am. Most (high percentage) general public squeeze on the 3 non-toll lane, still.
(Maybe the condition is yet acceptable, we can absorb the negative changes, however...)
I'm afraid if similar facility goes to 237/880... it would be a lot lot worse that 680 condition. Eastbound will not get relief before 8pm. Westbound junction traffic last til 11am.
Please pardon I'm afraid this toll-lane project is like, we, non-toll-lane-user, the general public, pay tax dollar to build facility to block us out of having the 4th lane and reserve the lane for toll-payer. We pay tax dollar to buy longer commute time...
I really hope some help can come and help making someone revise the scheme for the high percentage of general public.
Toll-paying option for those who need to rush is good, but if the cost is to exchange the suffering of high percentage of general public. It is sad.

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Posted by Macro
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 22, 2011 at 11:37 am

Totally agree. Off-carpool hour traffic definitely got a lot worst. Before express lane era, the backup during carpool hour normally dissipates quickly once carpool lane is open to every driver. But right now they made the carpool hour much longer, that make the 10:00AM traffic feel like 9:00AM traffic before. Those politicians who promoted and voted to build this express lane, they never drive these stretch of highway and they never understand our pain. We have to stand-up for our-self, to make our voice heard, to demonstrate, and force policy maker to make necessary change to bring traffic back to at least to previous level.

I don't mind to pay a few bucks for a quicker commute but I just do not have change to pay for it. The worst backup is between Plesanton and express lane entrance. Once get to the entrance, traffic becomes a lot smoother, make no sense to use toll lane. Like before, they shall open up express lane to everybody after 9:00AM. This will bring traffic at least back to what it used to be. Anyway, most tolls are collected during peak hour (7:00AM to 9:00AM). It is unwise to create unnecessary backup after 9:00AM while leave carpool lane under utilized and contribute little to revenue.

I send my concern to Scott Haggerty through email. Got a reply from his office claiming to contact me soon. That was 2 weeks ago, heard nothing since. Any suggestion how shall we approach this issue? Is there any scheduled public hearing about express lane?

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Scott Haggerty can hold a town hall meeting by standing on the Bernal left turn median strip to the entrance of the south bound i680 metering light.

The drivers can communicate with Scott using sign language, if you get my drift.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Marco - I wrote Fremont Traffic Engineering two weeks ago to ask why the lights at Auto Mall Parkway at i680 exit and Osgood lost scynchroniztion. This of course is causing the huge backup on i680 between Mission North and Mission South. I have not gotten a reply either. Normally Fremont is very good about responding to traffic questions. As Joke said in his email, something is fishy.

BTW, today it took 4 traffic light cycles just to make it around the off ramp to Auto Mall Parkway.

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Posted by Geert
a resident of Livermore
on Sep 22, 2011 at 8:49 pm

This toll lane is a a joke. A colossal waste of money I drive this corridor every weekday between 6:45 and 7:30AM and rarely see a single (non carpool) driver in this lane. If the Pleasanton Weekly and the Indpendent wanted to be a real service to the community they would report some numbers instead of this garbage. How much is Scott Hagerty being compensated for being the "Chair of the I-680 Express Lane Authority Board of Directors"? How much is the CHP being paid to enforce the toll lane? If they did some real reporting they would uncover that this toll lane is costing an arm and a leg.

Think this is bad, wait till we get the "Bullet Train". Oh and by the way congratulations to Wheels for 25 years of driving empty buses. Since the Wheels buses were so full we went and added another bus service "Rapid" to alleviate the overcrowding. Thanks for wasting more of our money Scott Hagerty. (I know it wasn't our money it came from grants out of Obama's stash)

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Posted by Commuter
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 25, 2011 at 1:09 am

Please somebody listen to our voice.
Transportation officials who are pleased with the "results". Please listen to us...
Giving single driver an option to use carpool lane has been advertised. Definitely support has been given on this.

- The fact that the right-of-use of the carpool lane from many drivers from 9am and on has been taken away and such lane is being used to collect money seems to be... (I don't have a right word for this).

- Pleasing the "results" of traffic condition can be extended; The "results" where the traffic jam extension needs more gas to be burnt in ineffective way; Air pollution can be extended by a bit; Does not help on our energy crisis today, indirectly...
Seems like these "results" and fact have been neglected.

The previous fellow contributor suggested, "shall open up express lane to everybody after 9:00AM" -- excellent concept.
This really achieve what it should be, "Giving single driver an option to use carpool lane" (before 9).
And after 9, general public has their ordinary 4 lanes back (without taking away their right-of-use like in the past).
The key is, "utilized". really like this "utilized" concept (again from previous fellow contributor).

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Posted by Chris
a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Well, It seems that now it's spreading. Oh goody.

The idea of a big green feel good diamond lane where all our wonderful communities all unite and drive happily jammed in one car together was/is crazy.

The bay area isn't a close knit city and peoples schedules are hectic. It is totally unrealistic to think that a carpool lane was/is the answer.

That's what trains are for!!!

Now, they're trifling with this express lane bullpuckey. If you all don't boycott this you'll be sorry and paying through the nose to get to work in the same amount of time that you did a year ago.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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