So the WSDOT launched the new express tolling today. It seems like a cash grab, and like it's going to make congestion worse, and it irks me that
75% (potentially) of the profits will be going to some company in Texas. It's also freaking confusing. If you're from out of state, or someone
like me that doesn't pay much attention to the local news, prepare to be dinged in the wallet.
For those that don't have this nonsense, here's a blip about what it is.
Dynamic tolling: High occupancy toll (HOT) or express toll lanes give drivers the option to use the lane for a more reliable trip and tolls adjust
based on real-time traffic conditions.
Variable tolling: Tolls on the SR 520 bridge are higher toll at peak periods and lower during off-peak times including midday, overnight and on
weekends. Variable toll rates change based on a set schedule to pay for a new bridge and manage traffic.
Tolling and express toll lanes can help improve speeds for all lanes, including general purpose and the corridor is carrying more traffic more
Express toll lanes give drivers the option to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes by paying a toll. Similar to the SR 167 HOT lanes, express
toll lanes operate as an expressway within a highway while allowing toll-free trips for transit and vanpools.
The incentive to carpool is the carpool lane, because it seems to always flow more efficiently. The idea being that more people carpooling means
fewer cars on the road, less pollution etc. So now, you can also just pay to have the pleasure of using one of these lanes, even if you're driving
alone. This puts a greater strain on that HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane, discouraging carpooling if you can pay the $. This doesn't ease
anything, it doesn't cut the number of cars on the road, if anything it encourages more, increasing traffic, and essentially taking away the
motivation to carpool as the incentive is being slashed.
I've never fully believed that HOV lanes actually accomplish what they were designed to do, and think that in reality if they opened up that lane to
everyone it would help traffic move more fluidly. Most of the backups I notice in the greater Seattle area occur where there is a large number of
traffic merging on to the freeway. Given another lane without restrictions, I think more people would move left, allowing the lanes that become
congested due to merging less congestion, and therefore greater speed. I also don't know anyone that actually uses the carpool lane to get to work
during peak hours. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but I highly doubt it's common enough to matter. We don't live like that anymore,
you're not going to have enough people living close enough to justify the time to go pick them up and take them home.
So for fun, the WSDOT also changed how many people need to be in a vehicle for it to qualify to drive in the HOV lanes. It was two, now it's three.
Good freaking luck finding an extra person it makes sense to carpool with.
Add an extra lane, but make you pay for it after snarling traffic and wasting tons.
For extra more super fun, you have to get a Good 2 Go! pass, EVEN if you're carpooling. This is a piece of crap you have to stick to the inside of
your window under the rearview mirror. Don't get that pass? You get fined. To get one of the passes, you have to register an account, and you
can't register one without paying $30. Fun fact, you can't pay less without calling the number that they warn is too inundated with responses to
get through in a reasonable amount of time. Oh, and they want it to be recurring. As in you pay $30, but if the balance goes down to $8 you are
automatically billed $22.
So it's effectively now a toll lane,not an HOV lane, and IF you carpool with 3 people you get charged unless you pay the $30 and have the thing in
the window. You also have to remember to set it between HOV and TOLL.
More fun is that they only sell these at select retail locations, and most are running out. Otherwise you have to wait for the WSDOT to ship it. I
called the local Walgreens (they only sell them at Walgreens, Fred Meyers and QFC) and they had 3 left, after getting a new shipment that day. The
people behind me were there for the same reason, and from what I've heard I got very lucky.
Now, how do you get into these lanes? You can only switch into them at designated lane changing areas. Cross a double white line, and it's a $136
fine. So if you haven't driven on the freeway in awhile, and you have no idea what a double white line means, BOOM!
With the clusterf$$$ that is driving between Bellevue and Lynnwood (which I did today twice), it's almost impossible to pay attention to all the new
signage and rules unless you know beforehand. The WSDOT actually has a freaking trip planner so you can figure out where you can enter these new
lanes, and exit them. If you haven't driven in the Seattle are recently, you might not get just how bad the drivers are here, they don't need to be
thinking about anything other than driving slow as bleep in the passing lane or speeding/tailgating in the far right lane whenever a busy area needs
This is what happens ALL THE TIME HERE.
KIRO Radio's Dori Monson said, "This proves that the state of Washington, the Department of Transportation, as well as the private company
that's going to be operating this system - they have a financial incentive to create as much gridlock as possible in the three general purpose lanes
because that's the only way anybody's going to be willing to pay these outlandish tolls."
Pretty freaking much. It seems like this system was designed more to grab revenue than ease traffic. It also seems like this new system is going to
CREATE traffic, which seems absurd until you realize that helps boost revenue for certain departments. Screw traffic more, get more people paying to
use the HOT lanes.
So where does it end? It costs more to use these lanes at certain times. Which also seems absurd. It's also confusing. Ever see one of those
parking signs that lists a bunch of times, depending on the day of the week? OK, now go 60 MPH+, pay attention to the terrible drivers, make sure you
flip your pass to the right thing, at the right time, and don't ever cross the double white lines (so you're STUCK in the lane you chose).
I don't see this ending here. I thought it was BS when you needed a pass for 520. That's a bridge, people who didn't want to pay had to take I
90, so they basically flooded one bridge with traffic, and grabbed a toll from people who used the other.
If I pay my freaking vehicle taxes, pay the tax for gas, etc... why should I have to pay for using a bridge on rare occasions? Why should I have to
pay more to be in less traffic? I don't use roads in Eastern WA, but I pay for them. Why should a guy that DOES use the bridge daily have to pay so
much more? It's a tax for living somewhere and working somewhere.
I think road taxes should be shared equitably by everyone in the state, and that this new idea of paying for a faster lane is just going to end up
with the same amount of traffic while people that struggle month to month are forced to sit in traffic even longer.
Not a fix, it's a cash grab.