The Washington Post has the story this morning as the debut of “Lexus Lanes” on I-66 broke every expectation and criticism. More than $5.00… more than $10.00…
More than $20.00.
…but an eye-gouging $34.50. From the article:
“I drove onto I-66 around 8:10 this morning to Washington and my one-way toll was $17.25 — which I at first thought I’d misread,” Justin Cole said. “With tolls reportedly climbing to around a daily one-way peak of $34.50, that is going to introduce a real hardship for people on low wages or working in the nonprofit or public sector.”
Of course, there are a number of observations to make here. Firstly, the true cost of transportation — as the roads themselves at peak hours illustrate the wear and tear commuters impose upon it (and pay taxes to subsidize). Second, the use of “Lexus Lanes” or HOT Lanes is supposed to induce the masses to use mass transit.
If that was the goal yesterday, Metro didn’t notice:
If officials thought the tolls would encourage more people to use transit, that did not happen Monday morning — at least not for Metro. According to the transit agency, the four stations at the western end of the Orange Line in Northern Virginia (Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church) had 13,239 entries during the rush-hour time frame — about 2 percent lower than the same time one week ago.
Adjustments will certainly be made over the course of time. But the creation of a two-tiered transportation system — one for the well-heeled and another for the masses — strikes one as only furthering the divide between the bureaucrats and well-to-do vs. the rest of us who have to make do.
Of course, for those who want to pay a few extra dollars? The idea of being able to breeze by and get to points further south is welcome indeed. $34.50 is a tad bit into the absurd.
Nevertheless, McAuliffe and Northam both have some explaining to do. The vaunted promise of $5 or $7 tolls was smashed five fold — something that hard math should have foreseen and predicted (and prepared folks in Northern Virginia).
It’s notable that many of the incoming Democratic delegates from Northern Virginia have joined Republicans in criticizing the disproportionate impact of these Lexus Lanes. Certainly there is a reasonable fee to impose for these express lanes that could bolster Virginia’s sagging transportation network overall.
$34.50 is probably not that price tag.
UPDATE: It got worse this morning. From the Arlington Patch, I-66 tolls jumped to a bruising $40.00 one way:
At 8:09 a.m. Tuesday, tolls reached $40, WTOP reports. These rates dropped minutes later until they were at $24.75 around 9 a.m. and $5 when tolls ended around 9:30 a.m. VDOT confirmed the highest rate on Monday morning was $34.50.
Drivers have to pay tolls to use the road during certain times unless they have at least one other person in the car and have an E-Z Pass Flex set to HOV-2. Tolls are in effect Monday-Friday 5:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. for all eastbound lanes and 3 p.m.-7 p.m. for westbound lanes.
Forget Lexus Lanes — we should start calling them Terry Tolls.