Back in June, we posted "HOT [High Occupancy Toll] Lanes Slow to Catch on With Users". Evidently, motorists using Florida's I-95 Express Lanes failed to get the message. As "About.com Miami" indicates, "Despite the controversy surrounding the so-called 'Lexus Lane', 95 Express has proved extremely popular with commuters seeking to shave time off their commutes."
Kenny Malone writes on Florida Department of Transportation's latest problem in managing the five-year old express lanes, converted from high-occupancy vehicle lanes in late 2008. They've become so popular that the price increases implemented through the system’s "dynamic tolling" to maintain traffic flow at 45 mph are having a diminished effect.
Tolls on the "95 Express lanes range from $0.25 to a $7.00 maximum, meaning drivers can only be charged up to that amount depending on how many tolls they pass on one trip."
New numbers from FDOT suggest drivers are quickly desensitizing to Lexus lane sticker shock. As of October, there had already been 112,119 $7.00 trips through the express lanes just this year. That’s a 125-percent increase over 2012, 2011 and 2010 combined.
The $7 "cap" presents a problem, similar to caps on gas tax inflation adjustments seen most recently in Pennsylvania (which lifted its cap in November) though of a different nature.
“If we do not raise the toll cap we will continue to have difficulties in achieving the department’s goal of a minimum 45 mph 90 percent of the time during peak periods,” says Rory Santana, Miami's 95 Express manager.
Well-functioning HOT lanes lift all boats, er, vehicles.
According to the General Summary of the 95 Express Annual Report (PDF) released in April, "Drivers travelling via the general purpose lanes (GPL) have also experienced a significant peak period increase in average travel speed since implementation of 95 Express, from an average of approximately 15 MPH (southbound) and 20 MPH(northbound) to a monthly average of 50 MPH and 42 MPH, respectively."
As we noted in January, 2010, the new 95 Express Buses also proved to be a hit with commuters. The challenge facing FDOT now will be to raise the toll cap to ensure that all lanes operate efficiently.