Express Lanes Toll Revenue Benefits Bus Riders, Carpoolers, and Bike Riders

The new 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway made headlines when one-way tolls topped $40. Max Smith of WTOP News reports how revenues are used in Northern Virginia. Bus transit and shuttles to park-and-ride lots are two of the biggest beneficiaries.

3 minute read

May 6, 2018, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


I-66 Virginia

airbus777 / Flickr

The 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway captured the nation's attention on day two of operation, Dec. 5, 2017, with its $40 tolls for solo-drivers during the height of the morning rush hour. According to an agreement with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation, toll revenues largely benefit transit in the corridor.

With uncapped tolls and dynamic tolling, the lanes operate as one of the nation's best examples of successful congestion pricing. While electric vehicles don't get a break, carpools of two or more and motorcycles travel toll-free. 

Max Smith of WTOP News reports on the projects selected to be awarded toll revenue on May 3. In a second article, Smith describes the performance in terms of speeds and tolls paid.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission [NVTC] is scheduled to approve $12 million in projects Thursday night including two new bus routes, improvements on three other bus routes and expanded access to park-and-ride lots. Another project included would expand Capital BikeShare around the Vienna and Dunn Loring Metro stations.

The process of selecting and funding multimodal transportation projects is described in the I-66 Commuter Choice Program. The program lists eight categories of projects that are eligible.

Smith lists all 15 projects that were selected along with their descriptions. Projects fell into three main categories:

  • $7.2 million is expected to go to new or improved bus service.
  • $2.6 million is slated to improve access to park and ride lots, bus stops, and Metro or VRE stations. [Access is multimodal, e.g., commuter shuttle, bike parking].
  • $800,000 is meant to improve response to crashes and other incidents along the I-66 corridor.
Unlike most of the other express lanes in Virginia that were built and are operated by public-private partnerships, the 66 Express Lanes were built and are operated by VDOT.

===========================================================================================================

Performance and tolls paid

Those $40 tolls do not occur often, although they peaked at $47.00 on April 5 after a D.C. Metro failure sent commuters into their cars for the morning trip to Washington, showing the close relationship between transit, roads, and dynamic tolling, particularly when tolls are uncapped.

In a separate article also published May 1 by WTOP, Smith reports on the performance of the express lanes in terms of speeds and tolls paid for the month of March.

"The average toll paid for an individual trip eastbound in the morning dipped from $8.71 in February to $8.19 in March, and westbound in the afternoon from $4.51 to $4.46," reports Smith. "Those averages include shorter trips that are charged a fraction of the posted price for a trip on the entire corridor."

Morning commutes on I-66 itself are somewhat faster now than a year ago except between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., when trip times are largely unchanged. 

A year ago, the lanes operated as high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. On Dec. 4, 2017, solo-occupant vehicles gained access to them legally provided they had an E-ZPass transponder so they could be tolled for distance driven. During non-commute hours, the lanes operate as general purpose lanes.

For one of those full trips in the morning, 674 drivers paid $40 or more in March.

Since tolling began Dec. 4, the average morning price paid is now $7.99, and the average afternoon price paid is $4.32. Those numbers have been rising somewhat each month following lower usage in the early months of the tolls and expanded HOV hours.

The percentage of carpoolers is significant. There were about equal numbers of carpoolers and solo-occupant, toll-paying drivers using the express lanes, with almost 13 percent of vehicles lacking E-ZPass transponders who are billed in the mail and charged penalties.

Morning commutes on I-66 itself are somewhat faster now than a year ago except between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., when trip times are largely unchanged. 

Hat tip to IBTTA Smart Brief.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 in WTOP

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Rendering of wildlife crossing over 101 freeway in Los Angeles County.

World's Largest Wildlife Overpass In the Works in Los Angeles County

Caltrans will soon close half of the 101 Freeway in order to continue construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing near Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County.

April 15, 2024 - LAist

Workers putting down asphalt on road.

U.S. Supreme Court: California's Impact Fees May Violate Takings Clause

A California property owner took El Dorado County to state court after paying a traffic impact fee he felt was exorbitant. He lost in trial court, appellate court, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Then the U.S. Supreme Court acted.

April 18, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Wind turbines and solar panels against a backdrop of mountains in the Mojave Desert near Palm Springs, California

California Grid Runs on 100% Renewable Energy for Over 9 Hours

The state’s energy grid was entirely powered by clean energy for some portion of the day on 37 out of the last 45 days.

1 hour ago - Fast Company

Close-up of hand holding up wooden thermometer in front of blurred street

New Forecasting Tool Aims to Reduce Heat-Related Deaths

Two federal agencies launched a new, easy-to-use, color-coded heat warning system that combines meteorological and medical risk factors.

2 hours ago - Associated Press via Portland Press Herald

View of Dallas city skyline with moderately busy freeway in foreground at twilight.

AI Traffic Management Comes to Dallas-Fort Worth

Several Texas cities are using an AI-powered platform called NoTraffic to help manage traffic signals to increase safety and improve traffic flow.

3 hours ago - Dallas Morning News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.