- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The governing board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Thursday to make 25 miles of formerly free carpool lanes near downtown permanent toll lanes.

Metro’s governing board voted 11-0 to extend a “demonstration” project under which drivers need a FasTrak transponder to use carpool lanes on portions of Interstates 10 and 110.

The vote was largely symbolic - the state Legislature would need to authorize the extension of the “high occupancy toll” lanes past January, when the demonstration project expires. A bill to do that is pending in Sacramento.

Metro officials said letting solo drivers pay to use carpool lanes eases congestion. Toll prices are set according to how congested the freeway is. Light traffic means tolls as low as $0.25 per mile; the maximum is $1.40 per mile.

To date, transponder-carrying vehicles with two or more people rode for free.

In a separate vote Thursday, however, the board decided to charge FasTrak users a $1 fee each month. A Metro spokesman said subscribers likely will start to see that charge in June.

Lanes were first converted in November 2012. A report studying the project said that “more than $18 million in net toll revenues were generated, exceeding the initial forecast of $8 million to $10 million. This indicator of sustainability ensures that the toll operation does not require an ongoing public subsidy.”

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