Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Help Me Howard: Express Lane
The Express Lane on I-95 is certainly a success. Traffic moves faster, the fees charged to use the Express Lane have made the state over $24 million, but one complaint sometimes the tolls soar $4 $5 even $7 and the traffic slows, leading one many to ask If I pay a high toll and the Express barely moves, can I get my money back? Here is Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Anthony lives in Miami and goes to college at Nova Southeastern so he spends part of his day on I-95.
Anthony Garcia: "Originally I was taking the regular lanes and that was taking me a good hour and half to two hours to get to Nova. So I decided, let me start paying for the convenience of using the Express Lane."
Three or four times a week Anthony used the northbound lane during rush hour to get to school. Normally it cost less than $3. He was happy then...
Anthony Garcia: "Then I received a $5 toll it was clearly marked $5, and we were stuck in really bad traffic when the lanes the regular lanes that weren't paying anything were just driving by us."
Two days later, a similar problem and this time Anthony pulled out his phone and taped the interstate ride.
Anthony Garcia: "That's the regular lane moving faster than the express lane. Here we are we paid $7 and we are moving this slow and they are riding for free. Look at them moving along."
The people riding in the free lane were passing by. The Express Lane was $7 and traffic was moving like a turtle. By that time Anthony was stuck it was too late to do anything about it.
Anthony Garcia: "At the on ramp it shows you what the toll is and its empty so you decide to get in and you don't find out you are in traffic or that there is traffic till you are there, and they already billed you the $7."
Anthony doesn't mind paying the toll, but to this graduate student Express Lanes seems to indicate you will go faster than the free lane, not $7 to go slower.
Anthony Garcia: "Its like going to a store and paying $7 for a service that you didn't get it and they still charge you."
Well Howard, if you pay $5 $6 or $7 to be in the Express Lane and traffic is barely moving legally are you getting your moneys worth?
Howard Finkelstein: "No you not are getting your monies worth at $5 $6 $7, but legally you aren't entitled to get your money back because the state does not guarantee the ride will be faster. In almost every case, the Express Lane is better but on those rare days when its not the law does not require a refund."
Alicia Torrez, Florida Department of Transportation: "Usually, if it reaches $7 its during extreme circumstances."
We then went over to the Florida Department of Transportation's command center where technicians monitor the state roads and the Express Lane 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
Alicia Torrez: "And we have seen it has increased the travel speed both on the Express Lane and on the general purpose lanes."
In fact, since the Express Lanes were installed the average speed in the free lanes during rush hour has doubled from 20 to 41 miles per hour, and in the Express Lane from 20 to 56 miles per hour.
Alicia Torrez: "The toll amount go up based on the change in the level of demand on the Express Lanes only."
In other words, a higher price in the Express Lane does not mean those lanes will be faster. Instead the price goes up, to deter people from getting in the fast lane.
Alicia Torrez: "$7 does mean we have reached capacity and the speeds have diminished."
Anthony is a college student on a tight budget. He is just going to avoid the Express Lane completely.
Anthony Garcia: "$7 was the cap for me. I am not driving on the Express Lane anymore. I have to find a different route to school."
Patrick Fraser: "So the bottom line if you see the toll in the Express Lane go over $4, its crowded. Get in the free lane for free. And by the way, you can look at all the cameras the Transportation team monitors all the time."
Troubles taking a toll on you? Wanna express the need for success? Contact us, we will speed in to help you and even when we're crowded its free."
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