Transurban: Express Lanes price depends on traffic

Ari Ashe,

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Less than three months since the Beltway Express Lanes opened in Fairfax County, listeners are telling WTOP that prices seem to be going up, even outside of rush hour.

One caller tells WTOP he rides the Express Lanes from end to end weekday mornings at 5 a.m., but notes that prices have jumped from $1.80 to $2.10 since November.

He wants to know why.

“What this customer is probably seeing is two things at play,” says Pierce Coffee, a spokeswoman for Transurban, which operates the Express Lanes. “One is increasing traffic on the lanes. The other is that our system is gathering information of how people are reacting to prices, how much traffic is on the lanes, and then it’s going to set a price so customers get value for the trip.”

The tolls are dynamic, meaning prices go up and down about every 15 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.

However, the same listener tells us the price increases come without a noticeable increase in traffic during his commute.

“You’ll probably start to settle into a more regular price when we’ve been open longer. Day to day, you won’t see a lot of shifts in off-peak hours once we’ve normalized,” says Coffee.

Prices will begin to normalize with time.

“Six months after we’ve been open, it’ll be a little more steady,” she says. “Two years after we’ve been open, it’ll be a little more steady.”

Before the lanes opened, Transurban estimated that tolls during rush hour would be between $3 and $6.

Car pools with three or more people are exempt from the toll with an E-ZPass Flex, although only 7 percent of trips fall into this category.

According to a report released in mid-January, an average of 23,308 workday users have driven on the lanes.

“While the initial numbers are below expectations we believe that it will take a minimum of six months of operations to establish any reliable trends,” says Coffee.

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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