495 Express Lanes: One-year review shows customer use fell short of projections

Sarah Beth Hensley, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – With the 495 Express Lanes’ one-year anniversary in the dust, more information is being released about who uses the roadway and what drivers are paying — however, the numbers show there are still fewer vehicles on the road than first anticipated.

Although the Express Lanes have served more than 1 million unique customers from all 50 states, there were still fewer vehicles in the lanes than projected before the opening in November 2012, according to information released by Transurban, which operates the lanes.

There were 41,327 average workday trips for the month of December — excluding the Christmas and New Year’s vacation weeks. December’s numbers were a 4 percent increase from the month of September.

Below is a look at the usage numbers the last several quarters:

Total Toll Revenue ($USD’000) $2,475 $4,029 $4,760 $5,913
Average Daily Trips 21,008 28,905 30,518 30,417
Average Workday Trips 26,294 34,974 37,574 37,969

Initial projections for the lanes said that more than 66,000 trips would be made each weekday within the first year.

The closest the 495 Express Lanes came to the target trips was on Sept. 12, 2013, when the lanes achieved a record 47,303 trips for the day.

The tolls, which saw increases through the year, averaged $2.32. The tolls ranged from 25 cents to $9.75, according to Transurban.

Below are some of the other facts gathered about the 495 Express Lanes in its first year:

  • Sixty-eight percent of people said they used the 495 Express Lanes to reach a destination on time.
  • More women use the Express Lanes. Fifty-eight percent of the customers are female.
  • Sixty percent of customers are younger than 45.
  • A majority of customers, 59 percent, are from Virginia. Twenty-nine percent are from Maryland and 12 percent are from D.C.
  • Of Express Lane drivers, 17 percent drive a Toyota, 15 percent drive a Honda, 8 percent drive a Ford and 5 percent drive a Nissan.
  • Eight in 10 customers say they plan to use the Express Lanes again.
  • Ninety percent of users say they prefer the 495 Express Lanes because there were fewer slow-downs.

495 Express Lanes Spokesperson Mike McGurk says with a year of use behind the roadway, the aim is to spread the word about how the lanes can help improve commutes.

“Going into 2014, [we want to] continue to educate drivers about those basics: how the road works, get an E-Z Pass, plan your trip, so you can take advantage of the 495 Express Lanes,” McGurk says.

WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report. Follow @WTOPTraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

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