Congestion Management Pricing
In 2003, OCTA adopted a toll policy for the 91 Express Lanes based on the concept of congestion management pricing. The policy is designed to optimize 91 Express Lanes traffic flow at free-flow speeds. To accomplish this, hourly traffic volumes are continually monitored. Toll adjustments are triggered through increases and decreases in traffic demand and may move up or down.
In accordance with congestion management principles, rates are raised when hourly traffic is consistently too heavy and there is a potential for traffic congestion. Times when traffic volumes consistently reach a trigger point where traffic flow can become unstable are known as “super peak” hours. Given the capacity constraints during these hours, pricing is used to manage demand. When traffic volume falls, tolls may also be adjusted downward to stimulate demand.
Once an hourly toll is adjusted, it is frozen for six months. This approach balances traffic engineering with good public policy. Other (non-super peak) toll prices are adjusted annually by inflation.
Recent customer surveys indicate that 91 Express Lanes users lead busy lives with many hours dedicated to commuting to and from their jobs and for recreational purposes, such as shopping and visiting friends and family. Customers emphasize they value a fast, safe, reliable commute and the toll policy strategy is designed to support this value.
The toll policy goals are to:
- Provide customers a safe, reliable, predictable commute
- Optimize throughput at free-flow speeds
- Increase average vehicle occupancy
- Balance capacity and demand, thereby serving both full-pay customers and carpoolers with three or more people who are offered discounted tolls
- Generate sufficient revenue to sustain the financial viability of the 91 Express Lanes
The effect of the toll policy has been an increase in customer usage with sufficient revenue to pay all expenses and also to provide seed funding for general freeway improvements. Revenues generated by the toll lanes stay on the SR-91 corridor – a significant departure from past practices. Under the previous owner’s agreement with Caltrans, a “non-compete” provision restricted adding more capacity to the SR-91 corridor until 2030. When OCTA purchased the lanes, it opened the door for new improvements on SR-91 by eliminating the non-compete provision.
As tolls change, OCTA notifies customers in advance via on-road variable message signs, website and e-mail updates. If you would like e-mail notification of future changes and your e-mail address is not on file with us, please contact the 91 Express Lanes Customer Service Center at 800.600.9191 or go to “My Account: Update Account Information” to submit your e-mail address. If you have any questions, please contact the 91 Express Lanes Customer Service Center.
Three Ride Free
On May 19, 2003, OCTA adopted the “Three Ride Free” policy. This innovative policy encourages carpooling by allowing a group of three or more commuters per vehicle to travel the 91 Express Lanes for free during most hours, except when traveling eastbound, Monday through Friday between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. At these times, carpools of three or more can still save money by earning a 50 percent discount on the posted toll.