Sunday, May 5, 2013

FasTrak To Nowhere

Several years ago, it might be longer so forgive a senior for forgetting the exact time, the citizens of Los Angeles County voted for a 1/2% sales tax increase to improve the freeways and expand our fledgling Metro system. (I won't complain about Metro here but I have plenty to say.) I'm sure its no surprise to anyone that Los Angeles has one of the most congested freeway and highway networks in the world. So we were all ready to pony up and did!

Of course, one of the first things to happen was for Metro to build a huge new palace for itself near Union Station so all could see where our tax dollars went. Its an ugly yellow colored tower that looms over station and train tracks alike and seems to mimic a middle finger pointed at all the citizens of Los Angeles. Now what that had to do with improving the highways is anyones guess.

Los Angeles may have had too many cars and too few lanes, even carpool lanes, BUT they were free. However, those days are now over. Part of this new sales tax that we passed to improve our freeways, that was the intent, has been instead to turn all of the carpool lanes into tollways. So, not only were the carpool lanes used for another purpose, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars finding a way to tax us even more. So now, you pay 1/2% sales tax on every taxable item AND get to pay for the privilege of using the carpool lanes that we paid for.

FasTrak Transponder
To even get in the carpool lane now, you need a FasTrack transponder. This gizmo is to be placed in your car at all times and switched to the appropriate setting whenever you enter the carpool lane. Of course you need to be sure you have money in the card, another way to get just a few more cents out of you as they sit on your money, as it deducts on the fly so to speak.

Of course you have to wonder, who is going to be willing to pay for a single rider, and the costs, at least on the 10 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley are usurious, when you can simply switch the card to 2 riders and not have to pay a thing? They may have a way to find some of the cheaters so I can see a run on authentic looking blow up dolls along the line of "Lars and the Real Girl."

I was told recently that even getting in the Diamond Lane on freeway ramps without this transponder gets you a ticket. The person had a car full of people and figured it was ok to use. Its not like the ramp gets you to the carpool lane, you still have to fight your way over for that usually missing an entrance or two along the way. It looks like all of us will soon be wired into the freeway system making our movements trackable. Kinda like cell phones or chips we put in our pets. Angelenos won't need chips, we will have our FasTrak transponders!

This is not what we wanted yet we definitely needed upgrades to our freeways. There isn't a freeway or street around where I live that isn't torn up, some stretching into years. We agreed and voted for that. We did NOT vote for paying carpool lanes. The other complaint is that often, the carpool lanes, the ones you have to pay for, are no faster and sometimes slower than the "free" lanes. We should get our money back. If they can't design a way to actually move you around, they don't deserve our money.

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