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Bay Area toll evaders: Officials plan pilot program to crack down on express lane cheaters

There is a growing debate over the toll lanes on Highway 101 in San Mateo County. Not only their effectiveness, but also their fairness.

They are touted as a way to reduce traffic and encourage carpooling. But a driver can also buy their way in or if they are brave enough, cheat.

“I think it’s not good because all the traffic goes in the right lanes and nobody wants to pay the fees,” said driver Roberto Moncrieff.

Transportation leaders said the express lanes are doing rather well, both as traffic reducers and revenue generators.

“We just passed our first year of full operations and they are meeting the revenue targets that we assumed and we’re also maintaining a speed of over 45 miles per hour in the express lanes. That is one of the other measures of success,” said Peter Skinner, executive officer of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.

Skinner is also part the Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority, which operates the express lanes on Highway 101 in San Mateo County.

NBC Bay Area also asked Skinner about the other big frustration some drivers have with the toll lanes, the toll evaders using the lanes when they shouldn’t.

“I see the express lanes as being successful because we do have the vast majority of drivers, who are paying a toll declaring their occupancy correctly,” he said. “But we know there are bad actors out there who are declaring that they have three people in the car just to get a free ride.”

Skinner points out it’s an issue on express lanes and carpool lanes around the Bay Area. He added that right now, they rely on the California Highway Patrol to keep drivers honest. But he said that another tool could be coming soon.

“So, the CHP is the only way we have to really determine if people are being honest and actually having multiple individuals in their vehicle,” Skinner said. “I will say that the MTC or the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is conducting a pilot program with an app that helps determine the occupancy of a vehicle. We are very eager to see if that pilot is successful.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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