Tell me what hours the express lanes are in effect?
The express lanes will operate from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. Unlike the former HOV lanes, express-lane rules cover most of the day, not just commute hours.
So can electric vehicles still use the express lanes for free?
Nope. Customers driving clean-air vehicles, such as cars that run on fuel cells, battery or plug-in hybrids that have a valid clean-air vehicle decal from the Department of Motor Vehicles, will qualify for a 50% discount on tolls. But you'll need to have a FasTrak CAV toll tag in your car to get that discount or you'll be penalized.
How many people have to be in my car for me to use the express lanes for free?
Three or more, unless you ride a motorcycle, in which case you can use the lanes without paying a toll. But again, you've got to have a FasTrak Flex tag on you, otherwise the overhead cameras will photograph your license plate and send you a bill, which will be the toll plus a penalty fee. Before you start your car, make sure your?FasTrak Flex?tag?button is set to position "3+."
And what about a two-person carpool? Can I use an express lane?
Yes, you will qualify for a 50% discount on tolls. But you'll need to have a FasTrak Flex toll tag in your car to get that discount or you'll be penalized. Before you start driving, make sure your?FasTrak Flex tag is set to position "2."
I drive a vehicle with a disabled tag issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Can I use the express lane for free?
No, sorry. You'll be charged the full toll.
OK, so anyone can use the express lane, but most will have to pay. How much does it cost to take an express lane?
That depends on how far you're going. The toll could be 30 cents or several dollars. You'll see the toll for traveling through a zone listed on the overhead electronic sign when you hop into an express lane. For example, if you get into the express lane at Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto going south to Route 85, you will pay one price, and if you continue on Highway 101 to Route 237, you'll pay more. Both toll prices will be listed on the electronic sign at Oregon Expressway.
In addition, toll prices change based on how much traffic is on the road, so you might be charged more to take the express lane from Oregon Expressway to Route 85 on Monday at 8:30 a.m. than you are on Monday at 2 p.m.
What if I'm driving in an express lane, and because of traffic congestion, the toll changes?
If the toll amount changes while you are in the lane, you pay the toll posted when you first entered.
How are the tolls charged?
An overhead antenna will read FasTrak transponders in vehicles and the correct toll will be automatically deducted from prepaid FasTrak accounts.
What happens if too many cars get into the express lanes and the traffic slows way down?
When a lane gets too crowded and cars are traveling slower than 45 mph, the electronic signs will replace the toll price with the words "HOV ONLY." This indicates the lane cannot take any more toll-paying vehicles. Only carpools and other toll-free eligible vehicles are allowed to enter the lane when the signs say "HOV ONLY." If you're already in the lane when this happens, you can stay in the lane.
What happens if an accident in the right-hand lanes forces everyone into the express lanes? Are we all going to get charged?
The California Highway Patrol, while clearing an accident, could turn off the toll and carpool requirements in express lanes. CHP will take over and have complete control over the system in the event of an accident. The lane will be opened to various vehicles at their discretion.
How are penalties assessed if I'm in an express lane without a FasTrak tag?
A violation-enforcement system camera will capture a license plate image if a vehicle is in an express lane without a FasTrak tag. FasTrak will send the registered vehicle owner a violation notice for the toll amount and a $25 penalty. If you fail to pay that promptly, then the penalty goes up to $70.
What about the $491 penalty for driving solo in a carpool lane — is that still being enforced?
Yes. If a California Highway Patrol officer sees you driving solo in an express lane but your FasTrak tag is set for two or more people, you will be pulled over and cited for the carpool violation, which is $491. Your FasTrak setting will be scanned and shown on electronic panels on the highway.
I don't get this whole FasTrak tag thing. Which FasTrak tag do I need? How do I get one?
Go to the FasTrak website at 511.org/driving/express-lanes/fastrak for information, including how to order a tag.
Which segments on Highway 101 still have non-toll carpool (HOV) lanes?
South of Route 237 in Mountain View and north of Whipple Avenue in Redwood City.
I'm still confused. Who can answer my questions?
For an overview of the Bay Area Express Lanes project and how to use express lanes, you can watch Caltrans' explanatory video at bit.ly/3oWC8jf.
For more information about how express lanes work, go to the 511.org website at 511.org/driving/express-lanes.
For more information about the VTA Express Lanes Project, you can go to Silicon Valley Express Lanes website at vta.org/programs/silicon-valley-express-lanes or contact VTA's Community Outreach Department at 408-321-7575 or (TTY) for the hearing-impaired at 408-321-2330 or at [email protected]
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