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Toll collection for U.S. Highway 101 express lanes in San Mateo County to start at year's end

Original post made on Jun 21, 2021

Drivers will need a FasTrak toll tag to use the new U.S. Highway 101 express lanes set to open in San Mateo County at the end of this year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 17, 2021, 12:16 PM

Comments (29)

Posted by tom kearns
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 21, 2021 at 10:42 am

tom kearns is a registered user.

So, a lane for the rich?

Posted by Andrew Boone
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2021 at 11:02 am

Andrew Boone is a registered user.

Widening Highway 101 from 8 to 10 lanes with new toll lanes in San Mateo County will only make car traffic congestion worse, not better. Every single highway expansion that has ever been constructed in the Bay Area (and almost everywhere in the world except places with drastic population declines such as Detroit) has had the same result - more car traffic and more car traffic congestion. The reason is induced demand - if you build more highway lanes, more people will drive on the highway and more often - thus negating the small increase in traffic capacity the new lanes provide. This has been understood by transportation experts for nearly 100 years, ever since the first highways were constructed in New York by Robert Moses.

Watch and see how Charles Stone and Dave Pine have wasted $600 million of our taxpayer dollars with these new Lexus Lanes. That’s a lot of public money that could have been invested in transit improvements and safety fixes to enable more people to walk and bike. For that much money we could’ve built level boarding platforms at every Caltrain station, doubled SamTrans bus service, and more. Instead it was wasted on generating more car traffic, more air pollution, more car crashes, and more serious injuries and deaths. This was the most incompetent transportation decision made in San Mateo County in over a decade. Remember that when these career politicians run for higher office where they would do even more damage if elected.

Posted by Cherjo
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2021 at 1:22 pm

Cherjo is a registered user.

When the new lanes were proposed I believed they were to benefit all of our taxpayers. This is shameful. Tom has labeled them appropriately, “Lanes for the Rich”. Is this done in Los Angeles as well? I guess the other lanes will now be “Lanes for the Idlers” packed with bumper to bumper inching cars waiting for their turn to get onto the San Mateo Bridge.

Posted by Byron Whitaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 21, 2021 at 2:26 pm

Byron Whitaker is a registered user.

If one is willing to pay more for expanded services and access, they
are entitled to reap the benefits.

It's called pay to play and the make of the vehicle is immaterial.

Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2021 at 3:50 pm

Steve Dabrowski is a registered user.

Well my solution continues to be get a proposition passed for most every outrage that is brought to us by our legislature. ABAG quotas, pack your community with dense ugly housing, and now the one percent lanes. I would love to see the voters pass a proposition that eliminates all toll lanes on taxpayer paid for roads and highways (and bridges). I would love to see these legislators have to eat the cost of all this and have it reversed.

But it will persist just as high speed rail is coming back into play. Unfortunately high speed rail is a clear illustration of what bad can come of the proposition effort. Prop 13 was the best example of the power of a proposition to do good for a great many people and put the outrageous behavior of the legislature where it belonged.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2021 at 9:37 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

This is definitely a situation where I would question the motivation of this toll lane?

Is the motive to encourage more carpooling or to raise revenue?

When carpool, diamond lanes, were first implemented it was to encourage carpools. They were called carpool lanes. They were designed to give an advantage to those who carpooled and a disadvantage to those who drove solo. The diamond carpool lanes moved faster due to less volume and that was the incentive to carpool so that a car with 2 or more people would reach the destination exit faster than by a car with solo occupant.

Now they are called toll lanes. A toll lane charges any vehicle to use it although any vehicle with more occupants can be excused the fee. The only vehicles able to use a toll lane must have fastrak whether it is a solo vehicle or a carpool. Presumably the theory is still that traffic will move faster than the clogged regular lanes. Therefore anyone in a particular hurry to catch a plane, get to an important meeting or perhaps have a woman in labor, can pay to use the toll lane and arrive at the destination exit faster than the other lanes.

Therefore the toll lane will be a source of revenue charging those in a hurry. It will also require carpool vehicles to obtain fastrak with a credit that will sit idle if not used to pay tolls. For some vehicles who rarely cross a bridge and perhaps usually have a couple of children in the car, the credit will be idle for quite a while.

So once again, I ask is this toll lane to encourage carpools or to raise revenue?

I can't see that it will help to move traffic more efficiently!

Posted by Phil Carmody
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2021 at 8:37 am

Phil Carmody is a registered user.

"I ask is this toll lane to encourage carpools or to raise revenue?"

To raise infrastructure revenue and to accommodate the exigencies of those who do not want to get bogged down in regular freeway traffic.

Carpooling is not a major consideration. If there are two or more riders (including the driver), so be it and don't kid yourselves...there will be more single and moronic Tesla drivers on autopilot in these new lanes as well.

A toll lane will be great for motorcyclists as well because enjoying the open road is what motorcycling is all about.

The countless drivers in their mundane SUVs and Priuses can use the regular lanes.

Personally speaking, I'm looking forward to this new development as paying a bit more will allow me to enjoy driving my Corvette (top down) even moreso along the highway.

Posted by Suemah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2021 at 10:24 am

Suemah is a registered user.

No info anywhere regarding amount of proposed tolls so people could make informed feedback on this questionable plan!

Posted by D Lawrence
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2021 at 10:53 am

D Lawrence is a registered user.

Has anyone considered the impact on neighboring side streets? Whenever the traffic is heavy on 101, Waze channels cars onto the side streets. Our once quiet neighborhood street has become a busy cut through.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2021 at 10:57 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Has anyone considered the impact on neighboring side streets?"

Most residents. But such considerations have long been ignored.

Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 23, 2021 at 11:34 am

Andy is a registered user.

Like most things in the Bay Area, freeway capacity was not designed for the 21st century so expanding lanes is positive.

Carpool lanes are useless but IF there is going to be any special lane, a toll lane that allows solo drivers makes some sense.

The better solution is to not have any special lanes and make sure freeways can accommodate the traffic for the region.

On a sidenote, the implosion of SF from public safety to remote work means less people need to drive to and from SF.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 23, 2021 at 12:22 pm

Steve is a registered user.

I may be in the minority but I think at least half the lanes on 101 should be toll lanes, and the toll should go up with congestion. That's the only way people will seek alternatives to driving, which we desperately need to address climate change.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

The problem with the use of highways is that for most people there is no alternative method to get them to their place of work. We have no public transportation to the coast, very little that crosses the Bay and too many different agencies that either compete or do not coordinate with each other. The first and last mile of Caltrain is a prime example. Another is the inability to easily get to the airports. Most bus routes are not designed to be efficient alternatives for busy commuters, but instead offer slow routes that are indirect, take far too long and cost far too much.

It is about time that the Bay Area had a transportation Czar that could oversee the various agencies and provide efficient alternatives to driving.

When we see Google buses and various other company buses doing a good job of getting their far flung employees to their large campuses we can see that there are possibilities that are just not available to the general public. Some enterprising start up should be looking at these for innovative ways of moving bus loads of commuters on comfortable buses where they can work, sleep or surf the internet without clogging up the highways. Designated parking lots at offramps with efficient bus service up and down 101, 280 and shuttle service to office areas and downtowns. Taxing the perk of free parking at office complexes could be one means of paying for efficient commuter services.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2021 at 1:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Bystander, "oh details" as I often snark when people bring up common sense points and fact like there's no public transit. Those preaching car-light fairy tales routinely ignore those little details while they spouting their helpful hints like take public transit, take the train to places Portola Valley (which of course doesn't have trains)...

Similarly those preaching the wonders of Ecars and our paying Tesla to install chargers in PA garages rarely note what happens to them during power outages and/our how they contribute to same by further taxing the power grid.

Similarly they ignore other little details like building millions of sq feet of offices increases the number of commuters which increases congestion etc etc.

Lather rinse repeat

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2021 at 8:42 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

When this plan was first introduced, several people were concerned that this was more yet another attempt to fleece local residents. Some of us called it a "toll" -- for which we were strongly mocked for seeing it as such. Now, it is called a "toll" in the headline of the article.

This toll hits lower income families more than others too -- since the "toll" is blind to economic status. If you're late for your minimum wage job, you'll either have to pay the toll to avoid traffic or sit in traffic with all of the other peons.

The wealthy? They don't care. It's all an expense paid by their disposable income. They happily plop a few dollars each and every drive their fancy vehicle and avoid sitting behind the ones who struggle to make ends meet (especially in these current economic times where inflation is hurting many families).

This wasn't a problem that necessitated a (money grabbing) "solution."

Those who pretend that this is about "the climate" are simply telling themselves something to make the pain not hurt quite so much. The amount of emissions that will result from INCREASED traffic jams will offset any "saved" by the pipe dream of "fewer cars on the highways."

This was -- and always will be -- a money grab.

Posted by We Told You So!
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 25, 2021 at 10:57 am

We Told You So! is a registered user.

Always something for the Super Rich!

All this is going to do is to allow those that have the FUNDS to Zoom pass others in the CHEAP SEATS! Why don't they go ahead and Construct that 20yr old thought of a Highway extension off the "Dumbarton Bridge" off shoot to l01 around East Palo Alto. Instead of allowing "Cut Through Traffic" to pile up?

All I hear is from people that care about the little Frog and Mice that live out there and NOT the People of EPA that have to Suffer from Traffic! Everyone knows that the little Mice will return. They Did after they improved the CREEK OVERFLOWING INTO AFFLUENT PALO ALTO! This is just plain SELFISHNESS!

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2021 at 11:07 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

For all of the commuters to Sunnyvale, MV, MP, and RWC ECR is the road of choice. I take ECR to avoid the 101 crowds and their convoluted race way mentality. Time to tune up ECR for all of the projections that have been offered in the past. Put a transportation center at ECR and Embarcdero on the SU side so that the big busses and smaller commuter busses have a place to wait and board. Cut into the current sidewalk so that all lanes are available for commuters. A similiar set of cut in parking for busses can be put on the PAHS side of ECR. That can bring all people to PAHS and T&C, as well as PAHS & SU events via public transit. WE are paying taxes for this and it never happens. TIme to make public transit a real goal for ECR to move people up and down the peninsula. People can stay at hotels and go to events without having a car and worrying about parking at events.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

"People without a FasTrak toll tag could face fines or penalties that include the cost of the toll and an additional fee in some cases."

So you won't just have to pay to drive on parts of the "free"way, you will be fined if you don't have the right technology.

This is shameful. How is it legal?

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2021 at 4:13 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

If you got the money, honey
You got a lane

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 28, 2021 at 11:31 am

Rose is a registered user.

I agree with Andrew Boone's comments in the second comment in this chain. This money should have been spent on improving public transportation systems and safe biking. We all need to get out of our cars if we want to save ourselves and our planet from air pollution, forest fires, droughts, hurricanes and global warming's myriad negative impacts. More cars, including electric, only reduce air pollution. They don't reduce traffic and accidents and wasted time driving.

Wake Up -- Get Out of Your Cars!

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2021 at 1:00 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

This is very regressive. Lanes for the rich is correct.

I don't often find myself agreeing with Andrew Boone, but in this case, I think he's right. The money would have been much better spent elsewhere.

Many states charge for every use of a highway which spreads the burden across all people--instead giving special privilege to the rich who tend to drive more for pleasure anyway. Highways are extremely expensive to maintain. Why do we charge people for riding buses and trains and not charge drivers for at least some of the public cost of driving and parking which includes:
1). Construction and maintenance of massive road system and parking infrastructure. The wear and tear of cars on streets is incredibly expensive, constant, and not very visible to the public.
2). Metal and fluids run-off into water and soil systems
3). Greenhouse gas emissions
4). Enormous safety impacts of cars--among the leading causes of death and injury in the US.

All of us who drive should be helping to defray those costs.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2021 at 3:24 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Consider Your Options - Please cite to me a source that the state had a budget deficit when it came to roads. Moreover, we would need to see the budget itself -- that the money is spent on ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE and not other "related" expenditures.

The roads ARE paid for. The upkeep of them is being paid for. California has a SPENDING problem rather than a FUNDING problem.

If the state wants to charge drivers by the mile (as many politicians and activists suggest), then we should get a refund on all of the other money already paid by taxpayers to cover those things.

The problem is that politicians allege that there is some sort of budget hole for roads. If that were truly the case, then the state should find a way to fund it. The problem with California is that it has a very strange "pot luck" version of taxation -- with few requirements to spend money on what it is initially designated for.

For instance, the more recent gasoline tax increases pushed by our state politicians were sold as being used for climate change initiatives. The problem? There was no definition of what that actually entails -- and no requirement that it be spent on that in the first place.

This state is already OVERTAXED. This is just more fleecing of the residents (including the poor) to add money to the politicians' coffers.

Texas has some of the best roads in the nation -- and they have vastly more roads than California. Texas has 683,533 miles of road lanes compared with 396,540 miles of road lanes in California. Yet, the citizens of California (larger in population) are taxed more per capita for roads than Texas.

Unfortunately (no matter the state), these types of schemes are EASY MONEY for politicians. It's too tempting to pass up. Sadly, they aren't a solution to traffic, climate issues or even long-term revenue. It's just a fleecing of society by politicians.

Posted by Local
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 3, 2021 at 9:06 pm

Local is a registered user.

Great idea - should have done this long ago. Will reduce congestion and raise money for transportation. The london congestion charging was a huge success and this will be too

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Local - This will NOT reduce congestion. It wasn't even designed to truly reduce congestion. In fact, it will likely make congestion worse (once we are back to the pre-COVID-19 normalcy).


It actually REMOVES a currently very helpful HOV carpool lane and converts it into little more than a MONEY lane. It allows people with extra money to pay money to use that lane. It forces a third wheel in the carpool lane.

It's a shame that this is being done in the Bay Area. It hurts drivers -- especially low-income drivers -- so that wealthier people can get to where they want to go a few minutes faster. The rest of us (including vehicles with two people in it) will be bottlenecked into the other lanes.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2021 at 7:58 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

This evening I was going up to the east Bayshore rd via San Antonio around 4PM. The traffic trying to access 101 at San Antonio going north was unbelievable. The entry is now metered. Now cars are back-up just to get on the ramp. The whole ramp and the entry were backed up. That is new. Metering lights. Something to think about for your commute. Trying to get to the airport? If you get trapped on the entry way then you are really trapped. Go ECR.

Posted by Emelie
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Emelie is a registered user.

This seems like seriously SUCH a RACKET!! Dont we ALREADY pay for these roads?! Shouldnt we be able to VOTE on something like this?! I mean bridge tolls were voted on. This seems not too different. I grew up in the Bay Area and have driven these roads all my life. The things that rattle through my head every day when i am driving these lanes and seeing all the construction around me is a few things. First this seems SOOOO obvious that this is some huge under the table pay off 4 big tech bus lanes. I mean when you look at a project like this, one has to look at who is benefiting. The commuter busses that have taken over the roads seem like a likely receiver of the massive benefits of free commuter google bus lanes.

I think about the small businesses that drive these roads every day and how much time and cost will be added to their day every day (my employer included!) and how much will this eat into their bottom line possible putting more small businesses out of business. From cab drivers to electricians everyone but busses and full car loads (from 2 to soon 3+ people to qualify) which if you look on the road, there are not a ton of these full full car loads.

I also look at how in places down in Palo Alto and possibly Menlo Park, public free flowing lanes drop to 2 and even possibly 1 lane in places. That is going to go real well when things are finally open from the pandemic!
It kinda feels like to me this is another example of some serious corruption going on behind the scenes with some big money exchanging hands. I would look at the new purchases of every elected member and what their profession is. City politicians do not make a huge salary from being a city employee. Look at whose driving new lux cars etc....
I like the idea above of them having this blow up in their faces and having to pay it back. How can we do that!?
at the very least I suggest you use your voice and vote every single one of these city reps out of office!!! TAKE BACK OUR CITY

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2021 at 4:57 am

Resident is a registered user.

As someone who used to frequently commute on 101 I support this decision. It should have happened much sooner.
The congestion on 101 has been untenable for years and the HOV lanes only made it worse. The HOV in general is a failed and outdated concept. People generally drive slower these days as they are constantly distracted by their phones. Its only logical that drivers going faster should switch lanes to the left and be able to pass. The left lane is a PASSING lane, its not a carpool lane. No one carpools enough to justify it. There's no study that proves HOV lanes ever "take cars off the road".
Instead, we have a dangerous situation where the far left lane moves at top speeds while the other lanes are a parking lot. Its particularly bad at the stretch on 101 between PA and Mountain View for some inexplicable reason we have 2 carpool lanes, which stuffs the majority of rush hour traffic into 3 lanes, forcing some drivers to make the a risky jump from a lane that is stuck in standstill to a fast-moving HOV lane.
Roads should be used to facilitate efficient traffic flow, not punish people because they drive cars.
The toll lanes were added in favor of efficiency.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2021 at 9:47 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Resident: What makes you believe that this will reduce traffic congestion? It doesn't. In fact, in many cases, it makes things much worse -- except for those willing to pay the toll (possibly up to $3 per mile at peak hours).

The rest of the Bay Area -- especially those who don't have extra money to burn -- will be left with even worse congestion.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2021 at 10:08 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

There are many articles that have staked the claim that high occupancy tolls alleviate congestion. However, if you read between the lines, the ONLY lane in which it actually alleviates traffic congestion is the HOV lane itself.

Even then, the lane's traffic is only alleviated during those hours with "varying tolls" -- meaning the period of time in which the toll is increased to effectively lower the number of people (by price) the people who use it.

This means that the HOV lanes in California -- paid for by taxpayer dollars -- will now effectively become a FAST LANE FOR THE WEALTHY. Everyone else will be bottlenecked into the other lanes. This becomes especially problematic during peak hours and in areas where a lane is removed and everyone becomes bottlenecked again.

Sadly, the media, government officials and politicians keep this quiet. It is another example of designing policy behind closed doors that will have NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES for most people and then work with the media to avoid reporting the truth about those consequences.

This is a cash grab by state politicians under the guise that this "reduces traffic" -- when they know very well that it only "reduces traffic" for those willing and able to pay daily rent for its usage. Unfortunately, many people are the same types of "Gruber" voters who think that our politicians tell the truth.

In conclusion, these tolls:
- Cause MORE traffic congestion in non-toll lanes.
- Are worse for the environment due to increased traffic congestion.
- Take funds that are not earmarked for roads themselves.
- Are a luxury for those willing and able to pay.

This is the fleecing of California residents at a time when our gas taxes are increased (to the highest in the nation), gas prices are high and traffic is currently low due to COVID corporate changes and its effect on normal weekday traffic.

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