With the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles likely to remain closed for the next several weeks, forcing drivers to find alternate routes to their destinations, it’s not just adding extra time to their commute, in some cases, it’s also costing more money for drivers whose alternatives include pricey toll roads.  

After the massive Nov. 11 fire damaged the freeway, prompting an emergency declaration from Gov. Gavin Newsom, city leaders have been scrambling to provide relief to the hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who use the 10 Freeway downtown daily.  

For those willing to pay for the privilege and typically a shorter commute time, transportation officials offer express lanes or the FasTrak system

During this state of emergency, many drivers said they’re wondering why the lanes have not been opened to everyone and why the prices aren’t being reduced.  

The FasTrak pass comes in the form of a little box or transponder that sends or receives signals.

Metro’s Flex transponder, unlike the standard transponder offered by other tolling agencies in California, allows customers the option of using express toll lanes when prices are lower. Drivers using standard transponders must pay the posted rate if they want to use the express lanes.

“So, when it’s free flow traffic, the prices are very low. Once we start to get congestion built up and the lanes start to slow down, the prices go up,” Mark Linsemayer, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said of Metro’s Flex FasTrak.

10 Freeway shut down in downtown L.A. due to massive fire
The aftermath of a large fire that destroyed part of the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles on Nov. 11, 2023.

The strategy with the Metro’s Flex is that more drivers will avoid the express lanes when traffic is heavier, and prices are higher. They say the system is working.  

A taxi driver who did not want to appear on camera told KTLA’s Chris Wolfe that he uses FasTrak on a regular basis, but since the price has been climbing dramatically because of the I-10 closure, he’s been steering clear of express toll lanes. He added that he’s seen FasTrak rates hit $2 a mile recently, saying that’s the highest price he can remember.  

Other drivers said they just want a break.  

“Just bring it down a little, like they did to gas so we can all afford it,” L.A. commuter Wood Mathews said.  

According to reports, officials in Atlanta suspended express lane fees and eased restrictions on highways during a similar bridge disaster in 2017.  

Asked if there have been talks about doing something similar in Los Angeles in response to the fire and freeway closure, Linsemayer said there have been.  

“There has certainly been discussion about that,” he said. “We talk about all the alternatives, all the options for things like this. For the express lanes, one of our primary conditions and primary responsibilities is to continue to use these lanes for high-occupancy vehicles.”  

Metro added that the continued priority is moving buses and carpoolers through those express lanes.