495 Express Lanes usage increasing
An increasing number of drivers on the Capital Beltway are using the new 495 Express Lanes as the region’s drivers become more familiar with the dynamic toll lanes.
Traffic on the express lanes grew 13 percent to 21,008 average daily trips during the quarter ending in March, compared with the quarter that ended in December. Transurban, the company operating the lanes, reported that the lanes averaged 26,294 daily trips on weekdays.
Toll revenue grew at a faster rate. Daily revenue increased 49 percent from an average of $18,408 during the quarter that ended in December, to an average of $27,499 per day during the most recent quarter. In addition, revenue grew throughout the quarter, with a daily average of $25,437 the first week of January and an average of $36,112 during the week before Easter.
“It’s a result of the demand for faster trips during the peak commuting times on 495,” said Mike McGurk, a spokesman for Transurban.
The 495 Express Lanes added four dynamic toll lanes to 14 miles of the Capital Beltway in Virginia. Prices to use the toll lanes increase along with congestion.
The average dynamic toll increased 33 percent from $1.07 in the December quarter to $1.43 for the March quarter. The maximum dynamic toll that was charged during the quarter was $6.35, compared with a maximum of $3.70 in the December quarter.
McGurk said it is too early to draw conclusions about the traffic and revenue data. The company is focusing on educating drivers in the region on how to use the lanes and encouraging them to get an EZPass, which is used to charge customers for using the lanes.
To that end, the company opened up the Express Lanes last weekend, allowing drivers to use them for free. The company saw an increase of four to five times the normal use on weekends, according to McGurk.
“We’re a company with a new product, and that’s the faster trip on 495,” McGurk said. “We wanted to open it up fror more people to try it out. The easiest way to do that was to lift and waive the tolls.”