(Not So) Good To Go -- I-405 HOV Toll Lane Mess; New System to Catch Cheaters [u]

UPDATE: Thank you to Jennifer Rash from WSDOT for sending us this clarification.

Hi Rob,

I want to clarify a few things about this statement (and a couple others):
1.       Drivers must have a Flex Pass, set to HOV mode and the right number of passengers to qualify as a carpool to use the express toll lanes for free.
2.       Customers who wish to pay the toll to use the lanes can use any Good To Go! pass available, and still pay the lowest possible toll rate.  All Good To Go! passes, including the Flex Pass in Toll Mode, are subject to the lowest possible toll rate. Pay by Plate customers are charged a 25 cent fee, while Pay by Mail customers pay an additional $2.00 on top of the toll.
3.       Without the Flex Pass in HOV mode, the system has no way of telling how many passengers are  in the vehicle. The system on 405 is different than any other in the state, which is why it required a new pass. With photo-tolling, drivers without a pass can use the lanes if they want to pay the toll.
4.       The Flex Pass does not “ping” state patrol. It signals to the system that the vehicle is an HOV. State Patrol is stationed nearby and does  a visual check to confirm occupants.
5.        We are swapping out Switchable Passes for free Flex Passes because we know a lot of carpoolers got them for the SR 167 HOT Lanes. For more information, please visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/freepass.htm
Please let me know if you can clarify these points on your blog. And thank you for helping us get the word out with the video!

Did you think dealing with the SR-520 bridge tolls were confusing? Well, just wait until the I-405 toll lanes system goes live. The new I-405 Express Toll Lanes include technology which will help State Patrol officers nab scofflaws who want to take the fast lane without the required number of passengers (2 or 3 people depending upon the time of day). We found ourselves confused as to why we must get our THIRD Good To Go pass in the few short years since the SR-520 Bridge tolling was reinstated. Our efforts to learn about the system yielded the real reason behind the new Good To Go Flex Passes: enforcing compliance with paying tolls.

Each time we “upgraded” our Good To Go Pass, we had to register it with a vehicle. A convoluted journey to say the least.

First we had Good To Go stickers on our windshields. Then we heard about I-405 HOV lanes coming so we purchased switchable Good To Go passes. Now we must upgrade to Good To Go Flex Passes (free of charge) in order to avoid paying the toll on I-405 while we are car pooling. Each time we "upgraded" our Good To Go Pass, we had to register it with a vehicle. A convoluted journey to say the least.

Here are some of the highlights of what's coming to the I-405 Bellevue- Lynnwood corridor:

  1. Conversion of all existing HOV lanes into Express Toll Lanes. Addition of extra capacity in the form of a second Express Toll Lane on a portion of the corridor.
  2. Dynamic pricing -- Express Toll Lane drivers will be charged a variable rate based upon the time of day (similar to how SR-520 tolls work). Also, drivers will be charged based upon the distance traveled as well.
  3. Existing Good To Go stickers and Good To Go slider passes will need to be replaced by new Good To Go Flex Passes. Your old pass will not work and you will be charged the highest rate if you do not have a new Flex Pass even if you have a car full of people.
  4. The new Flex Passes must be registered to your vehicle via your Good To Go account.
  5. When using the new Express Toll Lanes with the necessary number of occupants in your vehicle, you will need to physically switch the Flex Pass to read HOV. If you do not, you will be charged.

Q: Why do we need new Flex Passes? What's so different about I-405 tolls vs tolls on SR-167 HOT Lanes,  the SR-520 Bridge tolls and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls?

A: The new Flex Pass system gives the State Patrol the ability to catch cheaters.

Here's how: The new Flex Pass is different from its predecessors in that it pings a beacon signal to the State Patrol every time a vehicle uses the Express Toll Lane with the Flex Pass in the  HOV position. This gives the State Patrol a notice which in essence says, "Verify that the correct number of occupants are in this car passing now. They claim to not need to pay the toll."

The Good

The Good

The Bad

The Bad

And The Ugly

And The Ugly

Your old pass will not work and you will be charged the highest rate if you do not have a new Flex Pass even if you have a car full of people.

The older passes do not have the ability to ping the State Patrol and therefore they will not be recognized on I-405 and you will pay the toll regardless of the number of occupants in your vehicle.

This information was not easy to find online. In fact, two of the three WSDOT Good To Go employees with whom I spoke did not know why the Flex Pass was necessary. 

Apparently, cheating the tolling system is rampant elsewhere in the state. WSDOT has learned its lesson and will soon require new Flex Passes for all I-405 Express Toll Lane drivers not wishing to pay the toll when carpooling. 

By the way, according the above Good To Go video, the tolls will be a minimum of $0.75 with a typical toll of between $1.00 - $4.00.

Learn more at www.GoodToGo405.org or call 206-464-1230.

It has been a rather crazy ride for Good To Go Pass changes in our family. Hopefully, we are not a typical household and most people have not had to go through 3 sets of Good To Go Passes. The above video says this congestion management system will have Express Toll Lane traffic humming along "at 45 mph or faster in the toll lanes while also reducing traffic in the regular lanes." Let's hope so. If it works as planned, it will be a valuable option for many.