AUSTIN, Texas - The high cost of the toll lanes on MoPac has many drivers crying foul, but the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority said steeper prices are meant to deter drivers from using the toll lanes.
For those who frequent MoPac, traffic is a part of life. That's why the construction of a new express lane gave hope to so many people that their commute might get a little shorter. That is, until they saw the price tag.
“Yeah, I'd rather sit in traffic than pay for the toll road,” said Jordan Sidney who drives on MoPac five days a week.
Drivers who use the toll lane during rush hour often see the price spike to $4, $5, even $6. Sometimes it costs even more than that.
“The highest it's been is around $10 and that was for a very brief period on one day,” said CTRMA Director of Communications Steve Pustelnyk.
That exceeds the amount many are willing to pay for what the CTRMA said is about a 15 minute travel difference.
“I thought $1.25 was too much, $2 was too much,” said Alejandra Hernandez who does use the toll road when the costs aren’t so high.
“Four dollars is ridiculous. I don't think I'd pay that,” she added.
CTRMA said that's exactly the point.
“There's a computer algorithm that's measuring the number of cars entering the lane, and as the volumes increase, the toll rate increases, with the goal being to ensure the lane doesn't become congested,” Pustelnyk said.
A study conducted before the lanes opened showed the most drivers would agree to pay would probably stay around $2-4. That was in 2016 when CTRMA Director of Operations Tim Reilly told us, "We've done a lot of traffic modeling to determine what we think the toll rate is going to be and we know that the minimum rate will be 25 cents and, while there is no maximum rate set by policy, we don't expect it to get over somewhere between two or three dollars during the rush hour time period,"
However, even CTRMA was surprised by how much Austin drivers have been forking over to drive in the express lanes.
“We are having demand at this point that is exceeding capacity in some cases, as seen by the line of people waiting to get in the lane, but, fortunately, once they get in, for the most part, we're seeing traffic flowing, which is the goal of the lane,” said Pustelnyk.
CTRMA said there are other cities that use a cap on their toll prices. However, doing that means drivers can still get stuck in traffic after paying for the express lane, so they chose not to include a cap.