FAQ about FAST Express Lanes on 101

What is FAST 101?

Converting a lane on 101 to a FAST express lane is the most effective way to break up gridlock and create Fast, Affordable, Sustainable Transportation on 101.

A FAST Express Lane would allow carpools, buses, and other high-occupancy vehicles in for free, and give solo drivers the option to pay into the lane. The toll price will vary based on demand as capacity allows, as long as the lane flows freely. Revenue from tolls would be spent on public transportation and other strategies to reduce the number of cars on the road.

Fast:

  • Moves more people faster on 101. A FAST express lane could potentially move as many people as all the regular lanes combined. 
  • Faster to build than any other solution under consideration — it takes just 3 years to convert a lane vs. 8-10 years for widening.

Affordable:

  • Makes more funds available for affordable alternatives to solo driving, like express bus service, reduced transit fares, and incentives for carpooling, vanpools, etc.
  • Less expensive to implement than any other solution under consideration, allowing early funding for proven traffic-reduction strategies.

Sustainable:

  • Reduces rates of driving, greenhouse gas emissions, and local air pollution.
  • Won’t create more traffic on our local roads and intersections like widening will.

How is a FAST express lane different than a carpool lane or a regular express lane?

Carpool lanes (aka High-Occupancy Vehicle or HOV lanes) just say you need a certain number of passengers to ride in it at certain times. They mostly work on the honor system, and no tolls are collected.

A regular express lane is a carpool/HOV lane that solo drivers can also pay a toll to use. Transit agencies in San Mateo County are considering widening the highway to create a new express lane.

With a FAST Express lane, high-occupancy vehicles can use the lane for free and the toll revenue from solo drivers would be invested locally to make public transit a stronger option. For example, revenue could fund faster, more frequent express bus service, fare discounts for low-income commuters, and more. FAST Express lanes incentivize the transition from moving the most vehicles on the highway to moving the most people.

How will we know if this solution is working?

To ensure the overall benefits of the new express lane, including reducing overall traffic, performance metrics will be set up to track progress towards reducing traffic while still increasing the number of people travelling on 101, and the increasing transportation options particularly for low-income San Mateo County residents.

Is this an equitable solution? Does this just let wealthy people drive faster? 

A FAST Express Lane collects money from solo drivers and invests it back into more affordable alternatives to solo driving, such as better express bus service and discounted fares for low-income commuters. 

Why not just add another lane on 101?

As a traffic reduction strategy, widening highways simply doesn’t work. Research has consistently proven that new lanes get clogged up by more cars within a few years. Widening invites more cars onto the road, making the traffic and pollution worse over time. Traffic engineers like to say that "trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt."

Are there other issues with widening 101?

Yes, several. Widening is very expensive and would take 8-10 years to implement. It would bring more cars onto the road and more pollution into the air, without reducing congestion. Given what we know about climate change, our transportation investments should help reduce the number of cars on the road, not increase it.

Widening will also increase local street traffic as more cars use local roads to get to and from the bigger highway. An increase in local traffic without the corresponding expansion of local roads will create more traffic through local business districts, intersections, on-ramps, and off-ramps.