A recent survey of usage along the I-95/I-495 Express lanes unveiled some interesting findings – the social status of the people driving in those lanes lean more toward your average Joe than the stereotypical affluent residents, or Lexus owners.  Transurban, the private entity that owns and operates the toll facilities on the high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, recently released the findings of their most recent user survey, which found that the average user makes less than $100,000 annually and is under 45 years of age.  Almost two thirds of users have a Bachelors degree or better.

Most of the frequent users are utilizing the lanes to get to and from work, with about one third of these users stating that their employer picks up the cost of the tolls.  Obviously, the frenetic pace of suburban life combined with highly congested roadways, facilitates usage of the
toll lanes.  

Some other interesting findings also debunk the perception that the tolls on these roadways are always very high, and perhaps cost prohibitive to lower income residents.  The survey found that the average toll along I-495 Express lanes was $5.40 and along I-95, $8.45. The variable rate aspect of the toll lanes, where tolls rise in conjunction with the amount of congestion on the toll roadway, is also a significant factor in whether drivers use the lane or not.  The highest toll charged last year on 495 Express lanes was $32.30, yet only 30 drivers chose to use the lanes during this time.  The highest toll charged last year on 95 Express lanes was $46.25, only 10 drivers chose to use the lanes at that time.

While no one likes to pay tolls, these extra lanes would never have been built without the toll element and they are seeing some significant usage.  The average daily usage of the 495 Express lanes is 45,000 trips, while the 95 Express lanes see about 51,000 daily trips.