Woohoo! I feel free again! I can’t believe that I waited all this time to become a member of the elite FasTrakkers! I even wrote a song about it:

The FasTrak. The FasTrak. The FasTrak. The FasTrak.

Blue lights a-flashin’, nowhere to hide,

Transponder engage! (Oooh, Beam me up, Scotty!)

My ride’s  movin’ past posted 65! (Warp speed ahead!)

Passing schmucks sitting along  side! (Free at last! Free at last!)…

 OK. OK. I’ll keep my day job. But that’s how ecstatic I am about being able to leave home later and get home sooner. My Express Lane pass even includes the toll roads of the 73 and works for the 91, the 101, the 10…it’s a new life for me.

We need to rename the Express Lane, the Autubahn. Yes, that German strip of federal highway where you can drive as fast as your lead foot can take you. We can learn a lot from the rules of the Autubahn, for example, rule number eight is regarding the far left passing lane. At the risk of piggybacking on one of my previous posts, again, even in Europe the far left lane is for passing only; moreover, passing a car on the right side is verboten.

Like I am driving the Autubahn as a racecar driver in a past life, I even pass the slower of the drivers on the Express Lane. Zoom! Rumrum! Zoom! Shhish! I feel victorious. Of all the past lives I believe I have had, Marine and racecar driver are by far the most exciting and believable.

So, this newly found FasTrak. The electronic toll collection system has been around for quite some time in other states, but in Los Angeles, it’s still in its infancy. Its introduction to California was designed exactly for what’s it’s named after: electronic toll collection instead of an old-fashioned toll booth. The physical collection of tolls on toll lanes slows down traffic and this ETC system was put in place to eliminate such traffic congestion. Wow, I remember in 2000 when the Vincent Thomas Bridge linking my town of San Pedro to its neighbor, Long Beach, got rid of the toll collection of two quarters all together because the bridge was paid for since it was built in 1963.

(Visit, http://www.portoflosangeles.org/transportation/ca_47.asp for a history of the Vincent Thomas Bridge.)

That drive over the bridge and the subsequent, smaller one, the Henry Ford Bridge, is, in its own right, a two-lane Autubahn. Given that traffic is good, driving the bridge is great fun, especially now that I don’t have to stop and throw two quarters in the booth. But I digress, once again….

These ETCs seemed like such a good idea, that Los Angeles, in all its wisdom, and all its need of generating money, decided that the carpool lanes, which were afforded to anyone traveling with two of more passengers a free pass to drive fast, were a waste of precious real estate. In the effort of promoting mass transit, Los Angeles introduced the FasTrak as a pilot program, the Metro Express Lane, late in 2012. Now, thanks to legislation mandating that all toll roads and express ways must coordinate with each other to read the same transponder signal, anywhere in this great state of California where a toll is needed can be quickly and conveniently scanned as we drive along our way. My Metro Express account even gives me freebies and discounts if I travel with passengers. All I have to do is set my transponder to the appropriate setting of one, two, or three occupants. Nice. The carpool lane idealism is not completely lost. Not that I travel with anyone else, but now I don’t have to beg people to come with me on trips just so I can take the carpool lane. I know, pretty despicable, but I’m not the only one.

I know that we Californians come late to the party, but that’s our way: fashionably late to everything. It’s how we roll…skate, surf, snowboard, chill, or whatever stereotypical term you’d like to apply to us. But once we join the party, boy, do we know how to party and we do it right like nobody else. FasTrak. It’s just another thing that makes me feel blessed to be a Californian, and even more, an Angelian.