Will LA drivers pay a price to escape gridlock?

On any given day there are plenty of reasons for Los Angeles drivers to gripe about gridlock.

But soon they may have one more because the freeways may only be free to those willing to sit in traffic.

Los Angeles transit officials voted Thursday to extend a pilot program giving solo drivers the option to pay to use express lanes.

The lanes are in place on two major LA arteries. Covering just 25 miles, the project could eventually expand to over 500 miles of existing carpool lanes.

"It's a way to reduce congestion and be promoting other transportation models," said Bill Sadler, an urban planning consultant.

Drivers in these toll lanes have to pay anywhere from 25 cents to a $1.40 each mile.

It's called congestion pricing: The more cars on the road, the higher the cost.

But some critics call them "Lexus lanes," giving preference to those who can afford to pay as much as $15 for a one-way trip.

"You really have to think about the cost, especially if you're a part of the working poor in southern California, which means you're barely making it as it is," said LA resident Jasmyne Cannick.

Paying to get around traffic isn't new.

Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis and Seattle have similar programs, but in car obsessed Los Angeles, where public transportation is scarce or impractical, it's a big change.

University of Southern California transportation professor Jim Moore says Angelinos no longer have a choice.

"Transportation economists have argued for 60 years that the only really systemic solution to congestion is toll lanes," Moore said.

Perhaps the only way for traffic to stop taking a toll on LA drivers is for more of them to start paying one.

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