In this April 2, 2020, file photo, light traffic is seen on the 110 freeway with the city skyline in the background in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez.

Los Angeles County Metro’s board of directors voted Thursday to make permanent a ‘pay-as-you-go’ pilot program that allowed drivers without a transponder for its toll lanes to use them by paying a reduced fee.

The pilot program charged drivers an additional $4 on top of whatever the congestion pricing was at the time they drove through the lanes, instead of the typical $25 fee it assessed prior to the program’s start. With its vote Thursday, the board of directors authorized the program to be made permanent, with users now paying an $8 fee in addition to the congestion charge.

The express lanes on the 110 Freeway and 10 Freeway were introduced in 2012 and 2013 to help alleviate traffic in the region, and a Metro report estimated that since they opened, the lanes have saved drivers a total of 26.6 million hours of time.

Drivers who use the lanes without a transponder will be mailed a bill and will have 30 days to pay it. If they don’t, another $17 fee would be added. If they still don’t respond, another $30 would be added after another 30 days, bringing the total fee charges to $55.

Metro estimated that during its pilot program, it saw an increase of 900,000 drivers using the toll lanes without a transponder. While usage varied across the region, people living in West, Central and North Long Beach had some of the highest usage rates in the region, according to Metro data.

The $8 fee will be subject to an annual audit to assess if the fee is too high or too low and could be adjusted on a year-to-year basis.

Now that the board of directors approved the permanent program, Metro said it will begin working on updating its signs and messaging to drivers to notify them of the change in policy for using its toll roads in Los Angeles.

Metro could permanently reduce penalties for drivers using express lanes without a transponder

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.